June 22, 2005.


Two prominent Alice Springs aldermen, Melanie van Haaren and Murray Stewart, believe it is time for a Central Australian political party in response to the disdain shown by locals in Saturday's election for Labor's Darwin centered agenda.
Ald van Haaren says the small swing to the CLP in two of The Centre's three urban seats - in sharp contrast to the Territory's 12 per cent swing to Labor - was "a clear assertion on behalf of this region that we divorced ourselves from north of the Berrimah Line".
A party based in The Centre would vote in the Assembly with whichever party pursued policies in the interest of Central Australia.
The idea comes as the CLP ­ decimated in the elections ­ is openly discussing whether the Australian Liberal or National parties will get a foothold in the Territory, relegating the CLP to history.
Ald Stewart says Saturday's vote in Alice "was not a pro CLP vote.
"It was a pro Alice Springs, Central Australia vote. It's a simple as that.
"And the ALP should see it as a huge slap in the face to their Darwin agenda.
"From the bones of what is left, here in Central Australia, of the CLP, plus others, in other words all of us here in Central Australia, we should form our own party.
"And I believe there's never been a better time for this.
"There is now a clear divide between the north and the south, and we should take advantage of that.
"We should go back to the core roots of the CLP Bernie Kilgariff formed originally, and that was for Alice Springs and Central Australia to have a voice."
Richard Lim (Greatorex) and Jodeen Carney (Araluen) seem safe to retain their seats, and early this week Michael Jones (Braitling) was three votes behind the incumbent independent Loraine Braham.
Mr Jones is hopeful he will defeat her on postal and absentee votes, with final result likely to be known by Saturday (see reports pages 4 and 5).
Labor seems certain to have failed in achieving its main objective in Alice Springs, getting 'Mayor on leave' Fran Kilgariff over the line, despite an advertising campaign of a magnitude unprecedented in The Centre.
While minders kept Ms Kilgariff away from probing questions, the public was peppered with TV and print advertising, direct mail and phone calls.
And Labor made election promises worth more than $15m to bolster Ms Kilgariff's chances, most of them outside the Budget process completed only days before the election was called.
A gleeful Dr Lim now says he'll make sure the government will honor every promise to the cent.
Aldermen van Haaren and Stewart say even if the CLP recovers from the election debacle, it would have no choice but to compete with Labor for the all important Darwin vote, neglecting Alice Springs.
If the CLP intended to be re-elected under the same structure, Ald Stewart says he would give it this advice: "I think you are in danger of losing the Alice Springs seats because the only way you can possibly do it now is to appeal even more to Darwin.
"For goodness' sake, how can you appeal more to Darwin with the current flow of money already heading in that direction, I'll never know.
"You'd be doing this at your absolute peril. The party would be totally destroyed."
But he says there is now a chance, from the bones of what is left, to continue that independent thrust and voice that were expressed in the election.
Says Ald van Haaren: "The vote demonstrated how the Central Australians have felt let down and alienated by the Labor government.
"There isn't a department within the public sector that hasn't been centralized [in Darwin] over the last two years.
"The sustainability of our regional development is at risk.
"I think that Central Australians have shown that they are not to be seduced by money being thrown at projects.
"What they are interested in is long-term sustainable economic and population growth.
"That's what the vote on Saturday was all about.
"The fact that [Alice Springs] chose to vote back in the people who were well known for their hard work and parochial attitude toward Alice Springs is of enormous significance.
"If we want to be we could be on the cusp of something really different and special, something that could be quite monumental in the history of Central Australia, if not the Northern Territory," says Ald van Haaren.
"The Labor Party is Darwin-centric, there is no doubt about that.
"When you see the dollars spent on a wading pool in the Darwin wharf area, and we get tossed one and a half million for our [hospital's] emergency department, that is bursting at the seams, it's almost insulting.
"The almost puny response to our issues and needs, compared to what's being spent in Darwin, is quite a tragedy.
"Where Labor made its greatest gains is north of the Berrimah Line." Ald van Haaren can be contacted on 0407 383900 and Ald Stewart on 0407 256428.


