December 3, 2003.


An inquiry into concerns about "poor relationships" between the Department of Education's Central Australian Office and local teachers has been ordered by Minister Syd Stirling.
The decision follows an investigation by the Alice Springs News, continuing in this issue.
The Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment (OCPE) will be "managing" the inquiry although the commissioner himself has been involved in dealing with grievances of teachers, including those we have interviewed.
However, Mr Stirling stressed the inquiry would be "independent" and will examine "existing administrative and management structures within the DEET Central Australian Office, as well as the effectiveness and appropriateness of current disciplinary and grievance processes".
Said Mr Stirling: "I have become increasingly concerned by a number of reports from Central Australian teachers about their dealings with the DEET Office in Alice Springs.
"I want to get to the bottom of these concerns, which is why I have ordered this independent inquiry."
The Alice Springs News carried lead articles on the grievances of three teachers, including two principals, in its issues of November 12 and last week , and reports on a further case in this week's issue (see this page).
The News put to the minister's spokesperson that teachers had told the Alice News that the OCPE had failed their expectations of fair resolution o their grievances.
While John Kirwan replaced David Hawkes as commissioner in July 2002, that is after the key events of 2001, the situations the News has reported on have all been ongoing into this year, and one remains current, in that the teacher remains an employee of the department.
It has been suggested to the News that the OCPE handed the complaints of teachers back to the department to investigate.
That will not happen with this inquiry, said the Minister's spokesperson.
The OCPE will manage the inquiry but not necessarily conduct it.
Mr Stirling said the Australian Education Union; Commonwealth Public Sector Union and past and present education department staff would be consulted as part of the inquiry.
"A report will then be provided to the Commissioner for Public Employment in the first instance and then myself as Minister, with recommendations about how the situation can be improved," he said.


What happened to the house I wanted to buy in Alice Springs?"
On a teacher's salary it should have been possible.
When Trevor Close was recruited from South Australia by the Department of Education to serve in a bush school west of Alice, he found a region and a community he wanted to make his home in.
He loved the work and had some success at it, significantly increasing enrolments in his class.
Now, just three years later he lives "the precarious life of a day to day Emergency Relief Teacher, flapping around Alice Springs".
His house is a converted bus.
He can work three to four days a week but there are 14 weeks of the year when he cannot work.
You guessed it: Mr Close is another of the victims of the NT Education Department in 2001, a bad year for teachers sticking their heads up in this region.
He still has his drum kit and you can see him guesting at gigs with a number of bands around town. He used to put his drum kit in the classroom: the kids in the bush community could play it in the morning."Then they owed me some reading, some maths.
"They loved travel, sport and arts. I built my program around those things and our senior class went from an attendance of five, seven on a good day to a peak average of 33.
"It was working, it was funny, fantastic, fun.
"Then it was all smashed."
After one year and two terms Mr Close was pulled out of the school at short notice and, while not sacked, has not been able to regain permanent employment in the region since.
Mr Close's problems began on September 24, 2001 when the deputy principal of the school gave him an unfavourable probation panel report, the contents of which Mr Close has always vehemently contested. It was signed on this date by the school's principal.
However, a fortnight later the principal withdrew his signature, stating that he had signed "under duress" and did "not support in any way its contents".
Mr Close says he was given no notice that the report was due, but was simply told to attend a meeting to have it read out to him. He says the report was faxed the same day to the then director of schools in the Centre, Russell Totham.
Mr Close was not given a copy of the report until 10 days later. It did not recommend that Mr Close lose his job, only that he improve his performance in some areas.
On October 17 Mr Totham was at the community and told Mr Close to attend a meeting in Alice Springs two days later, to respond to the allegations in his probation report.
In the meantime, the principal, who had supported Mr Close's teaching style, had been transferred and demoted and the deputy principal had been instated as acting principal.
Mr Close says he asked for at least the weekend to prepare for the meeting with Mr Totham.
Mr Totham refused.
"He insisted I respond two days later," says Mr Close.
"During that time, I was expected to teach, sleep, eat, travel and do whatever else I needed to do, and prepare for allegations that could see me lose my job and reputation.
"Nothing like the natural justice I have read about."
Mr Close says at the meeting Mr Totham referred to letters and faxes about Mr Close but would not show them to him.
The News has sighted copies of these letters and faxes, now in Mr Close's possession, some clearly solicited by Mr Totham.
All of them were written in the critical month of October, 2001, although some related to concerns that were supposedly long-standing.
Mr Close asks, "Why did people write about me on these particular dates?"
He suggests it was because the deputy principal at the school, who he alleges was being groomed for the position of principal and did not want to work with him, "solicited and coordinated negative assessments and stories" about him.
