December 10, 2003.


A senior member of Lhere Artepe, the native title body holding the key to opening up desperately needed housing land in Alice Springs, says the organisation is not functioning.
Matthew Ampetyane Palmer says the release of some 90 blocks in Larapinta should happen immediately, and in Mt Johns Valley Ð where up to 1000 allotments could be created Ð soon after.
However, he says the Central Land Council (CLC) has control of Lhere Artepe and is blocking progress with the negotiations.
Meanwhile Lands Minister Kon Vatskalis has denied media reports that he has put an ultimatum to Lhere Artepe.
The NT Government has an agreement with the organisation to hold back on developing its half of the land at Larapinta until the native title owners have developed theirs.
A spokesperson for Mr Vatskalis says while the Minister has said he is confident blocks will become available next year under the deal, he has not foreshadowed that he would breach the agreement with Lhere Artepe.
Meanwhile Mr Palmer says Ð
¥ Lhere Artepe should operate as an independent organisation (which in fact it is).
¥ Open tenders should be called for the development of land to be obtained by native title holders; Aboriginal businessman Bobby Liddle should be able to bid for the job but not get it automatically.
¥ Traditional Arrernte people should have a far greater involvement in the decision making process and meetings should be held in Arrernte language.
At present many elders are staying away because the issues are not explained to them. He says the CLC's handling of the process is "bullshit".
The value of Lhere Artepe's share of the land in Larapinta and Mt Johns Valley Ð once developed Ð is estimated to be worth more than $50m Ð but Mr Palmer had no knowledge of this.
Although he is an Arrernte "law man", one of the 30 members of Lhere Artepe, one of its 10 executives and a former deputy chairman, Mr Palmer has never been shown the site of the proposed Larapinta development, and had no idea where Mt Johns Valley is until shown by the Alice Springs News.
"We are not dumb," he says.
"But they are treating us like myall people who don't know anything Ð in our way nor in western way.
"They are not giving us a chance to go into the right door.
"They are keeping us out of their little private meetings with the government."That's been going on for years"
Mr Palmer says while there is clearly a fortune to be made by native title holders from real estate, "my relatives, the Olivers, Ross and Alice families, Arrernte people, are living at Amoonguna, and the Hayes families are living at White Gate [a fringe camp on Undoolya Road] and Undoolya Outstation in tin sheds and without facilities such as a clinic, school or even a telephone.
"My people have nothing," he says.
Mr Palmer, 38, was educated in St Teresa, does not drink nor smoke, and works as an interpreter for the law courts.
He says he is worried native title holders will miss out on the spoils from the land deals: "We don't want little cake slices."
Mr Palmer says there are often "too many arguments at the meetings.
"A lot of people are not traditional owners."
He says he will convene a meeting soon Ð possibly next week Ð at Ammoonguna or St Teresa to get the long-delayed Larapinta project up and running.
He says he is confident of having the numbers in Lhere Artepe to end the long-standing logjam.
"I have a lot of support from my people," says Mr Palmer.
"I am going to straighten this out."
Meanwhile claims by Mr Vatskalis that there is progress with the Larapinta subdivision are under attack from Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Lim.
Says Mr Vatskalis: "There are regular meetings between government officers and Lhere Artepe to progress Larapinta.
"This is the first time such a negotiation between a government and a native title group has taken place anywhere in Australia.
"A tender was awarded to local company Sitzler Brothers only two weeks ago to carry out the first stage of headworks at the new Larapinta subdivision.
"Work has started, so the claim that there is no progress at Larapinta is completely false."
But Dr Lim said in the Adjournment Debate last week: "The headworks are done by government; it is nothing to do with the development.
"Any headworks that government does, brings water, power, sewerage to the edge of the property.
"Then the developer has to do the rest."
Dr Lim also says the government should put "some resources in to support the Lhere Artepe, give them some legal advice.
"Get some people in to Lhere Artepe to ensure that the whole process continues to grow, but at least have a time line.
"If there is no formal agreement signed between the government and Lhere Artepe, now is the time to do it, says Dr Lim.
"If Lhere Artepe cannot get the land developed by a particular date, then say to them: ÔIt is all over.
"Here is some money, and you will relinquish your native title in it'.
"Then the government can proceed to release the land for competitive tender and it can be developed."
Mr Vatskalis described the notion of paying off native title holders as "confrontational".
He says: "'Write a cheque' they cry.
"Perhaps the two CLP Members [Dr Lim and MacDonnell MLA John Elferink] would also like to throw in a handful of glass beads."


