October 27, 2004.


The Country Liberal Party wants to call the shots in amending the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, a bid to bring about a sea change in economic development on a million square kilometres of the Territory.
The key objectives are:-
• Creating alternatives to the current land tenure of "inalienable freehold" which rules out the sale or mortgaging of land granted under land rights;
• empowering Aboriginal people to engage in commercial ventures on Aboriginal land without the involvement of land councils; and,
• representation of Aboriginal people by organisations other than, or additional to, the land councils.
The initiative follows the landslide Coalition victory in the Federal election resulting in likely Government control of the Senate where earlier attempts to change the Land Rights Act (NT) were either blocked, or abandoned because they were likely to be blocked.
The move is a response to the continuing catastrophic social and economic conditions on Aboriginal land, especially in Central Australia, despite nearly 30 years of land rights.
CLP Senator Nigel Scullion says his party should have a leading role in preparing the amendments, already in draft form, because the law, although a Federal one, applies only in the Northern Territory.
Senator Scullion says if Federal legislators "think Aboriginal land rights is that good then they can bloody well adopt it all around Australia, and everybody can have it".
"And if it's not then they keep out of our business," he says.
Senator Scullion, NT Opposition Leader Terry Mills and NT Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs John Elferink, in an exclusive interview with the Alice Springs News, outlined the policies behind their call for changes.
Says Mr Mills: "The very idea of land ownership is the cornerstone of economic activity.
"There is profound wealth of land and yet there is incredible poverty.
"Land gives security, some capacity to build a real economy.
"We have to move in that direction, to genuine ownership of land, including the opportunity to take a risk, perhaps fail and learn from the mistakes.
"And that would lead to the foundation for real growth."
Mr Elferink says the current system inhibits economic progress.
As an investor "you have a requirement to jump through a whole bunch of hoops.
"That's not necessarily a fault of the administrative arm of the land council.
"It is a structural fault of the Act itself", creating the need for protracted negotiations before a commercial investment can be made.
"One of the most common effects of that has been that the money will walk away," says Mr Elferink.
"I've tried to attract funds through my personal contacts and the most common question I get is that of security for the investment.
"If that promise can't be made, and made quickly, then the investment money will go elsewhere."
Long term leases and declaring town boundaries with normal freehold titles on Aboriginal land trusts could be some of the answers.
"Aboriginal people can get loans for cars, which are depreciating assets, but not for homes, which are appreciating assets.
"Despite the housing crisis they can't buy their own home on Aboriginal land."
Mr Elferink says some people, "traditional owners who are nervous in the world, take great comfort from the Land Rights Act".
"And then you have other Aboriginal people who are extremely capable of making decisions for their own land, and who feel stifled by the Land Rights Act.
"Some people want to opt out of the Act entirely and want to run their own land as you and I would run our back yard.
"The yard stick ‘Aboriginal' may not be the correct yard stick and maybe we should start looking for other ones," says Mr Elferink.
Mr Mills says he was in Canberra just before the elections and found "clearly an interest in making improvements to the Land Rights Act" with "robust" amendments under consideration.
Says Mr Mills: "We must stop now and do a comprehensive review, draw a line in the sand and think about what we want.
"I hear Indigenous people saying, we need greater flexibility.
"We need to cut this cloth in another way.
"There are so many who are stifled by this Act."
Mr Mills says Aborigines have no mechanisms to "speak effectively and promote change".
"At the moment Aboriginal people are almost afraid to speak up because if they do they may be exposed, sidelined or disadvantaged in a significant way.
"We can't keep going this way," says Mr Mills.
Senator Scullion says: "We already have draft changes to the legislation.
"The election process got in the way of having this submitted to Parliament" following consultations "over years and years".
Rather than having another review, he says, "we need to look at all the reviews that have been done.
"If there are any holes in that we may take submissions.
"If Aborigines want access to the same financial rewards that other Australians get from their land then these changes need to take place.
"I don't believe that inalienable freehold title, which is like special blackfeller title, in a very patronising way, gives the same rights afforded to other Australians who have freehold title.
"We need to change that.
"Aborigines should have the choice, for example, within a region to form their own views about how their land is dealt with and put them to the government."
Does that mean more land councils?
"I'm not sure that you need to call them land councils.
"But it certainly means that people will have genuine representation for their region."
At present commercial negotiations must be channelled through the land councils.
"That will have to change," says Senator Scullion.
"Previous reviews have claimed that voices from smaller regions would be better, more democratic and certainly get better outcomes."
He says he will be asking the Aboriginal Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone to take a fresh look at the already existing draft legislation.
"We seem to re-do anthropology to death.
"I'll be calling for some sort of anthropological library" independent of the land councils.
"I don't believe the Northern nor the Central Land Councils should be supplying anthropologists.
"It is in the public interest to have independent sources."
Senator Scullion says the present anthropological evidence is not necessarily wrong but "we're just looking for a better process to ensure there is better transparency and you separate the roles and responsibilities of land councils" giving much broader access to this "very important historical evidence about land ownership".


Alice Springs company Sitzler Brothers will build a 40 block subdivision on the former native title land sold to the Hannon Group's consortium by Lhere Artepe in the new Larapinta subdivision.
Sitzlers will use their own workforce to carry out most of the civil earthworks, with local sub-contractors doing the plumbing and electrical works. The consortium's arrangements with Lhere Artepe involve direct employment by Sitzler's of three Indigenous personnel and a full-time apprentice nominated by the native title holders.
Says Michael Sitzler: "There will be a capability level required, which will be assessed in conjunction with Lhere Artepe."
Mr Sitzler says the project is a "reasonable sized one" for his company. It will employ about 12 people, one-fifth of whom are Indigenous anyway. The local sub-contractors chosen also employ Indigenous staff.
He expressed a hope to do more work in conjunction with Lhere Artepe, but "they'll be the ones to decide that". Work on site should start before Christmas.