As Papunya resident and powerful figure Alison Anderson was elected to the Territory's Legislative Assembly on the weekend, new information emerged on the mismanagement of public moneys in the community.
The Papunya Community Council has spent a Federal grant of $138,000 in contravention of its conditions.
The money came in 2002 from the national $1.2b Roads to Recovery (R2R) program which ends this month, and was granted for one street lighting and nine road repair projects.
However, the money was spent on rubbish removal in the community, and work on the dump ­ activities for which the council gets grants from the Northern Territory Government, raising the question what happened with those funds.
Some of the R2R information surfaced in an anonymous letter to the Alice Springs News, making allegations against the former CEO of the Papunya council, Steven Hanley, and his wife, Alison Anderson, who was the CEO before Mr Hanley.
Ms Anderson later became the region's ATSIC commissioner and is now Labor's new MLA for MacDonnell.
The News sought comment from the NT Government by sending a copy of the letter to Local Government Minister John Ah Kit, now retired.
On May 24 the News received the following bizarre answer from a spokesman for Mr Ah Kit: "A large number of statements made in the document from you headed 'More Alison Anderson facts' are potentially defamatory.
"The document will not be dealt with until the potentially defamatory material is removed."
The R2R grant money was paid to the Papunya council in 2002, when Mr Hanley was the CEO, but none of the 10 projects nominated has been completed to date.
The breach of funding conditions was revealed in detail in an investigation by the Alice Springs which has passed the information to NT Senator Nigel Scullion.
He has asked Federal Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads Jim Lloyd to investigate the issues.
Mr Lloyd did not respond to a request for comment.
Federal departments are already investigating allegations against the Papunya council, Mr Hanley and Ms Anderson about funding for the grassing of a football oval, and about money unaccounted for in Papunya's CDEP "jobs for the dole" program funded during Ms Anderson's stint as ATSIC commissioner (see exclusive reports on the Alice Springs News web site).
Papunya's current acting CEO, Peter Vroom, says the contractor engaged for the R2R program, Danny Orr, had submitted a "legitimate bill" which was approved by the council.
"I will not go back and look at this bill," says Mr Vroom.
"I assume he did the work. I will give no further details."
Mr Vroom says the bill was authorised for payment by the council.
Mr Orr says the instructions he received from the Papunya Council were:-
€ grading about 15 km of road;
€ doing a "big clean-up" of rubbish in the community, including moving piles of garbage which appeared to be a health hazard;
€ demolition of two houses sometimes used by petrol sniffers;
€ and work in the rubbish dump.
Mr Orr says workers from his company spent five weeks at Papunya, late in 2002 and early in 2003.
He says the work, for which he charged about $135,000, was done under the supervision of Mr Hanley and the CEO of the Haasts Bluff council.
The detailed R2R application included work to 160 km of roads, some of it repeated over two or three years.
The work is carefully detailed, for example: Papunya community to Ulumbarra outstation, 7km, deep ditches, potholed ­ raise level of road, regrade. Weather damage ­ yearly upgrade x 3. Start date: 17-Feb-02. Completion date: 01-Mar-04. Estimated cost $11,000. Completed: No.
In fact, on the R2R web site all 10 of Papunya's R2R projects carry the comment: "Completed: No."
A spokeswoman for Mr Lloyd says R2R grants are paid directly to the councils, "to operate with simple administrative arrangements with councils at arm's length, and councils controlling project selection and technical standards for work undertaken.
"Councils are not required to tell us whether tenders were called or quotes used.
"There is no requirement under R2R programme for councils to go to tender though councils must comply with State or Territory rules on this."
It is not clear whether compliance with these rules was monitored, and by whom.
The spokeswoman says the department requires "financial acquittal" ­ which was received from the Papunya council in the form of "audited statements of expenditure in an annual report signed by the council CEO, stating that all monies were spent in accordance with the programme guidelines".
But she says the department does not require "formal documentation" of the expenditure and had not received any.
The spokeswoman says: "Ultimately, the Papunya Council is responsible to the local community for its allocation of funds and selection of projects for funding.
"A full list of the R2R projects funded under the R2R programme appears on the Department of Transport and Regional Services website and people can assess for themselves the work that has been undertaken."
The spokeswoman says some 700 local governments around Australia have received grants and 100 ­ not including Papunya ­ were subjected to detailed checks.
These showed the "funds [are] being used well".
The Federal Government's administrative guidelines for the R2R scheme says local government bodies "must advise the Department of opening or completion ceremonies well in advance, generally a month before the event, and should organise joint ceremonies when requested.
"Local Federal Members and / or Senators should be invited to these ceremonies, plus others requested by the Minister. Details of the proposed arrangements, including invitations and order of proceedings, must be sent to the Department well before the event."
The Alice News understands that ceremonies at Papunya marking the completion of the R2R projects are about as likely as its impoverished and semi-literate population logging on to check up on its council on the internet.