Bushfires are a major polluter and the Territory Ð huge in area but sparsely populated Ð is a major offender on a per capita basis.
For example, in 1999 Australia's entire road transport belched 12,400 tonnes of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, while "savanna burning" contributed 18,500 tonnes, around 50 per cent more.
Nearly half the Territory's greenhouse emissions come from bushfires in some years.
In 1996 bushfires accounted for 25 per cent of greenhouse emissions in the NT while the national figure was 2.4 per cent.
A massive blaze in the Tanami Desert in 2001, for example, burned 80,000 square kilometres of Aboriginal land where ancient practices of keeping fires in check through patch burning has fallen into disuse.
That fire alone is estimated to have created nitrous oxide emissions equivalent to nearly three per cent of the emissions by Australia's entire transport industry in a whole year.
Nitrous oxide, as a greenhouse gas, is 310 times more harmful than carbon dioxide (CO2).
Bushfire expert and author Peter Latz says big summer rains followed by a dry spell Ð as occurred in 1975 Ð could this year again lead to big fires.
The NT Government, through a unit within the Bushfires Council, and in partnership with traditional landowners, is now investigating how pollution from bushfires can be reduced.
The study is being carried out in West Arnhem Land.
If successful, the experiment could put the traditional landowners on track to earning carbon credits Ð money to support ongoing land management.
One measure could be precautionary burning early in the season to reduce the risk of much larger, hotter and consequently more polluting fires later on.
There are unanswered questions about the release and subsequent re-absorption of CO2.
Vegetation such as spinifex absorbs CO2 at the greatest rate when the plant is growing vigorously.
This occurs mainly, for two or three years, during regrowth after a fire.
However, the fire itself releases CO2 at a great rate.
A slower release takes place when the plant dies and rots away.
The present assumption is that as much CO2 is released in a bushfire as is re-absorbed during the subsequent regrowth, and there is a zero gain: the system is in equilibrium.
However, says the CSIRO's Garry Cook, this is still an untested assumption, and the Top End experiments will throw further light on it.
For example, emissions from burns in spring, when the plants are still smaller and not yet completely dry, would release less CO2.
Yet the regrowth may be just as vigorous, removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than had been put there by the fires.
The Bushfires Council's Andrew Edwards, who is in charge of mapping fires in the West Arnhem study, says it measures fires with respect to frequency, duration and areas burned, and their methane and nitrous oxide emissions are estimated.
Mr Edwards says many of the study areas in the Top End are "very comparable" to Central Australia, sandstone escarpments and spinifex.
Vanessa Boxshall, of the Arid Lands Environment Centre, says: "Alarmingly, CSIRO predicts that global warming will make central Australia wetter in summer and drier in winter in coming decades.
"This creates ideal conditions for grasses, spinifex and other vegetation to grow, providing fuel for big bushfires.
"Unless we start managing our rangelands to prevent wildfires, it sets up a spiral of more fires, more carbon dioxide emissions, further global warming, increased fuel growth and more fires.
"This is on top of the existing impact of uncontrolled fires on the mammals and plants of the region," says Ms Boxshall.
"Central Australia holds the dubious distinction of having the highest extinction rate of mammals in all of Australia.
"If wildfires continue we will see the added disappearance of bilbies, mala, long-tailed dunnart and the Centralian rockrat from our rangelands.
"We must rapidly return the fire regime towards traditional Aboriginal patch burning, which requires the NT government, pastoralists and others to work closely with Aboriginal people, including the provision of adequate resources and training to enable this."
Ms Boxshall says whilst millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases are being created by wildfires in central Australia, over 200 households in Alice Springs are participating in the Cool Communities program to reducehousehold greenhouse gas emissions.
"Savings of three tonnes per house are congratulated by the Australian Greenhouse Office, [but] are dwarfed by fires.
"If individuals can make an effort, surely the NT government, pastoralists and Indigenous land holders can too."
"We have to manage fuel loads strategically so we stop fires from being so huge," says Neil Phillips, the NT Government's Regional Natural Resource Manager.
"The last three years' intense fire activity across Central Australia reinforced the fact that we are trying to manage huge landscapes with minimal people. We need to use advances in remote sensing technology to identify target and high risk areas, and reduce those fuel loads in a strategic manner. This will include using the various stake holders and using incendiaries from aircraft, and existing roads and tracks to break up the country at a bigger scale."


