May 11, 2005.

A Central Australian man died of a heart attack on Mother's Day six years ago after waiting over eight hours for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) to take him to hospital.
His widow, Mabs Aspinall, spoke to the Alice Springs News after reading about delays in the evacuation by the RFDS from Kings Creek Station last year of fatally burned Canadian woman, Cynthia Ching.
And in 1992, Mrs Aspinall's grandaughter, Chantelle Norton, then eight, lost the sight of her right eye after a horse riding accident at Willowra.
Her mother, Karen Norton, says the RFDS advice, and that of a local nurse, was to leave the eye for 24 hours "to let it settle down".
But Ms Norton says she was later told by the eye specialist in Alice Springs that he might have saved the sight in the injured eye if he had got to it within five hours.
Mrs Aspinall, who now lives in Alice Springs, and her husband, Bob, were living and working on the opal mines in Mintabie, about 500km south of Alice Springs in South Australia.
On Wednesday May 5, 1999, Mr Aspinall went to the health clinic in Mintabie with severe pain up one arm, across his chest and down the other arm.
He described the pain to the nurse as like a truck crushing him. His breathing was rapid and he was sweating.
He was also burping constantly which had happened in the past when he had been in extreme pain with kidney stones. His blood pressure was taken and it was high: 230/140.
The next day Mr Aspinall and his wife went to see the RFDS doctor who was visiting the clinic on a regular run. Mrs Aspinall explains: "He did not listen to my husband's heart nor do an ECG test on him in any way.
"He took his blood pressure, talked and said he would make some appointment in Adelaide with a heart specialist as soon as possible.
"I don't think that this was an appropriate examination of a 62 year old man with his symptoms."
Three days later on Sunday May 9 Mr Aspinall was rushed to the clinic at around 1pm. Mrs Aspinall explains: "He had crushing chest pains, and he said the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 10.
"He had rapid chest breathing, was wet with a cold clammy sweat and was a greyish colour. On arrival at the clinic he was put on oxygen."
The clinic contacted the RFDS and a plane was called to transfer Mr Aspinall to hospital Port Augusta.
"We were told it would arrive at 5pm, then 7pm, then 7.30pm," remembers Mrs Aspinall.
"The plane arrived at 9.30pm. The doctor then left the airstrip not even looking at or examining Bob and went to the clinic to make a phone call to a nurse and came back three quarters of an hour later.
"Our son was helping to relight the flares on the runway strip as they had gone out. The doctor ordered the plane doors to be shut and [our son] missed saying goodbye to his dad. He was devastated."
The plane left Mintabie at 10.15pm – more than eight hours after it was called.
The plane then had to fly to Oodnadatta to collect another patient.
Mr Aspinall's condition deteriorated and he asked to be taken off the plane at Oodnadatta where he collapsed and died.
Says Mrs Aspinall: "The Flying Doctors never ever apologised to me because that would mean that they were wrong and they didn't want to admit that.
"Bob always praised the Flying Doctor service, telling people how wonderful and how fast the service was. He was wrong the time when he needed it.
"I am just so sad. I have lost my mate in life too early. He was only 62.
"My four adult children have lost their dad and grandchildren their poppa."
Shortly after the tragedy happened, Mrs Aspinall wrote several letters to the RFDS and the Medical Board of South Australia. She received a reply to each of her letters.
In summary to Mrs Aspinall's letters, the RFDS responded: "The doctor did not feel there was an emergency when he saw him [Mr Aspinall] in the clinic but felt review again by a cardiologist would probably show further deterioration of his cardiac problems.
"Bob's angiogram performed over four years ago showed a blockage of a minor obtuse artery.
"He had numerous risk factors for coronary heart disease including hypertension, which had not responded to medical management adequately.
"Full examination at the clinic probably would not have altered the plan of referral back to the cardiologist.
"The doctor feels that [in hindsight] management [of Mr Aspinall's condition] would not have altered and he felt he knew Bob and that his blood pressure had not been well controlled but he lived with this risk.
"It appears that the remote nurse and yourself were the ones who worried about his condition more that he did.
"From the flight details of the day there were several calls for help during that time and a fresh crew was available a little later, and the flight was coded as priority two.
"Alice Springs planes can be used if Port Augusta ones are all in use.
"Even though there has been great advancement in communication there are still difficulties in some areas and at some heights to talk without too much static.
"[The doctor], who has had a few years practicing in the Northern Territory, was more comfortable using the phone at the medical centre to phone [the nurse] to ascertain if another evacuation was necessary.
"Patients and doctors can misunderstand symptoms and signs at times, especially when treatment includes changing a person's way of life by limiting activities and regular medication.
"In reflection we assure you RFDS still maintains the 'Mantle of Safety' slogan whenever possible."
RFDS publicity manager John Tobin says: "On the afternoon and evening of Mr Aspinall's death we had one on call aircraft available in Port Augusta and at the time of his transfer we were dealing with three different patient cases, all of which were in markedly different regions of remote South Australia."
One patient was fitting at Oodnadatta, a high priority evacuation request had been received from Oak Valley (200km north west of Maralinga) and Mr Aspinall had to be dealt with in Mintabie.
"The management of these three patient situations was appropriate given the advice provided to us at the time from the referring Medical Officers and Remote Area Nurses.
"At the time the Board and management expressed its deepest sympathies to Mrs Aspinall and her family and offered to assist in any way we could."Incredibly, the Aspinall family feel that this was not the first time that they had had a bad experience with the Flying Doctor.
In 1992, Mrs Aspinall's grandaughter, Chantelle Norton, then eight, lost the sight of her right eye.
Her mother, Karen Norton, explains: "We were living in the bush around 360 km from Alice Springs in Willowra.
"Chantelle fell off her horse and landed with her eye on the riding crop.
"I immediately called the local nursing sister, who was a relief nurse. She spoke to the Flying Doctors and their advice was to leave it for 24 hours to let it settle down.
"We packed it with ice – it had come up in a huge bulge which was a bluey colour.
"Two days later the swelling had gone right down but she could only just open her eye and she couldn't see out of it.
"We drove to Alice Springs Hospital immediately and saw the eye specialist.
"He was furious. He said if he had got to that eye within five hours he may have been able to save the sight of it.
"Chantelle stayed in Alice Springs Hospital for two days and then we were flown to Adelaide by the Flying Doctors.
"We saw an eye specialist there but they said she had severed the optic nerve and completely lost the sight of her right eye. We were devastated."
Again, the RFDS responded that "the district medical officer in consultation with the remote area staff would determine a management plan which might involve local treatment or a requirement to transfer that patients to Alice Springs Hospital.
"In the latter case, RFDS would be tasked by the district medical officer to provide the areo-medical transfer."

RFDS public relations officer John Tobin has heard the service referred to as a "blackfeller taxi" but he rejects the assertion.
"Categorically no," he says.
"The Royal Flying Doctor Service is there to respond to whoever needs our assistance.
"The reality is that in the regions surrounding Alice Springs there is a higher proportion of Aboriginal persons than in other areas of Australia and this is mirrored in the nature of the patients we are transferring.
"We don't believe this rumour to be true," he says.
"In the first instance, all calls for assistance, no matter who makes them, are handled by the District Medical Officers [who are employed by the NT Department of Health], who determine what intervention needs to be made."
Neither the RFDS nor the Health Department, for which the RFDS is a contractor, will disclose the number of Code one, two or three flights, a system ranking them in their order of priority.
It's accepted that Aboriginal people may have difficulties describing their symptoms, and medical services would be inclined to play it safe and evacuate them when in doubt.
But neither Mr Tobin nor the NT Health Department will reveal statistics about the severity of ailments diagnosed once the patients actually arrive in Alice Springs.
All a spokesman for NT Health would say is that "patient priorities are assessed on need by District Medical Officers and experienced Aboriginal Health Workers.
"Patients are categorised in similar ways to the hospital system.
"In the Central Australian RFDS catchment area the population is between 90 and 95 per cent Aboriginal, with obvious results in terms of the proportions of patients served.
"Last year, RFDS performed on average four flights per night and 27 per day."
Mr Tobin says: "Last year the Royal Flying Doctor Service made 46,000 patient contacts in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
"I have not seen any complaints as to the quality of our service during the two years I've been working here. All the letters we have received have been to thank our crews for the excellent service provided."
Yet both in the evacuation of Ms Ching and Mr Aspinall (see main story) the availability of aircraft at night were an issue.
Says Mr Tobin: "In an ideal world we'd have a plane in each place in remote Australia. But one plane costs $6m. There is a limitation to resources."
Yet the Alice News (April 27) reported that the service has three aircraft in Alice Springs but only one available at night: the NT Health Department will pay only for one crew.

