July 6, 2005.


The Federal government needs to spend more money before it can expect improvements in Aboriginal living standards.
And if it seeks to use its control over the Senate, which started last Friday, to make changes to the Land Rights Act without proper consultation "they will be in strife".
That's the view of Labor's Warren Snowdon, Member for Lingiari, which covers 1,347,849 square kilometers, or 99.98 per cent of the Northern Territory, all except for Darwin and Palmerston.
In addition he looks after Christmas Island and Cocos Islands 3700 km from Darwin.
It is the second largest electorate in Australia in terms of land area, and likely to be the world's largest in terms of distances.
According to the 2001 Census, 36.6 per cent of Lingiari's population is of Indigenous origin, by far the highest in the country.
The seat was created in 2001. Prior to that all of the Territory was a single House of Representative electorate.
Mr Snowdon held it from 1987 to 1996 and from 1998 until 2001 when Darwin became the seat of Solomon.
When not in Parliament he worked for the Central Land Council as a consultant. He belongs to a left faction of the ALP.
Mr Snowdon holds Lingiari with a margin of 7.7 per cent, with overwhelming support in the bush.
Alice Springs had a swing to the Country Liberal Party in last month's Territory election, despite a Labor landslide in Darwin, but Mr Snowdon says in the 2004 Federal election "we had a slight majority of all the votes cast in the town area including the hospital, the jail and mobile booths".
He spoke to Alice Springs News editor ERWIN CHLANDA on July 1.
NEWS: The Federal Coalition Government has said many times it can't fix the catastrophic situation of Aboriginal people because any initiatives would be scuttled in the Senate by Labor with the support of minor parties.
Now the Coalition no longer needs to worry about that obstacle, and can no longer use it as an excuse for inaction. For example, will the Federal Government change the Land Rights Act now? SNOWDON: I think there still is an obstacle. I think there is a fundamental requirement for them, if they were to change the Land Rights Act, to have the consent of the people who own the land. They have a moral obligation to do so.
If they think they can just impose their views they would be very badly advised.
NEWS: What would happen?
SNOWDON: There would be people reacting negatively towards them.
NEWS: What would they do?
SNOWDON: I don't know. There are now no institutional structures to represent Indigenous interests of the kind ATSIC was, apart from the land councils, which are not set up to be political organizations.
NEWS: Members of Parliament represent Aborigines, of course.
SNOWDON: I represent all the people of Lingiari, regardless of who they are and whether they live in town or in the bush. But at the end of the day, if the Government chooses to push for legislation, it won't matter what I say or do, they'll get the legislation through.
NEWS: What do you think will be the effects on Lingiari specifically of the changes the Federal government will bring in?
SNOWDON: It will depend on how the government chooses to behave.
There is great concern that they might abuse the power they have and impact on the lives of all Australians.
If they are keen to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, if they're smart they will negotiate. If they seek to impose their view I think they will be in strife.
I think they need to look very seriously at the things I've been arguing the last 10 years address the poor infrastructure across the bush.
NEWS: It appears not only the land councils but other Aboriginal organizations will come under scrutiny.
Some of them have been around for 30 years while the misery of many Aborigines is unabated.
SNOWDON: The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Tangentyere Council, and eventually the land council, which was set up prior to the Land Rights Act, were initiatives from the local community.
Aboriginal people, at the grass roots level, combined to address what they believed to be a need. By most criteria they have been most successful in achieving what has been set out in their charters.
NEWS: How would you measure that success?
SNOWDON: I wasn't here but there was a report given to [Health Minister Tony] Abbott the other day here which demonstrated the improvement of Aboriginal health here in Central Australia, directly attributable to the primary health care delivered by Congress. No question about that.
There is no question that the land council is very successful in its primary objective to claim land back for Aboriginal people, under the Land Rights Act, and the Native Title Act.
In addition, they have negotiated large numbers of agreements with mining companies on Aboriginal land.