Only Alice Springs seems to have held out from a major rout of the CLP in last Saturday's election, apparently unconvinced by Clare Martin's claims for the record of the first Labor government in the NT.
Even multi-million dollar promises in Greatorex and an unprecedented investment in the campaign for Labor candidate Fran Kilgariff has not been able to shift the status quo for Labor in the Territory's second largest population centre.
Sitting member Richard Lim's majority has been reduced by about 6.5 per cent but on Monday, as this paper went to press, he was confident of holding the seat.
"If Labor is claiming victory in Brennan [Denis Burke's seat, formerly the safest CLP seat in the Territory], when it is only 152 votes in front, then I can claim victory in Greatorex with 144 votes in front," said Dr Lim.
Dr Lim said Ms Kilgariff would have to get three-quarters of the postal and absentee votes to nudge him out and he thought this was unlikely.
"If I'm wrong, I'll be happy to apologise."
In 2001 there were around 300 postal and absentee votes and Dr Lim got almost half of the first preferences.
In 1997 the result was much the same.
Dr Lim vowed to hold the government to its promises for the electorate.
"The government threw everything into Greatorex to shore up my opponent's chances. After four years of Labor neglect, the streets of Greatorex are now lined with gold!"
In Araluen sitting member Jodeen Carney, after narrowly beating Labor's Michael Bowden in 2001, has increased her majority with a swing of about four per cent. Labor candidate John Gaynor had neither the time nor the backing to build a public profile in the electorate.
Sitting member in Braitling, independent Loraine Braham, is barely ahead of CLP candidate Michael Jones, who achieved a swing to the CLP of some 5.5 per cent. At the end of Saturday night's two party preferred count, only three votes separated the two.
In 2001 first preference postal and absentee votes favoured Mrs Braham.
In the whole of the Territory Ms Carney and Mr Jones were the only CLP candidates to achieve a positive swing.
Overall these results have slightly strengthened the CLP's hold in Alice, as even Ms Kilgariff's inroads in Greatorex have not offset the gains made in Braitling and Araluen.
However, this is a geographic anomaly as Territory-wide the party is massively weakened by a swing against it of 12 per cent and the likely loss of five seats.
This situation is similar, but in reverse, to that following the CLP's all-time peak in the 1983 election, which saw Labor reduced to a rump of six seats. And it held only seven seats from 1994 until its surprise victory of 2001.
The presence of independents may mean that this term the CLP will hold as few as four seats across the Territory, with possibly only former leader Terry Mills hanging on in the Darwin and Palmerston area.
Labor now holds every bush seat in the Territory, including in Central Australia where it added MacDonnell to its fold.
That sitting member Peter Toyne would hold onto his almost entirely Aboriginal seat of Stuart was a foregone conclusion.
At the end of Saturday's count he was almost 1000 votes ahead of the CLP's Anna Machado.
MacDonnell has small non-Indigenous enclaves in the Alice Springs rural area and at Yulara but is otherwise a predominantly Indigenous seat.
It was convincingly won by controversial candidate Alison Anderson, with a swing of more than 40 per cent.
Sitting member John Elferink says he could not compete with Ms Anderson's cultural and family ties with the electorate: "Blood is thicker than water."
He was significantly ahead of her in the Yirara College booth (157 to 88), which would have recorded most of the urban non-Indigenous vote, while she pulled ahead at Yulara (98 to 83).
Greens candidate Andrew Longmire, resident of Mutitjulu, outpolled both at Yulara with 110 votes.
Ms Anderson's victory spelled the end, for the time being at least, of the presence in the Legislative Assembly of one the Territory's more dynamic politicians, Mr Elferink.
In personal terms the edge has been taken off his defeat by the recent birth of daughter Eleanor.
Mr Elferink says, after clearing out his office on Monday, he will concentrate on home and family while considering his options. Few would be surprised to see him return to public life in some capacity.


Gerry Baddock, the outspoken 85 year old local identity, was incensed that nearby Aboriginal camps received the services of mobile polling, while she and a handful of non-Aboriginal residents had to make their way into town to cast an absentee vote for the redrawn seat of Stuart.
Some of the camps are an easy walk from the town's polling places for the general public on Saturday.
Mobile polling is normally used in the bush where voters are a long way from the normal polling places.
The Electoral Commission not only went to absurd lengths to redraw the urban section of Stuart, but also ­ for the first time ever ­ introduced mobile polling in part of the town.
In a bizarre gerrymander, the redistribution of boundaries deleted an urban area in the Northside, usually CLP friendly, from the first Martin government's only seat in Central Australia, held by Peter Toyne.
But the new boundaries include several Aboriginal camps, noted for being Labor friendly.
To accomplish that, the new boundaries skirt around the eastern edge of the town, excluding suburbs but including Aboriginal town leases.
Mrs Baddock lives on the banks of the Charles River, east of the Stuart Highway, split off the electorate of Braitling.
She says she was not informed that mobile polling would take place on her doorstep, in the Mount Nancy camp.
"Here is a mobile polling booth, going round to perfectly able bodied people, who have great big four wheel drives that never leave the bitumen.
"And yet there are old age pensioners some of whom only have one pair of shoes, a 10 year old coat, no mackintosh, no umbrella, and they will be fined if they don't walk, in the rain, anywhere up to a mile to vote.
"I don't think that's right."
Mrs Baddock says she was told by the Electoral Commission to go into any booth in town, go to the absentee table, and get the ballot paper.
"You fill them out and give then back and they will put them in an envelope.
"No. It's got to go in a ballot box.
"Absentee vote? I'm not absent. I've lived here since June 6, 1960."
Mrs Baddock says she has battled for three and a half years to get illegal campers moved from the creek running past her property.
She says their presence had reduced the value of her land by $110,000.
It wasn't until one month before the election the police came and moved the campers.