Japanese tour guides are reportedly shaking down local businesses as the NT Tourist Commission (NTTC) is fending off criticism that Alice Springs has failed to benefit from the claimed $1m the Japanese charter flights would spend in the region.
"People have to understand even though they may not literally see the Japanese visitors walk into their shop and hand over a $100 note, the money does flow into the Alice Springs economy," says NTTC Managing Director Marree Tetlow.
"They're helping to fill hotel rooms, chartered buses and transfers.
"The airport benefited from lots of casual employment – they had to bring in customs and immigration staff, and bus drivers and service staff to handle the jumbo jets.
"We held a special evening for the Japanese at Ooraminna Homestead which created a lot of flow on – tables, chairs, cutlery and crockery was hired from local business in town, and food was brought in."
The Alice News asked Ms Tetlow how the itineraries were put together in response to criticism from local businesses that they missed out on being involved as the Japanese were spirited off to Ayers Rock: "We give information on a full range of product to the wholesalers.
"We don't dictate their itinerary but we give them the information – they know what will sell in their market.
"Tourism is everybody's business and this has come out of building good relationships with these wholesalers. We're the only Australian destination that these flights have come to.
"That's how powerful the pull of Central Australia is in the Japanese market. Cairns didn't even get a look in. We're rapt about this."
The Japanese visitors stayed one night in Alice Springs, across four hotels: Lasseters, Novotel, Crowne Plaza and the Alice Springs Resort. Their itinerary in Alice Springs was not known, but Ms Tetlow said she knew they had visited the Desert Park.
Ms Tetlow says the NTTC is hoping to bring more visitors in for a longer period next year.
"We're working on itineraries with longer stays in Alice Springs, five to seven days including arriving on The Ghan from Darwin which is a very popular one with the Japanese.
"We're working on their awareness that there's more to Central Australia than the Rock."
Richard Doyle is the manager at the Commission for international business development including the Japanese market.
He has invited two operators from Alice Springs, John Sanby from Outback Ballooning, and Nick Smail from the Frontier Camel Farm to meet with the delegates from Japanese tourist industry in Sydney next month.
The Japanese tour groups, which arrived on April 29 and May 2, brought around 746 visitors to the town.
Local businesses say some tour guides flown in from Japan are asking local businesses for up to 50 per cent commission in exchange for bringing customers into their shop. Owners have called the demand "ridiculous".
Sources in the local art industry say tour guides asked for similarly high commissions last year.
Alderman Murray Stewart says he has been made aware of the situation: "Asking for this sort of commission is ridiculous.
"No small business in town would be able to afford that sort of commission. Whether they be a gift shop, souvenir shop or art gallery, there's not a chance on earth they could compete.
"I would like to see an equal distribution of business from the Japanese tour groups without undue pressure being applied for commissions."
Terry Brennan-Kuss owns two shops in town, The Opal Miner and Central Desert Art. He says he wasn't approached personally about offering high commissions but says if he was, he would have refused: "We would have to put our prices up by 40 per cent if we had to pay for a 40 per cent commission. That would be a dirty business.
"It's generally accepted that tour guides get something for bringing people into the shop but that level of commission is too high."

There are five kangaroo carcases in varying stages of decomposition along Colonel Rose Drive in Alice Springs' farm area, part of the town council's area of responsibility.
They have been there for up to a month. They have probably gone now because the Alice News rang the council.
The area has recently been visited by a fair number of council staff: senior officers arguing with residents about needlessly cutting down trees on road verges; workers doing the cutting down; other workers grading or slashing (including right around at least one of the dead bodies); and one council worker stopped in his ute near one of the dead roos and making notes. It seems none of them had the nous to do something about the stinking carcases because, according to a council spokeswoman, this is the simple routine.
If the council rangers (as distinct from other municipal employees, it seems) become aware of a fresh road kill they pick it up.
If it's not fresh they alert Wastemaster to remove it.
It's that easy. Talk about one hand not knowing what the other is doing!

