HORRIFIC FIRE DEATH: AUTHORITIES SLOW TO ACT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The wheels of justice are grinding slowly in the Northern Territory after the horrific death nearly a year ago of a young Canadian woman on Kings Creek Station.
That's the view of Craig Paterson, the Vancouver lawyer representing the family of Cynthia Diane Ching, 29 years old at the time of her death, six agonising weeks after suffering burns to more than half of her body in the tourist operation's staff quarters.
Mr Paterson, who was in Alice Springs last week with the girl's father, Rafael Ching, says no-one has been charged, the police investigations are incomplete, and it still seems uncertain whether a coronial inquest will be held.
Neither police nor the Department of Health would provide detailed information to the Alice Springs News. Ian Conway, the owner and operator of the popular station near King's Canyon, declined to comment.
Mr Paterson says he has been able to piece together only some of the tragic events.
Ms Ching, a top-scoring political science graduate and a staff member in Mr Paterson's law office for four years, and her sister, Carolyn, 26, arrived at Kings Creek on April 14 last year to start holiday jobs. The following evening they were at the staff quarters of the helicopter crew, for a social gathering.
This is how Sally Conway, Mr Conway's daughter, in a written statement obtained by Mr Paterson, described what happened:-
"I arrived at the Helicopter Boys Quarters at around 10.15pm on April 15. We were all sitting around on their front porch having a few drinks.
"They were using two VB cans with the top cut off, half filled with dirt and avgas [aviation fuel] as a lantern.
"At around 10.30pm Ned blew out one of the cans and started to fill up the can with more avgas.
"As Ned was pouring the avgas into the can he spilt some on the bench, the other can that was alight lit up the split avgas, lighting up the table.
"He panicked and jerked the jar of avgas and spilt more over the decking, which also caught alight.
"Most people had jumped off the deck at this time. Ned threw the jar of avgas; as it landed on the floor some splashed on Cynthia and she caught alight from the fire.
"As she started to run and scream the fire spread on her body.
"Ned and Cameron grabbed her and pushed her to the ground and started to try and put her out in the dirt.
"I then told Ned and Cameron to take Cynthia and put her in the shower to try and ease the pain and stop her from getting more injuries.
"Ned also had been burnt on his arm and face and Camel Jo told him to jump in the other shower.
"Cynthia was in a lot of pain and we cut her jumper, top and pants off as she had burns all over her body. As we put them in the shower Jo tried to contact Sharon the local nurse but we couldn't get through to her.
"He then proceeded to call the flying doctor. Cameron went to wake up Ian [Conway] so that he could instruct us what to do because we were all very shocked. Cynthia was very panicky and in a lot of pain.
"Once Ian arrived everyone calmed down and helped out wherever needed. Ben, Cameron and I went down to the airstrip and lit it up ready for the flying doctor.
"Once we arrived back at the station Sharon had arrived and had stabilised Ned and Cynthia ready to board the flying doctor.
"The Flying doctor did not arrive until around 1.15am. They were then put on the plane and flown to Alice Springs to be assessed."
Carolyn was inside the building when the tragedy unfolded on the veranda.
Ms Ching was later transferred to the burns unit of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the best such facility anywhere in SA and NT.
Mr Paterson says it may become an issue whether the critically injured woman should have been flown direct to Adelaide, where top level burns care was available, rather than first to Alice Springs.
The News understands that early expert care may enhance the survival chances of a seriously burned person.
Clearly, one option was to send a doctor to Kings Creek Station on the Royal Flying Doctor Service plane, and then take Ms Ching direct to Adelaide.
The flight time from Alice Springs to Kings Creek Station of the RFDS Pilatus PC 12 aircraft used for the "Code One" evacuation is 30 minutes, and from there to Adelaide, three hours.
The transport and other decisions are in the hands of the District Medical Officer of the NT Department of Health.
It is understood that patients from the region are always flown to Alice Springs first, where they are stabilised for any further transport that may be required.
Ms Ching arrived in Adelaide on the day following the incident, after some surgery had been carried out in Alice Springs.
During the next six weeks the mortally injured woman lurched from one crisis to the next.There was not enough skin to graft.
Parts of her body had to be removed in a bid to stop infections.
It all failed.
She died on May 27.
Mr Paterson says both he and Mr Ching have been given little information by NT Police.
He says they appear to be ruling out laying charges against the owners of the helicopter company, whose fuel was used to illuminate the staff quarters, and against the owners of Kings Creek Station, on whose land the tragedy took place.
There also seems to be a great deal of misinformation.
Mr Paterson and Mr Ching have been told by the Deputy Coroner that charges were to be laid against the person pouring avgas into the staff quarters' lanterns.
Mr Paterson says Section 154 of the Criminal Code Act declares that "any person who does or makes any act or omission that causes serious danger, actual or potential, to the lives, health or safety of the public or to any person (whether or not a member of the public) in circumstances where an ordinary person similarly circumstanced would have clearly foreseen such danger and not have done or made that act or omission is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for five years".
And "if he thereby causes death to any person he is liable to imprisonment for 10 years".
Mr Paterson says although a PAYG wages payment had been made to Ms Ching, NT Work Safe has still not investigated the incident.
He says the Alice hospital doctor giving initial care to Ms Ching said in his written report the injuries had been caused by a camp stove that "exploded".
The Darwin solicitor of CGU, the workers' compensation insurers, said last December in a letter to Mr Paterson: "My client [CGU] has not conducted detailed factual investigations nor does it intend to.
"It does not agree that it is a ‘very significant case', and has made, amongst other things, a cost / benefit analysis to arrive at its current position.
"My client is not swayed by the decision of NT Worksafe not to investigate the matter."
The only insurance benefit is a "a maximum" $4750 for funeral expenses – but the company is now reviewing that benefit.