The Northern Territory is the only state or territory in Australia to effectively ban midwives from private practice because of the unnecessarily restrictive wording of their Health Practitioners Act.
This Act has made it mandatory for midwives to carry professional indemnity insurance, yet no midwife in Australia has been able to access such insurance since 2000.
This saw many midwives leave private practice – there were several hundred and now there are fewer than 50 nationally, with just one in the Territory, Theo Allan, until October 15.
On that date Ms Allan lost her registration to practice privately because she doesn't have insurance.
So by asking the impossible, the Territory Government has deprived her of the possibility of self-employment.
A much-loved and very experienced midwife, Ms Allan has been forced to drop her caseload – seven expecting mothers and four requiring post-natal care.
Most of these women desire to have or have had home births, but
at stake are bigger issues than home birthing, according to Dr Barbara Vernon of the Australian College of Midwives, representing 3500 members nationwide.
"We know that statistically few women in Australia make the choice to birth at home.
"But many women do want what the private midwife offers, which is continuity of care – seeing the same health professional from pre-natal care through labour and birth to post-natal care.
"Major international research shows that this type of care delivers better outcomes for mothers and babies," says Dr Vernon.
Women receiving continuity of care are less likely to have low weight babies, more likely to have a full term pregnancy, less likely to have post-natal depression, less likely to need a range of medical interventions during labour and birth, and their babies are more likely to have high APGAR scores, a measure of well-being taken one minute and then five minutes after birth.
Continuity of care for expecting mothers is offered through the health system in the UK and many European countries but in Australia, especially since the indemnity insurance crisis, it is mostly only available through a private specialist obstetrician.
The Australian College of Midwives is calling on the Territory Government to look for ways to make continuity of care, including the kind that midwives offer, accessible to all women.
And in the short term, they should review and amend their legislation – something Dr Vernon says could be quickly and easily done.
Other states and territories have similar legislation, she says, but in recognition of reality, it is framed more flexibly, leaving registration boards the discretion to register midwives without professional indemnity insurance.
Territory Minister for Health Dr Peter Toyne says his government "is looking at all options".
"This is not something that can be done overnight, it will take some time – the most important thing is to get the right outcome," he says.
"They knew this was coming back in June," says Ms Allen.
She has until the end of this week to decide whether or not she will appeal the Nurses and Midwifery Board's decision in the Supreme Court – a costly and obviously uncertain process.
Meanwhile, she and a band of staunch supporters are lobbying local members to put up a Private Members' Bill to alter the Territory's legislation, allowing at least a return to the previous situation.
Dr Toyne says the underlying issue of access to indemnity insurance remains complex - with more work to be done:
"The Federal Government has buried its head in the sand at a time when we need a national response to the issue of professional indemnity for health professionals."
He says he is writing to the Prime Minister, urging him to take a leadership role in this area, and will continue to lobby him until something is done.


Unemployed who refuse to take grape picking jobs they're offered at Ti Tree should have their welfare payments stopped, says Opposition Leader Terry Mills.
"The horticultural association is very keen to accommodate particularly young welfare recipients," he says after talks with the industry in Alice Springs last week.
"Here is a real work opportunity."
But refusing the jobs would have to have "repercussions, and that means no welfare," says Mr Mills.
At present the seasonal picking is done by people brought in from interstate and overseas, at massive expense, while there is a large pool of unemployed in close vicinity of the grape farms north of Alice Springs.
Mr Mills says the North Queensland Aboriginal lawyer and activist Noel Pearson has called for banning the dole for black kids leaving school when there is clearly work available.
"According to the horticultural association [in Central Australia] the welfare industry basically serves itself [and] is just not responsive to regional needs," says Mr Mills.
He claims the $20m a year industry at TiTree would expand substantially to more grapes and other crops if uncertainties about labour could be removed or lessened.
Mr Mills says the Top End is facing the prospect of mangoes rotting on the ground again because of a lack of pickers "despite high unemployment and chronic welfare dependency in the Northern Territory".
"The Labor Government speaks of importing foreign workers as their first response.
"This is easier to do than face the difficult problem of unemployment and welfare dependency at home.
"Don't get me wrong; maybe bringing East Timorese fruit pickers to the NT could be considered as a last resort but we must tackle the problem at home first.
"Governments must not shirk their duty to deal with the real issues, and welfare reform is ‘core business'.
"This issue is high on my agenda.
"The first call I made after the Federal election was to Kay Patterson's office.
"I will not rest until I see changes to the way welfare is administered."
He says the dole and the CDEP "work for the dole scheme" could be replaced by a Green Corps model, providing basic training to enable young welfare recipients to support the horticulture industry and get involved in real work.


Views are mixed about the economic benefits of the Master Games, despite Sports Minister John Ah Kitt's upbeat assessment of a $10m boost.
Art galleries in Todd Mall told the Alice News they don't benefit.
"Business died as soon as the Masters Games began, and it's the same every year," said the owner of a gallery in the mall, which has been operating for 14 years.
"Tourists are kept away because of shortage of accommodation and people here for the Games don't spend money on art.
"There are no benefits of the Games to the CBD in Alice Springs because the money doesn't stay in town – all the action is going on around the casino area. It's a shame more of the events and concerts aren't held in the mall."
"Have a look around you – there's no one here," said another art gallery owner.
"No tourists are in town because the motels are booked out and airfares are too expensive. We're missing out."
Some restaurants have been negatively affected too: "Frankly I look forward to a year without the Masters Games," says a restaurant owner who expressed his wish to remain anonymous.
"I keep reading how marvellous the Masters Games is for the economy of Alice Springs but I don't see a cent of that $10m. My restaurant figures are well down this year – as they have been for every year since the Games have been held here.
"It's not being callous – small businesses don't reap any rewards."
Another small business, the Alice Springs Newsagency, has felt the pinch as well: "The masters have replaced tourists and apart from selling a few extra papers, it's not been a great few weeks for us."
But some eateries have been enjoying fruits of success.
"Custom has been up about 15 per cent," says James Nolan, the manager of The Lane.
"The evenings are busier and we've had a more constant stream of people coming in. We've put on live music every night and customers have been an even mix of locals, tourists and games people."
"We've been given a lovely boost by the Masters Games," says Ann De Marco of Novita Gifts. "There's been a steadier flow of people in the shop spending for Christmas and buying gifts to take home."
And unsurprisingly, sports shops did well out of the week. "Profits have been up by 25 per cent," says Greg Reval, manager of Centralian Sports. "We really benefit from the Masters Games every year it's on."


