August 4, 2004.


CATIA says it understands the NT Parks Service has withdrawn the ban to climb Mt Sonder except by the Larapinta Trail.
Craig Catchlove, the tourism lobby's general manager, says: "There is a recommendation or a request from Aboriginal custodians to stay on the trail but I understand this is not a requirement."
Mr Catchlove says he was told by parks sources that a direction, given to the Bushwalking Club in May, to drop a proposal of climbing the mountain from Rocky Bar Gap, and instead access the mountain only by the Larapinta Trail, has now been rescinded.
"We believe the issue has been dealt with but the implications for tourism have yet to be worked out."
The Parks Service declined to answer questions.
Meanwhile it has been revealed that custodians have made an application to have all of Mt Sonder declared as a sacred site.
Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority head Jeff Stead says the application has not yet been processed.
He says in 1986 a "general request for registration" was sought for a number of sites in the Ormiston Gorge and Mereenie Valley area, which included Mount Sonder.
"The reasons for the registration process not commencing are essentially ones of prioritisation," says Mr Stead.
NT Chief Minister Clare Martin is proposing to hand over to Aboriginal ownership 28 national parks in the Territory, with a 99 year lease-back to the government, undiminished access by the public, no admission fees and extinction of native title rights.
However, Ms Martin is less confident all conditions for the handover will be met after the Northern Land Council withdrew three Top End parks from the scheme.
Ms Martin now says it's "likely" that the conditions will be satisfied.
Opposition Leader Terry Mills says Ms Martin "will be unable to keep the promises she made to Territorians when she announced she was giving away 17,000 square kilometres of our national parks estate to the Aboriginal land councils.
"The looming fight over Litchfield and Elsey National parks and the Daly River Conservation Area are proof.
"The Chief Minister's grand plan to give away our parks is unravelling.
"Territorians and our tourism industry need to have certainty that the freedoms that are now being enjoyed in our Territory Government run Parks will remain unchanged.
"Our Chief Minister refuses to give a guarantee that various bans would not be applied in Territory parks once they are transferred to Aboriginal interests – there is no certainty.
"Territorians will pay millions to rent back.
"The CLP remains opposed to it."
But the government says its preferred option will save millions in legal costs.
However, provisions to declare sacred sites within the parks would continue.
Aborigines have steadfastly opposed the disclosure of sacred sites unless they are threatened.
It must be assumed that there are hundreds of sacred sites in the West MacDonnells national park, the majority still undeclared.
Asked whether the government should proceed with the handover without clear commitments about sacred sites, Mr Catchlove said: "If there is an application for declaring Mt Sonder as a sacred site, then all eyes will be on that decision.
"It would be, to my knowledge, the biggest sacred site ever declared.
"We would need to see how the claim and its outcome fit into the joint management scheme.
"That process may influence the claim" because custodians may take into account the impact on Alice Springs of a shutdown of a major tourism icon.
"We have a watching brief on the process," says Mr Catchlove.
"I do believe that [joint management] is going to be entirely successful for our region.
"It's a positive initiative."


"Sorry, we goofed" would have been a more elegant way for the NT Parks Service to get itself out of the Mount Sonder mess.
Instead the service seems to be clinging – on the record – to its untenable ban on climbing the West Macs icon except by the Larapinta Trail. In private the service is telling people to ignore the ruling.
The worry is that the people now running for cover – issuing "no comment" responses – are the very people negotiating with custodians about handing over to them 28 parks, presently owned by all Territorians, via their government.
What's worse, the parks managers are deflecting public wrath onto Aborigines instead of taking the blame themselves.
The investigations by the Alice Springs News have revealed that Mt Sonder isn't the only target of sacred sites applications: applications have been made for "a number of sites in the Ormiston Gorge and Mereenie Valley area" (see our front page story).
This makes it clear that the negotiations by Chief Minister Clare Martin about the handover and joint management are totally meaningless unless all sacred sites issues – current and future – are on the table.
What point is there in laying to rest land rights and native title issues when sacred sites remain a wild card, indefinitely, capable of having the same impact on the enjoyment of our parks.
So, what did the Parks Service get wrong with Mt Sonder?
The custodians, for the moment, just asked for recognition that Mt Sonder is an "area of cultural significance" and they "requested" visitors not to stray from the trail.
The custodians didn't ask for an order limiting access.
This is expressed in the 1997 Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority certificate issued with reference to work on the Larapinta Trail.
According to the Federal Land Rights Act, "a person shall not enter or remain on a sacred site" unless other provisions allow it.
It is a defence at law not to know that a sacred site is a sacred site.
So far as anyone can reasonably know, Mt Sonder isn't a sacred site: it is not (yet) declared under sacred sites legislation.
In the 1997 certificate the mountain is described as an "area of cultural significance", not a sacred site.
Yet without any apparent mandate the Territory Parks Service took it upon itself not only to act as if it is obliged to protect a sacred site, it invoked the most draconian measure, namely banning access to most of Mt Sonder, including its summit.
All the Parks Service got from the AAPA was a permit to carry out some repairs to the trail.
Yet the Parks Service made a ruling that covered the whole mountain.
When a sacred site declaration is made, the AAPA is obliged to "give due consideration to all representations made by an owner … in relation to the immediate or possible detrimental effect, if any, [that] a sacred site may have on the owner's proprietary interest in the land."
In such a representation the Parks Service – having no doubt sought advice from people like CATIA – would have made a powerful case about the importance of the parks to the locals, and their tourism industry.
But the Parks Service put the cart before the horse, making off limits most of Mt Sonder without defending the rights of its clients, the public.
It's not the kind of ham-fisted approach need right now by Ms Martin, the principal negotiator for the handover of the parks and their subsequent joint management, especially when the whole show is starting to look shaky with the withdrawal from the process of three major Top End parks.
Ms Martin declares in a media handout that everything is on track but she remains unavailable for comment on the Mt Sonder fiasco.


