June 16, 2004.


The NT Government recently extended by 21 years the rights of the Santos consortium to pump crude from the Mereenie oil field west of Alice Springs.
The government did so without any apparent attempt to create a significant benefit from the resource – potentially a buffer against skyrocketing fuel prices – for the people of the Territory.
The renewal of the production licence coincides with the possible demise of Central Oil Refinery at Brewer Estate.
The refinery has for some years sold diesel for 10 to 15 cents below the bowser prices in Alice Springs, which are always amongst the nation's highest.
Santos is now refusing to sell crude to the refinery and has evicted its marketing arm, Australian Farmers Fuel (AFF), run by Alice businesswoman Ianne Haynes.
Wayne Anderson, the refinery's owner, says Opposition figures in Alice Springs, including MLAs Jodeen Carney and Richard Lim, have shown interest in his current difficulties.
However, the Government's Office for Central Australia has not even granted requests for a meeting with a relevant Minister, let alone offered help.
Mines Minister Kon Vatskalis was in Alice Springs last week, together with all other NT Ministers, for a "Community Cabinet" meeting, ostensibly an opportunity for the public to have contact with NT Government Members.
I spoke with Mr Vatskalis about the Santos issue at a Finke Desert Race social function on Thursday.
All he would say was that competition watchdogs such as ACCC were unlikely to allow the NT Government to tell Santos to whom it could or could not sell its crude.
Mr Vatskalis instructed his senior adviser, Mark Hough, who was standing next to us, to provide me with further information I was seeking.
Mr Hough undertook to ring me the following day (last Friday) but he didn't.
That means I couldn't put important questions to the government, including these: When the Mereenie and Palm Valley oil and gas fields were opened up by the Everingham CLP Government in the ‘seventies, they were touted as a Territory resource for the benefit of Territorians.
However, for more than two decades most of the crude has been rail freighted to South Australia, an arrangement that is continuing.
The sole beneficiaries in the NT are the government, which gets 10 per cent of the well head value by way of royalties, and traditional owners who are collecting about 11 per cent.
We were going to ask Mr Vatskalis: Given that the expectations raised when the production licence was first issued remained unfulfilled, isn't it time to finally give the Territory public what it has been promised?
Can the Minister link conditions to the production license, which – after all – he issues, that guarantee benefits to Territory fuel consumers?
And if so, how?
Says a government source not wishing to be named: "The government has not taken policy decision.
"Theoretically governments can do anything."
Meanwhile Santos and its partners Magellan and Oilmin, which are selling crude at the ruling world parity price, are making a killing.
Industry sources say Santos' production costs are between US$9 and US$11 per barrel (159 litres).
The current sale price is close to US$40. That means the current margin between production costs and the sale price, at the moment, is close to a cool A$40 per barrel.
Santos produces 1000 barrels a day.
I put this to Santos spokeswoman Kathryn Mitchell who would neither confirm nor deny it.
Mr Anderson says his refinery is worth $11m after a $5.5m refurbishment some years ago.
During that work he entered into an arrangement with a trucking company that was carting much of the gear for the refinery's upgrade.
The deal was a 10 per cent share in the refinery as payment of the freight costs.
Mr Anderson says about 18 months ago the trucking company unexpectedly demanded $1.3m for its share, creating a serious financial strain on Mr Anderson.
At the same time Santos insisted on an up-front "bond" of $100,000 before selling any more crude to Central Oil Refinery – money Mr Anderson says he hasn't got.
Ms Mitchell describes demanding a bond as "standard commercial practice".
Central Oil Refinery is now under external administration, has been idle for 18 months, and cannot resume operations although it has a buyer for all the fuel it can produce, NT Farmers Fuel.
Santos blocked attempts by Ms Haynes' AFF to keep up the supply to its customers, in the interim, by bringing in fuel from South Australia.
Two weeks ago Santos kicked AFF off the premises leased by Central Oil Refinery.
Mr Anderson says he owes Santos $26,000 in rent – an amount he would readily pay back once production resumes.


