December 17, 2003.


Neither Mayor Fran Kilgariff nor Deputy Mayor David Koch are certain to run again in next year's Town Council elections, due on the last Saturday in May.
Mayor Kilgariff will make her decision early in the new year.
If she does run again it will be on her record of promoting the town.
"I am a native Alice Springser. My term as mayor hasn't changed my view of Alice Springs, it's just made me more determined to make sure that the town makes progress economically and socially," says Ms Kilgariff.She believes she has helped diversify and boost the economy by being "responsible for several very large conferences coming to Alice Springs". "I've had partnerships with Aboriginal organizations which did not exist before.
"We've networked a lot of areas as part of the desert knowledge movement proposals.
"I think I've spent just about every waking minute for the last three and a half years promoting Alice Springs".
One of her pet projects continues to be the Outback Highway, which will provide truckers and tourists with an east-west route to Alice Springs.
"I'm on that committee and we're certainly still working very hard.
"In fact we had the AGM (of the Outback Highway committee) in Alice Springs just recently.
"We've just done a $160,000 social and economic study, and a tourism plan. "And we've been in Canberra recently lobbying for the $100m that we'll need from the Federal, State, and Territory governments to bring the road up to an all weather road Ð not sealed, just gravel."Another big issue of the Mayor's first term has been alcohol reform. "Council has always been a key player in the debate on alcohol," says Ms Kilgariff. "We supported the restrictions. A lot of our time and some of our budget goes towards these things.
"We spent $200,000 in the mall to make it brighter and therefore more secure.
"We are currently looking at the provision of public toilets.
"All of those things in a roundabout way will have an impact on the consequences of alcohol consumption in the town."
She does not regard it as a failure to not have provided public toilets in the Mall area within her first term: "The question of public toilets is not an easy one.
"The council doesn't own any land at all, apart from the Hartley car park where we did get as far as designing toilets three years ago, and they were knocked back by the development authority.
"We've called for tenders at the moment, and we're just waiting now for expressions of interest to see what may come out of that for people who might be interested in leasing or providing public toilets in some other way."
Land availability generally and real estate prices are another big issue but not necessarily one that can be resolved by the council, says Ms Kilgariff."The town council has absolutely no control over real estate prices at all.
"To a certain extent, lack of land has driven prices up.
"There's been no new land at all for the last 10 years, so it's one of the most pressing questions that needs to be resolved."
The council has made progress on working with the native title holders in the town area since the inception of the Native Title Act, says the Mayor.Regarding council's draft memorandum of understanding with Lhere Artepe, it's been slow moving. "We haven't signed the final documents, but we've certainly approved the wording of it, and we're just waiting now for the new executive of Lhere Artepe who has just been appointed to approve the documents."
Council will want to be referring to Lhere Artepe for decisions and regular meetings are expected to be part of the partnership.
On the operations of Lhere Artepe's office, which appears to be unattended, Ms Kilgariff says: "I've no idea what their administrative arrangements will be."
According to Ms Kilgariff, the council has also made great strides in tourism: "We've put a lot of money into tourism around the town. Just off the top of my head, we've put $170,000 into the Masters games.
"We've put $24,000 into the Alice Springs Festival.
"In cash and in kind, I estimate we've put hundreds of thousands of dollars into tourism, as well as our responsibilities for keeping the town looking tidy and the good amenities that keep the local people from the region coming.
"So we do quite a few things, and we take very seriously the fact that Alice Springs is a tourist town".
She believes that the Territory Government is doing well with tourism. If she had a chance, however, she would like to get some of the worst stretches of the outback highway sealed.
Her advice for the next council?
"Be aware that four years is a long commitment, in terms of the time that the aldermen have to give to the town.
"And have some goals that you want to see accomplished."
Deputy Mayor Koch thinks he will "probably" run again as "a common sense voice in council".
His experience as deputy mayor and as alderman has been extremely positive.
Says Mr Koch: "I believe that Alice Springs is basically the capital of Central Australia.
"It just might be one of the most desirable places to live in inside Australia. "It's got magic climate, good people, and an economy, I think, that is growing".
Mr Koch says diversifying the economy in Alice Springs is a Territory Government job.
"We have got a policy of buying local within normal percentages as far as our contracts go, and using local suppliers," says Mr Koch.
"To actually diversify the economy though I think is out of the bounds of local government".
Mr Koch has been extremely involved in the Finance Committee of the town council, providing the town with "responsible management of council funds".
He believes that native title processes have not assisted infrastructure planning in and around Alice Springs.
"It has made it more difficult and more time consuming to achieve any reasonable land releases," says Mr Koch.
However, in terms of real estate prices and land availability, Mr Koch views the council's role as limited. "We don't have any control over land release.
"We can lobby government, and we can assist and we can ask, but we don't have any control over it".
Mr Koch does not claim to have actually increased tourism, but says council tries to help: "We've been fairly actively involved in assisting al fresco dining, and that type of thing will definitely assist tourism".
Again, he maintains, it's not really the council's job to commit funds to promoting tourism. That is the job of the NT Tourist Commission and CATIA: "We have representatives on CATIA, and we're looking at this point in time at supporting CATIA with their advertising and things like that."
The Outback Highway, which was promised $40m over two terms by the NT Government, is a go, but a very slow one: "We've been lobbying and working with the local councils both from east and west to try and achieve that.
"I think it would be a significant boost to Alice Springs tourism, and the town itself, if the highway went ahead.
"The council obviously hasn't got the sort of funds necessary to fund the highway, but we can apply for grants, both federal and state."