A consultant from Perth-based Bandt Gatter and Associates has been appointed to conduct the inquiry ordered by Minister Syd Stirling into "poor relationships" between teachers and the Central Australian office of the Department of Education (DEET).
The inquiry follows an investigation by the Alice Springs News (see our last four issues).
Bandt Gatter are organisational design and development experts.
Associate Marli Wallace flew into Darwin on Monday for a briefing from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment (OCPE) and a meeting with the Australian Education Union's NT branch.
She arrives in Alice Springs tomorrow (Thursday) to meet management and staff and obtain documentation, including past grievance files, before school breaks up on Friday.
She will then have the summer break to develop a process for the inquiry, returning to the Centre in the new school year.
Commissioner for Public Employment John Kirwan says he wants the inquiry to be as comprehensive, thorough and open as possible.
How it will actually be structured Ð for instance, how people will be encouraged to make submissions to the inquiry Ð will be at the discretion of the consultant.
Mr Kirwan said that, apart from education staff, the consultant may also speak with community representatives "as some issues raised go to those relationships".
The Alice News asked Mr Kirwan if he was aware of a greater than usual number of grievances coming out of the Central Australian region.
COMPLEXHe said the number of grievances remains fairly consistent but the grievances are becoming more complex:
"They don't just concern one issue; they are multi-faceted and occur over a period of time."
He said this is the case not only with DEET, but also with the Department of Health and other agencies.
This is possibly occurring in part, he suggested, because people are more prepared to raise issues and challenge actions than they have been in the past, and because certain behaviours, such as bullying Ð recently the subject of an OCPE survey Ð are identified as unacceptable.
"In the past, people may have been prepared to turn the other cheek. That's less the case now and I have to say, as a statutory employer, I think that is a good thing.
"Some issues could be resolved with early intervention."
"Once they are further down the track it can be much harder to work out exactly what has happened."
Meanwhile, AEU-NT president Robert Laird has called for the inquiry to encompass the whole of the Territory, looking at not only human resource issues, but also at how staffing, finance and capital resources are allocated between schools in town centres and bush schools.

LETTER: Inquiry - truth is needed.

Sir,- Although I welcome the much needed inquiry into the poor relationships and systems dysfunction in administration and management in the central region of the NT Department of Education, it needs to be in the context of a much broader, deeper investigation conducted in such a way that the real issues are confronted, and the right people are asked the right questions in the right forums.
It is clearly a cross-sectoral issue and therefore needs to include all stakeholders. Questions relating to the appalling treatment of some recruited teachers certainly need to be addressed. This hopefully would include the many skilled Indigenous teachers and school council members whose careers and reputation have also been jeopardised or destroyed.
However, I am concerned that this avenue of inquiry will still leave many questions unanswered. An analysis of the patterns and history of management behaviours in the region could provide some insight into the complexity of the problem. Looking back over 15 years and identifying what has worked, what hasn't, and why, could I believe provide the answers that would bring some truth and therefore reconciliation into the story.
This could lead to the reconceptualising of the way business is done in remote communities so that good practice and good practitioners are celebrated, nurtured, valued and included into the system, and lessons about productive pedagogies and how to work in culturally inclusive environments to achieve agreed measurable targets can be practised. This would bring accountability and much needed lessons for management, service deliverers and service providers.
The big question remains, why was a model as successful as the one developed in Papunya destroyed?
Was it because we provided secondary programs and led the way in youth career and enterprise training and were successful in securing funding for what was a highly successful ICT program that focused on publication broadcasting and multimedia?
Was it because we demonstrated how learning that valued and integrated Indigenous knowledge, language and culture with Western thinking provided a very powerful two way pedagogy that resulted in a comprehensive literacy acquisition and learning model embraced by the whole community?
Was it because we put informed Indigenous people at the head of all decision-making?
Was it because we dared to succeed in all of these areas at a time when reform agendas and economic rationalisation required the phasing out of both of these programs in favour of English only assimilation programs?
It appears that schools and staff that did not provide these programs or got rid of them were not victimised and in fact have often been rewarded, promoted or at least still have a job.
How will the following questions be addressed by this inquiry?
Why have so many experienced dedicated teachers with a proven record of success in engaging community and valuing students been let go, disempowered, discredited, shafted?
Why have the elders, parents, youth stopped taking part in school activities? Will there be any compensation for students and community teachers who have been deprived of human rights?
What reparation will be put in place for the damages incurred, services withdrawn?
Why has the highly acclaimed Learning for Life youth program been destroyed? What has replaced it?
Why was the Incorporated Indigenous Management Group forbidden to continue in 2001?
When will a secondary school be provided for young people in this region? What model has replaced the two way model that was removed?
Why was the principal position at ET4 level in 2000 upgraded to ET5 in 2002, then downgraded to ET3 in 2003?
Who is making the decisions about staffing? Who is controlling the royalties from the "Papunya School Book of Country and History"?
Who is benefiting from the intellectual property of the Action Research Team's curriculum project?
Who enrolled young people in courses at Centralian College without their knowledge in 2000?
The community has a right to know the answers to these questions. They need to know who is to be held responsible for the devastating results of these actions and agendas that were decided without consultation with the principal or the school council or community.
These radical actions coincided with unofficial changes to alcohol rules, once again against the community's wishes, and some quite irregular processes at the community level.
I feel there should also be an inquiry into other agencies' roles in these matters. They include the Local Government Association of the NT, ATSIC, the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Technology, Northern Territory Principals Association, Youth Affairs, Correctional Services, World Vision, and Dare to Lead.
They all played some role in the rise and fall of the Community School at Papunya. They should all be accountable.
Diane deVere
(Former principal, Papunya School)