Voters were expressing disappointment with Labor or frustration with both major parties when the Alice News conducted an exit poll in Greatorex and Braitling.
Some were also indifferent.
This is what they said. "I voted Richard Lim. I'm sick of Labor in this town." Justin Hewett.
"I voted Greens because of the state of the environment." Toni Carter.
"I voted CLP. They have a better financial policy and record. The ALP always mucks things up." Sarah Atkinson.
"I voted Richard Lim number one. I prefer the Liberal Party although I don't know too much about politics." Cherie McKenzie.
"Lim because of the anti-social behaviour policy. Hopefully we can put a stop to it." Kerry Archibald.
"Green. I've been in the Territory 17 years and I don't see any change with Labor or the CLP. At least if the Greens get a seat there might be a bit of sense in Parliament." Tony Pedersen.
"I voted for Richard Lim. He's got a good track record and he's visible between elections, not just at election time." John Boyle.
"CLP. No particular reason." Man, 29, a resident of Alice Springs for six months.
"I voted for the CLP. I don't think enough happened in the last few years under the ALP. I'm hoping for better things for the Territory and more money for Alice Springs." Man, 46, a resident of Alice Springs for 20 years.
"I just put 1, 2, 3. We're leaving in three months and don't really care." Man, 25, a resident of Alice Springs for two and a half years.
"Labor. We like Fran. We've been here 18 months and she's had a more public profile than the other candidates." Yvonne and Rob Bousfield.
"ALP because it has a better state structure. The CLP appears to be amateur and the Greens just disorganised." Man, 41, a resident of Alice Springs for seven years.
"Labor. Random decision. Probably because Fran has been the mayor and done a good job." Rebecca Hopper.
"I didn't know who to vote for so I just put 1, 2, 3." Woman.
"I voted because I didn't want to be fined. I voted Labor." Christopher Mueller.
"We had to vote because it's compulsory. I voted Labor." Erica Franey.
"I'm a disaffected Labor voter. They've pitched their policies for a racist vote and I'm disappointed with that. So I've voted for the Greens instead." Woman, 46, a resident of Alice Springs for 11 years.
"I voted CLP. I've always been a Labor man but they haven't done a thing here, have they? All the promises they make and we've got the worst debt in any state in Australia." Ron Baker.
"CLP. Why? Well, we have to vote and there's so many issues isn't there?" Man, 49, a resident of Alice Springs for 25 years.
"Greens. I don't think any other parties are saying anything about the environment. I think Fran will get in though." Margaret Carew.
"Liberal. I'd be better off with them. Money was spent in the wrong areas with Labor." David Cantwell.
"I voted because we have to. Which party? The right one!" Man.
"I've always been a Labor person. It makes sense." Woman, 43, a resident for four years.
"I voted Liberal. I'm a traditional Liberal voter." Woman, 38, a resident for nine months.
"I voted for the Greens. They're the only ones who address seriously environmental and social issues." Rowan Churches.
"I voted for Richard Lim. Traditionally, the CLP has done better than Labor for the NT. I prefer Richard Lim, Fran hasn't done much good as mayor." Woman, 47, a resident of Alice Springs for two years.
"I'm a CLP born and bred. I only voted Labor once in my life and we got Bob Hawke in." Murray Pearce.
"I voted for Fran. I think she'll wake us up in Alice Springs." Vi Wilson.
"I voted because we have to. I can't even remember who I voted for." Woman, 33, a resident of Alice Springs all her life.
"I voted for Richard Lim because of his no tolerance policy.
Normally I'm a Labor voter but because of the white elephant on the corner of Todd Street ­ the Council chambers ­ I've changed my mind. It's a waste of money." Robin Crisp.
Still in Greatorex, at the Settlers polling station, the scene was much quieter and in favour of Dr Lim.
"Liberals. I've always voted for them all my life." Phillip Skewes (pictured).
"Richard. He's the best, mate." Roger Watson.
"I'm a member of the CLP party. I've always voted for the conservative party." Jim Luedi.
In Braitling, at the primary school polling station, Loraine Braham was the front runner.
"CLP. Michael took the time to come to our house and talk to us.
He touched on lots of issues that affect us." Man, 34, a resident of Alice Springs for 32 years.
"I voted for Loraine Braham. I think Michael Jones is too young and doesn't have the experience to understand the broad issues.
Sue West, I don't know her. I'm normally probably a Labor supporter but Loraine is highly motivated.
It's good to have an independent voice in Parliament when the Territory is so small. I hope Labor gets through though." Woman, 41, a resident of Alice Springs all her life.
"I prefer to choose independent." Woman.
"The reason I voted was because I had to. I voted for Loraine Braham." Jovi Price.
"The advertising got me to vote for Michael Jones. And his zero tolerance policy." Vince Denichilo.
"ALP. I prefer their policies." Jenny Buckley (pictured).
"I voted for Loraine. I agree with her." Man, 40, a resident of Alice Springs all his life.
"Labor. For no other reason than they're doing a good job in Barkly, where I'm from." Denielle Campbell (pictured).
"Loraine. She's a good lady." Letoya Curtis (pictured). "I'm not politically-minded but I voted Independent. I've had enough of the two major parties." Woman, resident for nearly four years, 39 years old.
"I voted for Mrs Braham. She's been part of this community for years." Veoryl Mellows.
"Liberal. Because of the no tolerance policy. I'm not really happy with their electricity policy though." Ron Drake (pictured below).
"I voted Loraine Braham. I'm quite happy with what she has done here over the years." Woman, 37, a resident of Alice Springs for 13 years.
"CLP. We need a change." Mark and Jane Butler.


Part Three of 'The Heavens Have Turned To Bone', an historical perspective on drought in the Centre by R.G. (Dick) KIMBER. The First Drought after 1866.
(See Parts One & Two in Alice News issues of May 18 & 25.)