Friendliness, charm and local attractions are the reasons wealthy tourists come to Alice Springs, but a poor selection of hotels and a rundown town centre could mean they won't come back.
With the luxurious range of top-end accommodation at Uluru, there's a trend among visitors to skip out the Alice from their itineraries and fly there direct for their Central Australia experience.
Michael Grant from Darwin is staying at the Crowne Plaza hotel for a week: "Every accommodation facility is dated or inappropriate for the environment," he says. "This hotel is old-fashioned and the casino is incongruent with the feel of Alice Springs."
Michael reckons he'll notch up about $400 on golf while he's here, plus $500 to cover eating and drinking expenses and around $1000 in hotel bills. That's money that might quite easily slip through Alice's fingers and be spent elsewhere in the future.
"I had to transfer from a hotel in town because it wasn't really up to standard," says Nickie Bamber, a visitor from England. "It didn't feel a nice place to stay because it was in an area with all fast-food chains and didn't feel too friendly."
But other tourists said they were "very happy" with their hotels. "One of the biggest surprises is that there are nice places to stay in Alice," say Audrey and Don Warren from Adelaide who are staying at the Crowne Plaza. "This is a lovely hotel with all the facilities we need."
While at Uluru the Warrens stayed at the prestigious Sails in the Desert resort, with rooms starting from $460.
Several tourists we spoke to mentioned the area housing the upmarket hotels was too remote. "I'd like to walk into town from my hotel but it's too difficult," says Dr Moreton Laugerud. "Nothing is built up for walking which is a pity, and the infrastructure is chaotic. For instance, I ordered a taxi but it never arrived." But Dr Laugerud says he doesn't mind: "The unpredictability is nice.
"Alice Springs is just like I imagined – I read A Town like Alice 30 years ago and would never have come here if I hadn't read it."
Arlene Quinn, voted as Business and Professional Woman of the year for Western Australia, says the remoteness of Alice Springs is a "bit of a shock".
She's here for 10 days for a work conference and a holiday. "I was surprised to find that I was unable to get a transfer from the airport to my hotel [Lassesters].
"The area seems higgledy piggledy and rundown," says Ms Quinn.
"KMART wasn't very nice either."
But she said her Sahara Tour to Uluru was "absolutely wonderful" and would consider coming back to Alice in the future.
Poor infrastructure was a point raised several times by the people we spoke to: "I think Alice Springs could do with a bit of money being spent on it to encourage people to use the town centre," says Nickie Bamber from England. "But I think it's a marvellous place," she goes on to say. "The people are friendly and the attractions are excellent. Alice Springs is so famous, I had to visit."
"The town isn't what I expected," says Peter Saggers from Brisbane, here with wife Jenny and daughters Kate, 15 and Laura, 12. "From looking at brochures I thought it would be more developed and established than it is."
Nevertheless, his family say there's plenty of attractions to enjoy together here, like the Reptile Centre and art galleries.
Problems with staying out of town and getting back too late after tours meant several tourists we chatted to complained about not being able to use the shops.
"We can't get to the drug store or onto the internet because everything's closed by the time we get back from our tours," say Lorie and Paul Bennett from Canada.
Several visitors commented that the town seemed dead after dark and said they'd like it to be livelier, with shops remaining open for an after-dinner browse.
However, the majority of the tourists we spoke to said they felt safe walking the streets in the evening, despite what they'd heard about the presence of Aborigines.
"The people here are friendly and welcoming, and although we've seen Aboriginal people on the streets, I don't see them as a problem to me or my family," says Peter Saggers. "They're not confrontational."
The friendliness of Alice is what the visitors repeatedly told us they love about the town: " We can't believe how friendly people are here, it's wonderful," say Audrey and Don Warren from Adelaide.
One group of visitors from Spain however, didn't feel they received as warm a welcome as they expected. "Nobody speaks Spanish here and none of the signs in the museums were translated into our language except for one. It doesn't make us feel so welcome," mentioned Maria Therese and Puigcerver Campos from Alicante.
They're staying at the Alice Springs Resort along with the rest of their coach party, passing through for a night during their $10,000-trip through Australia and New Zealand.
All of the people we spoke to gave top marks for the local attractions, with the Aboriginal art galleries the most raved about. Several of the visitors who had been to Alice before said one of the reasons for coming back was to buy and enjoy the artwork here.
The golf course was another attraction visitors said they liked very much.
The School of the Air, Flying Doctors, Reptile Centre (especially among families), Anzac Hill and the Desert Park were the most visited and enjoyed attractions by the people we spoke to.
Others spent money on hot air ballooning flights, local day tours and Take a Camel out to Dinner.
"The attractions here are just perfect," says Dr Moreton Laugerud, who says he's "definitely coming back" for a second visit.
The natural scenery was also given 10 out of 10 – and many tourists told us they hadn't known about local beauty spots like Standley Chasm or Glen Helen before they arrived.
"The hotels don't do a very good job of providing information about them either," one family commented.
"We didn't expect the ranges to be so dramatic," say Paul and Lorie Bennett from Canada. "They're not spoilt with advertising signs or ‘Welcome to Alice Springs' letters which makes a change from places like Hollywood!"
The average length of stay in the Alice is just a few days and usually packed with tours and visits, tacked onto the end or beginning of tours to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and King's Canyon.
This means little time for leisurely meals so lots of tourists we spoke to said they rely on eating at their hotel. Those who did venture outside though weren't impressed.
"The restaurants are inadequate – choice and quality of the food isn't great," say Anna and William Waung of Hong Kong.
"During the day there is a limited choice of places to eat out – there's only one place I've been to – called Bar Doppio – which is any good," says Michael Grant from Darwin. "There's plenty of nice bars though."
Alice Springs has the marketing advantage of being incredibly well-known across the world. But it will need to work harder in the future to live up to its romantic reputation and ensure it attracts visitors like Catherine Lukic, originally from Croatia and now living in Julong, New South Wales.
"I have always wanted to come to Alice Springs – I heard all the stories and finally I'm here. I keep pinching myself!" she told us.
"It's much more beautiful than I expected, especially the colours of the nature.
"I can't wait to come back again with my grandchildren."