NEWS: The land claim process was successful but the same can't be said for subsequent economic development on Aboriginal land.
SNOWDON: For the first 20 odd years of the land councils' existence they were under severe attack from conservatives, notably the CLP in the Territory, trying to undermine their existence and to amend the Land Rights Act to take away their rights to protect the interests of Aboriginal people.
The land councils' primary function has been directly related to acquiring land and negotiating conditions for people to access that land. In the mid-nineties they set up land management structures within the organization to provide advice and assistance to people to manage land, including pastoral lands, in terms of environmental issues, and where appropriate, to develop commercial opportunities.
NEWS: In Central Australia that has been an abysmal failure.
SNOWDON: No, it hasn't. The primary issue now, and I know that's what Aboriginal people are thinking about, is how to marry the two objectives, to get capacity to get commercial enterprises, where appropriate, as well as manage the land for its cultural and spiritual integrity.
NEWS: Is July 1 D Day for a new era or just another day?
SNOWDON: I think hopefully it's just another day. The bottom line from my perspective is responsible government and not a government that abuses its power.
NEWS: In Central Australia the misery of many Aboriginal people has not abated in the last 30 years. There has been zero economic progress in the bush. Doesn't the government have an obligation to finally act?
SNOWDON: I've said this repeatedly to you, unless the government gets their hand into their own pocket, and starts to spend the money where it needs to be spent, and starts to address the issues of poverty, nothing will change. This means providing resources for education, employment and infrastructure development, by agreement and in partnership with the indigenous communities.
NEWS: The official unemployment rate in Lingiari is eight per cent. If you take in the CDEP "jobs for the dole" participants the actual unemployment is 25 per cent. That makes us the basket case of the nation.
SNOWDON: I disagree. People in CDEP by definition pass the work test. That has been the case ever since CDEP was introduced.
NEWS: How many of these people have joined the mainstream workforce in the 30 years of CDEP?
SNOWDON: I don't have any idea. The labor markets in those small communities need to be properly understood and they are not. Having a CDEP job is better than having no job at all and getting sitdown money.
NEWS: Is that good enough?
SNOWDON: There has been a failure, here particularly, by the Territory governments to put in the infrastructure to address people's need for education.
The fundamental objective here is to address issues of poverty. As a result of four years of Labor we have only a start of secondary schooling in the bush.
NEWS: Is the town of Alice Springs a white island of conservative politics in an ocean of black Labor voters?
SNOWDON: In the last Federal election Alice Springs voted Labor for the first time. It's not true to say there is a conservative pocket in Alice Springs while the rest of Lingiari is Labor. There are some people who deliberately change their vote between Territory and Federal elections.
NEWS: Why?
SNOWDON: I think because they want balance.
In my case, I've been around for 18 years, clearly as the incumbent I have an advantage.
But at the end of the day, unless we do exit polling, it's speculation.


New Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney is unrepentant about claiming the Alice Springs hospital is "reckless and negligent by continually playing down the magnitude of the perilous" state of its health care, citing information later found to be wrong.
She made the claims on Monday last week the day she was elevated to the leadership based on a front page story in the Australian newspaper.
Her charge was echoed by Richard Lim, the CLP spokesman on health who became Party Whip.
Using information from the Australian Council on Health Standards (ACHS), the newspaper concluded wrongly that the Alice Springs and Tennant Creek hospitals are among the 26 worst in Australia, from a sample of 640.
However, ACHS spokeswoman Megan Taylor told the Alice Springs News: "From what is publicly available from the Australian Council on Health Standards I wouldn't draw that conclusion because there isn't sufficient information available about the specific organizations to make that conclusion."
We asked Ms Taylor: "Has the ACHS made other information available to Dr Lim and Ms Carney?"
She said: "No, we definitely haven't."
"Could what you put out into the public arena invite the conclusion drawn by Ms Carney?"