New Opposition Leader Terry Mills says he and his party, if voted into power, would not repeal a law passed two weeks ago which removes Aboriginal "traditional" marriage as a legal defence when a man has sex with a girl less than 16 years old.
Mr Mills told the Alice Springs News there would be "no comfort" from his side of politics for demands from Northern Land Council chairman Galarrwuy Yunupingu to overturn the measure.
People seeking to reinstate the practice of underage sex on the grounds of Aboriginal tradition "won't be getting any quarter from the CLP," says Mr Mills.
He was in the hot seat after responding "I will certainly be considering that" when asked in a radio interview: "Would you think about revoking that law should you get into power?"
Says Mr Mills: "There has been an interpretation placed upon what I have said which is incorrect.
"I was asked would I consider revisiting.
"I responded yes.
"My response was to do with the entire [legislative] package.
"We are clearly on the record as not entertaining for any moment any alteration to the issue with regards to customary law, as involving under aged girls.
"There is no issue there. That's not negotiable."
That was obviously not clear to Mr Yunupingu who on December 10, the day after Mr Mills' radio interview, issued a statement welcoming Mr Mills' "announcement" that a repeal would be considered by the CLP.
Mr Yunupingu also demanded action from Chief Minister Clare Martin and Justice Minister Peter Toyne, accusing them to fashioning a "one size fits all piece of legislation".
Dr Toyne, accusing Mr Mills of considering "reinstating customary law as a legal defence", called on Mr Mills to consult with Territorians, particularly Indigenous women and young girls, on "two laws for sex with young girls."
Mr Mills says he has spoken to Mr Yunupingu and could "understand his angst and it certainly arises due to a lack of consultation and communication" about the legislative package, including also the lowering the age of consent to 16 for homosexual boys.
However, Mr Yunupingu's two-page statement Ð on Northern Land Council letterhead Ð referred only to the tribal marriage issue and makes no complaint about lowering the homosexual age of consent.
Mr Mills says there has been a "lack of adequate consultation" on the legislation, making "ethnic, family and indigenous groups very, very upset".
Mr Mills says unlike the CLP the ALP "did not allow their members a conscience vote".
"Eight of their Members did not speak."
A group of women from Elcho Island "discovered that there was a lowering of the age of consent for homosexual sex with young lads" just two days before the Bill was passed.
He says the Greek community Ð also taken by surprise Ð in two and a half days collected 762 signatures for a petition against lowering the homosexual age of consent and is "totally outraged because they did not know that was in the Bill".
Meanwhile on other issues Mr Mills says the shortage of housing land is the "highest order issue that must be addressed" in Central Australia.
Whenever he's flying to Alice Springs he is "stunned at the view and I find it just incongruous that in that vast open space you are landlocked, you can't move, you can't grow, expand."
He says in his own electorate, Palmerston, there is a clear blueprint of how to deal with native title issues, which are currently blocking progress in The Alice.
He says the Larrakeyah Aborigines have just welcomed the first family moving into the $50m Darla Estate at Roseberry.
The Larrakeyah are developing the 391 block subdivision in collaboration with real estate scion Les Loy, formerly from Alice Springs.
Stage One (57 blocks) is completed and Stage Two (67 blocks) is almost finished, according to Mr Loy.
The tribe received a development licence from the CLP government in exchange for extinguishing native title rights over a nearby sporting complex.
"That's the way forward," says Mr Mills.
"There is a tremendous model already in place.
"I'm just appalled that with all the rhetoric we've had from the ALP, this is going to be a breeze, that we still haven't got any evidence of progress.
"It sets the template of what can occur in Alice Springs."
Mr Mills said he did not know the situation well enough to comment on reports that while the government is eager to proceed with Larapinta Stage 4 Ð and other housing developments in Alice Springs Ð internal strife within the native title body, Lhere Artepe, is blocking progress.
Asked why the CLP government had not put in place in Alice Springs a Darla style project, Mr Mills said: "I really have no responsibility for what happened before me.
"It's a new ballgame, a totally new landscape.
"We must learn from the past" and with certain things "we perhaps might have done better."
He says two years ago, when the CLP lost government, the negotiations between the Larrakeyah were at their early stages and the Darla project came to fruition under the Labor government.
Mr Mills agrees with Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Lim and MacDonnell MLA John Elferink that buying native title rights could be one solution of the current deadlock.
The money could then be used by native title holders "to be active participants in the development, and provide an economic capacity for traditional owners, just as we've done with the Darla Estate".
"To arrive at that point you must go through genuine consultation.
"At the end of it I am proposing that that is the road we should head down.
"I can't see any other route."
Mr Mills, who last week met with Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, says the NT has received from GST revenue a "windfall" of $78.6m in addition to base funding (which, per head of population, is five times the national average).
Mr Mills says rather than embarking on a "spending spree" the government should "stimulate the economy by lightening the load on small business which is suffering at an extraordinary level.
"People will not forget the $90 motor vehicle registration levy. Changes to the payroll tax and stamp duty "have to be looked at".
"The new $44 levy young learner drivers are now forced to pay should go."
Dr Lim is more direct on the subject.
In his electoral newsletter he says "the CLP will scrap the job tax É end the double dipping on stamp duty Éreduce payroll tax É[and] scrap laws that make motor traders tax collectors."

LETTERS: Pine Gap: Peaceniks on warpath.

Sir,- What a terrific achievement by your newspaper in that the Minister for Education, Syd Stirling, has now set in place an inquiry into the Gap Road Education Office.
Your public exposure of alleged irreparable maulings that several bush teachers have experienced over many years, by certain senior administrators at Gap Rd., has been a breath of extremely fresh air.
Because I have publicly castigated Minister Stirling over the appalling treatment inflicted on Diane deVere (former Papunya School Principal) by the Gap Rd. administration, I now wish to publicly applaud him on this excellent turn-around. I'm still pinching myself that an inquiry has been set in train.
Your most recent article, that featured the tawdry treatment of Trevor Close, simply highlights why an inquiry is essential.
His negative probation assessment at the bush school was handled by a very moderately experienced educator.
It has cost him dearly! With the greatest respect for that educator, she should not have been given that responsibility.
The lack of educational experience is also mirrored in some appointments at the Gap Rd. office.
Once again , no disrespect to those people but more proven educators are sorely needed there.
An incestuous nature and nepotism has long prevailed at the Gap Rd. office with regard to appointments.
This inquiry needs to pursue that unhealthy aspect of the office. It is nothing short of a scandal that Indigenous education has been so poorly served.
Hurrah to the Alice News for the public exposure.
Graham Buckley
Alice Springs
ED Ð The Alice Springs News has offered the Education Department the right of reply on numerous occasions but we have received no on-the-record responses. The issues raised by our correspondents are in the extreme public interest. To the best of our ability, we presented over several reports in the Alice News assertions by people with first hand knowledge, which we believed to be accurate, fair and relevant. We will comprehensively cover the inquiry set up as a result of our reporting.