Family disputes , Austin Powers, Emergency Room visits, fast food, then back to watching the Comedy Channel, all in the space of two hours: this is how I spent a recent Friday night when I joined the St John Ambulance on their rounds.
During orientation I was introduced to people who save lives everyday.
Their calm demeanors gave no hint of the enormity of their responsibilities.
After introductions I was shown into a cosy room where a group of men were engrossed in a movie. I was pleased to see it was "Austin Powers, Gold Member".
Whilst watching the movie a crew member's mobile rang.
His ring tone was none other than the theme song for the very movie on screen, and a round of relaxed laughter encircled the room. But then a loudspeaker announcing a list of numbers and codes cut the laughter short.
Within seconds I was in the back of a speeding ambulance en route to Karnte Camp, south of Alice Springs.
On arrival we were told by a small number of locals that there was a mistake and nobody needed medical attention, but paramedics Dean Bugg and Simon Cooper were not convinced.
After a short drive around the camp they found a man lying in the bush clutching his leg.
Cooper and Bugg asked the man several questions while cutting his jeans open and inspecting the injury.
The man, who appeared to be mid-thirties, said he'd been in a family dispute and had been hit with a large stick.
Once his jeans were cut away it was clear that the man's lower leg was broken.
The bone (which was referred to by the paramedics as the "tib fib") had pierced the skin and was poking out.
There was a large puddle of blood on the ground. This was my queue to turn and walk away. I returned after a few puffs on my cigarette.
The man was screaming.
Several members of his family had joined him and were also crying.
One woman did not seem welcome: although I couldn't understand what was being said, body language and some broken English told me she was being threatened and was retaliating.
The paramedics then administered what I found out later was morphine.
The man stopped screaming, and within seconds it seemed his pain had completely faded, but that didn't stop the other family members from abusing each other.
The paramedics went about their job as though nobody was there, only occasionally acknowledging the onlookers when they became too loud or moved too close to the injured man.
On the way to the hospital, Bugg explained that broken bones in the leg could become potentially life threatening due to the many arteries, particularly in the thigh area, and that these patients are "time-critical".
On arrival at the hospital the man was shown to a curtained room.
The hospital staff took over while the ambulance crew headed for Subway to pick up some meatball subs.
The thought of eating after witnessing the events beforehand had me feeling sick even before the food was on board.
The combined smell of take-away and sterile equipment reminded me of a hospital visit when I was younger.
By the time we arrived back at the "stalls" (ambulance head quarters) I was chain smoking, drinking coffee (I hate coffee) and beginning to feel very sick.
The casual jokes passed among the men on staff hinted at how jaded one might become.
I took the opportunity to ask Simon Cooper some questions about his job.
Cooper said that although he is exposed to this kind of thing every day, some cases do weigh on his mind.
In particular, he spoke of incidents involving children. He said it's quite common to attend to children having convulsions. This took me back to a time when I saw a child choking to death on his lawn while his hysterical family attempted to carry him to the waiting ambulance, but I didn't particularly feel like revisiting that memory so I changed the subject.
Cooper then told me of a night in which he attended two murders. Both bled to death from facial stabbings. He said, "That stuck with me for a while".
After that, he and Bugg had to leave for a rendezvous, and I was left to watch TV until another crew returned from a car accident with pizza.
Again, human suffering topped with fast food.
I was invited to ride along with the second crew to Larapinta Valley Camp to see to a teenage girl who had left her diabetic pills at her alternate address.
Paramedics Stuart Davis and Steve Reubenson gave her a short examination in the ambulance and agreed that she was to be taken to hospital for further treatment.
The once-over was taking some time, and a few of her companions who had gathered around the ambulance began to get agitated.
Their initial concern turned to anger as they were told that anyone who was intoxicated would not be allowed to ride with the girl.
Because they could not locate anyone who was sober, Davis and Reubenson decided that the girl would be taken to hospital on her own.
Davis told me that these cases are quite common: people who forget to take their pills (or people who neglect to ever do so) often find themselves in hospital.
As the crowd began to get louder and more aggressive we left to avoid any more confrontation, not wasting any time on pleasantries.
I learnt later that in jobs where there may be violence toward paramedics, they take precautions: while one member is working on the patient, the other watches his co-worker's back.
Arriving at the hospital I met up again with Cooper and Bugg. After exchanging vehicles – from a Troop Carrier back to the traditional ambulance van – we headed for the airport to collect a patient from the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
This patient was a middle-aged man suffering chest pains and was flown to Alice Springs from Yulara. (The RFDS flies all the way to Kiwirrkurra on the West Australian border, as far north as Elliott and as far south as the Pitjantjatjara Lands, as well as doing intensive care transfers to Darwin and Adelaide.)
At the end of my evening with St John Ambulance I reflected on how the staff mixed professionalism and casualness.
They take their job very seriously until the emergency has subsided, then they go back from being professional partners to mates.
Considering the human tragedy and mayhem (not to mention the fast food) that they are exposed to, it is surprising to sit down with them in between "jobs" and discover that they are very normal people, with families and hobbies.
Just hope you should never have to meet them.