It is important to remember that the probation report had recommended all sorts of ways in which Mr Close could improve his performance.
The assumption in the report is that he would be able to address the issues raised in the course of on-going teaching duties at the school.
A reasonable person might expect that some sort of agreed plan would be put in place to allow Mr Close to improve his practice. After all, his probation report had acknowledged a number of positives about him, including having built the number of students attending his class from "very few to an enrolment of over 20" Ð no mean feat in a bush school.
Yet, just two weeks into term, at the October 19 meeting with Mr Totham he was told he would be "stood down" from his duties forthwith and until November 2, accommodated at departmental expense in Alice Springs.
At the time he says he was working with his class of teenage boys and initiated young men on the topic of volcanoes, chosen by the students.
"They were never able to finish," says Mr Close.
"After I was stood down no relief teachers were employed to take my place. Hardly any young men or boys were going to school then."
During the stand-down period, on October 25, Mr Close went back to the community "to live in my own house as normal people do".
On October 26 he received a letter from the community council asking him to leave the community by 6pm that very evening until the department had advised that it was "appropriate" for him to return.
Says Mr Close: "The Education Department kicked me out of my house for 45 days."How can anyone in democratic Australia get kicked out of their house without it going through a magistrate?"
At the end of the 45 days, he received the "right" to go home, once again on the advice of the department to the community council.
This was ended, however, by Mr Totham having police on the community serve a trespass notice on Mr Close.
Adding to the harassment that Mr Close felt during this period was a two and a half week stop on his pay and refusal by the department to pay some $4000 worth of incidental expenses, all of which was later paid to him as his due.
Returning to October 29, that is, one week after the stand-down and just over one month after the probation report, the Darwin-based director of the Human Resources Service within the department, Linda King, foreshadowed her intention of terminating Mr Close's employment.
Mr Close says he had not had any opportunity to discuss his responses to any of the allegations against him (none of which were sackable offences) with anyone in the department.
He says the principal with whom he worked for five terms was never asked for his opinion of Mr Close's practice in the school.
On December 3 he was advised by the CEO of the department, Peter Plummer, that, in Mr Close's response to the allegations against him, he had "focused on specific items raised by individuals" and had not "addressed the broader issues" of his "alleged inappropriate behaviour as a probationer".
Mr Plummer acknowledged, however, that Mr Close's probation "had not been managed in accordance with standard procedures" and transferred him in 2002 to Darwin High School, where Mr Close had no desire to go.
Mr Close asks: "Did he not read my response? [It runs to about 30 A4 pages with about as many supporting documents.]
"How could I not address the broader issues when putting the specific items in the general context? If these broader issues were not addressed with satisfaction, why was I not terminated?
"Then out of the blue he decides to transfer me to Darwin, no consultation with me as usual.
"It is as if my life is at the whim of the power brokers of DEET.
"Why should I leave Central Australia, my home, where my friends are, where my interests lie and move even further away from my family [in South Australia] and live in a humid climate, which I don't like at all.
"Simply to continue the pressure that DEET put on me from the beginning, in the hope that I would give up and disappear?"
If this was the aim then the department almost succeeded: on January 26, 2002 Mr Close resigned, "totally disgusted, exhausted, feeling abused, seeing no natural justice, and knowing I had been unjustly coerced, harassed and bullied out of my teaching career with DEET."
That is not quite the end of Mr Close's story, however. By April, he was feeling well enough to reapply for work.
He says he was aware of a number of positions in schools in the southern region for which he is qualified and experienced.
However, Mr Totham advised that there was no work for someone of his experience and qualifications in the entire zone.
At the start of this year he attempted to get an Emergency Teacher Relief Permit from the Gap Road office. He says he could never get put through to the Human Resource Manager. After 10 calls he went to the office to see her. He says he waited and waited, to eventually be told she would not see him.
Absurdly, he has been able to arrange such a permit through Darwin HR office, which is how he has come to be relief teaching in schools around town.
Initially Mr Close did not lodge a grievance with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment (OCPE) because he had no faith in its processes. When the present commissioner, John Kirwan, took up his post, Mr Close decided to give it a try.
Mr Kirwan, despite the belated submission, ordered an independent review of Mr Close's grievance. Its findings acknowledged shortcomings in the probation process and that the "timeframe for [Mr Close's] removal" from the community was "tight".
It also saw "no reason why the Alice Springs office should not in future issue [Mr Close] the [relief teacher] card" as the Darwin office had seen fit to do so.
Otherwise, to sum up, the findings were that the department had "acted within its powers", which offers little comfort when a life has been shattered, and schooling opportunities for young people in the bush wasted.