"I don't think it would be an appropriate conclusion to make based on what was available through the ACHS," said Ms Taylor.
Explains Ms Carney: "We took the story for what it was, by a well respected newspaper.
"But secondly, there have been concerns about the Alice Springs Hospital. There were about 27 government reports and only one has become available, because it fell off somebody's truck [it was published in the Alice Springs News].
"They detailed a litany of faults."
Ms Carney said it was clear the hospital had been given a "high priority rating" by the ACHS, suggesting an urgent need to fix problems, but she admitted that she had no knowledge of which problems out of 43 possible categories had been identified by the ACHS.
She says: "Based on what we know about the Alice Springs Hospital it's not unreasonable to assume that the hospital has a high priority rating.
"We know legal proceedings are being contemplated [against the builders]. Staff are ringing me on the quiet telling me they are particularly worried about the building and they are fearing for the safety of their patients."
Ms Carney said a former employee of the Department of Industries had also told her that "he was very concerned about the safety of patients".


When is a story a story? Don't ask, is the answer from the police.
Two weeks ago we broke the story of a major theft in the Health Department, following a tip-off from a whistleblower.
It took us 10 days to get confirmation from the police and the department.
For this week's edition we wanted to know when the department first reported the alleged crime to the police.
No answer neither from the police nor from the Health Department.
It was a reasonable question: as the amount of money missing is reported to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and as such yet another major embarrassment for the Health Department, was the matter kept quiet until the election was over?
Day after day the police emails us media releases about the most trivial events.
A few samples:-
June 2 a tourist coach was broken into.
May 30 the Anglican Church Rectory was broken into and a small amount of food and cash stolen.
May 24 Sports Bar the cash drawer containing a quantity of cash was stolen.
May 24 theft of a bore pump motor from a nature reserve south-west of Alice Springs. Value $4000.
May 23 Pad Thai Restaurant in Lindsay Avenue a quantity of cash stolen.
May 23 Baby Bump in the Springs Plaza quantity of coins stolen.
May 23 Central Tattooing nose studs valued at $500 and a quantity of cash stolen.
And so on.
We asked the police if these events are worthy of a media release, how come the alleged fraud in Health Department is not, apparently involving an amount hundreds of times bigger than some of the matters above?
How are decisions made on which offences warrant media releases and which don't? Who makes those decisions and on what grounds?
Here's the reply: "The releases you refer to relate to unlawful entries, where police are appealing for the public's assistance to solve the matter.
"The matter you refer to is currently under police investigation and the facts are being investigated by police.
"Until those facts are established, police are not in a position to make further public comment other than the matter is under investigation.
"Police take all investigations seriously, and the issue of who or what agency is involved is completely irrelevant to how an investigation is dealt with."
We asked how come police are not seeking the public's assistance with clearing up the alleged Health Department heist?
You guessed it. No answer.


"Today there are lots of people living in this country, people who have come from all over the world. We don't call them foreigners. We don't ask, Where's your country? Where's your father from?
"They have been born here. Their mother's blood is in this country. This is their country too now.
"So, all of us have to live together. We have to look after each other. We have to share this country. And this means respecting each other's laws and culture. We have to work out a way of sharing this country.
"But there has to be an understanding of, and respect of our culture and law."
W. Rubuntja Pengarte AM, who spoke these words in 1988, had a gift for expressing the ideals of reconciliation between black and white Australians.
With his peaceful death on Sunday night following a long illness, Australia lost one of its greatest Aboriginal ambassadors, spokesmen and champions of reconciliation.
Mr Rubuntja was born in the mid-twenties at Burt Creek near Alice Springs.
His contribution to national public life was outstanding and he was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1995.
Beginning in the 1970s, he led the struggle for land rights, reconciliation and the protection of sacred sites for decades.
An Arrernte man, Mr Rubuntja fought especially hard for the rights of his fellow town campers in the town in which they had been relegated to the fringes. After 1000 people marched for land rights in Alice Springs in March 1976, Mr Rubuntja travelled the country canvassing support for the cause, culminating in a meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.