Since 000 emergency numbers were introduced to outlying communities many of the calls received by the St John Ambulance in Alice Springs are "malicious or frivolous".
Of the remainder, a large number are about very minor complaints, says Steve Peers, St John operations manager for the Southern Region.
For example, people ring if they need a bandaid for a small cut on a finger or say – at 4am – something like this: "I've had the flu for a week. Bring me a Panadol."
Nuisance calls mean genuine ones may "get stuck" in the queue.
After 11pm and on weekends the service usually operates with only one crew and a communications coordinator at the base.
When the crew is away from the base a stand-by crew must be called out – at considerable expense – if a second call comes in.
Yet Mr Peers says the service can't abandon a response to a call, no matter how trivial the complaint may be, and it must attend to it because it usually can't tell from a phone how serious it is.
The service is now running almost entirely with professional staff.
In the ‘eighties, by contrast, there were enough volunteers to provide three two-person shifts all weekend, 24 hours a day.
Of the 10 or so serious ambulance calls a week, the great majority are alcohol related.
Mr Peers says the policy of how to respond to all calls "appropriately" is being reviewed.


The Driver Education and Training Program at the Alice Springs gaol has seen 10 people receive their Ps and another 55 their Ls since September last year.
And perhaps more importantly, none have returned to prison after release, according to NT Department of Justice reintegration officer, Judy Walsh.
The program is funded by the NT Department of Justice and provided by the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD).
Ms Walsh looks after the necessary paperwork, while IAD lecturer Heather Anderson provides the instruction and practical driving training.
The program involves two three-hour theory sessions at the gaol – the minimum for a learner's licence – and involves looking at such issues as road safety, drink driving, and cultural traditions.
Several hours of one-on-one practical driving education are provided for those going for their provisional licence.
"The theory sessions use a lot of visual, verbal and audio materials," Ms Anderson said.
"There is also a very well made video.
"For some with low literacy skills, there is also oral testing, and interpreters can be used to overcome language barriers, with an emphasis on understanding the various road signs.
"For so many of the people enrolled, English is their second language."
After people sign up for the course, Ms Walsh checks for eligibility.
"One can't really apply for a licence if part of the punishment is disqualification from driving for many years," Ms Walsh said.
After the men pass the theory test for their Ls, they receive a certificate from IAD."For many of these people, it is the first test they have ever passed and they are very proud of their accomplishment," Ms Walsh said.
"We then go to the MVR where they get their photographs taken and receive their Ls."For many it is also the first time they've been into a government office, which can be quite daunting for those not familiar with standing in lines and waiting for things to happen."The men have to pay for their licences themselves out of their own funds."
While the theory sessions are open to most people in the gaol, the practical course is only available for those in the low security cottages.
"Some of the prisoners in the main section of the Correctional Centre want to get their Ps so they can get their forklift permits," Ms Walsh explained.
"By having a forklift permit prisoners are eligible for additional employment opportunities within the Correctional Centre grounds."
Ms Walsh also explained that the prisoners housed in the pre-release cottages are generally in a transitional period, adjusting from the very regimented daily routine of prison life in the main section.
"Since there is a waiting list for those with their Ls waiting for the practical part of the course, priority is given to those soon to released," Ms Walsh said.
"Ls are good for 12 months so we try to let those with six months or less left in their sentences get their Ps first."
The car used in the prison program is a Falcon dating back to the late 1980s.
"The car was used in a film and really hammered," Ms Walsh said.
"It was offered to Correctional Services who rebuilt it and made it roadworthy.
"The prisoners then painted it blue, green, red, and yellow, which are the colours of prisoner classification."
In the practical course, the prisoners drive around the Correctional Centre premises with Ms Anderson.
"We cover reverse, parallel park, hill start, and do a figure eight to get used to steering.
"After they get experience with the basics and drive around the premises a bit, we drive into and around town.
"The men really like to drive into town since it is possible their friends or family members may see them and be proud of them for getting their permits."
Ms Anderson said the number of practical lessons varies according to the individual and also how much previous experience they have had driving a car.
Clark Devlin, Charles Gibson, Stephen Armstrong and Francis Corbett are among those who have benefited from the course recently and are very enthusiastic about having had the opportunity to get driver education training and permits while in prison.
Clark and Charles recently got their Ps, while Stephen and Francis have just gotten their Ls.Although all said they had learned to drive as young people, they also all said they had come from NT communities where not only is driving instruction not available, but also there isn't even a formal office where they could go to apply for a driving permit.
Ms Walsh said that is often a contributing factor to why so many remote community based people are picked up for driving without a licence: there is no place where they can go to apply for one without driving often hundreds of kilometres to a large town where government facilities are available.
"It is a problem and a project which the NT Department of Justice is looking into," Ms Walsh said.
Clark learned about the drivers' training course when he saw a notice about it on a bulletin board and signed up.
"Word of mouth is a big factor too," Ms Anderson said.
"When I come here, people keep asking me ‘When is my lesson?' There are many people eager to enrol."
Clark, Charles, Stephen and Francis all agreed the material covered in the course was very comprehensive and assured Ms Anderson that what she presented and how had been easy to follow and understand even though English is not their first language.
All four men also agreed having their driving permits would help them after they are released, especially with employment as so many job advertisements in the NT state "current NT Driver's Licence required".
Clark said the course had been "wonderful" and he felt he was better educated about alcohol and drugs.
"I'll be able to get a good job when I get out," Clark said.
Charles said he is proud to have his Ps.
"I'm going to take my family shopping and to the football game," Charles said.
"I'm the first one in my family to get my Ls," Stephen said.
"And it was fun going to the MVR office to get my picture taken," Francis added, "and I am looking forward to getting my Ps soon."
The driver training program has proven to be a valuable step in the rehabilitation of many of these men.
For many passing their driving test is the first thing they have ever accomplished and it is great for their self-esteem," Ms Walsh said.