A new development at the edge of Alice Springs' historic precinct provides an interesting response to heritage conservation but could have benefited from a more rigorous commitment to the vision of the original plan.
The brief was to design 15 residential units, mostly two- and three-bedroom, to accommodate nurses employed at the hospital.The available land was a long narrow strip on the Stuart Highway at the edge of the Alice Springs Heritage Precinct and bordered by the heritage-listed Old Gaol.
The design had to comply with the Alice Springs Heritage Precinct Conservation Management Plan and the Territory Government made clear it would value an energy conscious approach.
Developer Michael Sitzler engaged architect Susan Dugdale as consultant on his expression of interest.
Her design achieved a five star energy rating, got a stamp of approval from the Office of Environment and Heritage and, combined with favourable costs, won the design and construct bid for Sitzlers.
Ms Dugdale sits on the Heritage Advisory Council but this was the first time her own design work had needed to respond to the heritage management plan.
"I didn't know if I could work with it until I tried," she says.
The trick was to come up with a contemporary design that also paid its respects to what had gone before, principally as expressed in the buildings of the late 1930s and early 1940s within the heritage precinct.
In Ms Dugdale's view, the new buildings also needed to stand well clear of the old gaol wall, preserving its integrity and allowing it to feature strongly on the site rather than be overtaken by the new development. This has been achieved.
The management plan for new developments on vacant allotments in the precinct is specific on only a couple of issues. It stipulates galvanised corrugated iron roofs (not Zincalume or Colorbond) at a 35 to 40 degree pitch. Ms Dugdale has taken this stipulation and made a statement with it, using galvanised iron not only on the rooves but also on the eastern and western walls. For even greater emphasis, on the walls she uses it as you would on a roof, running the corrugations vertically, not horizontally as in most houses built from corrugated iron.
She thus makes a connection with the Hartley Street houses but also distinguishes the contemporary buildings from them.
The management plan also talks about walls, generally preferring "rendered masonry of a light colour".
By way of comparison with Ms Dugdale's approach, the design of the twin office buildings on the corners of Stott Terrace and Hartley Street has responded literally to both issues, with a somewhat stolid result.
DISTINGUISHRobin Gregory, senior heritage officer with the Office of Environment and Heritage, does not distinguish between the two developments.
She sees them both "as great examples for all the people who say heritage listing means you can't do anything".
Ms Dugdale has been more interpretive than literal, an approach particularly successful in my view in her interpretation of "light colour". The combination of the galvanised iron – which will weather quite quickly to a duller surface – and the pale earthy hues of the northern and southern facades (masonry and Hardiplank) creates a shimmering lightness across the whole site.
It could look harsh without the presence of the large trees, many of which are sacred and are thus an important heritage feature in themselves. The pale surfaces emphasise the trees' presence by way of contrast and in turn are enhanced by the play of leafy shadows.
Other large trees, such as the jacarandas favoured in the mid-century period, were intended for the site in the landscape concept plan, but regrettably this has only been partially implemented. I'll return to this later.
Single storey structures are characteristic of the heritage precinct. The management plan does not outlaw second storeys for new developments, nor even as additions to existing buildings although for these it does require that the second storey not be visible from the street.
Ms Dugdale says it would have been very difficult to create the 15 units required without double-storey structures. However, in keeping with the spirit of the precinct, her design tries to give a single storey feel, especially on the boundaries of the site closest to the street.
ROOFThe most successful example is the building facing Stuart Terrace, where the second storey sits beneath the single roof structure, but is clearly acknowledged by the windows cut into the roof.
The fact that the building contains two quite separate two-bedroom units is only obvious from the fence that separates the external areas.
Ms Dugdale's design intended to make consistent use of this single roof embracing separate dwellings. Unfortunately, in the construction phase this was not adhered to on all buildings.
In a number of the double-storey structures the party walls separating the units have been allowed to protrude above the roof. The result is disappointing, spoiling the heritage reference, and unintentionally making another – to the working class ‘two-up two-down' terraced dwellings of industrial towns and cities in England.
This is more sharply the case in the structures where the roof level is split. Ms Dugdale's design provided for overhanging eaves, to soften the split by shading and protecting. Instead, in the construction phase the roof was terminated with no overhang, creating a typical terrace house look.
I asked developer Michael Sitzler about these decisions.
He said first of all that "engaging a local architect with a flair of her own" and a sound knowledge of the heritage requirements was "the secret" to the success of his design and construct bid.
The fact that during construction some party walls ended up going through the roof was "the result of the architectural design not quite matching the structural design" and "sometimes the structural design has to take precedence".
Does he mean to say there would there have been structural problems if the party walls had been concealed under the roof?
"No, it's just that the design solution structurally didn't match the architect's solution.
"I think the optimum result was achieved at the end of the day," said Mr Sitzler.
The "structural design" Mr Sitzler refers to is presumably that of the roof trusses, ‘design and construct' items which the builder should surely have coordinated with the architectural design.
To correct the mistake during construction would have incurred expense but to not do so has undermined what is otherwise an architectural showpiece for Alice Springs.
RESOURCESI asked heritage officer Ms Gregory about her office's supervision of the contract.She says monitoring did take place "as frequently as time and resources allowed".
She also says the office is currently "considering some issues to be addressed" – not all of them related to heritage – but it would be inappropriate to comment further.
Ms Dugdale's design subtly includes another heritage reference. Masonry walls to the window sill, in a darker colour render to the Hardiplank above, is suggestive of the screened verandahs of the 1930s houses.
The internal fences, in keeping with a stated preference of the heritage conservation plan, are low cement post and cyclone wire constructions, essentially a reproduction of the 1930s fence type. This seems almost kitsch in contrast with the interpretive approach used elsewhere.
But at least the reference is accurate in contrast with the arched vents under the eaves, which stand out as a mock heritage element. Ms Dugdale's design specified rectangular vents, in keeping with those used in the 1930s buildings.
This attention to detail is important; otherwise you end up with a mishmash in which the heritage references become incoherent and confused.
Unfortunately this is the case with the landscaping around the nurses quarters.
The plan is not prescriptive about private gardens but recommends the use of species favoured in the 1930s.
Ms Dugdale commissioned landscape architect Cathy Pirrie to do a concept plan for the site.
With no historical large residential complex to refer to, Ms Pirrie proposed an interpretation based on Stuart Park and the precinct's private gardens.
Elements of Ms Pirrie's concept have survived – the row of rosemary and lavender bushes along the entrance drive, a couple of patches of lawn (not enough though to create the impression of parkland), some Duranta repens (sky flower) bushes that will grow into hedges, a plantation of yuccas near the gaol wall.
However, the proposed formal style of planting has been abandoned in favour of a scattered treatment; and curvilinear designs for paths and edges of different zones have been used instead of simple rectangular designs.
Landscape rocks – never used in a heritage garden – and curvilinear kerbing have combined to give a contemporary suburban look, out of keeping with the intention of the precinct.The area to suffer the most from this haphasard approach is the common area, where the large area of lawn shaded by large trees, envisaged as a cool recreation spot, has been mostly replaced by zones of gravel, including large river pebbles, not only difficult to walk on and impossible to sit on, but also acting as a heat bank in summer.
Mr Sitzler says that inspection by the Office of Environment and Heritage resulted in a request to make some adjustments including to landscaping, in the nature of refinements rather than changes.
Again, Ms Gregory would not make any specific comment.
She says inspection at the end of works relies on good will and on a contractor's interest in doing future work with the Office of Environment and Heritage.
While the Minister makes the final decision, on the basis of plans, about works to be undertaken, there is no legal mechanism for final approval.