In Central Australia over three intensely hot years, 1863 to 1866, the Arrernte and other peoples waited for signs of rain as had the pastoralists on the northern frontier in South Australia. They were not unduly perturbed, for occasionally a shower of rain had fallen, but for them it was still a short-term drought.
Young children were shown how to choose nice, smooth stones to hold in their mouths, as with the adults, to cause them to salivate and ease the pangs of thirst, though mingulpa native tobacco was preferred. Small, narrow stones were avoided for, as with brightly coloured bean-seeds, these could be accidentally swallowed and cause a child to choke to death. The rounded stones were invariably water-tumbled white, grey or green, the colours of clouds and hail, and water and water-moss.
The old people were the first to notice the slight change in their perspiration, the faintest scent from some of the trees, a shininess on some of the leaves as they too "perspired", and the increasing activities of ants. Cloud build-up came, but still there was no rain.
As the atmosphere became more oppressive still, the butcher-birds and certain other meat-eater birds began building nests. The people began to thicken the cover of their wiltja bough shelters with fresh leafy branches, and well-packed spinifex tussocks. Men carefully placed their spears within the outer frame-work of branches so that they were safely secured, or in special positions to draw lightning to them rather than the people.
A wind developed, blew steadily and with it came the dust. Soon it was a mighty, stifling dust. It rolled over the land, mingled high in the air with the grey cloud mass, and the first spatters of rain fell.
The people had already sought their shelters, and in each shelter was food, a water-collecting bowl, a digging stick and digging scoop in case they needed to re-direct a water flow, and a smouldering log and some dry boughs and branches to keep the fire going.
And then the rain poured down in a waterfall of red-mud rain, clearing the dust-storm in an hour, and the lightning boss dance-marched on his way. The sun shone again by the mid-afternoon, but more banks of clouds were developing.
With the first heavy rain-drops those few people who had not already discarded them had taken their smooth stones from their mouths. Some had joyously thrown them outside, into the dust-clearing rain, others placed them on the inside edges of the shelters.
Well over a century later, when a bushfire has swept an old camping area clear, or the grazing and trampling of cattle have caused the soil to erode, some of these smooth stones can still be seen. They strike the eye because they are out of context in the general landscape.
Some are the size of marbles, others closer in size to pigeons' eggs. They may be from the time of the ending of the 1866 drought, or droughts or dry times of centuries earlier, or droughts since that time. The white ones are easiest to spot, but one can never be sure that all are simply stones that were used to alleviate pangs of thirst.
As with all peoples on earth, different shapes, colours, bandings within the rocks and simply the feel of the stones have different appeals or meanings for individuals and for groups. Larger ones may have been convenient stones for throwing at birds. Others may have been used to tell a story. And with some the meanings will never be known.
As the drought broke, creeks and rivers flash-flooded, waterholes filled, frogs instantly emerged in their thousands, within a week tadpoles were to be seen, and the munyeroo and other plants began to flourish.
By the time that the butcher-birds' young had hatched, the parent birds were able to gather yeperenye and other caterpillars as often as they liked, for the land literally crawled with them, and the young birds grew fat. So too did the goannas and all other animals which fed upon the caterpillars. It was a paradise landscape for the Arrernte and all other Central Australian peoples, and remained so for the next seven years.
Into this world rode the first white people after Stuart. Though the first explorers were the ancient ancestors of the Aborigines of that time, these men were brave and determined explorers too.
John Ross led his small party north on horseback, and so good were the waters in 1870 that, after cutting up through the Simpson Desert without great stress, they thought for a time that they were on the Finke River when in fact they were on the southern end of the Todd.
It was John Ross who named it the Todd, but because he turned south to locate Chambers Pillar he did not find the springs or the gap through the ranges that were afterwards named Alice Springs and Heavitree Gap. Those discoveries occurred early in 1871 because of the work of another Overland Telegraph Line surveyor-explorer, W.W. Mills.
The Overland Telegraph Line and its telegraph stations were completed in 1872, with Carl Kraegen perishing of thirst south of the Alice as an early warning of what could befall strangers to the land. Between 1872-1873, up the Finke, Hugh and then the Palmer Rivers, and along and about all of the main ranges and outcrops, rode other explorers like Ernest Giles, Peter Warburton and William Gosse.
They found a land that, if not flowing with milk and honey, had flowing springs and rivers, with green grasses suitable for all kinds of stock, and the possibilities of gold and other precious minerals. The Aborigines, they believed, were doomed to be swept from the face of the earth.
By 1873 Owen Springs station was stocked, and houses, fences and yards were being erected on Undoolya. Within another year more stock were on the move, and others, including the organisers of Hermannsburg Mission, accepted the advice of explorers, who plotted rectangles on the maps wherever waterholes and grass suggested that pastoral properties could be established.
In their minds' collective eye everyone "down South" was seeing the land through rose-coloured glasses, for another short drought had set in even as they planned. It was far worse in northern South Australia, through which area every traveller then had to pass before arrival in the Centre, where better rains had fallen.
The last mob of 500 cattle that drovers got through to the Finke River country was in January-February, 1875. In the next few months small groups of men on horseback, like Frank Gillen's group of the Overland Telegraph Line staff, traversed the country easily enough.
However other drovers, with large and much slower moving mobs of cattle, requiring large amounts of water, lost cattle and some horses through perishing. By mid-year four different parties, with hundreds of horses and cattle, were camped at Dalhousie Springs, virtually on the South Australian-Northern Territory border, unable to proceed further.
NEXT: The rains come.
Select references: Cockburn 1925; Gillen (Ed.) 1995; Scherer 1975; Vamplew (Ed.) 1987.