Local achievers Dave Fellows and Tony Pinto are again Kings of the Desert, having won the title a first time back in 2001.
Their Jimco buggy (pictured above) just proved too slick for not only the other 83 cars but also the Steven Greenfield led charge of almost 200 bikes.
Finke of 2004 was never going to be a tame affair with the prologue day on Saturday seeing the non finish of Darren Griffiths intensifying into a desert storm by start time on Sunday.
While Griffiths pondered his race future it was KTM's Brad Williscroft who again grabbed pole position for the start of the bikes, with the legendary Steven Greenfield on his Honda 450 poised in third place.
The cars however dominated the prologue as the Mark Burrows team blitzed the field to claim the pole and the Jarrod Alvins Shoot Out.
Burrows had a three second victory in the Shoot Out over Fellows and Pinto, who had put brand new life into a former Peter Kittle car. As for Kittle the day was not as good as it could have been as he could only manage a grid placing of eighth.
On race day Sunday the true nature of Finke soon unravelled itself. The rough conditions from the start to Deep Well took immediate toll on the cars as some 19 vehicles were sidelined .
The most sensational withdrawal came from Burrows' pole car, which had charged a mere 12 or so kilometres south before blowing the engine. Added to the list of withdrawals were the team Weir, Locky and Paddy whose Southern Cross MKV was grounded, along with the likes of Bruce Muir in his Nissan Navara Ute.Of the survivors it was Fellows who then made every post a winner, taking full advantage of the formed road section and then powering his way to Finke in under two hours (1:59:16).
Almost six minutes in arrears came the car of US visitor Jeff Quin who as a well credentialled driver on the American circuit had hoped for rough conditions, and his prayers were answered.
Peter Kittle survived the run to Finke actually improving his position to fifth, but was still over 11 minutes from the leader.The bikes were then issued with their challenge after the four wheelers had done a fine job in churning up the track, and so setting a more challenging chase. Williscroft gunned his machine from the start and seemed to be right among things by Rodinga, with radio reports unofficially placing him within three minutes plus of Fellows.
It was a different story by Finke however as Greenfield was the first of the riders to cross the river (in 2:13:53). The fate of Williscroft lay some 30 kilometres back, north of the finish line where a broken bike meant a broken heart.
Following Greenfield into Finke was Gavin Chapman on a Yamaha 450, and Jamie Cunningham from Goulburn on a Honda, with locals Rick Hall, Ben Brooks and Caleb Auricht placed well at fith, sixth and seventh.
Notable riders not to make Finke were Soren Hansen, Jason Hill, and Warren Strange.
The ride home proved to be a slog over course conditions most arduous, particularly for the bikes.
For Fellows and Pinto the prime concern was to deliver their car safely across the finish line and in enjoying their comfortable, almost six minute start, were able to take care in the rough and make hay on the formed section. As such they came home in 2:02:50, so establishing themselves as car section overall winners and leaving Greenfield with a miracle to perform to claim the King of the Desert crown.
In second place home was the team of Shannon and Ian Rentsch in a Chenowth Buggy 2000cc, from Warrnambool.
The big improver over the run home was Peter Kittle who forged his way into third place.Fourth across the line was a Jimco Buggy Kevin Hood purchased in the US from one Jeff Quin. Quinn, a credentialled off road driver in the States, had his interest spurred on by the sound of Finke and at Hood's invitation made the trip to Australia just to compete in the race to Apatula.
Attention then focussed on the bikes section with Greenfield first out of the blocks from Finke. He didn't have it all his own way, however, as both Gavin Chapman and Jamie Cunningham closed in on him along the way, with less than a minute separating them as they passed through Alice Creek out of Rodinga.
By the time the telltale helicopter and puffs of dust on the horizon could be seen from the start and finish line, Greenfield had taken command of proceedings and made every post a winner across the clay pans towards the waiting fans.
The new work done at the start / finish line now means the crowd takes in a spectacular view of the last kilometres of the 460 km round trip.
In the style that has won him the bike section in 1997, 1998 and 2000 Greenfield (2:08:55) crossed the line "chucking a mono" as an exhilarated winner by three minutes. Gavin Chapman, who had given plenty, took second money, and Cunningham filled the placings, with only 35 seconds separating the pair.
Brothers Rick Hall and Ben Brooks followed, with other champions of the future Caleb Auricht and Ryan Branford filling sixth and seventh places.
They say that racing cars is governed by the wallet, whereas racing bikes comes from the heart.
This year the bikes found their task more difficult with a rough track favouring the sophistication and engineering of the four wheelers.
Fellows completed the round trip in 4:02:06, whereas Greenfield belted himself from pillar to post to achieve a time of 4:22:48. The time difference tells the story!