He subsequently met every Australian Prime Minister, as well as the late Pope and Queen Elizabeth II. He also met with most of Australia's Governor Generals.
He was especially fond of quipping about these meetings and embellishing the stories as time passed.
As Chairman of the Central Land Council between 1976-80 and again in 1985-1988, Mr Rubuntja was a powerful participant in high level negotiations which delivered significant outcomes to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory.
As well as leading organisations like the Central Land Council, Tangentyere Council and Yipirinya School, Mr Rubuntja was also a board member of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority and the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
He was a painter in both watercolour and acrylic of considerable renown and his paintings are in the National Gallery of Australia and the Robert Holmes a Court collection as well as the Northern Territory Gallery and the Araluen Collection in Alice Springs.
Deeply inspired by his uncle, Albert Namatjira, his distinctive and dramatic watercolour landscapes have become a benchmark of that style.
Mr Rubuntja was known for his off-beat wit and wisdom which could initially appear somewhat enigmatic. On reflection it often revealed itself to be a clever play on words or a cryptic comment on the state of play.
His optimistic and inclusive view of the world have helped make Alice Springs a better place.


For the first time federal and state tourism authorities and regional tourism groups, under the umbrella of Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA), will unite to present a single Outback as a tourist destination.
The plan has responded to the soaring popularity of drive-yourself touring, says DKA coordinator Mike Crowe.
"For a long time there have been five or more Outbacks' promoted in Australia by the various states and regions when, from the visitor's perspective, there's really only one.
"Each state or territory has promoted its own Outback, which stops at the border. There has not been a co-ordinated approach across borders, or to handing visitors smoothly from one great experience to the next.
"We've been competing among ourselves instead of trying to maximise the Outback experience for all visitors."
Now, a whole-of-Outback plan will bring together areas such as Kalgoorlie, Mt Isa, Alice Springs, Spencer Gulf and Broken Hill.
Federal Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Fran Bailey, backs the plan, encouraging all tourism bodies to support the initiative.
Stewart Moore, managing director of Sustainable Tourism Services, says it is an idea whose time has truly come.
"The grey nomads have opened our eyes to the huge opportunities for tourist routes that criss-cross the heart of the continent.
"They've been joined by the young adventurers, the seekers of desert culture, the family 4WD-ers and the international sleeper-van set.
"They are now cruising routes like the Savannah Way from the Kimberley to the Gulf, the Explorer Way from Darwin to Adelaide, the Nullarbor and the proposed new Outback Highway from Warburton in WA, to Winton in Queensland.
"It's up to the tourism industries of all these states and region to make sure that services are of a uniform high quality, the experience as varied, smooth, safe and enjoyable as possible."
DKA's Cross-Border Tourism Project is expected to open up many fresh Outback tourism opportunities, Mr Moore says. Other continent-spanning trails under discussion include a National Bush Tucker Tour, an Outback Pub Crawl, a tour of desert golf courses and an Aboriginal arts and Outback culture trail.
"It is also about tourism businesses working together, sharing ideas, handing on visitors, pooling resources, creating new ventures and keeping costs down by collective tenders for insurance and other services.
"It's about finding business partners, not just in your local region, but in the next state, or even on the other side of the continent."
Rapid advances in Outback communications phone, email, video-link and the web - have made it possible for businesses to work together in real time even when they are located thousands of kilometres apart, and many are now taking advantage of it, Mr Moore says.


A large number of Alice Springs men and women over 50 are expected to turn out for the University of the Third Age s enrolment day next Wednesday (2pm at Senior Cits). The University of the Third Age (U3A) is the internationally adopted title to describe groups of people who join together to experience the joy of learning.
Founded in France in 1973 to improve the quality of life for older people, the success of the experiment spread rapidly to other countries and came to Australia in 1985.