Two delegates of the Central Land Council (CLC) are accusing its director and a staff lawyer of "not following their statutory responsibility of looking after all Aboriginal people" and of not listening to them.
Freddy Williams and Clark Martin, from the Willowra community, wrote to MLA John Elferink, requesting him to forward their complaint to Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone.
Mr Williams and Mr Clark say: "We are sick of being dictated to and are interested in setting up a smaller land council to represent Section 4 [of the CLC].
"This is possible through the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act."
Mr Williams told the Alice News he is travelling to Yuendumu early this week to seek support for a break-away land council.
Meanwhile members of the Parker family at Kintore have written to the CLC demanding it pay for travel expenses to Kintore for Paul Parker, the father, and two of his sons.
They now live in Coraki, NSW.
Mr Parker is a white man who took part in the exodus from Papunya by Aboriginal people who subsequently founded Kintore, near the WA border.
A daughter, Katherine, says the mother, Jilau, is a traditional owner of Kintore, but Mr Parker has been denied residency there by the CLC, resulting in a bitter dispute over many years.
The Parkers' facsimile to the CLC, dated last Monday, is signed by 139 community members.
Katherine Parker says many of them are senior people, including Kumai, Josephine Napurrula, Nabula Scobie, Naoia, Narabri, Makinti, Hilary, Cameron, George Maxwell, Reggie Baldock, Lindsay Gorey and Maxie Pollard.
When asked for comment CLC Director David Ross said: "Mr Parker left Kintore at the insistence of the traditional owners there and it is entirely up to him to reconcile any differences he may have with that community."


It seems Osama bin Laden's evil doings are now impacting on the Melbourne Cup – at least so far as the employees of Pine Gap are concerned.
They received a memo recently from Ernie Brooner, "Support Division – x2050 –835-6129", issuing this stern warning: "With the popular Melbourne Cup approaching next month, just a reminder that gambling is NOT permitted on government installations or using government equipment.
"Same applies to Super Bowl pools, NCAA Tournaments, etc."
Our spy in the spy base tells us that it's the first time such a warning has been issued in connection with the horse race that stops our nation.
So far the spooks have turned a blind eye when staff members indulged in a little flutter which, after all, is long held tradition.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Abolish Central Land Council.