Finke 2004 lacked nothing in terms of controversy.
Brad Williscroft left from pole position in the bikes and came to a halt some 30 kilometres north of Finke on the way down.
In the cars the legendary Mark Burrows travelled a mere 12 or so kilometres before having to call it a day in his machine that is taken apart and "spit polished" after each and every outing.
And then there was the Darren Griffiths saga.
Reigning champion, "Griffo" came back to town this year from Kalgoorlie with a swag of new Finke riders and support staff, proud of their adopted son's title as King of the Desert last year and looking forward to more booty in 2004.
In the prologue on Saturday Griffiths set the electricity in motion only to find himself a non-finisher and with a bike that was fire damaged thanks to a spill, a problem " the size of a two cent piece" as he put it.
From there however his problems became larger than life.As a non-finisher in the event that determines grid placings, Griffiths should have left last for Finke, but was offered a start among the six bikes leaving the grid in the eleventh to sixteenth placings.The administrators made their decision based on seeding (and in the interest of safety) and pronounced it as being final.
In the pits however there was no sense of finality about the decision. Other contestants who had finished the prologue "fair and square" argued the toss. Families became involved and Griffiths, the innocent gentleman, copped the full brunt of emotion and dissent.
At the grid, at the appointed time for Griffiths to take off only five rather than six riders then lined up. Missing from the line up was the racer identified by Plate 1, Darren Griffiths. Concern and speculation raged among the faithful at the Start / Finish line.
Meanwhile, as was explained later by pit crew and family, Griffiths had experienced problems with his carburettor and couldn't present on the grid at his appointed time. Negotiation with the Clerk of the Course led to a decision that Griffiths could start at the rear of the field.
This he did. And in fact from the start grid till his arrival in Finke he rounded up well over 100 fellow competitors in his chase for further success.To the punters Griffiths had become the meat in the sandwich, taking the flack with dignity and putting up with all the hurdles that had suddenly confronted him.
The "officers" had made a decision, mechanical problems forced a change in procedure, but for many there were fears that had not been allayed.
One young starter who had performed well above his "weight" in the prologue, gaining a top 20 start, had visions off being gunned along in the early stages by the "heavy weight" behind him, and reacted by stalling at the start.
Meanwhile, other competitors felt unfairly disadvantaged by a non-finishing prologue rider being "seeded" back into the upper order of grid positioning.It was a no win situation, because officials had also to consider the safety implications of Griffiths charging through the slower packs from the rear of the field.
For Griffiths there is no doubt the experience was one he'd not want to face again. Let's hope that in 2005 Darren, the gentleman, returns with his Kalgoorlie mates and makes the 30th Finke one to remember!