The harvest last week of the first commercial table grape crop grown in Alice Springs capped off a lifetime of firsts witnessed by 86 year old Jean Hayes.
Early Thursday morning son Jim and his wife Gayle Hayes, in partnership with Mick and Jackie Goold, sent the first pick of Minindee Seedless table grapes from their vineyard, Arunta Gold, to the Melbourne market.
The vineyard is on freehold land inside the Undoolya pastoral lease, where the Hayes family has been cattle farming for about 100 years. Now, they've decided to diversify.
Grapes will, "hopefully take the lows out of dry years in Central Australia", says Mr Hayes.
Rain in the week before harvest put them in a quandary: when is a pastoralist ever not grateful for rain? But too much water is bad for the grapes: if they get too wet they will split in the sun.
Mr Hayes came up with the idea of hiring a helicopter from town to dry the grapes, by blowing the water off them.
"They started when they thought the rain had finished, but it hadn't. The grapes got more soaked. They had to get the helicopter back again," said Mrs Hayes.
"It worked out really well. It's never been done before like that."Work on the vineyard began less than two years ago, with 25 hectares of vines in the ground now.
The partners plan to put in another 25 hectares next year, bringing the vineyard to a self-sustaining 50 hectares.
Mr Hayes says the new industry will bring jobs to Alice Springs, helping to diversify the economy and leading to bigger things."If the curve goes right for this, flowing upwards, it will become a lot more attractive for people down south to invest money in the Territory and certainly in Alice Springs," he says.
Says Mrs Hayes: "This starts an industry in Alice Springs that can actually become bigger. There is no end to the possibilities.
"We've started clearing more land and there's a group down south that want to trial a new type of grape in this area."
Modern technology has allowed the partners to water the crop efficiently. They are using the ground, "basically to hold the plants up," says Mr Hayes. "It's fertilized through the dripper system on the grapes. It's absolutely controlled. So there is no waste of water.
"We're really, really aware of water conservation," he says.
At harvest time, they go through and take all they can on the first pick. Then, a week later, they go through and pick again, so the grapes have a bit more time to mature.
"It all comes down to acid tests and sugar tests and things like that," says Mr Hayes.
"It's all got to be right on the mark before you pick, so you don't get sour grapes."
From pick to pack takes about 24 hours. Then the grapes are put into the cooler, brought down to about two degrees, numbered, boxed, glad-wrapped and loaded, ready to be shipped to market.
Table grapes in the Ti Tree and Pine Hill region, around 190kms north of Alice Springs, are cut and shipped a few weeks earlier.
Arunta Gold will thus extend the season as well as add to the value of this, the second largest horticultural industry in the Territory, valued at $20.5m in 2001.Mrs Hayes senior, who came to Alice Springs in a horse and buggy when she was a few weeks old, was very excited to have the first pick of her son's first crop.
"In her period of life," says Mr Hayes, "she saw the horse and buggy, she saw the first railway come to Alice Springs, she saw the first motor vehicle come to Alice Springs, she saw the first plane, she saw Alice Springs grow from virtually a one horse town, right through to modern day."Like many a pioneer, the partners in Arunta Gold have done everything themselves: put in the power line, the huge cool room, the packing sheds and ten kilometres of road to get the trucks in and out, all with no government assistance whatsoever.
As Mr Hayes says: "It's a great achievement of private enterprise."


Ever been in a think tank?
Here's your chance to take the plunge, and have a say in shaping policies on issues that are in your face every day.
The Charles Darwin University's final free symposium for 2003 moves to Alice Springs on Monday and Tuesday, December 8 and 9.
Putting the spotlight on race relations, high calibre presenters tackle issues such as violent and suicidal youth, cultural politics, racism and health care, child sexual abuse, the limits of the legal system, the tensions between tourism access and community expectations and the media's imaging of fear and division.
The NT Tourist Commission's Anthony Ellis will speak on "character and experiences" visitors are expecting to encounter.
"For that to be properly developed a community itself has to understand what it is.
"Over the years this town had different sorts of identities it traded on, such as A Town Like Alice.
"A more contemporary one is Desert Knowledge, or indigenous art.
"The way in which the people who live in the community identify themselves within that community is important for the visitor.
"They are looking for that sort of experience when they come here.
"What often happens is that tourism itself starts to drive the way in which towns think of themselves.
"If you look at the way in which Alice Springs has been marketed Ð and you see it on the CATIA shirts Ð they have a picture of Uluru with Ô'the heart, the soul and the centre' as the brand line.
"It's identifying Alice Springs as part of the Rock, rather than a community in own right with its own history and traditions."
Are the School of the Air and Flying Doctors outdated?