A belated reply by the acting CEO of Papunya, Peter Vroom, raises more questions about the Aboriginal community's management and financial affairs than it answers.
Although Papunya has apparently been dysfunctional for years, the Federal and Territory governments have continued to pump millions of dollars into it.
Much of the Federal money came via ATSIC, under the auspices of Alison Anderson, a resident of Papunya, a recent ATSIC commissioner for the region and now the Labor candidate for MacDonnell.
The CEO of the Papunya Community Council Inc, recipient of the public funds, until September last year was Steven Hanley, Ms Anderson's husband.
The credibility of Mr Vroom's response to news reports, mainly in the Alice Springs News, followed up by other media, is in serious doubt.
He makes an unfounded allegations against the Alice Springs News and sitting Member for MacDonnell, John Elferink.
Mr Vroom says in a letter circulated to media, bureaucrats and politicians about stories quoting Mr Elferink in the Alice News: "How much did John Elferink pay for this publicity?"
The Alice Springs News has never accepted payment for news stories, and never will.
Mr Elferink is considering handing the matter to his lawyers for advice. He says he rejects the allegation completely, calling it "unmitigated tripe".
He says: "It is beyond doubt that the community has suffered from maladministration.
"The question is whether there has been mere incompetence or something worse.
"Mr Vroom can protest the integrity of what has happened in Papunya until he is blue in the face.
"But I would urge him to walk 20 meters out from the council office in Papunya, and look left and right and seriously ask himself the question as to whether or not all is well."
The Alice News quoted Mr Elferink on April 6 that $42,000 paid to the Papunya council in 2001 for grassing an oval "appear to be unaccounted for" as there is still no grass on the oval.
Mr Vroom claims the money has been spent properly on various works and irrigation equipment. The trouble is, there is no water.
Says Mr Vroom: "Unfortunately due [to] the collapse of the existing bore, sufficient water could not be produced to create enough pressure to flush the piping before completion of the project.
"A stalemate was reached in relation to water supply and it remains that way."
Mr Vroom does not explain why a new bore hasn't been drilled beside the collapsed one, which presumably had been shown to be productive.
On April 27 the Alice News published an exclusive report about a leaked letter to the council titled "comments arising from the audit 2004", from the accounting firm Deloitte.
We said the letter "raises questions about the CDEP 'jobs for the dole' scheme, suggesting that there were some 50 participants.
We wrote: "However, sitting MLA for MacDonnell John Elferink (CLP) says his own observations indicate that there are no more than four or five CDEP employees [in Papunya], and people on the community he has spoken to confirmed this."
We quoted the Deloitte document: "When viewing [CDEP] time sheets to verify payroll, we noted that some of the time sheets were not signed by employees.
"We suggest that these checks and controls are important to give you assurance that only valid employees are paid for work actually done."Mr Vroom replied: "CDEP participants are spread out over three communities, Haasts Bluff – 12, Mt Liebig – eight and Papunya a maximum of 45.
"Obviously not all of these places are taken up.
"Data files up to where all staff have left are up to date, but we have sought the assistance of the Department of Workplace Relations to try to rectify the current situation.
"I cannot vouch for every participant having a completed time sheet for every fortnight, but there are boxes full of records at Papunya.
"A summarized timesheet with total hours payable to participants was faxed to the accountants fortnightly for processing."
How accurate were the calculations of "total hours" – clearly each time just a single figure – in the "summarized timesheets"?
Do the participants exist? What did they do for the money from the ATSIC program? Mr Vroom doesn't say.
We said: "The audit report also indicates that some $150,000 of ATSIC money earmarked for Warumpi Arts was spent elsewhere, and gives no details to whom $179,000 – nearly $100,000 more than budgeted – was paid in 'artists payments'."
Mr Vroom replies: "There was never $150,000 of ATSIC / ATSIS money earmarked for Warumpi Arts.
"All payments to artists were recorded in a ledger also noting to which painting / artifact it related.
"This ledger together with all computers and the files thereon and remaining artworks are stored at Allied Pickfords in Alice Springs."
The Deloitte document says $80,000 was budgeted for artists payments in 2003-04 but $179,000 was paid. It says the budget for Warumpi was $228,000 but $401,600 was spent, resulting in a deficit of $121,000.
Mr Vroom does not explain why Warumpi, representing artists of the world famous Papunya dot painting movement, some of whose works have fetched six-figure prices, has now closed its doors.
Mr Vroom says Mr Hanley was not replaced by order of the NT Government "to my knowledge".
The Alice News was told by a spokesman for Local Government Minister John Ah Kit that Papunya was told last September to find "a suitably qualified CEO". Mr Vroom claims that by that time Mr Hanley had already resigned.
Mr Vroom says the community's store "belongs to Lyappa Social Club Inc, a legal entity in its own right with a properly elected governing committee.
"Mr Hanley is not and is not eligible to be on that committee."
We quoted the Deloitte document: "Approximately half of all [council] assets could not be located or were vehicles which were clearly scrapped.
"We were not provided with explanations for the large number of assets missing or scrapped."
Mr Vroom's reply is surprising, given that he has been the accountant for the Papunya Council since the "late seventies, early eighties" – first as an associate accountant, and since 1982 in his own right.
Local government authorities require an asset register to be kept: "The asset verification which was carried out by the auditors [Deloitte] was the first one for many many years.
"Over many years, quite possibly up to 10 years, all assets acquired were added on to the asset register, however only assets disposed of by sale and or trade-in were written off at the time of disposal.
"This left a multitude of assets listed and still accumulating, which would have been worn out, beyond economic repair etc. to be written off."
Mr Vroom makes no comment on another assertion by Deloitte, quoted by the Alice News: "A number of the suppliers' invoices which were selected for testing carried no evidence of being approved for payment by management.
"Even if there is an approved purchase order we suggest that there should be hard evidence that each payment has been considered and is in order to be paid."
Neither does Mr Vroom comment on another issue in our story, "grants and contributions received in the current and prior periods which were obtained on the condition that they be expended on specific purposes, but which are not yet expended in accordance with those conditions".
Mr Vroom says the audit report – which is on the public record – is "squeaky clean".
But the adverse comments were made by Deloitte separate from the audit report, in a document that does not become part of the public record, but was leaked to the Alice News.
Mr Vroom alleges our reports were "full of insinuations, inaccuracies and a lesson in how to take things out of context". We reject that.
He ignores our offers of comprehensive right of reply in connection with both reports, prior to their publication. He says nothing about his, Ms Anderson's and Mr Hanley's failure to respond.
We spoke to Mr Hanley on April 4 and 25 and he would not comment on either occasion. We alerted Mr Vroom on April 24 of our report to be published on April 27.
All through April we passed numerous requests for comment to Ms Anderson. She did not get back to us.
We raised this with Chief Minister Clare Martin, who presumably is hoping to welcome Ms Anderson into her Cabinet, and who tirelessly touts accountability and transparency as one of her government's virtues.
We asked Ms Martin on April 29 whether it is being open, transparent and accountable for a candidate not to give her telephone number to a reporter researching a story in the public interest, and to avoid contact with him.
Ms Martin, an ex-journalist herself, replied: "Well, I don't think anybody has to give their number to a reporter. Not at all."
Millions of dollars from Canberra and Darwin continued to flow to Papunya when its administration was in turmoil, graphically described by Mr Vroom himself.
• In the three months between September and early December 2004 Mr Hanley resigns as CEO, and – in succession – an acting CEO is appointed, another acting CEO is appointed and a permanent CEO is appointed.
• A month later (in January 2005) the council is advised that the office manager and the essential services officer (ESO) decided not to return to work from annual leave.
• The new CEO, appointed a month earlier, announces he will be resigning from his position.
• A senior bureaucrat of the Department of Family and Community Services is appointed Acting CEO but this is disallowed by his department.
• Only two council staff are left, one in the office and one as acting ESO, housing maintenance officer and CDEP supervisor. "Obviously an impossible situation," comments Mr Vroom. (Both have also since left their employ.)
• The NT Dept. for Community Development sends out one of its own officers, Peter Cole, to "to assist with day to day affairs and immediately commence the recruitment process for a permanent CEO".
• Mr Cole gets thrown off the community with 24 hours' notice because he is not "acceptable to Council and community members," as Mr Vroom puts it.
• Mr Vroom becomes acting CEO.
We asked Mr Ah Kit four weeks ago how much NT Government money has flowed into Papunya. No answer so far.
The Alice News invited Mr Vroom, and Federal Employment Minister Kevin Andrews (who is in charge of CDEP), to further comment on this report. Neither did.

The overcoming of incumbency is a rare event in local politics as there have been only three occasions since 1974 when a sitting member in Central Australia has been defeated at the polls.
There was effectively no Territory Opposition in 1974, the start of the first fully elected Legislative Assembly, as the CLP had won 17 out of 19 seats (there were two independents).
Central Australia had four electorates, all held by the CLP.
The first occasion when incumbency did not help the sitting member was when the Member for MacDonnell, David Pollock, wanted to transfer across to the safe seat of Alice Springs after the sitting member retired, but the nod was given instead to CLP branch member Rod Oliver.
The strong Labor campaign against self-government (their slogan was "First things first – self-government comes later") in the election campaign of 1977 resulted in five CLP members across the NT losing their seats – including David Pollock, who lost to the ALP's Neville Perkins in MacDonnell.
In 1980 the local CLP preselection committee decided not to endorse the new sitting MLA for Alice Springs, Rod Oliver.
Finding no one else suitable to fill the vacancy, the chairman of the preselection committee, Denis Collins, was chosen to be the new CLP candidate.
Rod Oliver ran as an independent candidate and was joined in the race by a disaffected David Pollock.
However, Denis Collins was victorious in the elections of 1980, and this was the genesis of bitter internal preselection rows that racked the CLP in later years.
Denis Collins was the focus of the first of these struggles, when he lost CLP preselection for the seat of Sadadeen in 1987 in favour of brash newcomer Shane Stone; simultaneously in the Top End the CLP also dumped the Member for Koolpinyah, Noel Padgham-Purich.
Mr Collins and Ms Padgham-Purich ran as independents in 1987 and retained their seats.
However, time ran out for Denis Collins (then the Member for Greatorex) in 1994 when he became the third (and last) sitting member in Central Australia to be defeated.
It was also in 1994 that Loraine Braham was elected as the CLP's Member for Braitling, which she retained in the elections of 1997 (Ms Padgham-Purich retired on this occasion).
Ms Braham's later record illustrates the strength of the incumbency factor.
The first inkling that Ms Braham's chances of CLP preselection for the next poll were under threat was revealed in a prominent front page story "Govt sold first home buyer a dud" (Centralian Advocate, Oct 24, 2000).
This story covered the plight of a young single mother employed at the Central Land Council who, under the government's HomeNorth Scheme, had purchased a Housing Commission home riddled with faults.
Loraine Braham, then the Minister for Housing, was briefly reported in a most unsympathetic light, highly unusual for that newspaper.
Without revealing my suspicions, I asked a friend (a keen observer of politics) to read the story and tell me his impressions.
The response was unambiguous and there was no doubt of the story's implications – the knives were out for Loraine Braham.
Just one month later she was dropped by the CLP, whereupon she ran for and won Braitling as an independent candidate in 2001.
Not unlike 1987, in the Top End another independent candidate, Gerry Wood, won the seat of Nelson from CLP member Chris Lugg (who in turn had replaced Ms Padgham-Purich in 1997).
In an eerie echo from 1977, Chris Lugg was one of five sitting CLP members who were defeated in 2001 – but now Labor took power for the first time.
Incumbency had ceased to be a factor in the Top End: seven seats changed hands, including five incumbents.
However, in the Alice new CLP candidate Jodeen Carney narrowly won Araluen, while for Central Australia the incumbency factor won the day as no other seats changed hands.
There is no reason to think there will be any change for this year's elections.