'Real True History': Coniston Massacre
The 1929 Enquiry continues

Constable Murray's evidence that 14 more men had been shot in addition to the 17 originally known about would be expected to come as a shock to the Board of Enquiry members.
However it is almost certain that John Cawood had alerted the other board members to what he had heard from Sergeant Noblett and Constable Murray about more shootings (a point made by Murray during the enquiry), and that rather than themselves be "caught out" by possible revelations from others, the board members had indirectly instructed Murray to keep quiet about the second patrol, but mention incidents that occurred during the third patrol.
In the passage that follows the chairman's expression "it is now clear" might be interpreted as clarification of the previously unwritten reports, and under the circumstances I believe that it is an obvious thing for the board to have insisted that Murray give the additional details.
However, the Chairman's questioning of George Murray was probing, as these few brief extracts indicate:-
"Chairman: Constable Murray, this enquiry was established to look into the events surrounding the death of seventeen natives. From your evidence it is now clear that a further fourteen lives were taken, yet nowhere does this appear to be in any report from you detailing such deaths. I would suggest that this is a matter we should look very closely at now. Let us start with the shooting you have referred to at Coniston Station when a native in chains was wounded. Who was present at that incident?
Constable Murray: My trackers Paddy and Major were the only ones there.
Chairman: You didn't mention this in any report?
Constable Murray: I gave my evidence more fully today.
Chairman: You made a report dated 2 September, 1928, but you also did not mention that four natives including one lubra were dead and that a fifth, also a lubra, had been badly wounded. Apparently she died but you did not seem to think it important to detail when this happened?
Constable Murray: I don't think it matters where she died a minute or an hour afterwards."
And so the questioning and the answers went, and similarly in the case of the third patrol, as again a few examples indicate:-"Chairman: In reference to the Morton case, did you in your report give the number killed?
Constable Murray: No.
Chairman: Why?
Constable Murray: I did not think it necessary at the time."
After further similar probes the chairman continues:
"Chairman: Could you not have made a supplementary report later? You have had four months in which to do this.
Constable Murray: I could have made one.
Chairman: Did you not think it of sufficient importance to make it?
Constable Murray: I gave my report to my superiors. [That is, Sergeant Noblett and Administrator and Police Superintendent John Cawood knew]. I thought it was for them to call for another one.
Chairman: Exactly. That is what I think too. What about the incident about your native boys bringing in two prisoners. Nothing at all about that in your report although you tell about it in evidence.
Constable Murray: I included them in the number who were killed.
Chairman: There is no need to hedge. This concerns the taking of thirty-one lives. You are far too casual about it. It has been suggested that these were reprisals or punitive expeditions to clean up the blacks so that they would never return.
Constable Murray: It never entered my head or any of my party as far as I know. My last instructions were not to shoot unless it was absolutely necessary. We had opportunities to shoot perhaps hundreds had we wished to massacre the natives."
These truly representative examples indicate that, whatever the Warlpiri, Anmatyerre and Kaytetye survivors and their descendants think today, and whatever researchers since the 1950s have thought, Constable Murray did not concede that the combined incidents constituted a massacre.
He did not see it as a "frenzy" of killing, as a television report recently labelled it, but as a policeman doing his job. And yet, as will later be considered, what or how many constitutes a massacre? Was George Murray correct in his view that it was not a massacre, or was he so hardened by having been present when literally hundreds of thousands of men were killed in World War 1 battles in which he was directly involved that he could not make a valid assessment? Or was he "covering up"?