Yes, says Mr Ellis: "And you have developers now with different visions in mind, like 18 hole golf courses with lovely greens.
"They are not reflective of a community living in a proper and sensible relationship with its environment, because it's heavily demanding on water, which is in limited supply, it takes up a lot of space, and despite there being a lot of country around Alice Springs there is not a lot of developable land.
"You drive through the subdivisions and you'll see some very inappropriate architecture, which reflects confusion about where they are in the mind of some of the community.
"A Tuscan style villa isn't really an appropriate development concept for Alice Springs.
"People building these houses don't really have an understanding of what Alice Springs is and means."
Hosted by ex 60 minutes journalist, Jeff McMullen, the symposium's keynote address is provided by Professor Michael Keith, Head of the University of London's Centre for Urban and Community Research who will chart the anxiety and unity that arises from the relationship between urban design, race and racism and policing.
Additional presenters include Janet Holmes a Court, Ted Wilkes, William Tilmouth, Ian Tuxworth, Olga Havnen, Barbara Flick and Kate Finlayson.The symposium also features the film "Lonely Boy Richard" Ð an intimate account of one man's journey to jail.
Beginning at 8 am on Monday at the Araluen Centre, Larapinta Drive, Alice Springs, everyone is invited to attend.
For a detailed program and to register log onto or contact the events officer on 8946 6554.


Living Room Ð Poems from the Centre
Edited by Jan Owen
Ptilotus Press, 115 pp

Nowhere in the world is the potency of poetry more palpable than in Central Australia, where for millennia Arrernte sorcerers have sung their sacred sagas, fertilising the earth, conjuring love and poisoning foe, their chanted, enchanted words imbued with supernatural power.
Since then Australian poets from Ted Strehlow to Barry Hill have tried, with varying degrees of success, to write in Ð or out of Ð this intimidating Arandic tradition.
By contrast, the 10 more modest local poets, whose work is anthologised by Jan Owen in Living Room Ð Poems from the Centre, shy away from the classic, epic track.
Their concerns are initially domestic, as Louise Lowson's evocative cover scene of a kitchen cuppa and a rollie suggests. But their view extends further, and deeper.
Through Lowson's kitchen window we see an anatomically suggestive, sexually charged landscape, and so it is with many of these poems. In "The Butcher of Lobeye", Carmel Williams celebrates the piercingly carnal knowledge of a wife for her mate (and of a husband for his meat).
Michael Watts, the only bloke in the book, encounters the promise or the threat of sex almost everywhere he goes, but remarkably, he is the only writer here who gets sentimental about it.
Sex in this fertile land leads to expectancy, and it is the bearing, raising, joy and loss of children which most concerns the Living Room's women contributors, who each identifies herself to us as a mother.
Not that they only worry for their own kids. Meg Mooney chides "Do-Gooders/ who thought pale-skinned/ babies were better off/ over the hills and far away". Jo Dutton drives past Woomera "When lips are sewn and cuts are made" on children she never gets to see. From Jane Leonard's daughter's lips comes the chilling refrain to her child's eye view of the dark side of life in sunny suburban Alice Springs, "The Locked-Up Man".
The book's richly polysemous title is taken from one of Kieran Finnane's prismatic poems. Meditating in the course of her housework she discovers the surfaces of her home to be impregnated with all the condensed moments of her life, her living.
The other living room of the book is of course the limitless bush glimpsed through the window, but in this well-worn country the works are generally less successful. There are too many cosy campfires beneath star-studded desert skies.
And you won't find much aggression or transgression in this book, a notable exception being Michael Watts' menacing tale "Heat".
When these verses get under one's skin, as many do, they do not pierce it, but deploy a subtler, insinuative method. Often, they proceed by capturing a fragment Ð a word, a gesture, a glance Ð out of which is spun some more substantial material, material which reveals something of the shape of the place, and of the people who live in it.
And that is why these Poems from the Centre should be souvenired by, or given to, visitors (and would-be visitors) to Central Australia. True, you can't use them to dry the dishes or watch snowflakes swirling around Ayers Rock, but they're just the thing for the kitchen table, alongside the cuppa and the rollie.

"WAS EVER A BATTLE FOUGHT IN WHICH 17 WERE HIT AND ALL DIED?" The Coniston Massacre. Part Thirteen of a Feature by DICK KIMBER.

ÔReal True History': Coniston MassacreThe 1929 Enquiry
Part 13 of an historical perspective
The drought continued while agitation for an enquiry built like a tidal wave.
A key figure in raising awareness of the events was the Methodist lay missionary, Athol McGregor of Katherine, whose parish was the entire Territory. He had made his first journey to Stuart Town in August-September 1928 and, while visiting Undoolya station on the 9th September, heard that 17 Aborigines had been shot in a punitive raid.