Elferink: Extortionate land prices

Sir,- Re letter from Ministers Toyne and Vatskalis (Alice News, Dec 10).
Why is it that every time someone has the audacity to ask a question aboutNative Title they are immediately labelled a racist by this Government.
The reason that Dr Lim and I have concerns about the Larrapinta Stage IV development is because land prices are going through the roof. This means that everyone wanting to purchase a home in Alice Springs is forced to pay an extortionate price. This includes Aboriginal people who want to buy homes in Alice Springs.
If caring about land prices makes me a racist in the eyes of others then so be it. But in the mean time if I ask a reasonable question then perhaps I can receive a measured answer rather than name calling. I urge the ministersresponsible for their boring little diatribe in last week's paper to read yourcover story and ask themselves whether calling me names is helping.
John Elferink MLA
Alice Springs

Socialist envy'

Sir,- In response to Glenn Marshall's comment on at Pine Gap (Alice News, Dec 10):
Glenn's gratuitous swipe at base employees as "American cash cow base workers" seems to convey at least a degree of old fashioned socialist envy of those who manage to achieve financially rewarding positions, in this case mainly due to the high level of specialised technical skills and security clearance requirements.The missile program which Glenn is criticising is, in fact a defensive rather than offensive system, one intended to destroy incoming missiles.
This is a very good thing for Australia, as our nation lacks the capacity to develop such a system alone. As for the missile defence system contributing to any "global arms race" this is mere speculation.
One could argue that such a missile defence system would bring about the abandonment of ballistic missiles as strategic weapons.
Glenn's question of "when will this cycle of hatred and enemies and expanding military might cease?" is, in this case at least, misleading.
The erection of a defensive barrier to guard against attack does not constitute an act of hatred, but rather one of prudence.
There are without question well-funded and organised terrorist groups who would not hesitate to use any weapon, including ballistic missiles, in their assault on what they see as the evil of secular western democratic society. If you wish peace, prepare for war.
As to Glenn's accusation that George Bush claims "America is invading countries to spread freedom and democracy around the planet": it is a fact that Afghanistan and Iraq are now progressing toward a vastly freer society for their people.
This is a development which two years ago would have seemed impossible to even the wildest optimists among their populations.
This effort is costing multiple billions of US dollars and is certainly not generating a profit for America. The goal is a more stable and democratic Middle East.
"Can we blame citizens of these countries for feeling more and more disempowered by the process?" Glenn asks.
The US effort is directed to empowering precisely those who were disempowered by the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. And it is working, despite the struggles of those displaced regimes to deny freedom to their nations.
Glenn asks: "Can they be blamed if they get grumpy about their governments entering deals with multinational corporations to exploit local resources for no net gain to the local population?"
This question is presumably referring to the two-fifths of Earth's burgeoning human population which lack reliable clean water access.
In most such cases the actual problem lies not solely with global corporations, but with the national / local government and its corrupted politicians.
Among the numerous examples of such nations are Iraq and Afghanistan, where the situation is currently being corrected by outside intervention.
Glenn's "equitable planet where all can share in the available resources" never existed, and if one evaluates human history with an open mind, it can never be.
Socialist utopian dreaming is precisely that, a failed ideology and nothing more.
Doug Graham
Alice Springs

US project for military domination

Sir,- Glenn Marshall in "Pine Gap ho-hum" (Alice News, Dec 10 ) addresses some of the concerns raised by the Howard government's plans for Australian involvement in the US missile defence program.
The missile defence program is misnamed: it is not about defence, but is an integral part of the US government's project for military domination, intended to provide protection in the event of their launching any pre-emptive strike.
Nor is it "only" about any specific "theatre" of war: the US Air Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan clearly states that the US intends to secure its military domination by turning space into the crucial battlefield of the 21st century, and its "Vision 2020" (2001) describes the "synergy of space superiority with land, sea and air superiority ... to protect US interests and investments" that would be secured by missile defence and other projects to militarise space.
So what do we get out of this?
Security for Australia? Both the Chinese government and our own Office of National Assessments have warned that Australian participation in the program could provoke a regional arms race and "would not be in Australia's diplomatic or security interests".
Some financial reward? Try getting answers from Howard about how much Australia's participation in this "research" will cost Ð by way of your taxes, and by way of costs foregone in other areas such as health and education!
The joke is on us. What a Christmas present from our government!
Silvia O'Toole
For the Alice Springs Network for Peace

Feminist missionaries'

Sir,- Aboriginal marriage practices in the Northern Territory are beingforcibly modified to conform to a UN convention that girls under 16 cannot marry.
The UN Conventions on Children and Women are being given precedence over the Convention on Indigenous Peoples.
Under the guise of protecting women and children, feminist missionaries are behaving much as Christian missionaries once did.
The same UN that bans traditional Aboriginal marriage, insists on the right of gays to marry.
The Age of September 5 reported, "Australia is obliged to amend discriminatory legislation against same-sex couples following a landmark United Nations decision that is expected to have global ramifications."The Canberra Times of August 22 reported, "The ACT Government agreed yesterday to make condoms available to students from Year 6 onwards."
Do not girls under 16 attend such high schools?
A bi-partisan committee chaired by Green leader, Kerrie Tucker had earlier called for "Condom-vending machines in all secondary schools" (Canberra Times, April 19).
Kerrie Tucker noted: "We recognised the importance of young people being empowered to make decisions about their own lives... many are sexually active."
By implication, it's OK for girls under 16 to engage in casual sex with boys their own age or a little older, but it's an invasion of children's empowerment for a girl under 16 to get married to an older man.
Diversity and tolerance are a sham. What is being imposed, via the UN, is a single standard for all, a secular monotheism.
In the early USSR, homosexuality was normalised, and traditional marriage laws were abolished, such that de facto relationships were treated the same as marriage. Polygamy in Islamic regions was stamped out.
Stalin reversed these laws. He made marriage more serious, divorce difficult, and sodomy illegal. Now with the fall of Stalin's "false Communism", we are getting the "real Communism" once more.
Peter Myers
Watson ACT

Christmas at Sweet Angel Mine. A tale by LINDSAY JOHANNSEN.