As earlier intimated, a limited number of other points are now also briefly examined.
Sergeant Noblett was castigated for his "slipshod method" of dealing with matters, and failure to ensure that both he and George Murray followed convention by writing detailed reports. (Mounted Constable Willshire had been formally criticised for the identical failure in the 1880s).
Under questioning Sergeant Noblett indicated that almost everything had only been verbally reported, whether between him and Murray or him and Cawood. He also gave responses of a "slipped my memory" or "I don't know" kind; and stated that he thought that the general reports were acceptable, though they omitted almost all details of any shootings.
My interpretation is that he was the first to realise the likely ramifications of the shootings, and had done his best to protect Murray and Cawood as well as himself by deliberately encouraging, as well as himself writing, extremely limited reports. (Despite having had no official police training, Murray stated that when he first took up duties as a Territory policeman he had learnt the correct method of reporting matters from a senior police officer, thus confessing that he had deliberately limited his reports).
Police Paddy was the only Aboriginal witness called. His evidence was patently a construct, even to the point of claiming that he and Constable Murray had examined Fred Brooks' body when all other evidence absolutely indicates that it had been already been deeply buried by Bruce Chapman and was not again disturbed.
That he gave his considerable evidence without questions being asked by the board, whereas all other witnesses were asked questions, indicates to me that board members considered him likely to give incriminating evidence if questioned. Where conflicting evidence was given by Police Paddy, such as about the death of handcuffed prisoners Ð which would have meant that Murray had shot handcuffed men Ð Constable Murray answered the later questions.
Similarly it was Constable Murray who answered any other "dangerous" statements by Police Paddy, such as that wounded prisoners were not seen again after they had been handed over to Murray.
In that numbers of the seasonal Aboriginal station hands and domestic servants had tolerable "bush English" and the station men all had some ability to make themselves understood in a mixture of bush English and Anmatyerre or Warlpiri, the board's inability to find a single Anmatyerre or Warlpiri witness who could have been questioned is remarkable.
It is also difficult to conclude other than that the board members' travels, in taking them over much of the Coniston-Broadmeadows country that was accessible by motor vehicle, took them only to what they partially wanted to see rather than a whole lot more to which they could have been guided.
Further to this, when the board members received news that Alex Wilson had recovered from illness in Darwin, they did not themselves request his immediate travel back to Stuart Town to give evidence to the enquiry, but asked George Murray if he wished Alex to give evidence.
George, knowing that Alex had translated Lala's statements rather too honestly for his comfort in Darwin, was allowed by the board to dismiss the possibility on the basis that Alex was a "half-caste" who was illiterate, and therefore that his evidence would be unreliable. The board also supported Murray by saying that the calling of Alex would have meant a delay in the hearings, and found a degree of solace in George Murray's and George Morton's statements that Alex stayed with the horses while they did the shooting. However, since Alex always followed close behind with the horses, and observed what transpired on each occasion, his own statements are worth mentioning. As he told a friend of mine:
"They never got off their horses. They shot them down in cold blood."
Alex had a way of telling a story that instantly drew one in. He had hand movements, alert watchfulness as though never to be surprised when someone was "about", the cocking of an eye, the changing tone of voice, that were unique to him, yet understandable to all. "In cold blood" was an expression he used more than once to me when discussing the Coniston story.
NEXT WEEK: The findings.