Alice Springs needs more powerful resolve to tackle its problems which, when it's all said and done, are quite minor, says Peter Kittle, the town's biggest car dealer.
He recently visited Mildura and was amazed at its cleanliness.
Some houses had a sign with an 1800 telephone number urging people to "dob in a litterbug".
Says Mr Kittle: "I'm going to ask the Alice town council to start a similar campaign."
Reminded that the Alice council is reluctant to send out its rangers to enforce litter and camping by-laws, because it doesn't want to place its staff in harm's way, Mr Kittle says: "Then get bigger rangers.
"And pay them double.
"You must have the will to do it.
"There is a solution to every problem."
Mr Kittle, who built up his multi marque dealership from scratch, last week received the Toyota President's Award for the eighth time, the fifth in a row.
Toyota has an after tax net profit of $12.8 billion, and makes 6.8 million vehicles, second in the world only to General Motors.
This year the giant company's third most senior executive, Yoshi Inaba, came to Alice Springs to award the prize.
Mr Kittle says his commitment to his home town is never in question: The company is spending $1m on expansion, and has recently spent a further $1m for a 3400 square metre block adjacent to its 11,000 square metre complex on Stuart Highway.
However, Mr Kittle says it's likely that his market share here has peaked, and he has for some time been looking at buying dealerships elsewhere in Australia, in part "to spread the risk".
This may mean he and his family living elsewhere.
Mr Kittle says while in Australia generally car sales are heading for a third consecutive boom year, the Alice market has remained static.
Several small businesses have closed or been sold, the owners taking their money and investing it elsewhere in Australia.
Ten years ago wages in The Alice were substantially higher than around the country, but this is no longer the case: spending power, as a result, is now lower.
Mr Kittle joins the chorus of prominent locals demanding more successful tourism promotion.
He says Toyota had one of the company's most successful conventions in Alice Springs, with 280 dealers attending – but they are unlikely to be back because there was insufficient accommodation.
The delegates couldn't bring their spouses or partners.
"You can't have a 50 year old businessman sharing a room with three other blokes," says Mr Kittle.


One wants some day to build his own four bedroom house; another wants to travel and work around the communities of the Centre, wherever there are houses to be built; they may even start creating their own work, spec building in town.
Quietly ambitious, the six building apprentices of the Amoonguna Construction Team (ACT) started work yesterday, making the formwork for the slab of a new three bedroom house in their own community, learning as they go.
The house should be completed in six months' time, together with the foundations of their training.
Over the three years it will take them to get their ticket the community will gain six houses.
Two of the older members of the team, Harold McCormack and Tristan Warren, both in their late twenties, already run Amoonguna's CDEP program. They are humorously referred to as ACT's "spare ribs", ready to step in if one of the younger apprentices drops out.
Des Rogers, chairman of the Indigenous Housing Authority of the NT (IHANT), gave them all a pep talk last week:
"One of them has trouble getting up in the morning. I asked the others to help make sure he's ready for work at 7.30am each day."The community is fully behind them, a lot is resting on their shoulders. It's important that this works."In the past IHANT money did not provide for Indigenous training. Now they've combined with the Department of Community Development, Charles Darwin University and the Amoonguna Community Council to turn that around, following the success of a similar program in the "central remote" region.
This has seen nine houses completed and 10 more under construction, involving 20 Indigenous apprentices in the communities of Ampilatwatja, Ltentye Apurte, Papunya, Laramba and Ntaria. (Originally six communities were involved but one dropped out.)These apprentices are due to complete their training at the end of June, 2006.At Amoonguna ACT has been acting as IHANT's principal contractor for the last two years.
In that time the company has built eight houses and carried out repairs and maintenance on another 30.
Long-time local builder Wayne Bennett has organised and supervised the work, using CDEP labour wherever possible but often having to resort to outside contractors.
With its own fully qualified team on hand, ACT could not only look after Amoonguna's needs, it could start to compete for outside work.
Mr Bennett says the aim is to be a self-sustaining company in three years' time.It is he who mentions the possibility of spec building but other team members are also looking to the future.
Tristan Warren says he'd like "to teach other people different skills".Cedric Ross (29) looks forward "to getting other young blokes involved".
Travis Williams (16) thinks it will be fun to build his own house, "with four bedrooms and a bigger lounge room".Michael Ellis (15) wants to "go out and build in other places – Santa Teresa, Titjikala, Yuendumu, Papunya."They'll be facing competition from Tangentyere Constructions but it will be "friendly", says Tangentyere's construction manager, Hans Mouthaan."Competition is always good.
"We'll want to be sure our team is running as well as theirs and I'm sure they'll feel the same way."The apprentice team already have literacy and numeracy skills at Year Nine to Ten level. Any gaps will be filled during training."They'll be no different from me," says Mr Bennett."When I left school I wasn't any good at Maths. I learnt how to read a tape, read a plan, measure a plan, all on the job."