As soon as he was able to, he confronted John Cawood, who confirmed that 17 had been shot but denied that it was a punitive expedition. McGregor made it clear that he believed that an official enquiry was required, and for the first time John Cawood appears to have become worried.
As McGregor travelled north again he caught up with Annie Lock, heard her accounts of events, and also saw starving Aborigines. On the basis of the evidence he encouraged journalists to cover the trial of Padygar and Arkirkra in Darwin, and the news Ð sensationally provided by Constable Murray as much as anyone Ð instantly received national and international coverage, with a League of Natons representative also making comment.
McGregor was quoted in the "Northern Territory Times" stating what probably Blind Freddy and a majority of city people in Australia were thinking:
"Was ever a battle fought in which seventeen were hit and all died?"
And then, to antagonise many central Australians by being forthright in his views:
"So many settlers prefer a dead walkabout black to a live one, we must ask ourselves what really did happen. Common sense tells us that one cannot call upon natives to lay down weapons in the name of the King since English to them is but noise.
"I do earnestly ask for an enquiry into the stewardship of the police party who represented us this affair."
Suddenly Prime Minister Bruce and other Cabinet Ministers were being inundated with church, anthropological, and Aboriginal Friends Association letters and petitions demanding an enquiry.
From a majority of Stuart Town residents', miners' and pastoralists' perspective they were "do-gooders" who did not understand conditions on the frontier. Most of the mere 250-300 white people in the Centre perceived a number of their mates and acquaintances suffering because of the drought, being threatened with spearing, and with Mounted Constable Murray acting heroically while doing his duty. Why couldn't the rest of Australia see it in the same way?
Why, since no settler was specifically named, were they all being branded effective murderers by a priest who had spent but a few weeks in Central Australia, most of that along the Stuart Highway, speaking to but a handful of people?
John Cawood, being asked "Why?" from Canberra, was initially paralysed, and had to be asked again and again. The heat was on in Canberra!
The Prime Minister quickly agreed to an enquiry, but must also have been getting advice that things were not looking or smelling all that rosy in the Centre. There is little doubt that the Board was chosen to give Constable Murray, Sergeant Noblett, and John Cawood as their Police Commissioner, plus all police patrol members, the best possible chance of defence-survival.
The Chairman of the Board of Enquiry was A.H. O'Kelly, a police magistrate from Cairns.
The other independent Board member was South Australian Police Inspector P.A. Giles, with authority from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta who, however much he may have done his best to be unbiased, cannot be expected to have been other than supportive of fellow frontier policemen. And the third member was none other than John Cawood, Government Resident and Police Commissioner for Central Australia, who had approved every patrol.
Despite considerable protest about John Cawood's appointment, the Prime Minister did not budge. Local Stuart Town evangelical pastor E.E. Kramer was given approval to be present throughout the Enquiry, and to ask questions of witnesses, as was Constable Murray.
There is no doubt, in my mind, that prior to the announcement of the members of the Board, John Cawood, now sweating as much as Sergeant Noblett, met him and that between them they planned their approach. It is my perception that they decided that John Cawood would stand as clear as possible of the actual police activity, while Sergeant Noblett would accept administrative criticisms, and convince George Murray that Ð to use a modern expression Ð they were all in deep yoghurt.
Sergeant Noblett was, as I have previously indicated, no fool, but he had also been a mounted trooper in the South African "Boer" War of 1899-1902.
If anyone knew about the military court trial of Harry "Breaker" Morant, and that a scapegoat was potentially needed by the Board of Enquiry as many believed had been the case with Morant, it would have been him.
Because of evidence of summary execution of prisoners and some civilians, and Morant's outspokenness at the military court, where he claimed that the rule of the rifle prevailed Ð "we got them and shot them under Rule 303" Ð and that the highest military commander, Lord Kitchener, had approved the "rule", he and a mate had been shot by firing squad. And because Sergeant Noblett knew that Constable Murray had gone perilously close to admitting the shooting of wounded Aborigines at the trial of Padygar and Arkirkra in Darwin, that the judge had concluded that Murray had shot down Aborigines "wholesale", and that Athol McGregor had stated that any enquiry should specifically ask about "the stewardship" of the police party, Noblett must also have ranked the "stewardship".
If George Murray was the key figure, he and Cawood, as his senior superior officers, were next in line. While a firing squad would not be used outside of the armed forces, there was little solace if a hanging was the possible alternative outcome.