When Alice Springs woman Ann Davis threw caution to the wind and took a job in China with the British charity Save the Children her biggest concern was about the impact on her family.
Would husband Bill and 14 year old son Darcy accept this "side trip from the main highway of their lives"?
How would her older children, young adults, feel about their mother fleeing the coop? It's usually mothers left to cope with these feelings as children move away. (See last week's report on Ann's professional role.)As it turned out son Rory, 23, who'd finished a degree in International Studies, had quite a passion for China.
He was particularly interested in learning about Chinese health therapies and resolved to go with Ann.
Nyree, 21, who's training to be an English, dance and drama teacher, was surprised but excited and vowed to start saving for a summer holiday in China.
Luckily Darcy too was excited about the adventure.
Had he been a different child, says Ann, "a teenager who insisted on his known life, his mates", who saw the prospect only as a disruption, "that could have been very difficult".She has met other overseas workers who've been "defeated by their children's desires" and returned home.
Bill, a former teacher like Ann, in recent years has been working on music projects in the Pitjantjatjara Lands. How would he exchange this life in the great open spaces for one in a shoebox in China on the eighth floor?
"He reminded me that we had spent a lot of time, during our 12,000 kilometre journey in Australia the summer before, talking about the need for a recharge.
"He felt open about getting some perspective and distance on his life in Central Australia, especially from the hard issues and often heart-rending experience of working with Aboriginal people.
FOLLOW"He also reminded me that earlier in our marriage he'd told me he could equally follow as take the lead."
It was decided that Bill and Darcy would settle the family's affairs in Alice and follow in a couple of months.
Ann found the separation hard but it got a whole lot worse when Bill broke his ankle, which delayed his and Darcy's departure by another three months.
"I had a little cry in front of my colleagues," recalls Ann, "but in China it's nothing for people to live apart for long periods of time.
"The young woman who cleans our flat in Kunming is working in the city so that she can help her three year old daughter who lives in a remote village with her parents.
"The Chinese are very pragmatic and unsentimental."
There was no choice but to be patient and to use email and webcam to keep constantly in touch.
Fortunately her work was also very absorbing; she had Rory with her; and an even more joyful reunion – for having been so long awaited – to look forward to.
For Darcy the experience was pretty overwhelming at first.
"I didn't know where to begin, like where to buy normal bread and peanut butter."And people want to know everything about you and their questions can come out wrongly."But now it's not as daunting. I've adapted to Chinese culture."
In what way?"I like noodles and rice!" he laughs.
Not yet fluent in Chinese, he has accepted that his relationships are different.
"You can't communicate on the same level as you do with your friends in Australia"You have to think all the time about what you'll say and whether or not they'll understand it."I haven't got any really close friends there yet but I make up for it by having lots of friends.
"Lots of people in the little stores I go to are my mates. It compensates."After a year of private tuition, Darcy is about to enter Year Nine at an international school.
"I never thought I would look forward to going to school but it will be good.
"The eight to three routine will be good. I took it all for granted before but in fact it's a lot easier when everyone else is working, to work yourself.
"When you're on your own it's hard to motivate yourself to do the work. And I'll be able to have friendships with other native English speakers and it'll be good to be able to talk to them about the teachers."There could hardly be a greater contrast than the busy city life of Kunming and the small country town life of his native Alice, but Darcy is able to appreciate both.
He likes the lifestyle in Kunming:
"Even seriously disabled beggars seem to remain positive and cheerful, and the people in little shops.
"There's not much hope of them doing something of great significance with their lives but they are enthusiastic about what they do.
"Even people working on the roads, they're always happy, smiling, singing.
"One day I saw a car crash. The man whose car was damaged got out and was smiling.
"There's a man I see who has a little stall fixing watches, with everything displayed in a glass cabinet. The wind blew it over and it smashed. He just laughed and picked it up and taped it up as best he could and is still using it.
"You don't get many negative vibes from people in China."
Back in Alice recently for a two week holiday Darcy was acutely aware of how clean the air is. He loved the smell of open fires, of gum trees, the open space, red dirt – "I know it seems really cliché," he laughs.
He also found that "after conquering China" life in Australia seemed much easier.
"Something I would normally have been worried about in Australia now seems so simple and easy.
The great things are more great than before, the bad things are not so bad. For example, drunks on the street. Before I was terrified of them, now I see them as harmless, not such a big deal."
With his Alice mates he was able to "pick up where we left off" but he found they couldn't relate much to his new experiences.
"I wanted to tell my friends everything about China but they weren't as interested as I wanted them to be. Only a couple of my older friends, who had been overseas and in Asia, understood how busy and crowded it is and how much you appreciate the wide open spaces back here."Everyone though was as impressed as he has been with the shopping he's been able to do. Australian dollars go a long way in China, where, for example, someone working at a five star hotel might earn 800 yuan a month, which is about $120.
"If you see something you like you buy it, like DVDs cost $2. You don't have any second thoughts.
"But the downside is, people see inside my wallet and think I'm really rich, and I feel a bit guilty, especially if I've tried to bargain when really the thing was cheap already."As much as he enjoys the shopping, it's just a small part of the experience for Darcy.
He intends to keep studying Chinese when he returns to Australia in a year's time."This whole experience will affect the things that happen for me in the future. I'll probably get a job that has something to do with China or other places overseas.
"It's something I'll remember forever, even if I can't share it with my friends."