Tiny Watson stopped walking and looked up at the stars again. "Gees, it's dark, Stan," he said. "Are you sure you know where we are?"
It was a hot night and both men were perspiring freely.
"I told you it'd be dark," Stan replied. "Bring the hurricane lamp I says; the moon won't rise till midnight. ÔShe'll be right,' says you. ÔWe'll see by the stars'."
Tiny shifted the hessian bag to his other hand, then wiped his sweaty brow with a massive forearm. "I know, Stan. I know. But not as dark as this. Let's use the torch."
"Don't even think about the torch, Tiny. You know them batteries are nearly buggered. We will be, too, if we can't see nothin' when we get there."
Around the mica-fields Stan was known as "Stan the Con". One reason for this was his reputation. Another was his name: Stanislav Theodophorus Constantino.
Stan the Con. A little hatchet-faced black-haired weasel of a man.
Tiny was in almost every way, the opposite Ð a big, bluff fellow, easy-going and easily led. Apart from size, his most notable feature was his hair. It was like the finest golden-blonde silk, wavy and dense. As a growing boy it had been a source of embarrassment. As a man, however, the endowment proved an almost irresistible asset. There was no evidence of it now, though. Stan's recent foray with the scissors had left Tiny's noggin a tufted wasteland.
Stan and Tiny were once men with a trade, but now they were mica miners. Their mine was near the Plenty River, about three hundred kilometres north-east of Alice Springs. Both enjoyed life in the bush, though some believed expediency lay in their choosing this remote address. It didn't matter; everyone on the field was accepted as he presented himselfÉ until demonstrating otherwise, at least.
Their little mining venture was situated on a low ridge, not far from the track through to Queensland. The Sweet Angel it was called. From their hilltop dwelling Stan and Tiny could see any traffic on the road Ð not that there was much during those dry shimmering days prior to Christmas 1950.
Jack Matthews had gone past in late November. He'd been to Alice for fuel, they'd heard, and to get casing for his new bore. The only other traveler had been their nearest neighbour, Kite McKullock.
Kite owned the White Dragon, a mica mine situated near a great white quartz-blow about four kilometres south of the Sweet Angel. Between them lay a broad mulga flat. Before setting out for Alice Springs Kite had called into Stan and Tiny's to borrow petrol and a spare tyre. He'd not wanted to; it obliged him to bring out whatever they might need, plus extra fuel to make up the borrowings. Worse if he had tyre trouble.
Besides the usual supplies, Kite this time had to collect his children, Heather and Jock. They were boarders at the local Catholic school, Heather being seven and a half years old and Jock six.
He didn't have to concern himself with this while their mother was alive. Judy and the kids lived in town, while Kite maintained his solitary existence on the mica-field Ð stewing in his own Scottish sourness, as she used to say. Now when the school closed for Christmas Kite had to pick up his children Ð or pay someone to look after them. Having to pay money never sat easy, though, with the frugal Mr McKullock.
That's not to suggest he'd ever have denied his wee bairns their Christmas tree and presents from Santa as expected. Yet the decorations were always meager, and their gifts chosen with his usual parsimony.
Stan and Tiny didn't mind helping him out, of course, but Kite's gritty meanness really grated on Stan. It got him thinking about things, over time. Not about getting even as such; more about the sort of thing that might in turn grate on Kite's flint-hearted disposition.
ÉAnd therein lay the reason behind their midnight foray, that dark Christmas Eve.

"Gees, I dunno, Stan," Tiny said as they walked along. "It seemed like a good idea, before. But what if ol' Kite wakes up and pulls out the twelve-gauge. We ain't gunna look too smart with our arses full of buckshot, are we. Specially if we have to make a run for it with these old sacks wrapped around our boots."
"Nah, Kite won't wake up. He's just back from town, see, with plenty of Scotch to help him sleep. And like I said before, we have to pad our boots or in the morning he'll find our tracks. Not too hard to work out who they belong to with your size twelves. We're just lucky the old bugger's too mean to have a dog."
"Yeah, but he's gunna work it out, isn't he. I mean, who's got the nearest show to the White Dragon? He'll turn up in the morning to sort us out, that's for sure."
"Course he will. But why us? Plenty mica miners around here don't like him. Could've been any one of Ôem."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right."
"Course I'm right. Ð Hey! We could say it was Father Christmas."
"Hey, yeah! That's who it was! Father Christmas! That's a laugh."
They walked on in silence after that, blindly stumbling through the patches of thick mulga scrub. Then, covered in scratches, they came out onto clear ground just as the moon started to rise. Off to the right loomed the White Dragon quartz reef Ð all ghostly looking in the moonlight. McKullock's hut stood nearby.
Both men knew its general layout from earlier, more legitimate visits: a single kitchen-cum-living room with an open lean-to at the front and a brush enclosed lean-to behind. Kite swagged on a stretcher at the back of the house, the kids slept in the brush lean-to.Stan and Tiny approached from the front, alert for movement or the light of a hurricane lamp. Everything seemed quiet. Nearer came the sound of Kite's snoring, his breathing heavy and even. They listened a moment, then padded quickly to the door.
"Where do you think it'll be?" whispered Tiny.
"Probably in the corner by the kero fridge," Stan whispered back. "Here, give us the bag and the torch. Ð Now listen. The door's on a spring. When I go inside you hold it. And don't let it slam."
"Righto, Stan. Ð Hey. What if Kite wakes up?"
"It don't matter now. It'll only take a couple seconds to find it. I'll be out before he can move."
"Yeah," said Tiny. "And back in the mulga before he can even find his boots."