It appears that they decided that the fewer Aborigines who appeared at the hearings, the better Ð probably on the basis that at the Darwin trial Lala, as a key witness, with Alex Wilson as translator, had given hugely conflicting evidence that suggested both a Murray-inspired account and a more realistic one.
And probably because they also knew that, as an old Kaytetye man told a friend, Major and Dodger (as well as all other patrol members) had also shot men.
It must also have been decided that George Murray would necessarily take primary responsibility for the patrols, and that Jack Saxby would give maximum support about the "necessary" actions during the course of the first patrol. Randal Stafford and Billy Briscoe must also have promised to give full support, but had an agreement that they would always state that they did not see or hear much, and were not themselves involved in shooting people.
All of this is realistic supposition, I believe, but it is still supposition. And though others may disagree, I also believe, on the basis of study of the transcripts of evidence, that further planning involved at least the following:-
First, there was a need for creation of statements that would counter missionary McGregor's criticism of the use of English to order Aborigines to stop when none of the Aboriginal suspects understood it, and numbers of his other statements, including that the taking of Aboriginal women was a key cause of Aboriginal anger and attacks.
Secondly, it is evident that Police Paddy had had it drilled into him that he must mention that he had obtained hand-cuffs from Constable Murray at every sighting of Aboriginal suspects, and that he always attempted to arrest people.
Thirdly, Sergeant Noblett must have made George Murray realise that he was liable to be found guilty of murder unless he always stated that, after initial attempts to peacefully arrest men, he always dismounted to make an arrest, whereupon he must also state that he was attacked by Aborigines resisting arrest, and had had to fight for his life.
Fourthly, it must have been planned to state as often as possible that every Warlpiri or Anmatyerre person shot or fatally injured was one of the marauding, murdering group who had attacked Fred Brooks, or otherwise attacked or threatened pastoralists and their stock.
Fifthly, it must have been decided to state that the "Wallmulla" (Warlpiri) and Anmatyerre had a universal propensity to be "cheeky", and had threatened to drive all pastoralists from their country, independent of seasonal conditions.
I reiterate that these are my suppositions based on a close reading of the evidence, so can be called into question by others who read the transcripts, with alternative interpretations being given. (Police Paddy may always have requested and been given the exactly required sets of handcuffs by Constable Murray; Constable Murray may always have dismounted and attempted arrests; and so-on).
It must be remembered that this was a Board of Enquiry, not a Royal Commission or a trial, even though the people who gave evidence were all under oath to tell the truth. And even if the members of the board were very much hand-picked, none of them were fools. All of them knew that, however much they were meant to consider broad issues to do with Aboriginal conditions and frontier relationships over the previous three years, it was the "stewardship" of the police party about which the press was salivating.
The public perception was of a single punitive expedition rather than a lawful expedition to arrest perpetrators of crimes and, as Barry Hill has indicated in his remarkable 2002 book, "Broken Song" (primarily the story of Ted Strehlow), it was the "charge of Ôgeneral intent upon massacre'", that was of greatest interest.
If proven, the board would surely have headed their recommendations with the need for certain people to be tried for unlawful acts leading to the deaths of people (some innocent) by shooting, with some members of the police parties being tried for murder. Any trial that followed would certainly also have looked beyond Constable Murray to who gave him his orders.
Several select aspects, of many which could be considered, are now briefly discussed.
The enquiry was held from 30th December, 1928 to 16th January, 1929, with a summary presented and the enquiry formally closed on 7th February, 1929. The bare bones are that 30 witnesses were examined, and: "The Board travelled by motor car approximately 2,500 miles principally over country never previously traversed by car and evidence was taken very often under most difficult conditions."
That a cause for violence by Aborigines was the taking of Aboriginal women by settlers was very much skimmed over. Those local bushmen who were asked about this absolutely denied it, despite the presence of children of Aboriginal-European descent at the "Bungalow" school in Alice Springs.
There was no attempt to question any of the members of the police patrol about this: under oath at least three of them, and possibly Constable Murray too, would have had to admit to sexual relationships or perjure themselves. (The board specifically quashed any discussion of the rumour that George Murray was associating with an Aboriginal woman).
The Hermannsburg Mission representative, who might normally have been expected to support lay missionaries Annie Lock and Athol McGregor, undermined any such support by providing an on-the-spot invented throw-away line about Miss Lock's preference for an Aboriginal husband.
A similar throw-away line about Aborigines by the same truly dedicated and well-regarded mission worker, when he had become exasperated with them, wasn't all that appropriate seven years earlier, and it is just possible that the circumstances caused it to be repeated:
"They are like the hammers of hell and nothing but a bullet will stop them."
If the genuine "good guys" could make such utterances, the board was not likely to get much balance in the perspectives that they were given in their other interviews!