8:00: I woke to the aggravating sound of my mobile phone playing Fur Elise. "Aargh, Darce, turn that thing off!" said my brother Rory.
I have been known to be more of an owl than a fowl because I have late nights and struggle with early mornings. From when I was about four years of age I would say the line, "Mum, why is it always late so early?"
Anyway, I share my bedroom with my brother and that morning he told me that in my sleep I was saying "ming bai le" and "laowai" ("I understand" and "foreigner").
Often if we can't wake up we put on either the Red Hot Chilli Peppers Greatest Hits album or AC/DC Back in Black. We say that the rock and roll vibes get into our blood stream and give us enough energy to wake up.
8:30: I had a nutritious fruit salad breakfast with yoghurt from my friends at the place we have nicknamed 7/11 because they are there at nearly all hours of the day and have most of the essential groceries, like Snickers bars and toilet paper.
9:00: Fully energised, I felt like going down to the bird and flower market. The market is very close to our apartment. On the way a young girl stopped and looked at me. She had a serious look of the concentration on her face and I could tell she was thinking hard. Suddenly she burst out and said "apple".
While walking I was constantly stared at and many people yelled out, "Hello!" I don't normally mind it but when a man stuck his head out of his car window and yelled out at me, I got really annoyed.
I then yelled back, "Ni yi wei ni cong ming ma? Ni zhi hui shuo hello", which means "Do you think you are clever because you can say hello?" I think it is very effective because people look at me and then normally put their head down in shame.
After looking around a few shops and buying a few DVDs, I needed to go to the WC. After paying my two jiao, I started walking up the stairs to the gents' section. The lady yelled out to me and ushered me towards the women's toilet. Now, I didn't know how to say I was a boy but I did know how to say, look at me.
I took off my beanie and did a few turns to see if the lady could get the picture. When I turned around again, I saw the shocked look on her face. I looked at her and raised my eyebrows. We then had a good laugh. When I came back, she was still chuckling to herself, shaking her head.
11:30: When I got back, I buzzed Rory to see what everybody wanted to do for lunch. He told me that his Chinese friend had come over and that we would take him to lunch at The Brothers' Jiang for a bowl of Over The Bridge Noodles. After our meal my brother's friend said, "Lory, what's this word?" He couldn‚t find any paper, so he got a tissue from the table and wrote N-A-P-K-I-N.
1:00: After having a nice big bowl of noodles we all felt content and decided to go and play a few games of bowls.
There is a bowling alley directly across the road from the building that we live in and we all like to go bowling in our spare time.
We had a competition: the person that has the worst average score has to clean the whole kitchen and the winner gets a bar of chocolate.
Well, it turned out that Dad lost so he had to promise to clean the kitchen and Rory was the winner with an average score of 160.
At the end of the games, one of the women that works there came to fill up our glasses with hot water.
She then asked my brother if she could have a turn. He said sure and she started towards the alley. Well, you would never ever see anybody else bowl so strangely. It was hilarious!
She started on the far right hand side of the lane and her run up involved crossing her feet over, wiggling her bottom, crossing to the other side of the lane and then throwing the ball in a really weird way.
We were all struggling to hold back our laughter, but as soon as she left we were in tears. When she came back later to refill our glasses with more hot water, she said, "Wos so fonny? Wos so fonny?"
3:00: When we got back we trudged up the eight flights of stairs to our apartment.
We were all a bit tired so we put on the DVD that I bought that day. We started to relax when we realised that the DVD actually had different content to what it had on the front cover and was dubbed in Chinese.
So instead I just read The Australian newspaper on the Internet to discover that they had found a case of bird flu in pigs. I thought to myself, "Maybe in a few months' time we will all be vegetarians."
6:00: We were all feeling a bit peckish and were trying to decide what to have for dinner.
There are various places where we normally have dinner. We have nicknamed them "The Happy's", "The Steam Joint"‚ and "The Stick Joint".
Well, nobody wanted to cook and nobody wanted to go down and get some food, so Mum said, "Hey, Darce, go down and get some ‘zuo guai' from The Happy's." Everybody started laughing because what Mum was trying to say was "dai zuo", which means "takeaway", but what she actually said was "zuo guai", which means "turn left".
8:00: So after we had all eaten our "zuo guai"‚ I felt pretty tired and was ready hop into bed. I lay in bed and practised my Chinese until I fell asleep.