Christmas Day at the Sweet Angel Mine dawned bright and clear. In the east a line of cloud heralded the coming light with a powdery pink glow. Slowly it changed to gold as the sun came up to the horizon.
Stan the Con and Tiny Watson were not awake to witness this uplifting event, however. On returning home they'd boiled the billy and had a good laugh over their dark endeavours; daylight found them in their swags sleeping the sleep of the innocent.
Kite McKullock arrived about ten thirty, as predicted. The children were not with him.
Stan was under the lean-to of their elevated residence, lounging back on their decrepit old sofa when Kite drove up. "Merry Christmas, Kite," he shouted cheerfully as the truck rolled to a stop. "Good to see you." Then Tiny appeared from inside the hut, hat wedged firmly over the frizzy remnants of his hair. "Yeah, Kite. Merry Christmas," he added. "But why didn't you bring the kids?"
Kite opened the door of his truck and stepped to the ground without answering, all stony face and bitter resolve.
"Gees, old mate, you'd better come inside for a bit of smoko," Stan continued brightly. "Tiny made a Christmas cake last night. You can be first to try it Ð if you're game."
Kite stood by his truck, riven with conflict. He'd come over to confront Stan and Tiny and to tell them exactly what he thought of their effrontery, but held back the accusation for want of proof. Nothing whatever pointed to their being the perpetrators, yet it had to have been them. Further restraining him was a natural predisposition against making a complete fool of himself.
So Mister Kite McKullock kept his own counsel and went forth into the humble home of Stan the Con and Tiny Watson for tea and a piece of Christmas cake.
And all the while those two devious gentlemen played the perfect innocents. They chattered about the weather, about the price of mica and their last drunk-up in Alice Springs. They whinged about the cost of tyres and the condition of the road, and had a good laugh over Rack Jackson's wife Beth going back to his brother Billy again. They told how Stumpy Williams got caught poddy-dodging, and how the mica stolen from the Ajax later went missing from the Harts Range copper's lockup shed. In fact they prattled on about everything they could possibly think of É except for Christmas and Christmas presents.
And over at the White Dragon Heather and Jock played with the wonderful toys Santa had put under their Christmas tree. Jock made roads for the big red-painted metal tip-truck that Tiny had laboured over in detail, revisiting as he did the skills of his all-but-forgotten trade. And Heather brushed the fine golden hair of the elegant doll that Stan the Con had hand-carved from the wood of a fallen beantree.
And oh how painstakingly he'd assembled and painted and dressed the little mannequin, his one good out-on-the-town silk shirt being sacrificed for her gown, and his fingers half raw from teaching himself to sew with calico flour bags Ð before daring to cut the precious material.
And later that night, as a storm rumbled away to itself in the distance and a gusty breeze rustled through the leaves of the nearby trees, Stan the Con dreamt that an angel stood in the open door of their hut, filling the room with a radiant light. And as he struggled up from the deep womb of his dream he thought he heard in the faint rushing of the wind a whispered "thank you", like a mother's soft lament É gone before he could grasp it.
And Stan awoke and sat up. And through the open door of the hut he could see the moon rising, filling the room with golden light.