Mr Paterson says the solicitor for the helicopter firm, Choppair Helicopters Pty Ltd, based in Langwarrin, Victoria, had offered sympathies but told him last September that it "denies any negligence as alleged" and advised that the "the apparent cause of death is outside of any insurance held by my client".
"I advise that any proceedings that you may see fit to issue will be strenuously opposed."
CLARE MARTIN: WORDS AND DEEDS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA and ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Just below the surface of her trademark smile Clare Martin has a cunning sense for a slick spin, and finely tuned selective hearing.
But in the cold light of day, saying "that's the way it is, take it or leave it" is as unsatisfactory as if the lines were delivered by someone not blessed with the Chief Minister's looks and charm.
Take one of her portfolios, tourism.
There is an ongoing row over the timing of the $1.2m promotion of Alice Springs, by the lavishly funded NT Tourist Commission (NTTC). The campaign will run for three months, beginning now.
Opposition Leader Denis Burke has said that's too late.
But Ms Martin says the advertising is happening "when people are going to make their bookings to go to various parts of the Territory ... and also to try and get people to move across some of the seasons in which they traditionally think about coming to the Territory.
"In the Centre the second half of the year, that third quarter, is the big tourism [period]. I think the timing is perfect."
Ms Martin should have asked the town's tourism lobby, CATIA, whose manager, Craig Catchlove, has a different view.
He says people make their travel decisions in January and February, and that's when the promotion should have run.
The current advertising "will not be hugely beneficial", says Mr Catchlove.
The NTTC has in the past run promotions for The Centre in November, aiming for a boost in the local high season between July and November the following year.
To the NTTC's credit, adverts were run earlier in the year but they were the old "crocodiles and camel" format, superseded by the new Share our Story theme.
The question is, why was the new campaign, kicked off with a $27.5m injection in December, 2003, not ready in time?
One of the NTTC's favourite spins is: "75 per cent of the budget over all is spent on marketing" – including "creative", that's producing the ads.
Ms Martin used the line in an interview with the Alice News last week.
This bears some examination.
For example, in the calendar year 2004 the commission had available a total of $41m.
By Ms Martin's 75 per cent formula, $30.8m was spent on marketing.
However, according to the NTTC's Rita Harding only $18.5m was spent on purchasing a variety of media, mainly print.
That means an amazing $12.3m was spent on "creative". That's clearly a story Ms Martin needs to share!
For the record she says about the ratio between purchasing advertising and "creative": "I think they have found the appropriate level."
Responding to concerns that there may not be enough people willing to share the story, Ms Martin says: "It's not about necessarily only the people sharing the story.
"It is the Territory story. It is how you respond to the environment. It is the story of the Territory in that kind of generic way.
"It's the fish that you did or you didn't get. The one that got away. The story of the Territory, and our uniqueness.
"It's a much more comprehensive sharing of our story" than simply talking to people.
At least seven eighths into Labor's first term in government, neither the $26m Desert Knowledge precinct nor the $30m sealing of the Mereenie loop road, the only major government infrastructure projects in The Centre, have been started.
Yet the precinct was a clear concept, with comprehensive plans drawn, well before the election.
Both the precinct's pillars, the Batchelor Institute and the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) are in a state of flux.
Batchelor is revamping its focus and management from the top down, and CAT is switching from gear to service delivery (Alice News, March 23).
Is dragging the chain with the precinct a sign of bad management? Is the government dealing with the wrong organisations?
Not at all, says Ms Martin.
"When you're trying to establish what is essentially a new body with the part merger of Batchelor and CAT, there are more difficulties than were first imagined.
"The work is being done and consultation has to happen, and sometimes, as you know, that takes longer than you can imagine, initially.
"The building has been slow. There is no doubt about it.
"But unless we can get agreement about the shape of the Desert People's Centre, and what in fact is needed, as those two organisations talk, then we can't actually get the final design done."
However, tenders for a CAT workshop will be called in June, plus roads, power and sewage will go in, worth a total of $5.7m.
As the Alice News has been told by several construction industry sources, the lull in activity has driven many subcontractors out of town.
The remaining ones have upped their prices. This in turn is a disincentive to build.
As a result sections of the economy are in a downward spiral.
Predictably, Ms Martin doesn't see it like that: "The biggest complaint to me is that [the industry is] very busy and they can't get the skilled workers they need.
"They are not complaining about lack of work.
"I challenge the downward spiral. That's not a fair assessment."
How many contractors, skilled people, have left town?
Ms Martin: "Look, I don't know that. They are very hard figures to keep.
"I know anecdotally of contractors who kept their house here and are going to do work interstate.
"In three years there has been $100m worth of cash, infrastructure work, capital works, that has been put into Alice Springs."
Previously the News has been told it was $75m. The figure for the Territory was $1b. So did we get a fair share? How much did Darwin get?
"Darwin last year got less capital works commitments in dollar terms than Alice Springs."
The question was, so we can compare apples with apples, how much in cash did Darwin get in the last three years, when Alice received $100m?
"Look, I can't give you that figure. I mean I don't have it."
We move on to the bigger picture: we put to Ms Martin that the big problems of Alice Springs are, by and large, man made.
We have an abundance of land, plenty of water, a great climate and sufficient energy from oil and gas deposits west of the town.
Yet Alice is stagnant, the cost of residential land is at absurd heights, and despite the region's world renowned attractions, tourism is at levels well below the peak in 2001.
Outside the city gates, people inhabiting half the land – that half which is owned by Aborigines – have been languishing for three decades in a morass of idleness, disease and despair.
The other half – that which is leased by pastoralists – has a productivity of $150 per square kilometre per year.
So is it not down to the incompetence of our leaders that we aren't doing much better?
Of course not, says Ms Martin: "I'm distressed at the very negative attitude there.
"For a decade we didn't have any land release in Alice Springs.
"To simply say 85 blocks [coming on stream at Larapinta] is nothing is not realistic.
"If you're saying that's not leadership I challenge you on that.