Another year in paradise. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

I used to keep a diary, but I couldn't get around to writing in it.
So I fell weeks behind. It got to the point where I was trying to write insightful comments on the daily grind of August, but during the Christmas break.
In Alice Springs, undistracted by the pressures of big city life, it ought to be easier. Except that other excuses intrude, like the heat or the rain or country dramas or rugby tournaments or lengthy yarns with people you don't need to have a yarn with in the first place.
So, with or without a diary, how was your year? Here's a reflection on 2003, seen through the narrow lens of my Centralian household.
January. Radio National springs to life after summer slumber of repeats, then falls asleep again after a week. Fail to retune to another station but instead consider downloading better radio programs from the Internet and playing them on a CD player. Fail to do this either.Camp at Yulara. Lie in tent and melt ice cubes on forehead to keep cool.
February. Potter around in garden to no avail. Spread dynamic lifter but it stays solid. Install compost heap. Contents dry out and blow away in unexpected wind.
Household battery charger fails. No new battery for electric toothbrush. Teeth go yellow despite absence of smoking. As a result, I keep my mouth shut and don't smile for a month. Not as hard as it sounds.
March. Install greywater system for dusty backyard. When finished, as a reward I purchase an exciting book about adventure cycling. Sit in armchair and forget to read it.April. Evenings spoiled by irritating retired general making daily television commentary on the progress of the war in Iraq. Relief comes with declaration of end of war and return of general to golf course. SARs stays on the other side of the desert.
May. Electric oil-filled radiator fails to heat room. For four months. Then cold nights become hot nights in the space of a day-and-a-half. Renovate bathroom and enjoy cold tiles.June. New native plant turns crispy. After hours of toil and one bout of heatstroke, I look at my garden and realise the many different typologies of desert.
July. Visit towns on Sunshine Coast and notice how they are joined together by suburbs and shopping malls. Undertake fruitless search for unspoiled coast on local buses. Under bombardment of government publicity, finally accept the importance of learning how to resuscitate, but don't learn.
August. Repeated television advert for four-wheel drive dealer in Townsville begins to grate. Need break from blonde presenter so pay more attention to family-sized salesmen from local Toyota dealer.
Join in the broadband revolution. Receive grainy streaming videos of home town soccer team losing matches, a strangely heart-warming experience.
September. Garden mulch forms mulch dunes after heavy downpour. Replace mulch but it shifts again after high wind. Cat uses new compost bin as a toilet.
October. Close friend dies. Hollow feeling for days. Feel better but feel guilty for feeling better. Time not much of a healer.
Finish personal website. Join crest of e-commence wave until friend suggests that I should pay people to visit it.
Update website for a reluctant audience of one. Departed friend would have enjoyed it.
November. Vice-free life spoiled by too many blueberry muffins. Go to gym. Increase fitness targets. Fitness stays the same.
Morning news replaced by incomprehensible footage of good-looking viewers getting married.
Can't switch it off due to my manic rowing in the gym on a rowing machine.
December. Squawking chooks annoy neighbours. Build hut for them insulated by carpet from tip shop. Reflect on the year.Actually, this year was very good. I wonder what 2004 will be like. Next week; next year.

Getting ready for Santa. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

Our first Virgin experience last week went extremely well Ð other friends had availed themselves of the service and David and I thought it was about time that we did tooÉ
Little Sally, David's youngest daughter, turned 30 which was a good reason to head to Sydney, and it's so great to have choices and competition in our skies É and there, in the Voyeur, in the City Guide section our own Editor Extraordinaire, Erwin, extolling the virtues of some of his favourite places, The Sports Bar, Keller's Swiss and Indian Restaurant and the Araluen Centre. I sat (in the middle) next to a young Danish girl who took full advantage of her window seat to snap away at the Centralian landscape as we lifted out of Alice.
She was ten months into her twelve month Aussie adventure and loved exploring the Centre (with Wayward Tours) and although Uluru was breath-taking in its enormity, her highlight was Kata Tjuta and a walk through the Valley of the Winds.
Her trip around Tasmania also ranked highly Ð so different from her homeland, beautiful but flat Denmark, and a world apart from the Swiss Alps. We talked about travels, life and famous Danish baconsÉ which reminded me that ordinarily by now I'd have ordered the traditional ham from Shorty Ð a bit pointless, as we'll be celebrating (flying Qantas, the Australian Way) Christmas for the first time in over 20 years with my family in New Zealand. It'll be different Ð and somewhat cooler as well!!
Christmas in the Centre is always special: there was much festive cheer and high spirits on a Wednesday morning when David and I sat, with others, enjoying coffees at Sporties', observing Town Council employees hanging Christmas decorations around the sails in our mall Ð two trucks, one with a cherry picker affair, an electrician's ute, much frivolity and laughter, as the red and green decorations were hung, a yellow star sitting at the top.
Banners around arterial roads carry festive messages, shops have brilliant window displays, Santa's and nativity scenes, house owners string lights around their gardens, prepared to risk overload and breaking of circuits and records (Congrads to Ruth and Wally!), and there are open invitations to one and all to enjoy carols by candlelight.
Santa, looking very jolly, and a bit hot, in his bright red suit, ringing his bell and bellowing "Merry Christmas" toured the streets at the weekend, with helpers, on the back of a twin cab utility: He's obviously giving the reindeer a break as he readies the sleigh: the elves have been working non stop (I took my niece, Lesley-Ann, and nephew, Bart, to see the movie "Elf" and hadn't realized how frenetic life at the North Pole is, year in, year out) and the Alice is geared for another splendid festive season.
Bart and Lesley-Ann were busy making Christmas cards for Nan and Pop in New Zealand and friends who have moved interstate. It's a funny time of the year isn't it? Thinking about friends and family elsewhere unless we're lucky and they either live here, or will visit, over the holiday break Ð time to reflect on those less fortunate and maybe pop an extra something in to the Salvation Army or one of the many collection points around town.
Time also to consider some who aren't celebrating with us because they're in another place with all those people (and don't we each know some of them?) who have passed away Ð Pattie, forever fifty, forever young, our dear friend who hasn't had Christmas with us for five years, and others, who've touched our lives in special ways, spring to mind É I like to think that they're all together somewhereÉ having a gi-normous partyÉ floating, being, in another dimension.
Australia is still the lucky country Ð despite all that is happening globally, we have much to celebrate, and the time to do it. I'm not going to make any resolutions (I always break them!) this year: I hope that you and yours have a happy healthy festive season and that the new year brings all you desire, and more. Let's hope and pray that 2004 is the year in which universal peace and understanding will finally prevail.