Sir,– Your article of the October 13 "30 more years?" about the Central Land Council (CLC), was the best piece of journalism that I have read for some time.
You told the truth as it is. For the sake of all Aboriginal people I would like to see the CLC abolished.
Smaller land councils should be introduced whereby Aboriginal people would deal directly with private enterprise.
This would have a greater effect on all aspects of Aboriginal advancement.
CLC could then go in the farming of mushrooms as they have great experience of keeping Aboriginals in the dark and feeding them bullshit.
John Machado

Sir,- This community has had enough with Labor for three long years. We didn't get any funding from them and they are full of broken promises. This community is living in poverty: no better housing or roads, no all-weather airstrip, no council.
Traditional Aboriginal people in the whole of NT, lift up your heads, think straight. Don't vote Labor next election.Clark Martin and Freddy Williams
CLC delegates

Sir,– For more than 20 years now Newmont (and its predecessor Normandy) have worked with the CLC to develop our mining and exploration interests in Central Australia.
In that time, we've enjoyed considerable success with our Tanami operations and we look forward to many more years of gold production at The Granites.Our success in Central Australia can be credited in part to our effective working relationship with the Central Land Council. We would not have been as successful, nor would the Territory's Indigenous communities have benefited as much from the economic, employment and business development opportunities resulting from mining, without this interaction with the CLC.
What is apparent from our long association is that the CLC is effective in working with its business partners to ensure that Aboriginal people share in the opportunities presented by mining. Working through the issues related to development has presented challenges for all parties but our relationship with the CLC has been enhanced as these challenges have been mutually resolved.
With the CLC's assistance, we've set up an on-site training program that teaches local Indigenous people the skills required to secure employment within the mining industry. This will help Newmont increase its Indigenous workforce and will result in real employment opportunities for local people.
Newmont was delighted to be included in the 30th anniversary celebrations and found the occasion to be a moving expression of Aboriginal pride.
We look with anticipation to what the next 30 years will bring for the CLC and the Indigenous people of Central Australia.
John Dow
Managing Director

Sir,– Perhaps under a CLP Northern Territory government we can look forward to an urgent rearrangement in services provided to Aborigines.
In spite of huge amounts of money allocated to them, are very much worse off than they were 30 or 40 years ago.
In those days Sisters were showing them the way to health via hygiene and teachers were more interested in reading and writing and integration, instead of segregation, land rights and general whines and grines.
When, under Aboriginal Affairs, teachers from ASOPA (Australian School of Pacific Administration) came to the Territory in the sixties, they had skills and training in the betterment of the people they came to serve.
Reading, writing and integration as equals into the white world was the goal.
Gone are the days when the true Aborigine actually liked the whites who went to help them.
In those days a little black hand would creep confidently into a white hand and a little face would smile up at "Sister".
Now with segregation, so important to somebody's agenda being actively encouraged, and three out of 20 is considered a pass for people whose grandmothers could read, write, sew and understood basic hygiene.FWC rolls easily off their tongue, which speaks volumes for the outlook of people selected by the current Northern Territory government, under which this dreadful state of affairs has been reached.
Gerry Baddock
Alice Springs

Sir,– The current unrest with the Charles Darwin University has deteriorated further with Alice Springs students in business studies being told that as of next year, their courses will be delivered online only.
It is absurd not to have any more face-to-face classes. Why would any student want to pay full fees and only receive lessons via the internet, downloading their lessons and then studying at their own time?
It would be cheaper and more convenient for the student to buy a book and study that at his/her own leisure or enrol with a university that has a full external studies department which will provide printed material and personal assistance for students.
This year, the Charles Darwin University announced it was delivering its law course online for Alice Springs students.
At the start of the year there were 25 students who enrolled. I understand that over 20 of the students have dropped out of the course because the online mode of delivery was unsatisfactory.
And yet, the minister for education has not done anything about the situation, typical of the Martin Labor government which is only concerned about the northern suburbs of Darwin.
All Territorians should be concerned that our premier educational institution is lurching from one problem to the next and it seems without any hope for improvement in the near future.
The minister for education is seemingly not concerned about the increasing level of student and staff frustration over the university's administration.
Dr Richard Lim
CLP Shadow Education Minister

More water for Alice

Sir,– There was a spate of break-ins and window smashing at Ross Park School earlier this year.
Acting in self-protection, the school decided to keep the gates between itself and Ross Park Oval locked and the bubblers turned off except during school hours. The school's admin staff could tell you whether or not this has reduced the incidents of after-hours vandalism.
However, an unfortunate side effect of this action is that 18 bubblers, which were available to users of the oval, are no longer available. The Council has replaced those 18 with 1.
The Masters Games staged soccer matches on that oval.
Members of the town's sporting clubs use it all the time.
Summer is here.
Will our Alice Springs Town Council please consider at the very least adding a self-stoping tap in the same line as the new bubbler? This would allow water bottles to be filled easily, and would reduce the problem of water shortage on Ross Park Oval.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Keep on walking

Sir, – Regarding your article "Walking barefoot", (Alice Springs News, 22 September) I have problems accepting your comment "until recently there wasn't even a podiatrist in town".
For many years I have been a client of Darralyn Duffy at Alice Springs Podiatry (later Podiatry Plus), and when she decided to leave town, clients were advised and for a short time Armando Del Vecchio did locum before she left.
Armando took over the practice without interruption I believe and as you can see by his qualifications we are very fortunate to have this podiatrist serving our community.
He is no longer located in the Plaza, but at a surgery that better suits his needs and of his own choosing.
Frankie Bongers
Alice Springs

Refreshing news

Sir,– Thank you, it is refreshing to surf the web and find local news in another country.
It is very interesting to see news and events happening in different places.
World news is boring, sameo sameo all the time.
Thanks for sharing your community with the world.
Michigan USA