"If we had taken the compulsory acquisition line [in negotiations for native title at Larapinta] we'd still be in the courts and there wouldn't be any of those blocks."
Opposition Aboriginal Affairs spokesman John Elferink's line on this is different: After a mandatory negotiation period of six to nine months, he says, the town would have had as many blocks as it needed, not just 85.
That would have been a time saving of around two years.
It would have been the question of compensation for the loss of native title that would have been in the courts, but Mr Elferink says compensation would have been paid by now.
Ms Martin clearly has no plans for bringing down land prices to a level appropriate for a Town Like Alice.
She mentions the Ragonesi Road development – but land there will be offered at currently ruling prices, $100,000 plus.
Says Ms Martin: "We don't want to flood the market. That is very important. You have got to get the balance right."
She says talks are under way with native title holders about more residential land, in Mt Johns Valley, near the casino. How many blocks will be developed there?
"Those details haven't been worked through yet," says Ms Martin.
"To work through a process with Lhere Artepe [the Alice Springs native title body] took time, no doubt about it.
"They were divided themselves [about Larapinta].
"It took time but we got there.
"And now we can say to Lhere Artepe we've got the pathway ... and it will not take as long in Mt Johns Valley."
However, the Larapinta deal has deepened the rifts within Lhere Artepe, according to a source in the influential Liddle family (Alice News, October 13, 2004).
Why won't the government sell its blocks for $35,000, the actual cost of development?
"We've taken advice and the government is making available six of those blocks for first home owners," says Ms Martin.
That wasn't the question: The government will be making a substantial profit on the 45 blocks it will be selling at Larapinta.
"OK, that's your view. I'm not an expert in the subdivision of land.
"I refer you to [Minister Chris Burns].
"I'm just very pleased in terms of leadership that we got to where we got.
"We've shown significant leadership in establishing the pathways for that. And I'm proud of it. We've achieved a lot."
The Aboriginal areas, whose vote is crucial for Labor, are facing what's likely to be the greatest upheaval in 30 years when the Howard government gains control over the Senate on July 1.
What developments does Ms Martin expect?
"We have significant changes agreed with the land councils and the Federal Government.
"They are mainly to do with exploration, facilitating exploration, commercial activities.
"We've talked to the Federal Government and the land councils about how you can get certainty [about] leasing Aboriginal land, some mechanism, we're not defining what that is."
She says we need to find "pathways to Aboriginal home ownership on the communities, and to get more certainty for commercial operations on those lands".
How does she rate her prospects for that, given the intransigence of the Central Land Council (CLC) on those issues, and not only its failure, during 30 years of operations, to get up any significant commercial operations, but its active blocking of proposals?
"I don't find the Central Land Council at all intransigent on these issues. You talk to miners they work with ..."
Of course mining, by the way royalties are divvied up, provides a big slice of the land councils' revenue, so no wonder they are pro mining.
Says Ms Martin: "We're trying to work with those commercial opportunities.
"In terms of tourism, and what we did with the national parks [to be transferred to Aboriginal ownership, leased back to the government and managed jointly] instead of going to court, was to establish opportunities for more employment and more certain commercial opportunities.
"Nitmiluk [Katherine Gorge] is an example of that."
Ms Martin gives more examples – but all are in the Top End.
In the CLC's area, the circumstances are clearly different.
Recently the land council summarily sacked white managers on Aboriginal land, Anna and John Machado, from Willowra, and Narian Kozeluh, from Ampilatwatja. We asked Ms Martin how she thought potential investors would view those events."I'm not going to make any comment about that issue.
"The CLC was acting in its appropriate role.
"You're not going to get me to bag the CLC on something. That's not my job.
"My job is to look at the overall development of the Northern Territory."
CONVENTION CENTRE: THE $12M QUESTION. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The manager of the Alice Springs Convention Centre says it's a success, and the tourism industry apparently believes it's "tremendous" – but no one's releasing hard evidence to confirm this.
The centre was built three years ago at a cost of $12m – the NT Government paid for $10m of that. After 20 years the facility will become the property of Lasseters, owned by interests in Singapore and Malaysia.
So how well is it doing – is it running to capacity and not losing money? General manager Michael Lucas told the Alice News he "refused" to share any figures with us to prove it was "very profitable and running above budget". He said it runs to capacity (it can hold 1,765 people) but it was empty when the News paid a visit. Said Mr Lucas: "No centre in the world has 100 per cent of seats occupied 100 per cent of the time."
He would not give any indication of how close the centre is running to capacity. Despite the fact that it was paid for largely by taxpayers, Mr Lucas does not believe the public has a right to know.
"It's not a publicly-run business," said Mr Lucas. "We're a publicly listed company and we're leasing it back from the government. I don't think our shareholders would be very pleased if the Alice Springs News saw the figures before they did."
Craig Catchlove, manager of CATIA, is upbeat about the centre. "We believe that the convention centre has been a great success. Business is building tremendously," said Mr Catchlove. "It has a follow-on affect on tourism, putting pressure on Alice Springs to provide four and five star accommodation. "We believe as an industry it's money very well spent." However, Mr Catchlove could not produce figures to support his belief.
Randy Jackson, the manager of the facility, said the conferences they are attracting – medium sized of around 250 people – are the most profitable. "50 per cent of our conferences are medium sized, 20 per cent are large (500 plus) and 30 per cent are small (under 250 people). "We also host dinners, balls and parties, an average of one every two weeks. Repeat bookings are approximately 10 per cent which is a usual figure for conference centres. We've got bookings up to 2008. Our corporate clients come from across Australia, 40 per cent from the NT and 60 per cent from other parts of the country. The feedback we get is that delegates come to Alice Springs for the conference but spend a couple of days' leisure here afterwards which is very positive for the town and the community. People often say that they never would have thought of coming here if it wasn't for the conference."