With local Stuart Town Pastor Kramer also taking a stance against missionary Annie Lock, the two new "outsider" missionaries' evidence about anything at all didn't stand a chance of being other than ignored by the board, nor did that of two other itinerant missionaries.
Indeed, the board stated that the "reasons for the Aboriginals' action" included "unattached Missionaries wandering from place to place, having no previous knowledge of blacks and their customs and preaching a doctrine of equality."
While the board's summary may have been technically correct in a very limited sense, it was also a biased, prejudiced, unfair assessment in that it omitted reference to starving Aborigines, and made no attempt to discuss the accounts of shootings with those Aborigines known to Miss Lock.
It also ignored the fact that none of the missionaries had been "wandering from place to place" in the Broadmeadows-Coniston area.
More significantly, the board had been alerted to details of the first patrol by George Murray's almost boastful reporting of those killed during the trial of Padygar and Arkirkra in Darwin.
NEXT: The enquiry continues.


The RSL Works side impressed on Saturday when playing a 45 over, one day rescheduled fixture against Rovers.
On Traeger Park they put together a target of 224 and then dismissed the Blues for 140 in 39 overs.In the other rescheduled game the honours of the day went to Federal who put the writing on the wall in the 22nd over of the day by dismissing West for 91.
They then took only 15 overs to reach the required target without a loss of wicket.
RSL lost their openers cheaply when Graham Schmidt went for one and Rod Dunbar even less.
From there the position consolidated as Tom Scollay compiled 35 before being caught by Matt Pyle off Daniel Goldring.
Jeff Whitmore assisted with a captain's knock of 42 before being caught of a big Brad Tanner delivery.
Scott Robinson added 44 to the tally and was bowled by Shaun Lynch; and Luke Southam made a sound 46 before Ty Rayfield held the catch off Greg Dowell to dismiss him.Creditably RSL tallied 224 with the loss of only seven wickets, not a bad chase to set at Traeger Park.
The Blues' bowling honours were shared evenly with Nathan Johnson returning the best figures of 2/27off seven overs.
In chasing, Rovers offered little. The highly regarded Rayfield was caught by Schmidt for three. Adrian McAdam got a start but could muster only 17, so leaving any real resistance to Matt Pyle who held on until 27, falling to a Scott Robertson catch off Graeme Schmidt. Otherwise Shaun Lynch heaved 17 late in the innings, but in all it was a day Rovers would prefer to forget.
With five overs to spare they were all out for 140.
With the ball, young Terry Dutton took 4/27 off nine overs to lead the wicket takers.At Albrecht Oval the game was over in record time.
West, who had been expected to carry on from an impressive two day performance at their last outing, were literally beaten by one man.
Michael Smith who recently returned to the Demons' fold, was the back breaker taking five wickets as Westies struggled to gain any semblance of competitiveness.
Feds skipper Jason Swain contributed to the Bloods capitulation with three wickets and Matthew Allen ended the day with two dismissals.It was only opener Adam Stockwell who showed any grunt when he put together 28 of an innings of 91. Despite Tom Clements and Brendan Martin being unavailable, the Demons opened with Darcy Bradmore and Matt Allen who carried the score through to the target.

The Festive Season: Goodwill and gadgets. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

If you wish to send Christmas presents to friends and family in places far from Alice Springs, beyond the bush and over the sea, better do it now.
On second thoughts, it is too late. You should have sent them ages ago.
In the world of the instant email, the always-available mobile phone and the ultra-cheap international phone card, it can be hard to adjust to an ordinary postal service at Christmas time. One day, someone will figure out how to send a teddy bear electronically. Don't tell me, they already did.We all know about the communication divide between old-style Postman Pat technology, which stays exactly the same, and new digital ones that develop at break-neck speed. But this becomes even more important to anyone living in remote Australia, even if the Alice is a small city with good services and facilities. Or is it a big town? Or a small town? I'm never sure, but we'll return to this subject.
Not only that, but if you live in remote places, gifts are often best organised by mail order from down south, which adds another week or two to the process. For the people that I buy gifts for, the whole operation has to be run like a military campaign and commences around Easter. This year, I am a tiny bit late.
In this spirit of early Christmas cheer, I was shocked to find that a major mail order supplier of gifts had recently folded. The publishers of Innovations magazine ceased production earlier this year.
Innovations was a European catalogue of gadgets you had never heard of but wanted as soon as you saw them. Delivery of your chosen gadget was less than a week. After it arrived you put it in a cupboard for 10 years, never used it and then sold it in a lawn sale.
Here are some examples; the sun-tracking beach chair, the motorised tie rack, the electric blackhead remover, the steering-wheel mounted mini-desk (for salespeople writing invoices in stationery vehicles), the backpack that turns into a chair. And no, I am not making this up.