"I joined the Alice Springs BMX Club when I was five. All my friends at school did BMX so that's how I started. But I'm better than them now!"
So says Dirk Winter, recently crowned the second best BMX rider in the world in the 14-year-old age group – and the best in Australia.
Born in Alice Springs, Dirk lived here until last November when he moved to Bundaberg, Queensland. He now belongs to one of the largest clubs in the state, training for two hours every day after school.
"I love riding. Every track is different. It's a fun, fast sport," says Dirk.
He remembers how his passion began at the Alice club, based at Blatherskite Park.
"My first bike was one I got from my friend. It was too big for me and pretty heavy!"
Dirk started training twice a week and began competing when he was eight, winning the first competition he entered – the NT state finals.
"I got better by practicing all the time," Dirk says.
Now he's coached by his mum, Frankie, who is the BMX athlete development officer for Queensland.
"My mum is cool, not too strict. And she's always there for me."
One of the last competitions Dirk did before moving from Alice Springs was the World Championships held in Perth last year. He came fifth.
"I wasn't really that good back then," Dirk says. "Alice Springs is so remote and it was so far away from competitions. That's why we moved to Bundaberg. It's more central and the club I belong to now has lots more members. There's more interest in BMX over here."
Dirk still keeps in touch with his old team-mates from Alice Springs.
"They're still riding, and I saw them at the nationals in April. But moving to Bundaberg has made me a better rider. I'm able to do my stuff now there's more opportunity."
The former Alice Springs High student admits that moving to a different area and starting a new school and BMX club was "nerve-wracking", but says, "My new club is almost twice the size of my old one, and everyone there is really cool."
The move has obviously paid off, as Dirk won the silver medal at the World BMX Titles in Valkenswaard, Holland in July.
Dirk recalls the race: "I felt really prepared. I knew I'd worked hard and I was focused."
He went into the final as favourite and took an early lead: "I got a good gate [start] and came out of the corner first.
"When I realised I was ahead I thought I'd better keep it together for the rest of the race."
On the last turn he was overtaken by Japanese rider Masahiro Sanpei, leaving Dirk to race Maxime Iche from France for the silver.
He's pleased with his performance, but says he hasn't had his "best race yet".
"My goal is to be the world number-one next year."
He could achieve his aim at the next World BMX Titles, to be held in Paris in 2005.
Dirk couldn't have the BMX success he is enjoying today without the support of a local Alice Springs business, says his coach and mother, Frankie.
"The support Neata Glass gave Dirk while we were in Alice Springs really made him the rider he is today," she says.
The company, managed by Max Klein (pictured above), supported Dirk as a young rider in 1999, up until he left the Alice in 2003.
"I think it's only right to put some money back into the community by sponsoring junior sport," says Max.
"Neata Glass puts a lot of money into all sorts of sports teams and individual kids in Alice Springs – cycling, rugby league, cricket, netball, go-carts… you name it.
"The wall in the showroom is full of pictures from kids we've sponsored doing all different sports, and we're really proud of that."


Carmel Williams' poem Time to Die reflects on the mortality of all living things through the death of a honey-eater.
It won the Alice Springs poet the Red Earth Poetry Award in the NT Literary Awards announced last week.
Williams has been short listed twice previously for the poetry award.
As always with her work, the poem is richly imaged and deeply felt, and, as often with her work, its scope is daring and vast.
The poem will be in the awards' publication, available locally from this Friday at Dymocks, the major sponsor of the awards, and also at the town library once it has been catalogued.
Other winners are Michael Torres (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers' Award) for King of the Mangroves; Andrew McMillan (Arafura Short Story Award) for Who Can Blame Us for That?; and David Wise (Charles Darwin University Essay Award) for Where the Shark and the Crocodile Play.
Each award carries prize money of $1000.
Maya Eamus won the Kath Manzie Youth Literary Award for Lost, taking home $600.
In their 20th year, the awards attracted 197 entries, with 27 writers short-listed.
Formerly conducted by the Northern Territory University, the awards are now in the hands of the Northern Territory Library.
The library did not make funds available for attendance at the prize-giving by regional writers, with Williams the only recipient absent from the event hosted by the Chief Minister at Parliament House.
All other winners are from Darwin.


There has been a sharp increase in new motor vehicle sales in Central Australia – 14.3 per cent – but the bulk of the growth came from purchases by rental companies and governments.
The increase in business and private sales until September 30 was only 1.9 per cent when compared to 2003.
In the NT south of Elliott a total of 1478 new vehicles were registered during the first nine months of the year, 185 more than last year.
Nation-wide in the same period 710,247 vehicles were registered, 33,359 more than last year, a jump of 4.9 per cent.
According to NT Treasurer Syd Stirling sales of motor vehicles in the Northern Territory increased by 10.6 per cent in the 12 months to September 2004.
"In year on year terms, motor vehicle sales figures have been improving since July 2002, which can only be interpreted as a positive economic indicator," Mr Stirling said.
"We realise these figures start from a low base but there is a consistent theme developing here."
Mr Stirling said in the year to September sales to rental companies increased by 27.2 per cent, further evidence of the recovery in tourism in the Territory.


The closing ceremony of the Masters Games was a celebration of the joy of living, as Marcia Hines waved goodbye to Alice Springs.
On the sports arena the mood was also joyful, as 4,500 participants entered a range of 31 sporting disciplines throughout the week.
The first gold medal of the games went to local Eli Melky, in the men's half marathon, followed up by gold to Kylie Lucas in the women's event. Both were collectors of gold throughout the week.
Melky's best achievement of the games was in the Masters Mile when he out-gunned Darwin's legend Stephen Blake. At the starting line, the two who had gathered to achieve more than friendship from the Masters, eyed each other with an Olympic-level of determination. As thousands of runners congested Gap Road, Melky's sole concern was pursuit and victory over Blake.
At the 200 metre mark near the Memorial Club, Melky made his move and powered home over the man who had won the three previous Masters Miles, a high point of the 2004 Games.
At the other end of the spectrum, rugby union provided a week of sporting action at the Raa Raa that catered for everyone. On the field the whistle was handled by Warren Snowdon, the member for Lingiari, while competing sides provided all-comers with the opportunity to "cross the line".
Taking up the offer, after eight years as an ambassador for rugby union, Linda McGill shed her stockings for sporting attire to mix it with the men. And then in the John Elferink-conducted court prior to the Crippled Crawl next morning, players and supporters had to dig deep to pay for the misdemeanours of their week.
A visit to the pistol range uncovered a less flamboyant team of competitors. Camped and caravanning in the Undoolya Hills this group of Masters created their own atmosphere.
At the centre of action was Peter Anderson who had again come from Bateman's Bay to compete.
His real reason for the trip though was to once again indulge in the glories of desert living. Throughout the ‘sixties Peter had served the then Commonwealth Government in the Territory as a surveyor, and through the Masters he is able to continue his love affair with the bush.
This year he brought with him a contingent of like-minded masters who upon arrival were also infected by the terrain and the lifestyle at the Pistol Club.
On Saturday night at Arunga Park a fledgling Masters event in collaboration with the local speedway people saw racing for gold, silver and bronze in both solos and side cars.
Humpty Doo resident Ian Jordan strove to put the event together from his northern base and attracted seven solos and four side cars to the local dirt track.
Reaping the rewards of gold from the meeting were Peter Cardilini and Peter Hogan-Reid.
As Paul Kelly has said "from little things, big things grow", and this could well be the case for motorcycle speedway in future masters games.