It doesn't take much rain for people to run for shelter or get out their brolleys, but it will take a lot more than we've had to change our region's severe rainfall deficiency status.
So far this month Alice Springs has received 30.6mm, almost the equivalent of the total for the last 12 months to the beginning of June (36.6mm).
"That's quite a substantial winter rainfall event," says the Bureau of Meteorolgy's Sam Cleland, "especially in the way that it fell, as gentle soaking rain, with follow-up in cloudy conditions. There will have been a lot of soak into the ground."
However, if there's no more rain this month Alice will still be within a record 13 month period of low rainfall.
There are no strong indicators one way or the other for further rain, but "development of a good rainfall band like we've had is a positive sign," says Mr Cleland.
And there's always some response in the landscape to even a small amount of rain. Some ants around town, for example, have stirred themselves to activity, cleaning out their nests, excited apparently by easily-worked soil and the prospect of new food supplies, says head of Alice's CSIRO lab, Margaret Friedel (pictured).
The appearance of the tiny shoots of the aptly named "five-minute grass" got other hungry insects on the move. This grass and others of the "resurrection" plants, such as eight-day grass and woolly cloak ferns, have greened.
Shrubs with their roots close to the surface have also freshened up.
The latest rain should also get a response from broad-leafed herbage such as bogan flea and perennial grasses like buffel grass, says Dr Friedel, but if the rain is followed by cold temperatures the response will slow, while frost would make grass would "hay off".
Response also varies with soil types. Sandy soils will absorb more moisture quickly than hard clay soils and thus nurture more growth. It would take another 25mm to 50mm to produce a spectacular wildflower season as temperatures start to get warmer in August.
And it would take substantial summer rains to really re-establish the perennial grasses necessary for a long-term supply of pasture.
Last week's rain will allow birds to disperse a bit, but more would be needed to get them breeding up.
Honeyeaters would need plants to flower; seed-eaters would need seed to set. And then they'd need time.
Likewise without significant plant production, mammals won't experience much more than a reprieve.
"What we've had will only maintain the existing populations, the ones who have survived through these last very dry 12 months," says Dr Friedel.


Alice Springs' only residential alcohol rehabilitation facility has admitted some allegations published in the Alice Springs News, has given evasive answers to others and has rejected some.
The Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Program Unit (CAAAPU) did not provide the answers to the News but they were obtained by Senator Nigel Scullion through Federal Government sources.
The unit, and its alleged shortcomings, had a significant role in the current NT Election campaign as Labor has announced that habitual drunks must undergo rehabilitation or may go to jail.
The News had obtained information from two reports, and in an interview with a former staff member.
Below are the replies (in part) from CAAAPU obtained by Senator Scullion:-
The article claims that often there are as few as two or three clients:- CAAAPU has an upper limit bed capacity of 17. Client numbers fluctuate depending on referrals and outreach operations.
Between 1 July to 31 October 2004, 55 clients participated in the residential rehabilitation program. 1,272 bed nights were provided [an average of 9.6 bed nights a day.; the facility has a staff of 20].
At least nine clients completed the program. 84 client assessments were conducted, and 10 clients had documented case management plans.
On May 18, 2005, 10 clients were in residence and this has increased to 20 clients as at June 6.
The article claims that the unit has currently no professional staff:- The NT Government and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress provide clinical support to CAAAPU, especially in the areas of mental health counseling and social and emotional well-being.
Two or three members of staff are nearing completion of the Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs.
Five members of staff recently attended suicide prevention training.
The article claims that there is a gap between best practice and real practice:- The board of CAAAPU recognises the need to remain abreast of best practice in the alcohol rehabilitation sector, but also places a high priority on the organisation's philosophy, including abstinence. The board has implemented and will evaluate continuous quality improvement processes.
The article claims that there is only one staff member on duty at night:- There is an onsite carer overnight at CAAAPU, and the Treatment Coordinator is on call for 24 hours a day.
In rehabilitation services such as CAAAPU, clients' absconding over the fence at night is an issue. The service has purchased a breathalyser and has spot checks of rooms. If a client's behavior changes, for example by withdrawing more, and the change may be due to alcohol, then extra effort is put into care plans.
The article claims that 87 per cent of clients are referred from Correctional Services Šhowever 67 per cent abscond:- Most clients are referred and retention rates are linked to the nature of the referring organisation. The Board is negotiating Memorandums of Understanding on service delivery protocols with referring organisations, including the NT Correctional Services.
The service is not a custodial setting. Clients on parole are not locked up, however if they abscond from the service they are in breach of parole conditions.
The board is increasing the emphasis on detailed after-care plans for graduates from the program.
With effective outreach services now a high priority, the number of self-referred clients should increase and this will result in improving the retention of clients. The article claims the unit is handicapped by its abstinence policy:- The board is united in its commitment to the abstinence policy, but admits that it can make recruitment of staff more difficult. The board places priority on combining abstinence with the development of specific educational and promotional materials to promote and encourage the recognition of the cultural and spiritual strengths of Indigenous peoples.
The article claims that the board has rejected a proposal to care for petrol sniffers:-The board has considered providing services for young people under 18 years of age and people using other substances such as petrol.
They have taken a decision against this development on the grounds that staff have neither adequate training nor the capacity and that the infrastructure is insufficient to allow a comprehensive duty of care for all clients, in particular minors.
The article claims the "Living Well" program is banned by the board:- CAAAPU received funding of $26,500 from OATSIH to enhance the resources utilised by the "Living Well" Program. It is understood that this program is on hold pending resolution of intellectual property issues between CAAAPU and those contracted to develop the resources.
No answers have been provided to claims that certain Aboriginal families dominate the unit's board and staffing; that there is practically no follow-up treatment outside the unit but a "revolving door" situation with many clients returning; and that "culture day" outings are poorly organized and lack substance.