2003 provided Central Australians with a hamper full of sporting achievements to cherish.Veteran triathlete Loie Sharp capped off her season with a top 10 finish in the World Championships.
Cyclists Matthew Stephens and Daniel Herrick under the eye of John Pyper forged their way to the fore in national competition.
In ten pin bowling Andrew Mac Arthur emerged as a national star.
Souths ended 2003 with the AFL flag, coached by Greg McAdam.
And the Labor government , honouring its election commitment, replaced the hockey surface at Traeger Park with an international standard strip.
In 2004 we can look forward to an on going picnic .
Once the festive season is over all eyes will be on preparations at Traeger Park, for it is here that Cricket Australia and the AFL expect to woo regional support for their sports.Cricket NT has taken a further step towards the professionalisation of the game in the Territory with the appointment of high profile CEO, Neil Dalrymple, who will come back to the fold after a successful administrative term with Australian Softball.One of his first challenges will be the staging of the Imparja Cup competition in Alice Springs. This is the flagship event for Indigenous cricketers Australia wide and this year the carnival will attract teams from all Australian states.
Within the Territory, however, cricket is making giant leaps forward and this will all be disclosed with the conduct of the Communities Imparja Plate event held over the same weekend.
In recent times Cricket NT have taken a travelling troupe of coaching staff and administrators to Timber Creek and Mataranka for lead up competitions. Last weekend the focus was in Katherine.
In all the response has been overwhelming. Just as the Aussie Rules followers are nowadays constantly on the lookout for Indigenous talent, the natural ability of remote area residents is now being recognised and fostered by Cricket NT and its parent body.
The Imparja Cup has all the signs of "coming of age " about it and with all pitches in Alice being fully booked in the last weekend in January, Centralian cricket lovers are in for a ball.
On a lighter note on January 31, the ABC's cricket commentator who can cause a chuckle, Kerry O'Keefe will be in town as guest of the Alice Springs Cricket Association, and he will be centre stage at a sportsman's dinner with Len Pascoe and David Cazlay.
While the Town Council will be going full throttle preparing pitches in January, the needs of the AFL will also have to be addressed as that peak body have announced that Alice Springs will play host to exhibition matches over the next three years.
The Wizard Cup is the AFL's pre season competition and to be granted a game early in 2004 fills a void for Australian Rules fans.
The last game staged by the AFL in Alice Springs was in 1997, coinciding with 50 years of the sport in Alice. On that occasion it was Essendon and the Adelaide Crows who entertained on Traeger Park. Thinking back to that night, literally the who's who of Central Australia were present in a fixture that proved itself financially and satisfied a community need.
On the note of Australian Rules, the newly re-badged AFLCA will make changes to the structure of the 2004 domestic season. The League will revert to a Saturday competition.
Communities football would thus be played on a Sunday, and junior football will continue of a Friday night.
In 2004the colts competition will in fact be conducted as an Under 17 competition rather than the traditional Under 18s. In essence this is a wise move as all clubs have many players in the Under 18 bracket who have served their apprenticeships and are already playing in the senior ranks.
The run through the late summer months will see both Cricket and Rugby Union conduct their finals pre-Easter.
In the Rugby Union competition, the Warriors have taken all before them to date and would appear at this stage to be difficult to dethrone from the minor premiership. The Eagles, who have reigned for the past two seasons, have found that the drain of their premiership players has forced them to rebuild. The Devils are still "blooding" a young side, which leaves the Cubs as the most likely side to run on against Warriors for the flag.
At Pioneer Park racing has been at a high point in recent times. A string of Alice Springs horses are now stabled in Adelaide or Melbourne, seeking better competition and greater prizemoney.
Come April though the story will be different with the running of the Alice Springs Cup Carnival. The month long extravaganza is now a recognised feature in terms of Australian racing and Cup Day itself on Bang Tail Muster Day will again attract a huge crowd and they will be entertained by top racing.
To go from horse power to that of the iron horse was a development that took decades to achieve, but in Centralian sport it is seemingly a natural conversion as the major event to follow Cup Day is the Finke Desert Race on the Queen's Birthday weekend.
On line service and television footage have taken this event to an audience of world wide proportions. But the real action is still very much at home. Back yard sheds become the sweat shops of motoring devotees as they put in the long hours preparing bikes, outfits, buggies and 4WDs for the annual campaign to Apatula. (Finke) and back.
Some 400 entries will be received and anything up to 15,000 fans will camp along the track, their way of celebrating the long weekend.
Through the winter months, the racing industry will sojourn to Fanny Bay to contest the laurels on offer at the Darwin Cup Carnival. Footballers of Aussie Rules and Rugby League allegiance will seek premiership glory. At the Pat Gallagher Courts, Netball will again be a major draw card; and next door on Ross Park Soccer will push for further prominence in this sports flooded town.
At the fore of publicity and promotion, however, will be the Masters Games. From the humble yet exciting first Masters in 1986, this biennial event has captured the attention of mature sports people from throughout the land. In October the tenth Masters will celebrate its landmark achievement, by entertaining some 5000 competitors in what is known simply as "the Friendly Games".
For a week other business in town seems to come to a standstill as sport and entertainment take centre stage.
In the aftermath of Centralia's jewel in the treasure chest, summer sport will pick up the ball and run, be it in rugby union, cricket or touch football.
The major events of a year in sport in Alice Springs, on their own, provide one with a continuum of activity. But running in tandem with this major events calendar are a total of 65 sports, many hardly recognised by the media, but serving a vital community purpose.
Early mornings throughout the year will see the Alice Springs Running and Walking Club going through its paces. Of a Monday night the Hash House Harriers appear on the streets. Indoors at the YMCA and other gyms throughout the town the fitness-oriented go through their stretches and bends, be it to music, in pump classes, or pushing weights.
At the Memorial Club and the Alice Springs Bowls Club fast greens cater for the lawn bowls fanatics. The Bowls Club also hosts a small but enthusiastic Croquet community.
Across the river on the Golf course Ð a highly rated regional course in the Australian guide Ð social "hit and giggle", weekly competition, and elite play are all catered for throughout the year.
Shooting attracts participants to a variety of ranges throughout the town, with Pistol shooting on Undoolya Road, the Gun Club off Ross Highway, and the Sporting shooters housed at Ilparpa.
In the same vein the archers take to their fields of glory in a variety of disciplines.
Back in town Softball, Baseball and Slow Pitch cater for those of differing interest in the challenge of bat versus ball.
The town pool offers a valued resource. Early morning swimmers, those in the club for competition, water polo, canoe polo, underwater hockey, and mere sun lovers all find what they want at the town's aquatic centre.
For the less exercise-driven Alice Springs also provides for the eight ballers, darts players, those who shuffle cards, be it cribbage or bridge, and for those who engage their intellect in chess.
In 2004 there will be some thing for everyone in our hamper of sporting opportunity.


ÔReal True History': Coniston Massacre
The enquiry's whitewash; the impact of the 1928 drought
Part 15 of an historical perspective by DICK KIMBER