Teen Challenge Centralia is bringing a special visitor to town.
Nick Vujicic is a young, good-looking man from a well off family but every day he faces a major challenge– he was born without legs or arms.
All the things we take for granted are complicated for him: brushing his hair, his teeth, turning on a light, let alone using a computer, or going for a swim.
He's worked out how to do each of these things independently. He's worked out how to face people, to be open with them, how to let them see his body. He admits to frustration at times but never to self-pity. In fact, he has a disarming smile and is determined to live his life to the fullest.
The message to teens is obvious: it is possible to deal with the difficulties that life sometimes throws up.
Nick will be speaking at a major Teen Challenge event, Youth Blast, scheduled for May 27 at the Convention Centre (7-9.30pm).
He'll be joined by a group of young local musicians, making a band for the night, and by another visitor, singer and guitarist Alex Harris who, with the help of Teen Challenge in Queensland, turned his life around.
Nick and Alex will also speak at local high schools in the days leading up to the event.
Nick is a committed Christian – his belief in Jesus is central to his life – and Teen Challenge is a non-denominational Christian organization.However, Teen Challenge Centralia "reaches out to everybody", says board member, Apaks Dede.
"Christianity is the basis for our motivation," says Dr Dede, " but it's not the focus for this event.
"It's focussed on practical things, on not giving up, on surviving. Nick should have been the first to give up but his motivation to survive is incredible.
"Alex had problems with life issues, like some young people in Alice have. But he managed to overcome them and now he shares that with other young people through his music."
Teen Challenge was launched in Alice Springs last year, in response to high rates of substance abuse and suicide amongst young people.
"Our focus in part is suicide prevention" says Dr Dede, "and we do that by helping young people find ways to deal with their difficult life issues, from substance abuse to homelessness, hopelessness, feeling rejected, lacking life skills.
"And this doesn't only involve Indigenous youth."
Dr Dede says he has seen a lot of substance abuse of various types in the course of his work at the Alice Springs Hospital over the last 10 years.
"My initial impression was that it was mainly an Indigenous problem but in fact most of the cardiac arrest as a result of overdosing that I've seen has been non-Indigenous."So this event is for anybody and everybody, to let them know that we exist, that we want to help."
Contacts are P: 8952 6196; or email us on; national help line (24/7): 1800 771 777.

Central Australia is attracting volunteers from across the world as well as around the country, offering their time and energy for free.
That's because of "the unique opportunities in working with Aboriginal people", says Craig Martin, of the Volunteer Resource Centre based at the town council offices.
"People access the website from overseas which has a list of volunteer jobs across Australia.
"One woman came here from Germany because she wanted to work with Aboriginal people and volunteered at the Hetty Perkins home. She had a really good experience there, and was invited to Hermannsburg with an Aboriginal family and camped out there.
"Last year an Italian woman volunteered at the Alice Springs Festival and made a big impact on it."
Mr Martin has also been able to find volunteering jobs for people overseas: "A man came in asking about volunteering in Papua New Guinea. I'd seen an ad on the internet for a job out there and he got it. We can place people anywhere and everywhere!"
Mr Martin says the majority of volunteers in Alice Springs are women aged between 28 to 50 years – and the most popular areas of work are environmental projects, like at the Desert Park, or with the Red Cross.
"The transient population here can be quite useful and positive – people who are here for just a short period of time often add a new energy and ideas to organisations.
"New people to town say it's a good way to meet people and get involved in the community."But Mr Martin says older rather than younger people are more likely to give up their time to help others. "Some of the older, long-term dedicated volunteers are getting too old, but younger kids don't really come in to the Resource Centre.
"I see volunteering as a good way of getting new skills, but young people don't seem to be taking that up as an option.
"I'm not sure why that is, maybe it's a generational thing.
"It's a good opportunity of bridging the gap between educational institutions and a job. We're trying to get Aboriginal students on board because it's a really good stepping stone.
"Volunteering for a couple of hours a week isn't like a full-on job but you get a taste for what the working environment is like – and in Alice Springs that often develops into full time work.
"We're partly funded by the Department for Employment and Workplace Relations, so people on benefits can volunteer as part of their required work option – they can build up their 32 hours work that they have to do each fortnight."
Red Cross in Alice Springs is one of only 12 of the 180 organisations in town to work with the Volunteer Resource Centre.
Red Cross always need volunteers, says manager Leony Bowey.
"We have more than 70 at the moment but need about 20 more for our Meals on Wheels project, the mobile library and also the Good Start Breakfast program which delivers breakfasts to children at Yipirinya School.
"We're very lucky with our volunteers – usually they stay for significant lengths of time and they stay because they enjoy it.
"Some volunteers have been with us for more than 10 years, but students from three schools also volunteer. Acacia Hill school operate the magazine trolley at the hospital, and OLSH and St Philip's schools also help us out.
"Without the volunteers we wouldn't achieve what we do each day. We rely heavily on them and I would personally like to thank them for giving their valuable time and energy for services that wouldn't run otherwise."
Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV) is a national charity which set up a regional office in Alice Springs in February.
There are plenty of charities helping Indigenous communities in Central Australia, but ICV is the only one focused on transferring skills between volunteers and communities –the volunteers themselves don't actually carry out any work for the community.
"We aim for them to build a community for the future in their own way, and encourage them to pass on the skills of our volunteers to the rest of the community and to future generations," says Jennifer Standish-White, the acting regional manager for the Alice Springs office. More than 50 projects have been carried out in Central Australia since 2001 – a quarter of all projects carried out nationally. So far these include projects in Docker River, Mutitjulu, Yuendumu and Santa Teresa.
Santa Teresa requested a volunteer to help develop and expand the vegetable garden and orchard to keep producing fruit and vegetables for the community.
The project was also successful in passing on auditing skills and helped in understanding bureaucratic processes. These skills are now taught as part of vocational education to students of the community.
The project developed links with adult education, the school and the health clinic, and the horticultural skills learnt by the students helped them get jobs.
A project running at Titjikala is in the childcare centre – a volunteer is transferring administration and operational skills to the childcare centre workers.
Two projects have also been carried out in Alice Springs itself, with more planned.
The ICV travels to communities to let them know about the service they operate. "Then it's up to them," says Ms Standish-White.
If a community is interested in finding an ICV volunteer, they identify the skills they need and put in an application.
They must have the support of key community members or elders before they request a volunteer. The ICV then draws up a shortlist of volunteers who possess the skills required and sends their CVs to the community, which then chooses.
Currently there are 550 volunteers on the ICV database. Mostly retirees from the east coast, the skills they're offering number 180 – from business and IT knowledge, to marketing, web design, health, numeracy, literacy, communications, office and financial administration, horticulture, agriculture, arts administration and crafts.
Ms Standish-White explains: "Once a community has chosen a volunteer, the person takes part in a two-day cross cultural workshop to prepare them for how to transfer their skills to a different culture."
The community pays for the accommodation of the volunteer, and also provides a cultural mentor.
In Central Australia, ICV itself is funded by the federal government and also the NT government. "But we try to take a partnership approach," says Ms Standish-White. "We have agreements with companies including Ernst and Young, and Westpac, plus individuals who donate."
The projects vary from two weeks to six months long, but usually they last for about eight weeks.
To celebrate National Volunteer Week, from 9 to 15 May, the Volunteer Resource Centre is holding a morning tea at 10am on 14 May under the sails in the Todd Mall.