The Health Department says it will neither confirm nor deny that an inquiry is under way into the alleged theft of $400,000.
Two staff members are under suspicion of having scammed the money over the past seven to eight months by submitting bogus claims for spending on travel and accommodation, according to a whistleblower who contacted the Alice Springs News.
It has been given the names of two staff members.


Central Australian footballers played against the Tiwi Islands in a curtain raiser to the AFL game between the Western Bulldogs and Carlton in Darwin on Saturday.
The desert team were victorious, scoring 8.25 (73) to 5.8 (38). Admittedly, the Tiwis, being out of season, have not played under match conditions for some months.
From the Centralians' point of view, however, it was a landmark match. The team was truly representative of the region in that a Town versus Country match prior to selection enabled country players to claim a place.
Accuracy was the on-ground factor that stood out. In kicking 8.25, the state of the game was evident from the first quarter when the Centralians could not stitch the game up by booting 1.9 to 1.1. From there the goals did come, and the victory was ensured.
The senior players in the side were dominant. Kevin Bruce's effort was complemented by fellow West player Mark Bramley. The ever-reliable Graeme Smith again proved his worth.
In front of the sticks, Gilbert Fishook was able to manage three goals and Franklin Anderson two. Darryl Lowe, Lloyd Stockman and Andrew Wesley were others to provide winning drive.
The game and win were also important for the development of Australian Rules within the Territory.
For two regional sides to play at league head quarters and in front of a capital city crowd was an opportunity to press home the fact that the game is alive and well outside of Darwin, and that it is from the regional centres that NTFL sides can recruit and nurture players of the future.
Once this process is more broadly adopted the standard and support across the Territory for NTFL will be nurtured.
On the home front Country football became the focus at Traeger Park, with Southern AP playing Plenty Highway and winning 23.12 (150) to 9.11 (65). Brenton Forrester and Leroy Churchill dominated in the game producing eight and six goals respectively.
Robert Shilling, Lawrence Turner , Anthony Smith and Amos Frank were prominent contributors.
In the Plenty Highway camp James Drover produced six goals while best players were Jason Fishook, Ronnie Williams, Clifford Tilmouth and David Bird.
The main game of the day was the clash between the Yuendumu Magpies and Ti Tree Roosters. Yuendumu who have not played such a dominating role in the competition this year hit their straps against the Roosters and recorded a 19.10 (124) to 12.7 (79) win.
Wilson Walker and Herman Sampson enjoyed life in the forward line with seven goals each.
But downfield it was Garth Spencer, Keith Williams and Elton Granites who set up play.
In the TiTree camp Kenny Morton, Francis Pepperill and Edwin Cook played well.
The CAFL season is now at the half way mark with West and South again looking to lead the way into the finals, while Pioneer and Federal will make up the four.
This weekend the two league leaders will face each other while Pioneer will have a game against Rovers.


The Anniversary meeting at Pioneer Park on Saturday was a chance for Centralians to wish local horse and connections farewell and good luck in heading to Darwin for the Cup Carnival. The five event card was indicative of the depth of racing in the Centre, with five trainers responsible for the five winners on the card.
In addition, Kevin Lamprecht and Nev Connor, who have already settled in the Top End, each trained a double at Fanny Bay.
Lamprecht saddled up Desert Reef in a 1300 metre Class Two event, with champion hoop David Bates on board. Desert Reef duly took the money after starting at $10, winning by three quarters of a length.
Bates then teamed up with Lamprecht on Kappa again over 1300 metres in a Class Five for Three Year Olds. In the straight Kappa took all before it to score by an impressive four and a quarter lengths.
Nev Connor has something of a reputation for sneaking up to Darwin early and picking up some valuable booty. This year he again seems to be on track.
In the 1600 metre AHA Handicap he had Bright Vision stride to the line with Steve Ridler on board, a winner by three and three quarter lengths. Then, in the last Connor again celebrated when Ridler was able to boot Celtic Dane home by a length and a quarter.
On the local front Viv Oldfield opened proceedings when Sirraja recorded a second win in a row after the gelding took out the Lizzie Milnes Three Year Old Class Three Handicap.
Sandover took second place and Dancing Scerne filled the placings.
In the Qantas Class B Handicap over the 1000 metre dash, Ken Rogerson, a new comer to Pioneer Park, on former South Australian performer Le Niska, enjoyed victory by a length from Litigious, with Cheesecake in third place.
Jockey Kym Gladwin then buttered up with a riding double by booting well supported Sweet Chicago home in the 1100 metre Tooheys Extra Dry Class Three. Gladwin pumped the Vince Maloney trained three year old filly to the line two lengths in advance of the favourite Spicy Sound, with Regal Rose nine lengths away in third spot.
The Les Loy Memorial Handicap was a 1200 metre Class Five event. Zylvester is trained by Sheila Arnold and hails from Queensland. The five year old gelding was backed into even money favouritism and ran accordingly. It recorded a win by a length and three quarters lengths over Bel de Farro, with Prince Paree well back in third place.
The last of the day, the Sportingbet Australia Handicap over 1400 metres, was taken out by Nigel Moody when he saddled up Bevan with Ben Cornell on board. The $2.50 favourite was able to go to the line two and three quarter lengths ahead of Coniston Way, with Here's Me Mate filling the placings.