Although Alex Wilson could have returned from hospital to help the enquiry, particularly with the questioning of Aboriginal witnesses, he commented later that there was a police contingency plan that occurred to prevent this.
For a time after his hospitalisation he was sent out east of Darwin to work in the constantly relocating buffalo hunting camps. That way he was as uncontactable as Tracker Major, who was said to have gone "walkabout."
As Alex told me at the end of my last yarn with him on 17th December, 1988, when he had been referring to the 1928 patrols when the Aborigines were shot "like dogs", this was: "With mine own eye, what I have seen."
He added, as a perception of his whole life, yet with particular reference to the "bad old days" of the killing times on Coniston and Broadmeadows:
"That's real true history, that.
"But that's in my mind, and what I've seen with my own eyes. Oh, the things I seen!
"Got to keep your tongue shut, or you might get it shot off."
YARNINGOld Alex laughed at the thought, and I chuckled with him, but there were only the two of us yarning when he laughed. He was ever a "look about man", making sure that his audience was who he intended it to be.
In that the board members accepted the evidence presented by George Murray that he had always called upon Aboriginal men to put down their weapons (and there are corroborative statements that this sometimes occurred), and that he only shot in self-defence when men resisted arrest and attacked him, he was declared to have acted lawfully in the carrying out of his duties as a police officer.
He accepted responsibility for the shooting of by far the majority of the 31 Aborigines, and all others who shot them were exonerated. This strains credulity, given the evidence that was presented, and the board seems to me to have allowed itself a bit of leeway in the truth of its findings.
"The Board is prepared to believe the evidence of all witnesses" is not exactly a ringing endorsement, prefaced as it is by the view that Jack Saxby was "afraid to admit that he killed some of the blacks."
However, to emphasise that they did not believe that the patrols were punitive expeditions, the board summarised all evidence and police party statements, which indicate that not all people were shot, and concluded of the two patrols and the Tilmouth shooting:
"(a). The shooting was justified.
(b). The shooting was justified.
(c). The shooting was justified."
Given that this was the Board of Enquiry's determination, the members obviously needed to find other evidence to explain "things". The Aborigines and their supporters were clearly the only other people who could be blamed.
What could the reasons be seen to have been? The idea that the "Walmulla" were by nature "cheeky", and were intent on driving all white people out of their and their neighbours' country, was developed.
After one or two pastoralists had mentioned this, without indicating that they may have contributed to the Aboriginal warriors' actions, Nugget Morton made a statement that the board effectively endorsed for the entire area:
"[The Walmalla tribe] are more ferocious than other wild blacks. I have heard several times from my blacks that this Walmalla tribe had boasted that they were going to wipe the white man out. I have heard the names of some of the white men Ð myself, Sandford my partner, Tilmouth, Stafford and Turner [Tilmouth's then partner on Napperby] and also the working black boys. I gave no provocation whatsoever for the attack and I gave them food when they asked for it."
Many other aspects could be commented upon, but one more will suffice, and that is the subject of drought and its impact on the Aborigines.
DROUGHTFrom 1874-1923 inclusive the average rainfall in Alice Springs was 289mm. A drought then commenced, and between 1924-1927 the average was 196mm. In 1928, the fifth year of the drought, only 61 mm fell, the lowest on record to that time, and in 1929 only 143mm fell.
The figures at Barrow Creek showed an identical trend, the average for 1884-1923 being 307 mm, then 253 from 1924-1927, dropping to 86mm in 1928, and increasing to 181mm in 1929.
As early as 1925 the waterholes of the MacDonnell Ranges were described by Philipa Bridges as "places of tragedy", with dead horses and bullocks lying by the water's edge, and other animals being in "pitiable" condition.
Cecil Madigan described 1927 as one of the years of a "bad drought, which was not to break for two years more".
Michael Terry's evidence is that every pastoralist in the north-west other than Randal Stafford was obliged to shift camp to other waters, and that Randal had employed Jack Saxby to dig another well in any case. He also commented of the country towards Napperby station:
"Not a bird, not a beast, no cattle, no horses; everything had succumbed either to death or in weary migration to less cruel parts."
Norman Tindale, a legendary ethnographer, reported in his "Aboriginal Tribes Of Australia" (1974) of the summer of 1928-1929 that, so severe was the drought out west and north-west of Stuart Town , that "no [witjuti] grubs could be found on the roots of the Acacia excelsior shrubs; native banana greens É were absent or all had been eaten by starving animals; kangaroos had migrated elsewhere and the Triodia grass had neither set seed heads nor had the summer grasses been able to grow and seed.
"The oily seed heads of the Calandrinia and other succulent plants were absent. Results were abject starvation with the appearance of a form of scurvy ..."
The Board of Enquiry accepted that there was a drought, knew that Miss Lock and Athol McGregor had reported genuine cases of starvation, but preferred to accept Constable Murray's comment:
"There was no such thing as starvation in any part of the country I have travelled to. There is ample native food and water. During the last ten days I was out I found plenty of native foods myself."
Not one of the board members, who had often found conditions "most difficult", thought to ask what kinds of "native foods" Constable Murray had delighted in eating.
Were they the scavenging crows, falcons and wedge-tailed eagles feeding on the corpses of the shot Aborigines? This is a likelihood, given that they were the only sizeable living creatures that Michael Terry had seen to the south.
It is unlikely that they were the camp-dog dingoes, though some of them were reported to have been thrown on fires. However, there being no proof of the nature of the plentiful bush tucker, it is idle to speculate further.
Oddly enough, a few years later Nugget Morton (as one might expect omitting mention of his abduction and rape of Aboriginal women) commented to Patrol Officer Ted Strehlow, "It all started in the Big Drought. All the stations around here were eaten out bare and the cattle men had to shift their cattle out to the Lander River." However the Board of Enquiry listened to Constable Murray, and concluded in their Summary:
"[The] Board wishes to state that there is no evidence of any starvation of blacks in Central Australia. On the contrary, there is evidence of ample native food and water."
As with other people at the time, and researchers over the last 40 years, I have a bit of trouble with this perception. I have no doubt that occasional springs or soakage waters such as Brooks Soak survived, and that some bush tucker was sometimes gathered or caught.
However, this doesn't mean that the people were not other than starving and, as earlier indicated, turned to cattle-spearing, camel-spearing and raiding of stores in desperate endeavours to survive.
Before the year was out, too, many starving Aborigines, including numbers of southern Warlpiri, were migrating in to Hermannsburg, having heard of it as a last-chance place of food.
Dinny Japaltjarri, who was one of them, likened his own movement to a perishing bullock rushing to a water trough.
He was happy to arrive at Hermannsburg, even though many who had migrated were so weak that they died at or near the Mission. The situation was remedied when Dr. Cleland visited and realised that the main problem was scurvy, which resulted in a cure being found through immediate donations of citrus from "down South."
My own belief is that the Board of Enquiry was hand-picked to give maximum protection to fellow police officers. In so doing it may well have been doing as Prime Minister Bruce desired, but if not directly him, certainly senior Canberra officials responsible to him.
The Board failed to examine numbers of significant people (including Alex Wilson); did not seek to hear evidence from any Aboriginal witnesses in the Coniston-Broadmeadows country; did not ask numbers of blindingly obvious hard questions; and wore blinkers wherever they travelled.
In other words, as with some (but not all) people at the time, and as with all researchers since then of whom I am aware, I believe that the enquiry provided a whitewash more than a revelation of complex truths.
Others have in the past, and will now, disagree with this assessment.
AT RISKI do not deny that Constable Murray and his different patrol members were often at risk, were hard of body and mind, and lived hard on the patrols.
It is doubtful whether anyone in Australia today is living as hard as they did then.
How heroic (or otherwise) Constable Murray or any other members of the patrols were will depend on each reader's perspective.
As is indicated in that which follows, though, the focus has become fixed on Murray.
This is understandable, given that he was the policeman in charge of the patrols, but is also unfair in that others were involved, sometimes independently of him.
Keith Windschuttle, generally regarded as a conservative historian, emphatically stated on television in September this year that he considered Mounted Constable Murray a murderer.
The caption editor of photographs in this paper described him as a "mass murderer."
Was he? Why do many of us in the present day judge things so differently from those in the past?
Missionaries Annie Lock and Athol McGregor were, respectively, the only short-term resident and visitor of the years 1928-1929 who believed that he was by implicationa murderer, but no other "white" Central Australians of the same time are known to have thought so.
He had been formally and publicly exonerated of any wrong-doing during the course of the police patrols.
And while some newspapers were critical of the findings of the enquiry, "The Register" hailed Constable Murray as the police trooper who "Rides Alone And Gets His Man Always."
(I suspect that that writer and his readers enjoyed the silent Western films of the era.)
However, it is also relevant to mention that, at the time "he received hundreds of letters applauding them [him and the other patrol members] on the ground that they had made the Territory a safe place for the white man".
This comment was written by Sydney Downer in 1963, after he had interviewed Constable Murray.
While he does not appear to have seen any of these "hundreds of letters" he leaves no doubt that he considered George Murray a man who had done his duty, and had been exonerated of any punitive intent. In other words, he leaves him as an heroic figure of the frontier.
If Mounted Constable Murray is to be described as a "mass murderer", I believe that it must be proven that he and the other patrol members, who also cannot escape censure, killed more than they indicated, did so unlawfully for much of the time, and deliberately concealed the evidence.
The latter is already patently clear from the limitations of the written reports, and has been suggested in discussion of the three patrols' activities (see previous issues).
How many?
"Six hundred! Seven hundred!"
It was retrobate old Nugget Hunter (not to be confused with Nugget Morton) yarning with me in 1970.
I couldn't help laughing at his abrupt, gruff delivery of the estimate.
"I heard that it was closer to 60 or 70," I replied, deliberately dividing by 10, but in fact believing the number to be higher.
"Six hundred, seven hundred! Sixty or seventy! What's the bloody difference. Teach Ôem a lesson!"
Nugget was clearly not all that reliable a witness, but he had been out through the Coniston country and Tanami Desert, as far as Hall's Creek, in the early 1930s.
And he had done prospecting, and been gaoled for six months for "cohabiting" ("Cohabiting! Why, we was only educatin' them!").
He had heard the stories so, exaggerated though his perceptions were, they certainly suggested more than 31.
NEXT (returning in 2004): How many were shot? The range of evidence.