Of ants and men. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

The ants are invading my kitchen again. I have tried lots of different approaches like baby powder, bicarb, ant poison and fly spray, but at the moment I'm experimenting with Blu Tack.
I block their entrances to my house and hope they will take a while to find another way in. It must be frustrating for the ants but it has taught me a thing or two about patience and persistence.
I felt like one of those ants the other morning on my way out to the airport. There was a Masters Games bicycle race going on and the roads I normally use had been blocked off. The police were redirecting the traffic. Never mind that the detour was into a dead end at the casino and that police then had to redirect the traffic back into town where road users could look for an alternative route out of the Alice.
It wasn't the policeman's job to tell us that we couldn't get where we wanted to go, just to keep the traffic flowing, but it would have been helpful if the race organisers had put some signs up somewhere. Maybe next time.
It was fortunate I wasn't trying to catch a plane. While it was only a small inconvenience, I was fuming at the time. Had I known about the roadblocks I would have chosen another route and planned my morning differently.
While there must have been some news notices of the road closures, I was not aware of these. I was badly informed and considerably delayed as a result.
We come across similar situations all the time, and we're not always aware of how delayed or inconvenienced we have been because of being uninformed. Like the ants we may not know what we are missing out on.
But we can try to think for ourselves and question the way we are led. Unlike the ants we can contemplate alternatives in advance to avoid being caught at a dead end or squashed en route. We can consider that the way we are directed might lead us nowhere, that the public servants like the police and the teachers are not trying to make our individual lives difficult but merely facilitating the flow of the traffic and not necessarily our progress.
Things can always be better organised but at the end of the day the choices you make are yours and you base them on experience and the information you have gathered and processed.
The problem is that there is such a lot of information. Most of us wouldn't even know about a lot of the laws we are subject to. So we can study the ants again and learn that one of the answers is to communicate. To stop when we meet another fellow human being and exchange information. Instead of walking or driving off in a huff we can stop, say hello, and share our experience.
My Latin is virtually non-existent but I like the sound of ‘Communicare necesse est'.

No chance of a long way home. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Times and tastes change, which is why it is hard to admit that once I was a fan of Supertramp, the squeaky-voiced ‘seventies rock band that featured wind instruments and bad haircuts, remain popular in France and have recently completed a tour and an album.
There should be a Masters Games for concept album rock bands from the days of vinyl records. Let's call it Masters Gigs. It would be like the opening ceremony of the Master Games, but the songs would last for 30 minutes and be altogether more grueling than competitive sports.
I enjoyed only a brief teenage liaison with Supertramp, but I adopted the song "Take the long way home" as a kind of personal anthem, even though I only ever knew the chorus. This goes to show that a few well-placed and tuneful words can have greater influence on teenagers than any number of dull lectures, but that's another subject.
I liked "Take the long way home" because it spoke to me about choices in life and implied that sometimes the unconventional one is best. The song had a quirkiness that I associate with conversations in pubs and bars. To explain, if you go into a pub in some countries, sit on a stool and tell the barman that you wish to make a journey from Strasbourg to Dusseldorf, Manchester to Birmingham, Seville to wherever else, then you'll be guaranteed an evening of conversation. There are always umpteen routes from one place to another and plenty of people willing to offer beer-fuelled advice.
The fun lies in other customers pitching in with their version of the best, shortest and most scenic route. "Go left at the roundabout, then you'll miss the rush hour delay at Junction 17" or "There's a nice little tea house just past the third farmhouse. Look for the sign and then you can double back through the country roads". Of course, taking the long way home is always an option.
These conversations never take place in pubs and eateries in Alice Springs. I know, because I have tried. I asked someone how to get to Halls Creek and they said "Drive up the Tanami". That was it. No alternative routes, no interesting side excursions. Just drive, mate and you'll be right.
I asked the best way to Erldunda and the answer was the same, except a different highway.
Not being a fan of footy with oval balls, I couldn't think of anything else to talk about except the weather, which doesn't change so that's not exactly a rich vein of conversation.
Naturally, this is a subject that merits further investigation. If opportunities for small talk are constrained by the lack of variety in road journeys and the predictability of the climate, then this could be serious. Add to that the reluctance of people to even mention politics or religion and we are all left with a hole where those little conversations start that eventually lead to proper friendship. The very social fabric of the town could be in danger because there is not enough to talk about.
Someone should do a study. Do we have a problem compared to places with multiple journey options, like country New South Wales?
On second thoughts, don't bother, I'll just tell you the answer, because galloping to the rescue come reality television and country dramas. Where conversation should be, there's always the fortunes of earnest actors dressed as doctors or extrovert semi-naked ordinary people searching for stardom by being abandoned on desert islands. Our lives stay the same but theirs change every week, so that's all we ever need when stuck for small talk.
That's another puzzle solved. Next week: global economic meltdown from the comfort of a plastic chair in Alice Plaza.

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