"We can mix with the best. It's a challenge, we have to do a lot of planning because we can't just go down the road if we've forgotten to order something." He gave the recent Australian Tourism Awards as an example of how the Convention Centre is attracting clients by innovation, such as using round video screens instead of square ones to display information.
Answering critics who say that the lack of five star accommodation in Alice can't support conferences, Mr Jackson said that clients are satisfied and "like" the four and four and a half star hotels here. We're relaxed but professional. I have a good team and that's why the business is successful. What makes the centre is the people – my staff are a priceless resource. The feedback I get from clients is nothing is too much for them."
FESTIVAL PERFECT FOR SHARING STORIES. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The Alice Springs Festival will become a drawcard for national and international visitors, says newly appointed festival director Craig Mathewson.
To do this, it must become more than an event celebrating local creativity. It will have to offer a "transformative experience", the kind that the Northern Territory Tourist Commission is promising with their "Share Our Story" appeal.
Mathewson sees the commission's vision as a perfect fit for the festival.
There's no better way to share stories than through art, music and theatre, he argues, with the precedents going back to festivals in ancient Athens.
With a resident population of around 5000, Athens would attract 30,000 visitors to its week-long theatrical events.
"Performance is essential to community well-being," says Mathewson.
"Television is a poor substitute for live theatre's transformative, informative, instructive and entertaining functions.
"The Tourist Commission have tapped into this wellspring and the festival is well-placed to make their message more than a hollow dream."If the festival were able to draw 1000 of the "spirited travellers" the commission has identified, and they each spent $3000 while here, that would make for a $3m injection into the local economy.
It's the kind of return that would make business look more seriously at sponsorship for the arts.
But in their turn, the arts have to come up with something big.
The chance to expand the festival vision will come with next year's event, during the International Year of the Desert.
Mathewson's contract starts on April 4, which will give 18 months' lead time – the minimum for major festivals, he says.
The time is right for the production of a landmark epic out of this region – "rich in music, literature, dance and visual imagery, something comparable to The Mahabha-rata in epic quality".
Has contemporary Central Australia got the depth of talent to do this?
Mathewson thinks so. He'd like to commission half a dozen writers to come up with foundation ideas and then work with perhaps two of them "to extend the ideas into a piece of drama".
"It's not an easy ask to get someone to last the distance on something like this, but I think Michael Watts, for one, is capable of it."
(Mathewson and Watts have been close collaborators through Red Dust Theatre, which Mathewson founded in 2001.)
Wouldn't an Indigenous event, along the lines of the Yeperenye Festival, be enough to attract national and international visitors?Mathewson has no doubt that visitors would come for an Indigenous event, and sees Indigenous content and collaboration as essential for "deep resonance", but he argues that art is at its best – and is of our time – when it draws on cross-cultural energy and inspiration.
Meanwhile, significant parts of this year's program, due to start September 2, are already in place, including the signature events Desert Song, Desert Mob and Wearable Arts.
Performances by the Darwin Symphony Orchestra and by a 14 member dance group led by Tess de Quincey will be among the imported attractions.
Some 15 other events are pending, subject to grants funding decisions.
The festival, governed by a community-based committee, is holding its AGM on April 7.
"I encourage people interested in seeing the festival grow to consider nominating for the committee," says Mathewson.
15 MINUTES OF FAME. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Just 15 hours to produce a 15-minute film or documentary: that was the challenge when local budding (and experienced) film makers recently took part in the fifth 15/15 Film Festival, an international competition.
At 8am on a Saturday seven local teams picked up an envelope containing an object and a quote that had to appear in the film. This year, it was a shoelace, and also the line, "Where does it go from here?"The entries will be viewed by an expert panel and nominated for awards in various categories.
All the films produced locally will be screened at the end of June at the Araluen Centre, and the winners from around Australia and the world, at a gala performance in Melbourne.
Amadeo Marquez-Perez is the festival director and founder of the event, together with fellow film maker Jacqueline Erasmus.
"We came up with the idea after I was working with film makers and giving them tips. I realised there was no festival to support emerging film makers. It's a challenge but a whole lot of fun.
"The films that have come out of Alice Springs in the past have been quite amazing – two years ago, Roadkill by Ashley Hall was a winning film.
"It will be exciting to see what happens this year."
Ashley Hall is a media and English teacher at Centralian College. He was filming this year's entry at the claypans when I spoke to him.
"It's an introspective film about love and rejection set in Central Australia," he says of his entry. Hall has teamed up with two of his past students, Tyronne Swift and Lauren Mengel plus fellow media and music teacher at Centralian College, Ronny Reinhard.
"The standard of young film makers in Alice Springs is exceptional," Hall says. "The input of these students is so creative, despite the fact that they're so young. It's particularly handy to work with them for this film festival as time is so short."
Back in town, several of Hall's current and past students were competing against their lecturer, busy mixing sausages and noodles with ketchup to use as special effects for their horror/comedy entry.
The team was made up of seven lads and a girl, aged between 16 and 21: directors Michael Downs and Philip Drummond, actors Daniel Playford, Iain Steadman, Phillip Mueller, Scott Richards, and David Drummond, and Leah McCormack on props.
Downs says he wants to trade his day job as a chef for work on films. He and Phil Drummond are trying to start their own film company.
"I love being behind the camera. My father ran a TV show in South Australia so I've been doing this since I was eight.
"I think this festival is a great thing. You can make a nice film, do something new and have a good time with your mates.
"We all sat down last night throwing ideas around of what sort of genre we wanted to do and talked about a story.
"Luckily the quote we have to use worked quite well although the object not so well."
I visited the set (the Drummonds' house) and watched the editing process on the computer. I was impressed by the quality and humour of the film – a story about four friends who hear about a house once owned by a psychopath. As they explore, one by one mysteriously die.
"I think it's more comedy than scary!" says Downs. "We got our inspiration from A Clockwork Orange.
"I don't think this competition is that well-known for youth in Alice Springs – most of these guys, it's their first time doing it. Hopefully more youth will get into it after today.