Racing on the weekend featured events named after the Antarctic conditions faced in Alice Springs a year ago. But trackside on the weekend perfect conditions prevailed for the four event card.
The Frost Class Five Handicap over 1100 metres gave Viv Oldfield a real tickle in the tummy when he produced a quinella. Geodude who came back from a 1600 metre run in May was able to take on and topple the fancied The Burcutter while stable mate Not Abandoned claimed second money.
In the running The Burcutter established a two to three length lead but literally fell in a hole in the run home leaving the Oldfield pair with the race to themselves. Geodude got to the line by a head, with Not Abandoned a length and a quarter in front of The Burcutter.The Southerly Wind Maiden over 1000 metres saw She's a Card break the ice.
She led and made every post a winner in her three and a half length win over Pay No Rates who proved to be the improving horse of the race. The revered Brother Winston then filled the minors.The All Rugged Up 1400 metre Class Two Handicap gave Viv Oldfield a further shot of enthusiasm when his honest performer Burran claimed the money.
The genuine galloper led and saluted by half a length from the impressive Aldilar, who enjoyed a rails run, with Saratoga Boy over four lengths behind in third place.
Oldfield's day was made when Grey Desert cleaned up in the Winter Open Handicap over 1200 metres.
Predictably Son of Grace led from Swiftly and Jubes followed by Grey Desert in fourth place and on the fence. On the turn there was plenty of pressure on Swiftly and Jubes, which allowed Grey Desert to slide through in the straight and prove too strong.
The favourite Son of Grace finished a length and three quarters back in second place with Jubes taking third.


The claypans have water again.
Soon there'll be mud battles in the cane grass, and tadpoles and shield shrimps to get scooped up by children and collected in bottles, billies, or hastily constructed dams – don't take the shrimps home, they'll die. As the pans dry up, I'll find transparent clam shrimp shells, as fine as fairy wings, and flattened water beetles like trilobites along the edge of the pools.
There'll be miniature forests of sundews glittering in the sunshine. Flies and other insects get stuck to these sticky plants and devoured. Buffel grass hasn't taken over all the sundew patches yet, because they grow in damp areas, and buffel, thankfully, doesn't like wet feet.Right now, however, there are only wheelmarks to be seen around the edges of the pans. I have enough of them and head into the bush, towards some big mulga trees. A few metres into this little wood, and it feels like another world, the fans of mulga branches spreading above me, patches of delicate ferns growing between clumps of grass underfoot. There's an old car seat, all springs and not much cover now, which someone has put here. I like that.I walk over to the conical hills, head up the gully between the two crests. Water is trickling over pale, crusty rocks into clear, tiny pools. There are woolly cloak ferns (there's a great name) under almost every rock. These are resurrection ferns, like the ones in the mulga wood. The chlorophyll in their leaves reconstitutes very quickly after rains. Leaves that have been dried up for months, even years, can be green and revived within hours of rain. I never cease to be amazed by all these green fronds suddenly appearing from under rocks.Further up the gully are a couple of lovely old native pines. It's peaceful and pristine up here away from the hurly-burly of the recreation area. I disturb a couple of euros, who make that hissing noise and go clattering off. I reach the top of the gully and head across to the unscarred summit. It's a wilderness of young mulga, with a tangle of wind-blown shrubs at the top. I displace the crows for a few minutes and sit and survey the view. Interesting, but I feel I'm back in civilisation seeing the maze of tracks and, in the distance, the Ilparpa subdivision. So I head back on to the hillside where all that is hidden from view by trees, and have a last few minutes in wilderness.

LETTERS: And now ... Lake Nonsense.