School shock wearing off. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

We've been back to school for a couple of weeks now.
The initial shock of having to get up early and get everyone ready for school before eight o'clock has worn off.
It's back to the old routine, to "taxi-driving", finding and providing clean school clothes, making lunches, and keeping track of homework, raffle-tickets and other important notices from schools and sports-clubs.
But with all of this, it's also back to feeling like a failure, not quite managing to get everything right, always falling a bit short of the mark.
I know it's not that bad and that I do manage to get some things right every day, but it is easy to focus on what we did not do.
I don't sit down at the end of the day and write a list of all the things that ran smoothly.
Instead, I go to bed thinking that tomorrow I will get up earlier so that we can get everyone ready on time and are not late for school again. I'm putting myself down on a regular basis, "beating myself up" for not being "perfect". It is so easy to find the flaws.
This does not only happen on a personal level.
A good example of our town's perceived shortfalls is the too-low railway station platform that has been brought to our attention in the media recently; our failure to provide a platform of adequate height. Have the trains been raised or the platforms lowered since the Alice to Darwin leg was built?
Or didn't it matter before when we were just the end of the line?
Apparently the Leader of the Opposition said that you don't get a second chance at making a first impression.
As you step off the Ghan, somehow I don't imagine that having to climb down to the platform is going to have a greater impact on you than the scenery, or the relief of finally being here. It is easy to find problems on every level in our town: not enough parking, public toilets, cleanliness, peace.
It's too hot, too cold, too isolated, there's not enough teachers, nurses and doctors. We fail to live up to perfection in every instance I can think of. There is nothing wrong with striving for improvement.
It is always possible to do better, but it is seldom as bad as we make it out to be.
Our greatest failure on both a personal and a public level is to recognise all the things we are doing right. To say "good on you" for working so hard and managing to run this place as well as we do.
Alice Springs has a lot to offer thanks to all the people who make an extra effort; members of the public who fundraise for clubs, charities and good causes, and spend hours of their private time contributing to the community. Life is messy.
Trying to keep a clean and tidy house and the trains running on time is a full time job.But ultimately it isn't about success or failure.
It is about living and enjoying it.
Nobody is perfect, or like my dad used to say, even the sun has spots.

The Games will have to wait. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

All that working out I did. All that healthy food I ate.
I spent hours cycling up and down ANZAC Hill on bikes of various types. I used a heart-rate monitor to ensure my exercise regime was sufficiently demanding.
I even went to a sports shop in Adelaide to buy fitness clothing, but I was out of breath climbing up the staircase from the basement.
Oh well, entering the Masters Games was only a vague idea anyway.
I'll wait until I'm fitter, which should be around 2012.
The setback in the sports apparel outlet may have been damaging to my self-esteem, but it did bring with it a healthy dose of reality.
Clearly, there are some things I just can't change, even if I think I can.
I might be bald, but I am never going to be Vin Diesel. So the answer is to be satisfied with what you do well, even if it is slightly less impressive than a hill of beans.
Over-achievers often claim that under-achievers only have to concentrate and they can achieve absolutely anything they want.
Mike Tyson used to peddle a little pep talk that went, "Pull yourself together, work hard and you too could be World Boxing Champion".
It's all about self-belief and focus, he used to say. I'll remember that next time I'm struggling to straighten a doona.
I was reminded of the same mindset when pursuing another subject on the World Wide Web recently. Is it just me, or is an increasing part of the Internet not very useful at all?
One of the least helpful websites is the one that offers "Your daily motivation".
If you can manage without it, I'd prefer not to give you the address, as I don't want to encourage the publishers.
Web statistics always seem wrong by a factor of one thousand, so if just one person visits the site, they'll think they have a thousand hits and they'll publish more unwanted inspirational claptrap.
For example, today's motivational line was "You can have anything on earth that you want, once you mentally accept the fact that you can have it".
Actually, I don't want anything in the world.
That's for greedy over-achievers.
I just want my soccer team to play reasonably well, and fewer ads during the movies on Imparja.
And while I'm at it, I want cashew nuts to be cheaper.
The site said that if you don't want a daily motivation sent to your Inbox, click here. I moved rapidly to click the button. The sharp movement didn't make me physically tired, which shows that every cloud has a silver lining.
Have you ever seen those framed inspirational posters that you find on office walls? They carry a one-word legend about "Teamwork" or "Success" and a sub-heading about why it is important.
The inspirational words are written in warm colours and are accompanied by a fuzzy-lens picture of a bearded person climbing a cliff or a group of multicultural people constructing a castle out of egg cartons.
The images are designed to illustrate the message.
I thought corporate wall-mountings went out with everything else that was cheesy in the eighties, but then I recently visited an office that was full of them.
The staff looked uninspired.
I wish these posters included new ones in the series, like "Near miss" and "Hard luck", also with a picture of a bearded man, but this time sliding down the scree at the foot of the cliff. That would inspire me.
There's a counterpart to the over-achiever and that's the person-sick-of-being-motivated-by-someone-else.
In other words, please stop trying to inspire me; I know my limits and I'm sticking to them.
But now I'll have to sit down because all this ranting has made me breathless.