High-flyers (literally) and repeat visitors to the Centre, Neville and Gaby Kennard aren't interested at all in five star hotels or packaged tours.
Last week they stopped over in Alice – their sixth visit – halfway on a flight across Australia in their own Jetranger helicopter.
Many locals will remember Gaby for her 1993 fund-raising flight around Australia for the Flying Doctor, and in 1989 she drew international attention for her solo flight around the world, in honour of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.
Neville, with two of his sons, crossed Australia via Alice on BMW motorbikes two years ago.
Previous trips have been in 4WDs or in light aircraft, including one in the early 'eighties, with Gaby, when they landed on the old airstrip next to Ayers Rock – "unforgettable".
These days they wouldn't go to the Rock. The experience is too "packaged".
"The old motels were rough but full of character," says Neville.
"And the adventure for me was to climb the Rock but these days that's frowned upon.
"The generic hotel experience that you get at Ayers Rock today lacks interest.
"If I were to go there, I'd rather stay at the backpackers'."
For people who fly their own chopper, money obviously isn't the issue. What the backpacker-style experience offers is "community".
"The generic hotel is community-less," says Neville.
He disputes that the majority of visitors to the Outback, including the international visitors, want "the standard package".
"The industry says Japanese people have to have this, Americans have to have that. You see Japanese people riding pushbikes across the Nullarbor – what kind of box do they fit into?
"There are more and more people in the 'exceptional' market. They want community, adventure, uniqueness."
Neville and Gaby come for the vast open spaces of the Outback.
"The red earth really gets to me," says Gaby.
"And the 4WD experience is unique," says Neville. "You can throw out your swag in the middle of the desert – as long as you're careful with your vehicle and water you're safe, there are no animals going to eat you, very few 'bad guys'.
"There's nowhere else in the world like that and the people who have this experience get addicted to it.
"That's what brings us back."
When they have to travel light, in the helicopter or on the motorbikes, they stay in little roadhouses along the way.
This time they loved staying in a dugout hotel at White Cliffs in outback NSW – "no ensuite but that's a small price to pay for sleeping underground".
The pub at William Creek in mid-north SA was "worthwhile and fantastic" despite being run-down.
"So much better than blasted hotels that could be anywhere in the world," says Gaby. "Who wants that?"
Around Alice, they love the Glen Helen Resort: "That's a terrific experience– adequate accommodation, pretty good food, wonderful place.
"You feel you've been somewhere special."
Alice itself, however, has lost a lot of its character, they feel. Its architecture is mostly very bland.
"Where are the verandas, the breezeways?" asks Neville.
Though after a visit to the Mall, they comment that it has improved.
"Like an old shoe," says Gaby, "all that new development seems to have broken in."Neville says his message to the tourism industry is, "Governments, get out of the way."
But aren't the hotels the province of corporations?
"There are corporatised bureaucrats hung up on standardised and consistent quality at the price of innovation and individuality, and there are government bureaucrats."
An example of the latter were the rangers who gave them an almost hostile reception at Dalhousie Springs.
The rangers objected to them landing off the airstrip, although it was "within the airport precinct", says Neville, which is "conventional practice. These services should be contracted out to private enterprise," he argues, seeing the answer to most problems in free market forces.
"If someone had to earn their living from this sort of work, rather than being paid by government, their attitude would be different.
"They would say, 'Welcome, how can I help you? Would you mind next time landing over here.'"Instead it was, 'Well, I won't fine you this time.'"
Neville has much the same advice on the question of Indigenous tourism: "Remove the barriers. If enterprise in a place like Yuendumu was not stifled and squashed by bureaucracy it would have emerged by now.
"Government, in whatever form, has to get out of the way."
"And that," says Gaby, "could be a beginning to breaking down barriers between the races."
The Kennards live part of the year in the USA, in the swank ski resort of Aspen.
They say the majority of Americans they meet dream of coming to the Outback. Its allure, including that of Aboriginal art and culture, is already established.
The issue is not to disappoint people when they get here.

She wasn't a laugh a minute.
She was a laugh every 15 seconds.
And she kept it up, non stop, for almost two hours.
Does her mum still talk to her? Her kids? Her husband?
Fiona O'Loughlin's richest source of hilarious situations is her family.
And her humour works so well because it's so close to home – to hers and to ours.
We've all been in the situations she shoots at us in the audience, rapid fire. No sooner has the laugher died down than Fiona zaps out the next bolt: cheeky, over the top and right on target at the same time.
While her loved ones get a relentless hammering she reserves the hardest one for herself: She forgets the baby in the bottle shop.
She reliably picks up the kids on Friday afternoons from school (because it won't keep them over the weekend).
Haven't we all been on long trips in cramped cars? None as bad as the one Fiona went on as a kid herself.
She gets up from the sofa from time to time to have another baby.
And there were many more.
The 500 seat Araluen theatre was chockers. Alice paid homage to a home grown achiever around the world.
But it was hard work: at the end stomach muscles and throat ached from ceaseless laughter.
Short and in a jacket and frayed jeans Fiona is no daunting figure, an appearance reinforced by her self deprecation: "Don't heckle because I wouldn't know what to say, other than that you're spoiling it for everybody else."
Don't be fooled: she's a sharp observer of everyday weaknesses and exploits them mercilessly.
More, please!

The NT Tourist Commission spent $42m in the 2004 calendar year, including $18.55m on marketing and promotion.
Managing Director Maree Tetlow says that was made up of:-
• $9.7m advertising costs;
• $1.9m for media & trade "famils" (hosting retailers and wholesalers to make them familiar with the attractions);
• $1.1m for trade exhibitions;
• $5.1m for marketing other (see below);
• $0.75m for online service and website development.
The biggest projects under "Marketing Other" ($5.1m) were:-
• Research $1.4m;
TRAIL• Destination projects $1.1m (eg. signs in key destinations, tourism information booths at railway stations, Battery Hill visitor information, small destination development marketing plans, Larapinta Trail management strategy);
• Marketing miscellaneous $850,000 (International representatives' marketing activities, promotional footage and photography, five star campaign with CATIA, regional videos, backpacker advertising);
• Marketing Industry Support & Development $640,000 (aviation development initiatives, heritage marketing and development, indigenous tourism study program, accreditation program);
• Sponsorship and events $380,000 (Brolga Awards, Postcard series, Fishing TV series, destination road shows, destination events support).