Scorebooks can reveal the statistics, and the result of matches is recorded for posterity. The games themselves can be quite a different affair, however, as evidenced when RSL Works took on Wests at Albrecht Oval on Saturday.
The RSL side returned a win after setting Wests a target of 168 and bowling the Bloods out for a mere 80.
In the day night game at Traeger Park Federal made it six wins out of seven for the season after Rovers posted 141, and the Demons surpassed the score, having lost eight wickets.
The Albrecht game was one of intrigue and closer than the score book records. Works had first use of the bat and were without the services of skipper Jeff Whitmore. They had far from a solid start to their knock when they were 1/0 and soon after 4/20 and looking down the barrel.
Wests' captain Jeremy Bigg was in form and was particularly well supported by Peter Lake. Lake bowled in a manner reminiscent of his halcyon years, and with his skipper kept RSL honest. The batting side showed some form of revival in the middle order with Scott Robertson posting an invaluable half century.
Returning to the Works line up was Matt Salzberger, who contributed with 28, so seeing a score of 167 on the board.
In beginning the chase Wests got off to a "flyer" with Adam Stockwell appearing to be in complete command.
The were 0/32 and looking the goods before the influence of Salzberger, Cameron Robertson and Wayne Eglington took over.
With Salzberger snaring four wickets and three a piece to Robertson and Eglington , Westies were torpedoed out making a lowly 80. The effort of Jeremy Bigg to remain not out in trying to put together some resistance was the standout batting performance.
Under lights Federal were drawn to face Rovers. On the Traeger Oval Rovers had first use of the bat and put together 141. The major influences on the batting were Nick Clapp who compiled 46 and Peter Kleinig who offered support with 32.
Feds however were rewarded with sterling performances by Curtis Marriott and Allan Rowe who took three wickets each, and Jarrad Wapper and skipper Jason Swain who claimed two wickets a piece.
Federal were far from home and hosed however as their batting line up lacked the regular faces, Graham and Michael Smith, Tom Clemens and Brendan Martin.
The responsibility early in the order was left to Darcy Barmier who put together 23 and later, Jarrad Wapper who remained not when the target was reached.
Of the Rovers' attack it was Adrian McAdam and Tee Rayfield who provided most venom.
This weekend one day cricket continues with RSL Works having the luxury of playing a day night match against Federal on Traeger. The fixture should be a corker as RSL will see the return of the strategist Whitmore, and Federal should be strengthened by the return of their regulars.At Albrecht Oval Rovers will play Westies, with the Bloods searching for a win over the Blues who have had their player resources depleted somewhat in recent weeks.