Sir,- The dam in its recreation lake manifestation is back on the agenda.
It is a silly idea for a dozen reasons, but I want to address just one - the claim that "it will be good for tourism".
This is nonsense.
Virtually all of our overseas visitors will be coming from the coast and going to the coast.
Does anybody really imagine they will forego time at Bondi or the Barrier Reef to spend it around some manmade fly-infested mudhole?
Or will they have a dip in the hotel pool, with the bar close by?
Most of our vehicle-based travellers come in the cool months.
They won't be inclined to go for a swim.
Would they waste time looking at a man-made lake when there are the magnificent natural waters of Glen Helen, Ormiston Gorge, and Ellery Creek Big Hole to see.
I think not.
Spending the money on the Mereenie Road, the Giles road, or access to Chambers Pillar and Mt Zeil would do a hell of a lot more for tourism.
Charlie Carter
Tour operator
Alice Springs

Horse sense on the roads

Sir,- Driving home at night via Ilparpa Road, I noticed two horses with riders on the gravel parallel to the road.
I am sure it is a fantastic adventure for the riders, but also very dangerous.
The headlights of a car do not reach high enough for the horses and riders to be seen.
In addition, it was new moon and therefore pitch black outside.
At night they are almost invisible and car drivers get the shock of their lives having nearly run into a horse with rider.
After all, the speed is 100 km/h in this area.
Pushbike riders take great care even during daytime to wear bright clothes, so I would suggest horse riders do the same.
I am aware that the sides of Ilparpa Road have signs saying "horse riding" on it. However, this does not mean that riders should not exercise care to be visible to cars.
Ingrid Phillips
Alice Springs

Locals – a minority?

Sir,- Viktoria Cormack's "rosy" analogy of migratory birds at the sewage ponds being representative of non-Aboriginal residents in Alice Springs is an interesting concept – I wonder what Ann Cloke would think?
However, it ties in well with Angie Reidy's description of our town as "flat, grubby and tired" compared to similar-sized places in WA ("Tourism: wake up", News, Jun 2), while I have often heard related negative sentiments from many other people, most of whom have since left.
Steve Fisher's grizzle about drizzle is likewise similar to comments I heard from others but I wonder why we bother to complain about the weather, as we cannot do anything about it.
There are many issues we can change for the better if we chose, more than simply complaining about them.
Crummy councils, bent bureaucracies, lying lawyers, perverted politics, manipulated media, and awful alliteration are all matters that we actually do have the power to change but usually choose not to bother.
Instead, we do something really useful like complain about wet weather.
How interesting to note that the Alice Springs News favours regular contributions from people who come from somewhere else, usually from overseas.
However, there is nothing from permanent lifetime residents.
Perhaps such locals do not offer the perspective of broadened minds after having travelled the world, not to mention migrating here.
Then again maybe there are too few lifelong locals whose opinions are of any relevance to the majority of residents in Alice Springs.
Most of us migrated elsewhere years ago, and the majority of the remainder are marginalised.
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs

Council didn't get my vote

Sir,- As we all know, we had a town council election a few days ago.
Whether I liked its results or not is a different story.
But what really upset me is that the council didn't count on everyone's vote!
I am a citizen of Australia and I've been living in Alice Springs for almost four years but the town council was not able to post me any ballot papers!
They sue people who don't participate in an election but what about all those residents who have been forgotten?
To be honest, I was looking forward to participating in that election, giving my vote to get some changes within the present council.
I wonder how many more Alice Springs residents didn't get the chance to vote and how much impact all those missing votes would have had on the election.
Uwe Path
Alice Springs