LETTER: In defence of public housing tenants.

Sir,- I wish to comment on "Tenants from Hell", a letter by Terry Mills, Opposition Leader (Alice News, July 21), where he raised his concerns about the behaviour of some public housing tenants.
We have public housing to provide affordable housing to people on low incomes.
It is the responsibility of governments in this country to provide this type of housing, and to provide it in a non-discriminatory manner.
The Territory Housing Policy Manual states that public housing is here to provide "safe, secure, affordable housing to those Territorians most in need", which would include many of the people Mr Mills referred to in his letter.
I wonder where Mr Mills believes the people he describes should actually live.
NT Shelter (a community based, not-for-profit body working towards a just and fairer housing system for those people most disadvantaged in our community) believes that the provision of appropriate housing enables people to participate more fully in our society.
To remove the avenue of public housing would only serve to further disadvantage already disadvantaged groups of people. We need public housing and appropriate support services, so that people can be supported to successfully manage their tenancies.
Some of the initiatives currently underway in Alice Springs demonstrate a real commitment from community organisations to work towards improving the support systems for people in public housing.
There is an Accommodation Action Group (under the Central Australian Quality of Life Project), involving a large number of community and government organizations, which is currently working on, for example, a proposal to increase the availability of safe and affordable short term accommodation in the town.
In the past week a meeting was held involving 40 representatives of community and government agencies, to begin to develop a strategy for "Living Skills" support to assist people to maintain a successful tenancy.
The Living Skills Working Group which was formed recognises that there are a range of supports required for people who move into public or other housing, particularly for people who move from a remote location to an urban setting. These supports include practical homemaking skills and budgeting, connecting utilities and managing waste disposal in an urban setting, as well as dealing with visitors.
The Living Skills Working Group also recognises that it is imperative to teach people about their rights as well as their responsibilities as tenants. Without such support as this, it is very difficult for some people to successfully maintain a tenancy over a period of time.To provide this type of service to tenants, however, requires time and intensive support from community and government agencies. Organizations need to be adequately resourced and funded to provide this level of support.
Another local initiative has been the formation this year of a tenants' collective, the Pmere Aboriginal Housing Group.
The group has liaised with Territory Housing to, for example, ensure that the redevelopment of the Keith Lawrie (public housing) flat complex will address tenants' needs for safety and security.
This group is a positive example of tenants taking the initiative in terms of improving services and outcomes for public housing tenants.Let's support our community in addressing issues of housing services and support, so that all members of our community will benefit.
Jonathan Pilbrow
Central Australian Policy Officer
NT Shelter