The term third age' indicates the age of retirement, following the first age of childhood and adolescence and the second age of vocational employment.
U3A embraces all kinds of knowledge but offers no degrees or diplomas, nor do you need qualifications to join. Alice Springs' U3A was established in early 2005 with the help of the town council and so far has offered courses in art, computer studies, craft, and language, to name just a few. Occasional activities have ranged from various guided tours around town to talks by a variety of people including Alice Springs historian Dick Kimber.
Other activities include a chat group, a book club, games afternoons, a writing workshop, a choral group, swimming, quilting, fitness classes and nature walks.
New activities and courses are always being discussed and planned to meet the interests of U3A members. For example a recent occasional activity was making bricks from old newspapers.
U3A participants had a grand time tearing up newspapers, putting the pieces in buckets of water and then placing them in a rectangular mould to dry out and become bricks.'
Later this month a talk by a cast member of the Bell Shakespeare Theatre Company is planned.
The Bell Shakespeare Theatre Company is presenting The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Araluen in early August.
For more information call 8950 0530.


"There's never a repeat performance, the sky sees to that," says Laksar Burra, chief guide of the Spirit of the Night Sky tour, which opened recently on the site of the former Chateau Hornsby winery.
When I experienced the tour the night was thick with cloud and the scent of earth moistened by the occasional sprinkle of rain.
But the cloud of course moved and allowed a continuous unfolding, of Sirius the Dog Star, the Southern Cross, the False Cross, the tail of the Scorpion in the east, Omega Centauri dense with a million stars which we viewed through a telescope together with Jupiter and its four Gallilean moons, and parts of the Milky Way.
The cloud inspired Laksar to tell a story about an emu and a brolga dancing under the clouds beside a great salt lake. The story, which tells how the emu lost his flight wings, is derived from a Top End Aboriginal story to which Laksar adds his own touches, including some impressive passages of jazz-style singing.
Then, as the cloud parted in various sections of the sky, Laksar responded, able to pinpoint different stars and draw constellations with a laser beam, one small boy asking with hushed awe, "Is he really touching the stars?"
There was science, especially in relation to orienting yourself and knowing where to look for what, and there was lore, not only the Zodiac, which we inherit from Greek mythology, but also various Indigenous understandings of the night sky.
This was the aspect of the show that I found the most fascinating: the revelation that several Indigenous peoples from around the world have had similar interpretive responses to the stars.
Take the Pleiades, for example, which we now see before sunrise, generally visible in the present time as six stars, rarely as seven.
Yet in several Indigenous traditions in Africa, Europe, North America and Australia the Pleiades are represented by a story of seven maidens or sisters.
The story also usually involves a male pursuer, representing the constellation we know as Orion the Hunter, which is near the Pleiades. And there can be other elements in common.
A Pitjantjatjara story involves a hunter who gives chase to seven beautiful sisters who don't want him because he is ugly. He is still chasing them to this day.
An African story has seven maidens out looking for food on a hot, dry and dusty day. They come to a waterhole and take off their robes for a swim.
A herdsman sees them and takes the robe of the youngest and most beautiful. The other six put on their robes and return to the night sky.
The youngest maiden agrees to stay with the herdsman on condition that he never looks inside a small clay pot that she has with her. One day when she's out he gives in to temptation and looks inside only to find it empty. His wife's intuition tells her that he has broken her condition and taking her robe she returns to the night sky.
In an Indonesian story from Kalimantan, seven maidens also descend from the sky and this time a forester manages to grab hold of the youngest. He's handsome and she agrees to stay on condition he never looks inside her rice cooking pot. He notices that her store of rice never diminishes and when she goes out one day, he looks inside and is astonished to find only one grain of rice.
This dimension of the show is developing all the time, as Laksar uncovers more stories.
"My interest is not in intruding into Indigenous cultures, but to stand in wonder at their many similarities as well as their diversities," he says.