The trouble with desert shades. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Not to labour the point, but to other people stories of your house move are about as interesting as watching the Dulux dry.
I should know. Due to a strange desire to change the colour of every surface in our new place, I have recently applied to our walls umpteen shades of acrylic paint. Then I have watched it dry whilst bemoaning the choices I had made. If my colour coordination was poor before I started, it's even worse now.
I don't accept all the blame for this. My nearest and dearest only have to read a paint manufacturer's promotion urging us to "be bold" and "chuck out the beige" before they have designed a colour scheme so cosmic that I come over all dizzy when I get home from work. The only respite is to head for the diminishing number of rooms that haven't yet been brightened.
The worst part of being a home decorator is choice. Paint companies now publish the colour equivalent of idiot sheets. These are little cards with snazzy names like "desert pot pourri" or "beachside romp". They present several colours together in a way that ensures you make no mistakes in choosing a sophisticated colour scheme for your living spaces. This is supposed to bring character and flair into your mundane life so that you can watch the Lotto in a pretend Toorak loft. Except if you mix and match, putting a beach hut blue next to a gummy green, rendering your home a "kind-of desert sort-of rumpus with some tropical bits in".
In the hardware store, I picked up the desert colour card for idiots who want to decorate. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a national consensus on what desert colours actually are. I have even seen lavender presented as an arid shade. Maybe it is. Let's face it, most colours could be argued into the arid palette.
Try it yourself. Think of a colour. Whatever it is, I could make the case for it being a desert colour.
In fact, it has become easier to explain which colours are not arid zone shades than select from the ones that are.
Spare a thought for the artistic under-achievers among us. We need paint-by-numbers when it comes to the desert. Please just provide an orange, a deep mauve and a couple of browns so that we know what we are doing. Don't tempt the colour-deficient with yellow and blue or the results will be catastrophic. If you don't believe me, I have rooms that I can show you.
And don't get me started on the colour tastes of children. I knew it was a mistake as soon as the words "of course you can have the room as you want it" left my lips. Next day, I found myself up a ladder with a brushful of acrylic royal blue. By the time the job was done, the bedroom had decreased in area by four square metres. The phrase "walls closing in" doesn't capture the effect. I mean, what does royal blue go with? Regal red? Desert charcoal?
Decorating can take over your life. It may be trendy for people to go on about achieving the "work-life balance", but to me that's a piece of cake.
The hard part is reaching the "work-paint-life" balance. If Oscar Wilde was right in saying that work is the curse of the drinking classes, then where does home improvement figure?If I look at a property now, I no longer see the size of it. Neither do I admire the view, the backyard nor, heaven forbid, do I estimate its value. Instead, I mentally calculate the hours of home maintenance required to clean the gutters, sand the door edges down when it rains, tighten the shade cloth and generally ensure that the rigours of sun and rain are resisted. It would be easier if at least the decorating went smoothly.

Mum and wife, who are you? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

"I did not know you wrote," a friend told me when she dropped in for a visit the other day.
I used to, I told her. A long time ago, before I was a wife and a "stay-at-home mum", before, when I was just me.
I also used to travel, read, paint, go horse-riding and have a job that I got paid for.
I had my own identity and was not somebody in relation to somebody else.
I enjoy being a mother and a wife, don't get me wrong, but somewhere along the line I have lost a sense of myself as an individual and I'm not sure if I would or could exist without my children. The role of being a mother is so important to me and time consuming that there is very little of me leftover at the end of the day.This must sound weird to anybody who has not got children but it could equally be applied to a job or a place. Many people, especially men of myfather's generation, 60 plus, don't want to retire. They want to keep working until they die because they feel that what they've been doing every day for the past 40 years is very much part of who they are. Who will they be without their work identity?
It is easy to say that your job isn't you and that you've got other sides to your character. That you were somebody before you became a mother and therefore deep inside you're still there. How do you know?
We are part of different contexts where the people we meet see us in different roles – as mothers or wives, teachers, small business owners or doctors.Taken out of the contexts we have become so familiar with, we are easily lost. The children grow up and leave the nest. What is their mother's role then? Who is she? She is not the young girl who was about to get married 25 years ago.
That identity died with the birth of her new identity as wife and mother. A marriage comes to an end. Who are the people from that relationship when they are not man and wife anymore?
Circumstance or illness forces you to retire and your job is no longer part of your identity.
In our roles we have security and can say I am, I do exist, because I have a role. But there are also limitations. All people see is the role, the cardboard character and not the whole, rounded, multi-faceted person we are, and we in turn will struggle to stay in touch with that self.
Instead of talking about the weather maybe we should ask people we meet who they are and not how they are.It has occurred to me that people who have lived here and moved elsewhere but then returned have come back for their identity. In a busy, overpopulated world it is easy to disappear in the multitude, to become a number, a statistic or a cardboard cut-out.
I think it is still possible to be more than that in a smaller place and to me that is definitely one of the attractions of Alice Springs.
It is good to feel that we belong and have a role in other people's lives but it is also important to challenge our roles, to prove to ourselves that we can survive change and that we are much more than the sum of our parts.

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