Ron (Rusty) Hill is a real honey.
I don't mean that in a sugary way: the sweet stuff is his business.
He's been keeping bees in Alice for 27 years.
"I moved here from Stirling Station in 1976, just after the big rains.
"There were feral bees everywhere," Rusty explains.
"My wife, being Aboriginal, told me to cut out all the honey from the trees. That was when I got my first sting – right between the eyes. It closed my eyes up.
"But the honey was so nice we had to get some more a few weeks later.
"I perfected getting honey out of trees but thought I would get more by putting the bees in boxes so I bought some kits from Adelaide.
"I started off with 23 boxes and built up to 140 hives. I started off keeping them in people's yards and then followed where things flowered along the hills in Alice."
Rusty keeps Italian bees. "The honey I produce is very thick – it's got a 12 to 14 per cent moisture content compared to 16 to 18 per cent of other honey because the weather is drier here and there's no humidity."It was a hobby at first but after four or five years I started selling honey at the grower's market at Anzac Oval. I also packaged it and put it into Woolworths. But when they moved [to Yeperenye] they ignored all my letters.
"It took so much time to package everything up and I was only selling in dribs and drabs so I started sending it direct to Adelaide."
Since then, Rusty sends his honey down in gallon drums every year to be sold under the label of Lee Brook Farm. He manages to work his hives at the weekend "one half one Saturday, the other half the other Saturday", processing the honey in a caravan in his garden.
He remembers the honey shortage two years ago which forced Australia to import for the first time ever. "Because of the fires in the eastern states, my honey was in such demand, even though it was the worst I'd ever made! It was awful when we had to import it from Argentina and other places.
"In 1992 I went up to the Top End to beekeep but it didn't work out too well so I sold all my 140 hives. The weather was just too humid. I thought I'd well and truly given it up. But it's like a disease with me – I couldn't walk past a flowering tree without thinking of beekeeping again.
"Then one day when were back in Alice the next door neighbours moved and the new family found some bees in their house and dumped two boxes on my backyard. That was about 10 years ago – now I've got 50 boxes again. I think I was meant to have bees."
Rusty is only one of two beekeepers in the Alice. Native bees obviously survive quite happily in the dry environment here, adapted to the flowers that only bloom for six weeks at a time, but Rusty says they take advantage of introduced sources of moisture, such as cattle troughs.
Rusty has to constantly move his hives to where the flowers are, and because he keeps Italian bees, he has to provide water for the hives.
"It's more difficult keeping bees in Central Australia than other places. Ants are a big problem here – you can't put your hives on the ground like you can in other places.
"It's all right for a hobby but to make a living, you have to go somewhere else. But in all the good spots the beekeepers are fighting for space.
"I've done well this year. Everyone says there's been a drought but the only place it didn't rain is Alice.
"Everywhere else has done really well – I put some hives out past the airport in the Coolibah trees and I got two 44 gallon drums alone from there.
"I extracted honey four times this year and I've just sent six lots of 44 gallon drums of honey to Adelaide – that's as good as it gets up here. The bees work from mid-July to January."
But Rusty says that conservationists are discouraging him from continuing his hobby. "I kept my hives in Owen Springs on and off for 20 years but when the government bought the property I was told I couldn't keep them there anymore," he says.
Legislation prevents bees from being kept in or near national parks because they're deemed a threat to natural fauna and flora – although it is permitted for cattle to graze there.
"I'm firmly against it," says Rusty. "Too much land is being taken over as conservation areas. Bees are not a threat to native species. "Keeping bees helps the environment a lot but you just don't see native bees around here because it's so dry and they need moisture to survive. The greenies are targeting this industry because it's a weaker industry."
Because of the poor conditions in Alice Springs, Rusty's decided to move to Darwin again to become a beekeeper full–time.
"I'll have another go. I'm not sure when I'll go yet," he says.
"Most people are giving it up at my age but I'm just starting.
"I'm not trying to get rich, beekeeping is a good job to have – you work when the bees demand it and then you can take it a little easier when it's quiet.
"I get stung a lot – on the hands mainly – but if you get the sting out straight away it doesn't hurt very much.
"And I can be outside for my work. The constant humming of the hives relaxes me and the rest of the world doesn't exist when I'm working the bees."We've got the best honey in the world in Australia," he proudly tells me after giving me a huge pot of his golden finest to try.
And after having it on toast this morning, there's no way I can't agree.

Travelling from Papunya to Sydney four times a year for two week study blocks over the past three years, on top of course work and her teaching job: that's what it took for Linda Nakamarra Tjonggarda to graduate recently from Macquarie University in Sydney with a Diploma in Community Management.
Fifteen other students from towns and communities around Australia, including Weipa, Newcastle and Rockhampton, graduated with Linda.
Their subjects included Aboriginal Law and Politics, Business Law, Marketing, Accounting and Media Studies.
This was not Linda's first formal qualification. In 1998 she completed the four year Diploma of Teaching.
She is currently a senior executive teacher at Papunya school and was part of the educational leadership team responsible for the multi-award winning Papunya School Book of Country and History.
During the community management course Linda says she developed a network of friendships with Indigenous people from all over Australia and became a more confident public speaker.
She also developed skills using special types of English so she would be more able to translate at meetings "when whitefellas come to the community".
"Now I am able to interpret so other Anangu can understand when white people use jargon words.
"Overall the course has been an opportunity to get into a leadership position where I have more power.
"I feel I can now take more responsibility and have a stronger voice in my own community, in order to ensure that Anangu are consulted at all levels of decision making."
PICTURED ABOVE is Linda Nakamarra Tjonggarda with her Diploma in Community Management from Macquarie University in Sydney, accompanied by her daughter Makisha Anderson.

The tables turned for the league leaders at Traeger Park on Saturday night when South claimed the second round points over reigning premiers West.
The Roos had a match winning third term that left the Bloods in catch up mode come the last quarter, to see the final result rest at 11.11 (76) to 8.15 (63).
In the early encounter Pioneer literally had a field day by booting 33.14 (212) to 3.5 (23), nailing the coffin even more for a battling Rover outfit.
West controlled the game early through dominance at centre half back with Mark Bromley and at centre half forward with Kevin Bruce. Depleted West ranks created opportunity for the likes of Lockie Boal. With goals to Murphy Abbott and Francis Pepperill, West looked reasonably comfortable at the first break, leading 2.3 to 1.2.
South on the other hand had picked up the services of Daryl Ryder from the Federal camp. His pace proved worthwhile and his presence added balance to the Roo machine as he combined well with Charlie Maher, Sherman Spencer and Gilbert Fishook. Spencer opened the South scoring in that first term.The Roos pushed on in the second term with a three goals to one blitz thanks to Graham Hayes, Nelson Kenny and Spencer. In reply West had Michael Gurney keep them in touch with a major, which capped off some instrumental drive through the term. Poor kicking makes for poor football: the Bloods shot seven behinds for the quarter.
After the half time break the score was even, with South 4.4 (28) to 3.10 (28). South went hard and delivered effectively to capitalise on the overall strength in the forward line and record five goals. The spread of scoring success to Hayes, Fishook, Maher, Spencer and Kerry was indicative of their team play.
In the West line of fire Pepperill was able to convert twice, and Zac Neck who played a tireless game was rewarded with a goal.
By oranges South had snared a 15 point lead in a low scoring game. In the run home West mounted a charge but only played catch up. Scott Turpin and Boal each scored for West but were countered by Fishook and Kenny, so giving South a thirteen point win.Roo coach Joey Hayes was pleased as South showed the strength across the field to match it with the best. They have the ability in the forward line and the ball enters this zone enough during a game thanks to the strength of Shaun Cusack and his band of on ballers.
West lost through poor kicking. With the return of several side lined players expected, they would not be too grieved by the defeat.
The game between Pioneer and Rover must have had coach Geoff Miller despairing as he watched his old side literally crush the Blues.
Pioneer had a close encounter with Federal in their previous game, but on Saturday they showed the Eagle power of old. Graham Smith controlled the flow of the game, creating strategies and bringing players into the limelight.
Lazarus Hargraves revelled in the green and gold as he kicked seven goals to match the effort of Michael McDonald, and give Pioneer a two pronged pathway to goal. The ever present Craig Turner again controlled centre half forward, kicking six goals and handing out plenty of chances to his mates.
And running through in this capacity were the fleet footed brigade of Eric Campbell, Eric Williams, Bradley Campbell, Ivan Presley, Ezra Bray and Ben Stevens.One goal in the first half and a further two in the second did little for the confidence of Rovers. Again Daniel Molloy picked up three votes in his side's best player count. Also giving of their best were Glen Swain, Kevin McDonald, Scott Cleghorn, Matt Wright and Ray Brown.
The dilemma faced by Rovers has also been experienced by Federal, and in the early days by West and South. It may well be time for the whole league to look at the Blues' situation and seek a solution.
It is not in the corporate interest of the competition to have one club struggling to the extent that Rovers seem to be.
This week Rovers take a breather while Pioneer and South meet, followed by Federal and West, in what should be two close matches.