You need your own digital video camera but we borrowed our computer for editing from Centralian College."
His co-director, Philip Drummond, is absolutely passionate about film, spending hours a week on his hobby – even getting up early before college to work on editing his projects.
"Film making gives you the time to be really creative with a unique idea," he says. "We probably won't win today but that's OK."
MORE ALDERMEN SAY MAYOR KILGARIFF MUST STAND DOWN. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Opposition appears to be growing within the town council to Fran Kilgariff's intention to continue as mayor while standing for Labor at the next Territory election.
Speaking to the Alice News before the Monday deadline for this edition, Aldermen Robyn Lambley and Samih Habib said they supported the call by Ald Murray Stewart for the mayor to stand aside immediately.
All three aldermen said they expected majority support at last night's council meeting.
Ald Lambley said she would be seeking to move that the mayor withdraw from all public and social engagements because they could be construed as an opportunity to campaign, an "untenable situation" for the town council.
Ald Lambley said there was a direct conflict of interest in Ms Kilgariff's management of the mayor's duties and her candidature for the NT Parliament.
Ald Lambley said a motion by her would also seek to restrict the mayor's communications with media, other than in writing.
The functions she would normally carry out, such as hosting receptions, performing public ceremonial duties, and giving speeches, would be allocated to other elected members, suggested Ald Lambley.
Ald Habib told the News he was also of a view that the mayor should take unpaid leave until after the election.
He suggested a committee be established to consider if the mayor could participate in discussion and voting where no conflict of interest exists.
Ald Stewart said the mayor, having lost the confidence of her colleagues, would have no choice but to stand aside until the Territory ballot made her future clear.
He said that the move was not "anti Fran Kilgariff" but rather "pro the dignity of the mayoral office". He said: "And in any case I think if she were to continue on, it would do irreparable harm to her election prospects."
He said the government should revisit the provisions in the Local Government Act that allow aldermen and mayors to remain in office after their candidature for alternative office has been declared.
He was confident that the town council would make such a request of government in the near future.
[ED - A censor motion has been withdrawn at the council meeting last night - Tuesday.]
OLD GHAN MAY RUN AGAIN FOR FINKE RACE. By ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The Ghan Preservation Society has pledged to "get the Old Ghan back on track" and have it running by the Finke Desert Race in June.
At the society's AGM last month, the president, Warren Serone, stepped down and the society now has a new committee and 100 new enthusiastic volunteer members.
Liz Martin, also president of the Road Transport Historical Society, was elected as president and Sandi Todd, owner of the Alice Wanderer, is now vice president.
Problems at the Old Ghan, which have seen the museum fall into disrepair (see Alice News, February 16), are being addressed by the new committee: "It is an immediate priority to get the doors open from 9am to 5pm as advertised," they say.
The society is in the process of handing back the running of the museum and souvenir shop back to Ghan Preservation Society volunteers, who will replace the operators Managerial Solutions.
GO, HOME GROWN THEATRE! Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
You didn't need to love Aussie Rules or know anything about it to thoroughly enjoy the latest Red Dust Theatre production. Barracking had a key ingredient for drama: something was happening for the characters, it was unfolding before our eyes, and it was important, to do with fulfilling their life's dreams.
The play also took place in a great theatrical space, using a sparse but well-designed set in the Traeger Park grandstand, home of footy in Central Australia. The atmosphere for an encounter with Hawks fans Goldie and Brownie was perfectly set by this simple, intelligent decision.
Goldie (Tanya Dann) is a white Australian girl born into football-crazy Melbourne where "Who do you barrack for?" is one of life's big questions. Goldie embraces footy culture with gusto but soon discovers that gender allocates her a strictly limited role.
She's not supposed to know much, she definitely can't play, by adolescence she should only be observing that players are spunks, and then at university her passion has to go underground.
Brownie (Steve Gumerungi Hodder) is a guy of mixed descent from the Centre, not black enough for some, not white enough for others. He's a gifted Aussie Rules player, dreaming of selection for the big league but torn by loyalty to family, country and the local country football competition.
But if through football, Goldie and Brownie come up against all sorts of frustrating barriers, football is also the means of breaking some of them down: it is a passion that these two, from such different backgrounds, can share.
Writers Hodder and Jane Leonard interweave Brownie's and Goldie's stories in a series of vignettes, grouped to make up four quarters of a match. A variety of secondary roles were played by Robyn Laidlaw, (hilarious as a teenage netball player) and Don Mallard (the discovery of the production– let's see more from him).
What might have become somewhat fragmented, was saved by effective writing and by the versatility and energy of the four actors. Hodder and Leonard know their stuff. They delivered scenes that rang with authenticity, whether in the primary school playground in Melbourne or in the locker rooms at Traeger Park.
There was plenty of humour, including some well-placed observations about the relationship between the races in Alice. There were also some scenes of powerful emotion – Brownie's fury at being pigeon-holed because of his race; Goldie's dialogue with her dead father, also a passionate Hawks fan. The latter revealed particularly fine judgement by Sydney-based director Morgan Smallbone and actor Tanya Dann.
The playwrights erred a bit on the side of exposition, making sure that they articulated everything that they wanted to say. At times they could have just left this to the action and trusted their audience to do some thinking. The structure of the play along the lines of a match gave it coherence but also became a bit predictable. I thought the match commentary and the spiel from the coach could have been dispensed with in the interests of maintaining momentum, and the start needed strengthening – like at a match, a blast of the siren and then away!
At times it was obvious that cast and crew had worked with minimum rehearsal time, but on the whole they pulled off a rich, engaging and often humorous entertainment. Barracking would be well worth further investment and future revivals.
THE PEOPLE'S PARLIAMENT. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
As the electronic bells rang out to signal the official opening of Parliament in Alice Springs last week, there was a mood of excitement with local people of all ages and from different sectors of the community gathering in the public gallery.