"Sirius, which we know as The Dog Star, is represented in many cultures as a dog or a wolf, and in Australia it is sometimes seen as a dingo.
"The Milky Way is seen to be a river or pathway.
"The night sky is a magnificent story book."
He says he had never really looked up until he came to Central Australia 11 years ago to join his wife Arifah, who was working as an adult educator at Mutitjulu.
In other parts of the world where he has lived and travelled light and industrial pollution mean that much of what can be seen, especially during the Centre's crystal clear winters, is not visible.
Working as a tour guide on the Ayers Rock Resort's Sounds of Silence tour, Laksar began by pointing out the Southern Cross and a few other stars during a half-hour talk over dinner.
But, as Arifah says, "Once you start looking up, you get hooked, the sky drags you in endlessly, it's so fascinating." "So many people have never seen the stars. We get scientists and astronomers who are amazed when they see clear skies and hear some of our star lore stories." As Laksar went along, apart from the intrigue of the science and the stories, he also discovered his enjoyment of performing.
And he says that sharing what he's learnt often responds to people's deep yearnings.
"I have seen some people look up and start to cry.
"The night sky is one of the few things left in our world that belongs to everyone there's no title on it yet and it stimulates in people a freedom of spirit, enabling us to rise above everyday life and prejudices.
"There's a North Indian story in which a sage asks, When does night end?'
"One of his disciples suggests it ends at dawn.
"A second disciple says it ends when the first shimmer of light reveals the palm trees bending in the breeze.
"Another, when the first streaks of light touch the snow at the top of the Himalayas.
"But sage says, No, it is when two travellers from opposite sides of the world meet and realise that they sleep under the same sky, see the same stars and dream the same dreams. That's when night ends and dawn begins."


In English country shows we have cheese rolling competitions, pancake races and even running-with-a-pram contests but never pig diving competitions.
Watching the pig diving and racing display at the Alice Springs Show was a highlight of the wonderfully Australian day I enjoyed on Friday.
Hearing Advance Australia Fair being sung loudly and proudly at the grand opening, eating my first chikko roll bought from one of the stands at the fairground, and browsing around stalls from the RM Williams' saloon to the Royal Flying Doctors fundraising stand made for a true Aussie experience.
Plus of course, seeing all the entries into the Beaut Ute competition proudly driving by in the Grand Parade.
I was fascinated by the traditional attractions like the cattle competition and thrilled to see real live stockmen wandering around in their checked shirts and tall hats.
And the displays in the Rumball Hall of colourful fresh produce, delicate cakes and bush tucker were far too tempting to be kept from a hungry mouth. I saw a beautifully original wedding cake, with love hearts and ribbons exploding from the centre, and a lovely colourful iced butterfly.
The fruit and veg looked (and smelt) delicious rows of oranges, giant pumpkins and green lettuces lined up next to speckled eggs and yummy-looking honey. And it made me laugh to see the bottles of entries into the Best Brewed Beverage competition only in Australia!
There were lots of local sports group with stalls to raise funds, like the Pistol Club, and Offroad Race Club, and several charities and museums had stands, like the Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame and the Red Cross.
The quality of the images entered into the photographic competition was outstanding, and the range of entries on display in the craft section kept me busy for ages, looking at everything from a creation made up from plastic dolls to a lovingly-crafted woollen hat.
And having grown up listening to Punch and Judy on green lawns at village fetes (well, being forced to actually my dad always enjoyed the shows more than me), it was quite surreal to hear that familiar Mr Punch voice in the middle of red-dusty Central Australia.
I've heard that it's a show in decline apparently it's getting harder to find volunteers each year but I really hope the community doesn't let this fantastic Australian institution disappear.
Any show that has a competition for best home-brewed beverage is all right with me.
PICTURED far left on p 8: The Champion Showjumper for 2005, Kate Averay, 13, on Wellcanya, looks for the next jump in the second round of the 75cm showjumping competition.