The Vikings will be the yardstick of the round ball game in season 2005.On Sunday at Ross Park the mercurial Brian Manning played a champion game, scoring two goals, while Richard Farrell, Zac Neck and Rory Hood also found the net in their 5-0 win over Federal.
In the other A Grade fixture Scorpions and Verdi took the game right down to the line without giving an inch. The scoreless result was a fair outcome.
B Grade proved to be an eventful round. The Buckleys crew again put their best foot forward with a 5-0 win over Scorpions. Ashley Duddington led the charge with two goals while the power of Sam Spiropoulos, Tom Clements and Scott Perris resulted in a goal to each.
Vikings also enjoyed a field day accounting for the not so Busy Bees, 7-0. Andrew Crispe, who plays a mean game of Aussie Rules, and Joel Goldring each recorded a hat trick and Fabio Dos Santos completed the score card.
ASFA then made a third fixture that was one sided when they downed Dragons, 5-0. Jordan Van Der Schuit and Bradley Dienes found the net twice each and Tom Tremors booted a single. In the only close game of the division, Federals came home over the Thorny Devils 1-0.
C Grade was a more balanced affair with Scorpions able to hold out the Vikings 3-2. Vanessa Goddard was responsible for two fine goals, while Keith Bridgeman secured the third for Scorpions. In the Vikings camp Keith Pearson surged with a single while Col Pettit also contributed.
Desert Spinach then proved their worth with a fine 2-1 victory over Stormbirds.
Joe Firmo and Mick Delaney were scorers for the Spinach in a game where all played well. Similarly the team should be congratulated in the Stormbirds camp, with Michael Reilly claiming their goal.
The Colts division saw two contrasting encounters. Celtic and Memo Verdi fought out a one all draw. Ella Carmichael, Carl Muir and Edward Tickoft were prominent on field for Memo while Jason Van Der Schuit found the net. Fabio Dos Santos scored for Celtic, while Anania Marsh, Joel Goldring and Daniel Cracken impressed down field.
In the other match Vikings had a 6-0 win over Yirara. Chris Myers shot two and singles went the way of Alex Blom, Harry Nicholson, Josh Wiles and Chris Constable.
The Under 14s saw a close encounter with Memo Red downing Vikings, 5 -4. Hugh Brocklebank again showed the value of genetics when he slotted a hat trick for the Reds, while Joel Robertson did the same for Vikings.
Otherwise Scorpions recorded an 8-0 win over Yirara, with hat tricks going to Lachlan Farquharson and Rhys Constable. Then Memo White were full of running in their 11-0 win over Celtic. Sandor Guggisburg starred with four goals and Peter Hammond returned three.
In the Under 12s Memo White were too good for Tigers with a 6-2 win. Joshua Farrell and Cole Hayes each scored a double for the Whites, while Rowan McNamara scored both of Tigers' goals.
Scorpions enjoyed a 3-1 win over Celtic Green with the McGuirk boys, Ayden and Michael, scoring along with Geordie Thompson, while Adam Erickson netted one for the Greens.
James Dawson and Tom Godwin each scored for Vikings in their 2-0 win over Memo Red.
Names to black book in the Under 10 competition where scores are not kept include Kody Hall Matthew Heller and Madeline Williams. In the Under 8s Andy Colman, Johnathon and Caleb Hitt, and Sam Hall were prominent. The Under 6s also stretched their legs and Jack Rout, Archie Perkins and Lewis Hartung showed promise.

A team of 11 from the Alice Springs Swimming Club will travel to Darwin to compete in the Arafura Games next week.
The club has not been beaten in any of the four carnivals that have been held in the NT this season so the swimmers are expected to do well."It's the first time we've won every carnival for many years, so we're very strong," says the head coach, Keiran Taylor. We always do well on our home ground and I expect the swimmers to pick up a range of medals and placings. It always depends on competition from overseas of course.
"Between them, the swimmers cover all the strokes and distances and we've got kids as young as 10 and up to 16 competing.
"Not having the starting blocks has affected them to a certain degree, we haven't been able to get practice on backstroke starts or dives, but we can't ponder on that.
"We're disappointed as a club over what's happened but I've told them we can't think negatively about it and we have to focus on the other things we can do to prepare."To qualify, the swimmers had to be placed in the top four in the Territory in their event and satisfy benchmark qualifying times.
The first swimming events are on Sunday and continue until Tuesday.
Zac Darby, 12, is competing in the maximum eight events: "I'm feeling pretty good, I've been training hard so hopefully I'll do well.
"I'm not that nervous. In my 200m Individual Medley [where all four strokes are swum in succession] I want to qualify for nationals for next season. I have to take off .57 of a second.
"I want to do personal best times in all of my events, that would be good. My first goal is to make the final and then get a medal. I'd really like a medal."His sister, Gemma, 10, is the youngest swimmer of the team. She's swimming in the 200m IM. "I've just started swimming so this is my first time going to Arafura. I'm hoping for a PB. I've won the 200m IM a couple of times in carnivals."
Jessica Fuller, 15, says "I want to swim my best and get a few PBs. I've trained hard, seven or eight sessions a week. I'm a little bit nervous – it's been my goal to go to Arafura for a while and it will be my last season so it will be a good way to finish."
Boys team
Troy Taylor, 16, 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m Freestyle, 100m and 200m Backstroke, 100m Breaststroke, 200m IM.
Daniel Pezet, 15, 100m and 200m Freestyle, 50m Backstroke, 100m and 200m Breaststroke, 50m and 100m Butterfly, 200m IM.
Sam Jennings, 15, 50m and 100m Freestyle, 50m, 100m and 200m Backstroke, 50m Breaststroke.
Zac Darby , 12, 50m, 100m and 400m Freestyle, 50m and 100m Backstroke, 50m and 100m Butterfly, 200m IM.
Girls team
Taylor Chalker, 12, 50m and 100m Freestyle, 50m and 100m Backstroke 50m and 100m Breaststroke, 50m and 100m Butterfly.
Ella Donovan, 12, 100m Butterfly.
Amy Leibhardt, 12, 50m and 100m Freestyle, 50m Backstroke.
Gemma Dalby 200m IM.
Kelly Erickson, 13, 50m and 100m Freestyle, 50m and 100m. Backstroke 50m and 100m Breaststroke, 50m Butterfly.
Jessica Fuller, 15, 50m and 100m Breaststroke.
Erin Jennings, 16, 50m and 100m Backstroke.

LETTERS: What if TV's "The Alice" were a shop?
Sir, - Good to see that film and television policy has become a talking point (Alice News, Through the Looking Glass, May 4) and an election issue.
A recent survey (Channel 9, Sunday programme) showed that an overwhelming 90 per cent of Australians believe that the film industry deserves substantially increased government funding. It was one of the most significant results in any of their weekly polls.
The Territory is unique in Australia, and unusual in any country in the developed world, in not having serious funding available for its film and television industry. In last week's budget, a mere $50,000 extra was given to the entire Territory industry. Should the NT Government then have given $330,000 to a NSW TV production company to make "The Alice"?
Allow me to make some predictions: "The Alice" will become one of the most popular shows on Australian television in 2006-7. It will win many Logies for its cast and producers. It will be exciting for many locals to have celebrities in town making a significant national production. And this series will have a bigger and more sustainable impact on domestic tourism to Alice Springs than any previous advertising campaign – that's the nature and power of films and TV programs. What could be better?
Now, take a step back. Imagine that – whatever business you or your friends run, a hotel, a shop, a tour operation –your government's policy is to provide very substantial financial and logistical support to encourage others to come here from interstate to do exactly what your business does. And imagine that your government actively seeks out your biggest overseas competitors and helps cover all their costs to come and work here (even though they don't have proper work visas). Sounds a bit radical? Well, that's exactly what happens in the Territory film and TV industry.
It is ironic that it is precisely because films and TV programs are so uniquely valuable in marketing the Territory nationally and internationally that our government routinely supports interstate and overseas crews and forgets, for this industry alone, its usual priorities of sustainably developing local industries – of putting Territorians first.
If a project like "The Alice" were to be made by a Territory company, and there's no reason why it couldn't be, then 100 per cent of the project would be filmed here, not just 10 or 15 per cent. We'd create, as Viktoria Cormack suggests, an accurate insider's view of our fabulous town. We'd still get all the same benefits – huge promotion, visiting celebrities; in fact one or two of the celebrities might really decide to settle here! And, on top of all that, we'd bring in over $10 million in extra income to the Territory – income that would be re-invested in further film and TV production, that would create further international promotion etc. etc. That's what real investment is all about.If you're aiming for a sustainable, developing economy, it's essential that you enable Territory companies to be the ones who generate wealth from visiting tourists, from our mineral resources and from filming and telling our stories.David Curl
NT President, Australian Cinematographers' Society

Find the dollars, Fran!