Culture of confusion seals backpackers' fate. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Culture can be confusing. I saw a couple of backpackers marching up Undoolya Road the other day. Getting desperate, they had taken out their guide book and were no doubt looking for the Desert Park. I have been lost too but I didn't help them.
The story of the Good Samaritan might have been drummed into me at school like no other parable, but in my culture minding your own business is just as important.
Do you think I did a bad thing? Those sun-streaked people might still be out there, wandering around Undoolya Station trying to find the Desert Park gift shop and the toy lizards filled with sand.
But, on the other hand, there's always a silver lining. At least they are seeing desert wildlife in the flesh rather than at the nocturnal house.
Life is full of contradictory advice. Patience might be a virtue, but then again life is too short so let's get on with it.
Competition is healthy but it's the taking part that really matters. Tolerance and understanding are admirable qualities as long as I don't have to apply them to the person writing the cheque in front of me at the checkout or the non-English speaker who cannot understand me.
Wouldn't it be great if the confusing cultural clutter of life could be scrubbed away? There would be a coin-operated wash booth outside Bi-Lo. One full wash and you would reappear as a cultural blank page. It would be like shaking an Etch-a-Sketch to rub out the drawings. All those childhood influences will have gone and the confusing signposts of school, religion, media and family cast aside. With the maturity of adulthood, we could then start over again and construct our own personal culture.
I mention the subject because this is the last Fish out of Water for the year. And next year will be filled with more of the peculiar contradictory challenges of living in a small remote town with two major cultures and a harsh climate. So there will be much to talk about.
For a start, take customer service. We settle for an international breed of customer service, but shouldn't there be a Centralian version? Perhaps there already is.
Related to that, how about facilities for travellers arriving in our oasis after hours and days on the road. Can they easily find shade, a toilet and a drink of water in the same place and without having to pay for it? Actually, no.
On the other hand, when you go down south, do you make a point of telling complete strangers that you live in the NT? What is the point of that and doesn't it just make you a sad and smug individual?
Then there are the joys of everyday conversation. A man who collects snippets of conversation overheard on train journeys, records them on a website. Example: "For ages you have been saying you're OK. You are NOT OK."
I wonder what we might hear in the Yeperenye Shopping Centre, apart from "how yer going" and "isn't it hot".
Moving to a higher plain, in these days of desert this and knowledge that, what is left for humble purveyors of common knowledge? If I cover my fresh concrete slab with bin bags to stop it cracking, perhaps I could become a Professor of Common Knowledge. Or even common sense.
Then there's the question of our viability as a community. If Alice Springs is basically unviable, due to a huge subsidy and a finite water supply, why do house prices go up? I think I'll ask my bank manager while he's giving me Territorian customer service.
As I was saying, it is all very puzzling but, all the same, I hope you think it worth fifteen minutes each week. Thanks for being a reader. See you again in the New Year.

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