Verdi started the season in a blaze of glory but now they have been shown a clean pair of heels by the S&R Vikings inflicting a 6-0 defeat on the former table leaders.
Vikings are now themselves shooting to the top of the soccer ladder as a result of the win.
From the outset they took the game up to Verdi, and Vikings midfielder, Kevin Friaut, began the action after only six minutes of play when he hit the back of the net with a powerful strike.
Only another six minutes later a weaving Jamie White struck for the second Vikings goal with a brilliant solo effort from the left flank.
The fitness and spirit of the Vikings didn't allow Verdi to settle into their game and to add to their woes they had a player sent off for dissent.
Vikings capitalised even more.
Striker Damon Vandershut sealed a further two goals before the half time break, although it did little for Verdi as the Vikings reappeared on the pitch full of run.
Vandershuit completed his hat trick in the fiftieth minute, and then a great header from Conrad Tamblyn off a cross by Kevin Friaut saw the Vikings stretch the lead to 6-0.
Verdi no doubt will be hoping to regain captain Gino Morelli and other key players before the finals.
Federal Strikers moved another win closer to gaining a finals berth when they enjoyed a 6-4 triumph over TDC.
Federals went on the offensive from the opening whistle and were rewarded by a fifth minute goal from Luke Bosio.
To their credit TDC did not surrender and by the twenty-fifth minute had equalised, thanks to a goal from Owen Early.
Federal's Ambrose Kamara scored in the thirty-third minute to regain the lead for Federal. This was rapidly followed by a second goal to Luke Bosio, extending Feds' lead to 3-1.
TDC continued to keep the game honest with Ben Adami scoring, but in reply Neil Rutland scored again for Federal and oranges were taken with the score at 4-2.
The second half belonged to Neil Rutland when he scored twice to complete a hat trick, taking Federal to a 6-2 lead.
Late in the game TDC were able to take advantage of their opponents' lapse in concentration and scored through Renee De Marco and Owen Early, respectably ending the game at 6-4.
B Grade matches were not held over the weekend to allow each division to complete the season at the same time, however in C Grade two games were conducted.
Gunnaz and Desert Spinach fought out a two all draw.
Gunnaz applied the pressure to Spinach but the improved outfit were able to weather the storm and play out a close encounter.
At half time the scores were locked at one all.
In the second half, despite having a one man advantage over Spinach, the Gunnaz could not make any advance, but as a result of the draw they sneak into the top spot.
Goal scorers for the Gunnaz were Kadir Calisir and Eddie Tikoft. For Desert Spinach goals went the way of Hussan Burra and Gareth Whiley.
Stormbirds had a 7-2 victory over the Scorpions in a game where Scorpions were gallant but were missing key players.
As a result the scoring spree saw Geoff Harris, Megan Wetkin and Eli Waterford with two goals each, and a single going to Sandor Guggisburg.
The goals for Scorpions went to Rachel O'Brien and Molly Smark.


The long weekend gave Centralians the chance to venture out bush, either to the Yuendumu sports, the Harts Range Bush Races, or informal settings at one with nature.
While the Communities competition had a spell, here in town at Traeger Park the CAFL continued their season.
Rivals Pioneer and South played out a 15.13 (103) to 9.9.(63) win to the Eagles.
Then in a run into the sunset, Wests booted a colossal 32.23 (215) to 0.2 (2) to Rovers.
The clash of the day did have several absences from both Pioneer and South due to preferred commitments.
In an even first term Eagles were able to find the resourceful Trevor Dhu and Richard Kopp to score their goals, while in the Roo's camp majors came from Kasman Spencer and Curtis Haines.
Only three points separated the teams at the break.
The second quarter went the way of Pioneer as they benefited from the return of Willy Foster.
Foster is a tall player who has the capability to control aerial duels but is just as able to win the ball when it's on the ground.
Foster, teamed with Shane Hayes, Nathan Flanagan and Dhu, produced a formidable line to the goals, as Souths could only manage one goal for the quarter to Pioneer's six.
The Roo goal however was significant as it welcomed the return of stalwart Willie Tilmouth.
The twenty seven-point half time lead was always going to be enough to see Pioneers secure second place on the premiership ladder.
In the all-important third term Pioneer were able to add 2.5 to 2.3.
In the last term Pioneer lifted their rating to run out forty-point winners.
Trevor Dhu finished the game with five goals and both Nathan Flanagan and Willy Foster made three.
Singles came off the boot of Matt Campbell, Shane Hayes, Richard Kopp and Craig Turner, while South's major scorers were Wayne Braun, Curtis Haines and Willie Tilmouth.
In terms of best players the smaller competitors were prominent for the Eagles, and Daniel McCormack, Matt Campbell and Geoffrey Taylor all put in a great game.
Jethro Campbell also continued to impress, and Clinton Pepperill controlled the game in the air.
Trevor Satour led the way for South, Shaun Cummings played a solid game, and Kasman Spencer, Curtis Haines and Willie Tilmouth showed flair.
There are only four more Saturday's of minor round football, and both Pioneer and South need to develop a wet sail in the run home to the finals.
Pioneer may seem secure for a double chance, but they have to face West next week, followed by Federal, a bye, and then a final hit against Rovers, while South face Federal, Rovers, West and finish up with a bye.
In terms of the finals, West showed they are rightful premiership favourites for 2004.
A wide range of talent unfolded as they defeated Rovers by 213 points, and they have even more ammunition waiting to return to the line up.
Ben Whelan's ability to organise the troops was again made evident, and was reinforced by his nine goal haul. Keith Durham showed his understanding of the game, and with Peter Ryan scored five goals. Damien Timms proved his worth, as did Kevin Bruce and Henry Labastida.Rovers struggled to score a behind in each of the second and third quarters, and played most of their game as onlookers to the mite of West.
Those who gave plenty for Rovers included Mitchell Clarke, Kenny Morton, Richie Morton, Martin Patrick and Sam Varley.
Historians were left scratching their heads at the end of the game, wondering if such a low losing score had ever been registered at Traeger Park, but the reality has now set in for the Blues and, despite their situation, they are still putting a side out on the oval.
From here they need the support of all who identify as Rovers, and also from other clubs who can assist in ensuring a favourable outcome for this foundation club.

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