The mace and coat of armsindicated the solemnity of the occasion, as did the Serjeant-at-Arms announcing the start of the opening ceremony.
The Speaker, Loraine Braham, in full black and white robes, introduced Thomas Stevens, a traditional owner, who made a brief speech. Then the chief minister, Clare Martin, began her address by saying how she was "glad to be here in Alice Springs", and gave a special welcome to the primary school children who were sitting in the chamber.
For three days, important matters of state politics were being debated right here in our town – and we loved it. At Question Time on Wednesday evening the galleries were full, and throughout the sittings local people came in to visit after work and in their lunch breaks as the political issues of each day unfolded.
Many local schools came to visit the Parliament. Sue Briggs (pictured above with pupils Allara Pattison, left, and Allanah Jansons, right) senior teacher at Braitling Primary School brought three classes along to see the opening ceremony. "It's the perfect opportunity for kids to experience Parliament in action.
"We've been learning all about the different levels of Parliament, and the ministers. The class has been making laws and debating. They followed the Parliamentary procedures of voting for the student representative council which happened recently.
"The kids thought it would be boring but they're really interested in the subject." Allanah Jansons, year 6B (above), is the secretary of the student representative council: "Parliament was quite funny with all the yelling and shouting. I recognised the mace."
Why did you come, asked ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
"It's not something we see in Alice very often. I take interest in the affairs of the Northern Territory so I wanted to see the politicians up close and personal. I also used to work for a minister in New South Wales so I wanted to see if the Parliament is the same here." - Kirsty Nancarrow."I was studying the system of government last year so I wanted to come and have a look." - Rosanna Long."I'm a very strong ALP supporter. I came to see the Government in action and give my support." - Trish Van Dijk.
"I wanted to watch the question time. It was pretty good two years ago when I came. I also went to the Parliament in Darwin a year ago." - Miguel Ociones.
"I've come down to listen to my team in Parliament. It's the first time I've been and I wanted to see the members in action." - Jenny Pender."It's something different for Alice Springs. It's only the second time it's been seated here so it's a historic event. I came last time – we're teachers and we're bringing our kids down tomorrow." - Trevor Read and Gabrielle Condon."I'm from Melbourne and I'm in town doing work with the council on a greenhouse issues project. I'm here to listen to the Chief Minister." - Martin Brennan."I wanted to hear question time. It's the third time I've been to the Parliament this week. I enjoy the cut and thrust of politics." - Barry Fernleigh, Alice Hospital chaplain."I've never been before. The children wanted me to come – they were meant to visit with their school but it was cancelled because of the strike." - Wendy Bartel, Elliot Glendenning, 10, and Josh Glendenning, 7.
LETTERS: Water waste: More reports.
Sir,– Alice Springs' residents remain the second highest water users in Australia. Why? It is mostly due to high outdoor irrigation but it can be significantly improved.
In 2003 the NT Government commissioned Australia's leading water conservation expert, Dr Stuart White, to pinpoint opportunities and costs for a major water efficiency program in Alice.
He made several recommendations that would cost the NT Government (including Power Water) $3.8m to implement. He made it clear that this money would quickly be recovered because water is so heavily subsidized – we pay 69 cents for a thousand litres at our taps but it costs Government (hence taxpayers) over $1.20 to deliver it.
The report recommended cheap home garden audits, free mulch, free water efficient shower heads, air conditioner programs, pool covers and many other educational programs to assist people to save water.
The report's recommendations are supported by Power Water and the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment but they became bogged down in arguments about who would pay what bits and who would get the financial returns (including Treasury).
Thankfully in October last year they were given until March to provide recommendations to the NT Cabinet so a funding decision could be made (or not). At the eleventh hour the agencies felt they needed more data so they are re-engaging Dr White to tweak his original report. The Cabinet funding decision has therefore been deferred.
Let's not wait any longer. There is nothing stopping the Government committing funds now to this major water efficiency program that is cost-effective. If they had started in 2003 the town would [now] be showcased as a world-class example of smart (Desert Knowledge) water management.
Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns
Sir,- I had thought that with the electorate of the Member for Stuart (Peter Toyne) extended to cover the area between the Charles River and the Todd, it would cease to be the most violent, filthiest area in Alice Springs. Not so.
For the last eight days I have had streaming eyes, sore throat and burning lungs from trees left smouldering, in 37 degree heat – and don't bother to report it because that law is for Caucasians only in spite of the earnest assurance of one law for everybody by the Minister for Central Australia (Peter Toyne).There have been 45 people based in the Charles River for the last eight days without toilets and with personal filth as far as the eye can see, a definite health hazard for the whole town which ought to interest the Minister for Health (Peter Toyne).
Since 99 per cent of the people continually in breach of at least seven ASTC bylaws plus the two km drinking law are in fact the constituents of the Member for Stuart / Minister for Central Australia, perhaps he can justify spending how much? to bring the Martin Circus to Alice Springs, when in the three and a half years in government he has not spent one cent on setting up camping grounds for his constituents when they are in Alice Springs.
Without their votes he would not have been the Member for Stuart let alone the Minister for Justice / Health / etc.Gerry Baddock
Sir,- As the bard says, "The man who sings his own praises is probably a soloist".
Murray Stewart spends half his letter doing just that (Alice News, March 23) and the choir is conspicuous by its absence.
It seems odd that the "increasingly irrelevant Labor Party" currently holds government in every state and territory.
Perhaps kidding about "boys games" goes over Stewart's head.
Any support Stewart thinks he may have had in the Labor Party has evaporated.
Election wish lists no way to plan future. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
I wanted to make a special cake for my son's birthday and had it all beautifully planned in my mind; chocolate with raspberry cream and white chocolate on top with dark stripes and green metallic candles.
It did not quite work out and ended up with Viktoria's fault running across the top layer and chocolate buttons instead of stripes.