Sir,– I address this letter to Mayor Kilgariff:-
If ever there was a time to reconsider, this is it. One year ago you asked for and received Alice's endorsement for another four-year term as Mayor. Now you are asking us to send you to Darwin.
Please hang about and help us find the money to pay for your new Civic Centre. If the cost blow-out I'm hearing of really is to be well in excess of $10m, and perhaps as much as $12m, our grandchildren will be voting before we pay for that thing. What this will do to our rates and to the services Council can offer is not an easy thought.
In fact, from attending the meetings and reading the papers it seems the wheels are beginning to fall off your council's wagon on any number of issues.
I know you have been pre-selected for Greatorex, but have you filed your candidacy papers yet? If it's not too late, please don't.
Let Clare find another glam candidate for Alice. We need you here to complete your term as Mayor.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs


Sir,- Re: Dollars and good deeds photo and caption (Alice News, May 4).I look forward to your paper coming out every week with your sometimes-alternative views. I was very disappointed that a simple caption with a photo was wrong.
Senior Sergeant Craig Ryan, I believe [is owed] a written apology for this police officer has had a long and distinguished career.
P. Walker
Alice Springs
Ed: We apologise to Senior Sergeant Craig Ryan for referring to him as Senior Constable.

Let's look after Ghan visitors

Sir,– I volunteer at the Desert Park when the Gold Kangaroo Class passengers visit.
My job is to drive the Customer Car around the park, as many are unable to walk around and some are only visiting for a short time.
I concentrate on getting through the nocturnal house and back for lunch at Madigans or the coaches, which ever comes first. The passengers leave happy having visited and wishing they had more time.
We have up to 200 people in winter (twice a week).
Now there are at least another 200 non-Gold Kangaroo Class passengers, who are left to find their own way around Alice. I am sure that the shopkeepers, Rex's Reptile Centre and the Royal Flying Doctor Service would like to connect with these people. Everyone would benefit. (There is another train soon.)I have heard the town council are meeting with Great Southern Rail to talk – I hope some good will be done.
The entrance around the train station could be cleaned up and walking made better.I have heard that the town council will not allow signage around the entrance – not a good idea. People need guidance, particularly the elderly.
N. Leybak
Alice Springs

Reunion of fine men

Sir,– The 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment is to hold a National Reunion in Brisbane during the period 3-5 June 2005.
The 40th Anniversary of the formation of our proud battalion is approaching.
The battalion has been deployed and seen service throughout the following periods: Vietnam 1966/67 during which took place the Battle of Long Tan; Vietnam 1969/70; Singapore 1971/73; East Timor 2000; and more recently battalion elements deployed to Iraq.
For information contact the president, Tex Howarth on 07 5498 3245 or email us on or the secretary, Arthur Willemse on on 07 3369 1895 or email
Mark Ingram
6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Association

Heritage icons

Sir,– The National Trust Northern Territory has launched the search for its Cultural Heritage Icons for 2005.
Nominations for an object, event or concept should be made on the forms available from National Trust Branch offices and also libraries and can be downloaded from
The 2004 Icons included the Alice Springs Camel Cup, Henley-on-Todd and Sidney Williams huts which still fulfil a myriad of purposes throughout the Territory.
A 2004 Icons booklet has been sponsored by TIO and will shortly be available through TIO offices and National Trust.
The nominations for 2005 will close on May 20, and the selected 2005 Icons will be announced at the Patron's Dinner on Saturday June 4.
Administrator Ted Egan will head the selection panel and announce the icons at the dinner. The venue is La Beach Restaurant at Cullen Bay and there will be a screen presentation of the icons plus entertainment.Further information or assistance may be obtained via the Northern Territory office at 89812848 or myself.
Jan Hills
President, National Trust, NT

Alice, the good wife? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
I always enjoy attending the Bangtail muster. I admire the people who put in all the work to make it happen and it is great to see the creativity that has gone into decorating and designing so many of the floats.
Maybe we always get there late but this was the first time I noticed politicians at the front of the parade. Particularly Clare Martin in a smart little red sports car.
For many years the drag racing club has been a major presence in the parade and although I'm not into cars I am into opinions. They have got what they've wanted now, $800 000 for a new drag strip. All that noise obviously paid off in the end.
In Sweden the first of May is a big day for the labour unions and the political parties. It is a day for parading, flags, banners and speeches. A day when you can shout out your views about the leaders and issues that you feel strongly about.
Instead of big red flags being carried down the mall, something which may have been just like waving a red rag in front of a bull, the top member of the labour party chose to cruise up the mall in a little red car. The bull followed meekly, balancing precariously on the back of a ute, soon to return to its life in obscurity.
What does it symbolise? How are we supposed to relate to our leaders? Where are the issues and progressive ideas? Or are we supposed to surmise that if we vote Labor we will be able to keep enjoying the Territory lifestyle and drive a cute sports car?
Politicians are not popular in this country and few people with their hearts in the right place and their heads screwed on would aspire to the profession. It is not enough, however, to simply throw your hands up in the air and shrug when it comes to how our lives are run and how our future is mapped out.
We need to take an interest and make sure that we are heard.
It is not an easy proposition to govern and administer a town from 1500 km away and be genuinely interested.
While there are no easy solutions, there seems to be a need to adjust the power balance. It is not enough to fly the masters down here to tell us what to do or to fly people from down here up to Darwin to be told what to do.
In a society aspiring to champion equal rights and opportunities, Alice is still the wife who gets house-keeping money.
She is a good wife who spends the money as she is told to. She has no right to divorce.
Had it not been for the banner-waving suffragettes in the early 20th Century, women may still not have had the vote.
We take an awful lot of our rights for granted, and settle for quiet grumbles of annoyance under our breaths. We should honour the memory of those who fought for our rights and speak up.

The battle against worthless clutter. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Assuming that you don't have to work, public holidays offer the soothing sensation of sinking into a very deep cushion filled with polystyrene beans.
After a while, you lose the traction to be able to lift yourself back out again.
This is how it has been for me during the current public holiday season. Everything seemed to run in slow motion. It was midday before I even thought about what I was going to do with myself and the sun was sinking rapidly by the time I arrived at a rough plan for the day. Oh well, all I could do was to sink a little further in.
I keep telling myself that it doesn't have to be this way. But after the third Monday spent reading chapters from my growing pile of worthy books, pulling couch grass out of my meagre native garden and mooching around my house with a paintbrush in my hand, I start to wonder whether I shouldn't be looking for a little more pizzazz out of life.
So I drag the family off to the clothing bins at the St Vincent de Paul shop. No offence to the Bangtail Muster, which I am sure is a good day out, but my boat isn't floated by, er, floats. Horse racing doesn't quite do it either, so I give Pioneer Park a miss.
Instead, I stand behind the big blue bins trying to tie a knot in an overstuffed plastic bag and then attempting to ram it through a hole slightly larger than the mouthpiece of a flute. Heaving bags into clothing bins would make an entertaining spectator sport to be run along side the Camel Cup which, of course, is next up.
In an ideal world, I would be donating this bag of goodies when the St. Vincent de Paul shop is open. Then I could pass the items to the man behind the counter one-by-one, which is a much more sombre and respectful way to part with the debris of your life to a good cause than pressing it into a bin in a Bi-Lo bag.
All these dressing gowns and paperback books and shirts and soft toys have histories that are my history. They deserve to be held up and pored over for a few seconds before I say goodbye to them.
Never mind. I shed no tears and I don't look back at the big blue bins as I stride across Railway Terrace. Then I head off to the tip shop to rummage through someone else's rubbish and take it home to replace the stuff I just disposed of at St Vincent de Paul.
Before long, I'll have so many former tip shop items that I'll be able to set myself up as competition to the Bowerbird. Then more of those strange Territorian blokes with extravagant facial hair and utility vehicles with shot suspensions will reverse up my drive, dump old tiles on the ground and give me a dollar fifty for my complete underground reticulated watering system.
There's a message in everything. You may have noticed that by now. The message here is that modern life is defined by a constant battle against worthless clutter. It's a battle that I am losing fast.
If I keep giving away clothes on a regular basis and collecting used building materials, it is only a matter of time before every item of clothing that I own will be in the wash, but I'll have plenty of rivergum colourbond fencing sheets stacked up in my bedroom.
The only way to fashion wearable art from them will be to let my mate Dave loose with his angle grinder and his rivet gun.
It's a funny old world and it's getting stranger all the time.

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