Darwin, what is it for? COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

I was eating a bowl of muesli at dawn on a Sunday in a Darwin hotel.
It was a strange trip because Darwin seemed like some outpost of an alien country. Nobody understood what I was saying to them and I needed three showers a day in mid-winter. I'll write about this some other time. I was relieved to make it out of there, I can tell you.
Anyway, I was chewing muesli in the breakfast room while avoiding eye contact with other guests in case someone struck up an unwelcome conversation about the State of Origin. When I had finished eating, the staff gave me a form that invited me to rate the breakfast cereal.
Look, muesli is rabbit food for humans in the same way that fruit juice is fruity or prunes make you regular. That's how I expect muesli to be and that's why I like it. I can say no more. Do me a favour, it's early in the morning and I have a soccer match to watch.
There wasn't space on the form for me to write all of this. In fact, there was room on the dotted line for two words, so I agonised over whether to write "Look, muesli ...", "rabbit food", "soccer match" or "make regular". It was all too hard so I just ticked a box that said 'above average'.
The process of giving feedback now permeates every part of our lives. As a result, the invitation to "Tell us what you think and win a trip to the Canadian Rockies" is one that I find increasingly less tempting when offered by hotels, shops, airlines and other service providers who ought to know better than to ask short-tempered people for a multiple choice opinion.
At any rate, evaluation would be a better way to describe it, but the marketing industry protects consumers from words of more than eight letters, so feedback is the one we use.
After my experience at breakfast, I decided to be more positive about giving feedback. After all, completing a form beats whinging to your navel. So in a spirit of reflection, I made a plan to evaluate Darwin itself and write comments in my notebook so I could read them later.
To allow time, I set off for the airport nice and early. The bus rumbled through the suburbs while repeated posters of the NT Election candidates flew past the windows. It was like the heads of the pollies themselves had been impaled on garden stakes from Bunnings Warehouse and stuck behind the fence of every house. In the Alice, we don't do that because the ground is too hard. We use lampposts and trees instead. Interesting, isn't it?
The posters of Minister Burns verged on the scary. He had the expression of someone who had just experienced a bucket of warm wallpaper paste poured down the back of his trousers. His manic visage flashed past the window of the bus every few seconds. Someone in the suburbs must like him but if a small child had been travelling with me, I would have covered her eyes.
At the airport, I put my shoes through the x-ray machine on a cat litter tray provided for the purpose and settled down in a plastic chair. Then I realised that I couldn't evaluate Darwin because I don't know what it's for.
In the case of muesli, it has a purpose that I understand, but for Darwin, I was stumped. Is it a drinking-hole for backpackers with funny accents, a place where policies are sent south, a provider of a never-ending summer for people who should be working, a curtain-twitcher's paradise or something else?
Feeling morose, I went back to the Alice.

After the poll, what counts? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

I feel like Cinderella after the wicked step sisters have torn her pretty dress: I don't believe in anything anymore. That is what superficial, mudslinging, power-focused election campaigns do to me. I'm relieved it is over.
Some of us might be celebrating but a lot of us are disappointed with the outcome and lack of progress. What is new? What has actually been achieved? Is the system ever going to improve?
It makes me depressed to think about the situation and I would rather just enjoy the sound and smell of rain, and try to work on my personal growth.
A friend of mine pointed out that not having enough money is character building, a comforting thought. Another friend, when I asked him how work was going, told me it was good for his personal growth.
Maybe the disappointment and despondency I'm feeling with our system at the moment will lead to personal growth. The rain certainly helps.
This wet weather has made me think of my childhood. My daughter was commenting on how lovely rain smelt when it occurred to me it that I had not noticed that special smell until I came to live in a dry climate. It was always wet where I grew up.
A drought was 30 days without rain! It is good to keep a perspective on things. At least we are allowed to voice our frustrations and vote.
When I was in my senior year in high-school, the Berlin Wall crumbled. In our social studies class we were doing contemporary history and before our very eyes
The Cold War came to an end. This was a big thing in itself but our social science teacher, who had fled Eastern Europe when he was our age, was able to return home for the first time in 20 years. The impossible happened and Spring returned to Europe. It is so easy to focus on the negative and overlook the good things in our lives, or to dismiss even the possibility of a change for the better. Just like teenagers we may find our existence swamped with problems. Self-image, confidence, resources.
Too much of the input we get from the media is negative. We get bogged down with not only our personal difficulties but those of the world.
It is important to take notice of the happy moments in our lives, to snap away and immortalize the good bits, so that when we look back through the pages of our photo album we can savour those memories.
I planted some sweet pea seeds just before a shower and my three year old helped me. A little while later, after I had returned inside, he was out there again turning over the soil and digging it up and putting it in his wheel-barrow. Hopefully he missed some of the seeds.
Progress is a bit like that, well intentioned, but slow and requiring plenty of patience.
Why bother planting seeds in the first place? Why worry about watering and fertilizing when the first shoots might be trampled on or dug up? Why worry about growing? Maybe just for the possibility of the smell of rain and the scent of sweet peas.

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