It tasted good but was not as elegant and professional looking as I had hoped. Next time I will settle for one layer of cake and have the raspberry cream on the side because it was very popular.
This Easter weekend we have finally painted our lounge room yellow after having had it white for three years while we decided on a colour. We are very happy with the result although you can tell we did it ourselves.All the thinking about it paid off.
Self help books often talk about writing down or visualising what you want. Subconsciously we will then work towards realising our own wishes or some say the universe will provide! Of course it is important to be careful what you wish for, but generally it is good to distil our thoughts and know what we want.
As a society we collectively want many things and around election time, we ‘write' wish lists and our politicians promise ‘gold and green forests' as they used to say back home. Unfortunately our wishes are many and few of the promises are kept. We must then wait till the next election to get our politicians' attention again.It seems to me the whole political system is incredibly short-sighted and does not have our country's or our peoples' best interest at heart. No proper plans are made for our future and the future of our children and grandchildren . We just bumble along three or four years at a time, hoping everything is going to be alright and somehow look after itself.
I had the children home on Wednesday last week due to industrial action by the teachers. I agree that we have to get the politicians and our fellow citizens attention somehow and a strike will always get some media cover.
Teaching is a challenging profession and it is in our society's best interests to look after those who look after and educate our children.
This action has reminded me that we seem to have no plan, no vision or dream of what it is exactly that we want as a society, for our children. If we don't really have a goal, how are we going to be able to provide schools and teachers that will help us realise it?
Things are not good. The ute is still running but there are strange noises coming from the engine, the tyres are bald and one of the doors has fallen off. Maybe it is time to stop and ask ourselves if we want a new door or a new vehicle and start thinking about where we would like that vehicle to take us.
Cakes sometimes fail and yellow is not everybody's colour but we have to come up with a plan, or at least a dream. Our current political systems have great faults running through them, but we can try again and improve on our first attempts. If we don't look at the big picture we will end up standing at the side of the road with four flat tyres and an empty tank.
Too extreme to be true. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
You may have missed news of an exhibition currently presented at the National Museum of Australia. I wouldn't blame you. I don't read the Canberra Times either. The exhibition is called "Extremes: Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere". It features the Kalahari and Namib Deserts of Africa, the Atacama Deserts of South America and, you guessed it, our very own Red Centre.
I would have liked to have visited the exhibition, but it's a long way to go. Not only that, but Canberra is an unforgiving place to be when it's cold, rainy and there's a public holiday, which there always seems to be.
That's the trouble with living in a continent that's still trying to be a country; everything is so far away. If Australia was Albania or Bangladesh or any number of normal-sized countries, visiting the capital wouldn't seem like an expedition to the far side of Jupiter.
You could wake up, mosey down to the bus stop, enjoy a comfy journey of modest length, arrive in Tirana before lunch, see the exhibition, have a feed and be back in your village in time for ‘The Price is Right'.
Not so in this country, which makes gaining a learned and objective view on Central Australia, such as that offered by "Extremes", very difficult. Instead, all we can do is have a guess at what might be included in the exhibition.
The leaflet produced by the museum provides some clues. "Extremes will take you on a journey to find out how people have coped with these hot, dry lands", it says. In our case, the short answer to that is to turn up the air-conditioning but I can't imagine that the exhibition shows a range of split-system units or a leaflet from the sale at Retravision.
Incidentally, is there ever not a sale at Retravision? I think we need to come back to this some other time.
Further on, the leaflet explains that it offers a chance to "explore the lifestyles of the Australian desert". I can't help it, but that sentence conjures up images of simultaneous automated sprinklers starting the daily hiss at 6pm and rows of suburbanites washing the dust off their cars with a hose.
What is the lifestyle of the Australian desert, anyway? Few of us can describe it unless through comparison to lifestyles in other places. It's better than Darwin, worse than Adelaide and clearly streets ahead of the ACT. It's seasonal, it involves long journeys on dirt roads and everyone knows everyone else.
I don't mean to mock. Exhibitions are good and, speaking for myself, ignorant people ought to pay more attention. I'm just fascinated and frustrated at the romanticizing of places like the Red Centre by people far away.
In reality, we all know that every day the exotic becomes slightly more globalised. Whichever southern hemisphere desert you might wonder about, the fact is that they all have low rainfall and high exposure to western culture.
Years ago, I went to Shanghai. Not a word of English could be seen anywhere and the architecture was low-rise and mediaeval. I bought a genuine Mao cap and yearned for a sit-down toilet. Since then, five thousand skyscrapers have been built, southern fried chicken is everywhere and the exotic is now swamped by the mundane.
I'm prone to some unhealthy romanticising myself. Take a peak at my DVD shelf and you'll find art house diamonds such as "Paris, Texas" and some vivid rural parables from the Brazilian film industry. I'll spare you the details but I bet the people living in the various places featured in my DVD collection would have trouble recognizing themselves. That's how I imagine we might feel at the Extremes exhibition in Canberra.
CRICKET: MAD DOGS AND TERRITORIANS! Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The reintroduction of the Calder Shield in its intended form on the weekend provided a truly Territorian flavour to the game as it's played in the north.
There was a place for all comers as representative teams from Alice Springs, Darwin, the NT Institute of Sport and an NT Indigenous side went in to battle in both the 50 over version of the game and the latest fad 20/20 cricket.
Early in the carnival Alice accounted for the Indigenous side by dismissing them for 80, after compiling 141. Matt Salzberger's memorable 45 and the series best figures, Jeremy Bigg's 4/20, were highlights. On the other side of the ledger Darwin defeated the NTIS whose 96 was never going to be enough against Darwin's 4/102.The Alice Springs versus Darwin final in the 20/20 game eventuated in a win to the Top End. They made 99 , with Bigg and Tom Clements the mischief makers taking three wickets each. In reply Alice struggled, only able to put together 84. Blain Cornford top scored with 21, but the (possible) "ring in" for Darwin, Mick Miller, was the soul destroyer taking 3/15.