The demise of Innovations is bad news for gift-buyers but good news for gadget-sceptics, those of us who worry about the descent of society into gadget hell. For example, I thought someone was joking when the news came through that certain cars are now equipped with DVD screens that glide down from the ceiling. I know that driving can be tedious and the roads in Central Australia are straight and empty, but surely a video experience can wait while we enjoy the journey.
Silly me, nothing must get in the way of the onward march of gadgetry or, in this case, the conversion of the car into a wheeled replica of the home. Put one gadget together with another and the benefits are supposedly untold. The car plus the mobile phone. The car plus the geographical positioning system. The car plus the DVD player. Can't wait for the car plus the footbath. Anyway, I think I'll fix up a DVD for my pushbike. It would be mounted above the seat and kind of glide down in a hi-tech fashion. I could glance up at it from time-to-time to make sure I hadn't missed an extended guitar solo by Carlos Santana or the ending of Terminator 2. None of this would be dangerous, of course.
The season of goodwill and gadgets commenced in early November this year. There are plenty of cool toys for older boys like me.
But though I complain about gadgets, deep down I wonder whether anyone from far away will send one across the desert just for me.
Which just goes to show that this is the season of hypocrisy too.

Who are the "prosperous"? COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

David and I received our first Christmas card about two weeks ago Ð from friends in Africa.
I'd only just finished putting cards in envelopes, together with the generic totally embellished Life and Times of Ann and David in the Centre, and I hadn't even thought about posting them!
I could have saved (some) time and sent friends the Alice Springs News. That would give a broad outline but, the need to know, the other stuff, the real happenings of us, and friends, in the Alice is something that only Christmas card recipients are privy to.
Friend and neighbour, Alison, dropped in for a coffee and she told me how proud she was of herself Ð she'd finished writing her Christmas cards and letters in record time, well prepared for the festive season.
We used to wish each other a very merry Christmas, a fun filled family festive season and a safe and prosperous new year. See if you can find a card with "prosperous" on it.
"Prosperous", according to the Oxford Dictionary, means financially successfulÉ affluent, moneyed, wealthy, successful, flourishing, not that we particularly talk about having a prosperous garden, although people tend to say things like, "Hope everything in your garden comes up roses" Ð which is obviously an analogy for life. "Hope you have a wonderfully prosperous year."
Colloquially "prosperous" means well heeled, well off, well-to-do. I like "prosperous" Ð it sort of rolls around the mouth.
It was interesting to see in the NT News 23/11/03 the headline, "Why the NT will Prosper" by Treasurer, Syd Stirling. The article talked about careful government planning and the improving of business confidence. It went on to say that the housing, retail and tourism sectors are recovering, that independent economic forecasters are predicting that growth in the NT over the next five years will outstrip the rest of OzÉCurrent projects, assertions of prosperity, were listed with the odd prospective employment opportunities and/or dollars (millions!) being spent:
¥ Wickham Point LNG Plant: 1300-1500 jobs.¥ Increased Defence spending: 200-300 jobs.¥ Lee Point Defence Housing project: 1000 jobs.¥ New Darwin Business Park and development of the rail and port transport hub.¥ Darwin Waterfront and Convention Centre development: $600m.¥ ALCAN Gove (Nhulunbuy) expansion: 1200 jobs.¥ $900m in government spending on infrastructure Territory wide over the next two yearsÉThe article indicates why some of the NT will prosper but it certainly doesn't (seem to) do a lot for the confidence (or prosperity) of Territorians living anywhere other than the extreme Top End, Darwin or Nhulunbuy, to be precise, does it?
Maybe what the headline really means is that if we all relocate to the very tip of the Top End, we'll prosper Ð we'll each have a wealthy, successful flourishing and prosperous new year, and a succession of those to follow, naturallyÉ
So this prosperous new year Ð is it the financial one, as opposed to the current calendar one, which as everyone knows, will be over soon enough? Same paper, two days later, headline on page two: "Alice Economy set to Boom" and on page four, "Business Hope hits Rock Bottom", about business confidence hitting lowest levels ever in the NT.
I'm an optimist so I'll go for the page two storyÉI had another look at festive cards received to date Ð most are along the lines of Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Many are from friends who used to live in Alice. They left because there didn't seem to be any real prospect of prosperity on the horizon: no new projects coming up, a lack of government spending and therefore tender opportunities and limited land to develop. Some were small business owners, employers, contractors, trying to have a go in the CentreÉ lives and livelihoods stifled.
Let's hope 2004 is going to be a prosperous one for all Territorians.

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