Ben Cornell thought all of his Christmases had come at once on Saturday at Pioneer Park when he booted home the first three winners.
In the 1200 metre December Class Five Handicap the new hope of the Terry Gillett stable, The Burcutter, led from the 1000 metre mark. He jumped out of gate four, and controlled proceedings by some two lengths as they entered the straight. Stablemate Earth Legend took the sit in second place while the eventual winner Bysanto followed on the outside of La Mexa.
The Burcutter couldn't run the race out as they entered the straight and Bysanto took advantage of the situation and proved to be too strong in the run home, finishing a winner by a length and three quarters.
Earth Legend rattled on to take second place with The Burcutter a similar distance away third. The $3.50 favourite, Shadow Boxer, did little to impress and trailed La Mexa into fifth place.
The Bulldust and Bough Shades Class Three Handicap was raced over 1400 metres. From the gates there was a mad charge for the lead with the favourite, Monkey Boy, Bright Vision and Crown Pacific vying for the lead.
Crown Pacific proved in this race that he needs to lead to win, as Bright Vision established himself on the rails, commanded a lead and simply kept going to win by three and a quarter lengths.
Original Warrior did well to come from midfield to pick up second money and Monkey Boy filled the placings albeit a good two and a quarter lengths behind.
The Summer Handicap over 1400 metres, attracted a field of six. He's Tough Enough, who has not been racing at his best led but found the petrol tank to be low a thousand metres out.
Queens Image settled in second spot, with Gamera handy. At the business end of the race a tight finish prevailed with Gamera getting the nod from Queens Image by a short head. The pull in weights could have been the deciding factor in this result. The revered Le Saint then collected third money a length and a half off the pace.
The Finke River Trobis Maiden Plate over 1100 metres was an eye opener as five of the six starters enjoyed their first run at the Park. Mighty Mox was the most experienced campaigner having had two previous starts here, but experience proved little as Blues Legend, accompanied by Gary Lefoe led early by two lengths and then extended the lead to eight lengths by the winning post.
Mighty Mox ran on to take second, while Ellen Sunshine earned a note in the black book as she threaded her way from the back of the field to finish third.
The last, the second division of the Finke River Maiden, was a cause for celebration for the Ted Wade stable. Wade's two-year-old Belle Rokaiya shared the lead early with Liaise and Wood Vice. In the straight ,however, Belle Rokoiya proved too strong winning by two lengths on the line.
A run to remember was that of Wood Vice who tested Liaise in the run to go down by a mere neck.
In the meantime several performers from the north are now settled in stables in the southern capitals. Getting Lucky had some misfortune in the barriers, in Melbourne, on Saturday when she was Ôspooked', and in the process nicked a leg to force her withdrawal from the event.
Connections of Nappa in Adelaide overcame the top weight handicap by employing the services of an apprentice, but even so the Centralian star found the going tough to finish midfield.
The most impressive of the locals interstate was Drifter who claimed a handy fourth and should build on that performance.
The last meeting prior to Christmas at Pioneer Park will be a twilight meet on Thursday week, December 18.


His name is Hunwick: born of the pen of Mem Fox and the pencils of Alice Springs artist Pamela Lofts.
Lofts is perhaps better known locally as an installation artist Ð one of a handful of non-Indigenous artists from the Centre who exhibit nationally and internationally.
But she is also recognised as a children's book illustrator, the artist behind the Australian children's classics, Koala Lou and Wombat Stew, both into umpteenth editions, and the series of traditional Aboriginal stories for children such as How the Kangaroos got their Tails, which will be relaunched in early 2004 by Scholastic.
Koala Lou was also done with Mem Fox, and the new title, Hunwick's Egg, takes some of its cues from the earlier book: endearing Australian animal character, touching storyline.
FROM PAGE 8.For Lofts, though, Hunwick had the extra appeal for being set in the desert heartland of Australia, where she has made her home since 1991.
She has delighted in rendering in delicate detail and exquisite colour the little-known plants and creatures of the desert. These include bush tomato, parakeelya and parrot pea or bird flowers, as well as the dunnart, mala, honeyant, piedish beetle and case moths. They are the rich environment of the story rather than its characters, and have all been the subject of considerable research by Lofts.Hunwick, the bilby, is observed in many moods and poses, perhaps a little "humanised" but who would quarrel with that? He is above all very animated, as are all the creatures of this story. This desert is alive!
If Fox is interested in stimulating children's literacy, Lofts is equally committed to developing their eye, their "visual literacy". Her work is about illustrating, yes, but also about the art of drawing Ð mark-making Ð in which she achieves great finesse.
"For me the project is partly about more traditional drawing being part of our visual world," she says. Marks made by hand are really important, they are more magical. You can't achieve the same effect with digital technology."
Hunwick's Egg will be published by Harcourt in USA and Penguin in Australia.

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