Miller's case is an interesting one. He has represented the South Australian Redbacks at Pura Cup level, and has no doubt shielded from the southern winter in Darwin a few years ago, but has not been a regular feature in the scorebooks for Southern Districts in Darwin of late. With the northern season upon us this minor matter will hopefully be attended to in the weeks to come, and he will qualify post-carnival, as a true "fish eater".
In taking the 20 /20 honours, Darwin then prepared for the real duel of the carnival, the clash with Alice Springs on Sunday afternoon / evening in the 50 over version of the game.
Alice won the toss and rightfully elected to bat. They mustered 158 in a balanced performance. Graham Schmidt was given LBW early for a duck to that man Miller, while Blain Cornford set about to establish the innings. He was dealt a further blow, however, when Rory Hood was caught by Miller off the bowling of Greg Brautigan also for a duck.
Tom Clements then joined his club mate in lifting the score to 29 before Cornford fell to Sam Mitchell for 22. Clements and Matt Salzberger then doubled the score in their partnership before Mitchell struck again, claiming Salzberger for 19.
A duck to Bigg and then 10 to Rick Shiell didn't help the cause but Clements was able to progress to 43 before Miller had him caught by Stephen Reagan.
From 7/123 the tail actually developed a twitchy wag as the Alice boys went on to record 158. Kevin Mezzone and Jarrad Wapper put on 16 each and Luke Southam, 12.
The run chase was somewhat interrupted at the thirty fifth over, by what is now regarded almost standard practise in Alice Springs cricket. Yes, the sprinklers did come on!
The result of this phenomenon was that a result was not achieved until the last over of play with Darwin claiming victory at 9/159.
The other costly factor in the innings was the fact that Alice Springs delivered a total of 24 extras, 15 being wides.In batting Darwin were consistent in their run chase. Martin Brown scored 31 at first drop, and Shane Piercy, 27, with Mitchell remaining 20 not out at the close of play.With the ball Alice had Jeremy Bigg return 4/38 off his 10 overs. Kevin Mezzone finished with 3/31,with single wickets going to Hood and Wapper.The Calder Shield, returning to Darwin, will now hopefully maintain its intended form for years to come. For Alice the fruits of the players' labour were rewarded. The naming of the NT side , which may make a southern tour later in the year, saw the inclusion of Matt Salzberger, Tom Clements, Jeremy Bigg, Blain Cornford and , although playing for NTIS, Tom Scollay.Scollay returned the best batting statistics for the series with an average of 48.33 and an aggregate of 145 runs. Jeremy Bigg was the best of the bowlers, taking 9/89 at 9.89 off 24 overs. Matt Salzberger was named Player of the Carnival.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS HONOURED AT PIONEER PARK. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Racing at Pioneer Park on Saturday allowed boom galloper Coniston Way to record its fourth consecutive win, signalling to the industry that the riches of the Pioneer Sprint may well be attainable.
Trackside, the Corrections Department was saluted, with officers and inmates thanked for their untiring efforts each week in producing a track that caters for some 40 meetings a year.
The first of the five event card was the Alice Springs Correction Centre Two Year Old Handicap, raced over a 1000 metres. The scratching of Go or See left a field of six, with first start winner The Tailor as heavily backed favourite.
In the running The Tailor piloted the field, but unlike in its first start, Razor One and Potaskit were able to join in the front running, keeping the
favourite three wide. Potaskit was the first to tire and at the turn it was Razor One who displayed a tougher attitude, going to the line a winner by half a length.
The Tailor filled second place and Filomay who had run an honest race in fourth place was able to make up ground and accept the cheque for third, albeit four and a quarter lengths off the pace.
A full field of eight saddled up for the ASCC Community Support Program Class Two Handicap over1400 metres. The visiting galloper Tenacious, from NSW, proved too strong for the locals after Regal Rose led out of the gates. In fact Regal Rose, true to form, tried to make every post a winner, extending her lead to 10 lengths mid way through the journey.
The cheeky Regal Rose led into the straight looking the goods, but Tenacious applied himself to the task and mowed the leader down in the shadows of the post. Tenacious recorded the win by a head with Rosie's Sunset improving her position from fifth to third, a length and a half in arrears of Regal Rose.The 1200 metre Jens Telstrup Director of Correctional Services Class Five Handicap was the chance for Coniston Way to show its style.
With Craig Moon on board, in what was to become a riding double, Coniston Way set up a good length and a half lead from Geiger Blue, Kings Alley, and Cousy.
By the turn, however, Coniston Way had stamped its control on the race and waltzed away in the straight to win by six and a quarter lengths from Trafford who came home from the rear of the field.
Likewise Prince Paree made a late charge from the rear to be a half a head away third.
The Peter Rainbird Superintendent ASCC Maiden Plate over 1200 metres was then taken out by the long over due Lunch Club. Prior to the race Abetacrew and Arouser were scratched, reducing the field to 10.
In the running Fission Belle as favourite set up a two length lead.from Brother Henry and Lunch Club.
By the turn Brother Henry and Lunch Club moved up to the leader, with Lunch Club perched in third spot on the outside. It was then that hoop Gary Lefoe sensed tiring in the two leaders and he surged his mount forward. In stealing the race Lunch Club quickly established a four length lead before easing to the line to record a one length win. Sandover, who had raced midfield, came home well for second and Do What We Do completed the placings.
The Dr Peter Toyne MLA 1200 metre Handicap was the last of the day and enabled Kareshim to show its true grit and give Lefoe a riding double. From the jump Century's Gift, Galveston Storm and Kareshim shared the pace. Having what must have been an off day, Century's Gift was the first gone, while Kareshim cornered three wide and duly kicked.Kareshim went to the line a two and a quarter length winner from Doolam Player who ran on well.
Edge to Edge then filled the placings.
Racing now continues on a weekly basis with the April carnival only a matter of time away.
Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.