P 8 middle: Ian Dahlenburg, the judge at the Alice Show for the produce competition, with Michaela Ishwar, 10, and brother Johanan, 7, next to the biggest pumpkin at the show it weighed 70kg! "The grower from Darwin didn't want the pumpkin to be judged," explained Ian. "It's more of a novelty pumpkin, used for cattle feed and not for eating.
"We had some good pumpkin entries this year. The one I chose to win was of good appearance and colour and was polished.
"Over the past five years entries have built up and we're getting quite a few more from communities. It's good to see youngsters sending in entries as well.
"The quality of the lettuces was the thing that impressed me most this year. The lengths are consistent, and the leaves are glossy and green."
Above: Dick Cadzow from Mount Riddick station, 200kms north-east of Alice, shows off his Champion Bull of the show, in the grand parade a Hereford bull aged 21 months. Because of the recent drought, entries into the cattle competition were depleted and the cattle sale had to be cancelled altogether.
But although numbers were low, the quality of entries was impressive.
The judge, Steve Crowley, said of the Champion Bull: "It's a shame that because of the drought there was only one bull this year.
"But it would take a good animal to beat him.
"This is an excellent bull, his skin and hair type. He has a nice hooded eye. He's a good length with a natural spring to his rib. With age, he will only get better."
Dick has been coming to the Show for 40 years and has produced many winning animals he says he's lost count of how many! This year he also won the Centenary Cup, for best pen of two steers (overall class).
In other results, Donald Holt from Delny Station won in the 400-500 kilo steer class.
Above: Anna Miers, 8, with her Ross Park Primary School class's second prize artwork, a collage of Roald Dahl's book James and the Giant Peach. "I helped with sticking the paper on the peach and with the letters," said Anna. The picture won second prize in the children's art section, for a group drawing or painting in the seven to eight years age group.


I have to admit that when I arrived in Central Australia I had high hopes of meeting dashing flying doctors and being swept off my feet by handsome cowboys.
Unfortunately this hasn't happened yet.
It's not that men here aren't interesting to talk to or willing to enter into a relationship, but all the best men ones seem to be married or just passing through
I've heard that women have actually left town because they've been unable to find a partner, and the lack of suitable men in Alice Springs always seems to be part of the conversation whenever I meet up with friends.
Purely in the name of research you understand, I signed up with a dating agency called Country Contacts International. Although based in Hurtsville, New South Wales, it matches couples in the Northern Territory.
When I contacted the agency, the consultant was very prompt in taking down all my details, asking me questions like my weight, hair colour, height, was I a social smoker or drinker, my occupation and did I have any children. She then asked what I was looking for in a potential partner would I like a professional man?
What age? Would it worry me if he had children? Would it worry me if he was a social smoker or drinker? It was all very exciting! I was going to meet my perfect Outback Jack at last.
Unfortunately however, I only received one potential match. He sounded very sweet, a labourer with brown eyes and brown hair but unfortunately was only 23 (I'm 28) and lived in Darwin.
I'd asked on my form to be introduced to a chap my age, in a professional job and, most importantly, who lived in Alice Springs. Although the agency said he was willing to travel, it was important to me to meet someone who lived locally.
My problem seems to be one other girls share. Katherine Brown, 32, (not her real name) arrived in Alice Springs at the start of this year and is a professional working woman.
"There's not a shortage of men here in town you just have to go to Bojangles to see that but whether they've got the same outlook as you, that's another thing.
"I've been single since July last year. I think as far as the dating thing goes, it's something I would like but it's not a priority. From my experience you often meet people through work. When I go out in the evening, I don't go out to pick up. I go out to have fun with my friends and if I meet someone, great.
"Maybe if there was a dating agency in town it would help I've got friends who've done the internet thing. I lived in Canberra before but I wouldn't say it was any easier to find a man there even though it's a bigger place.
"I believe that when the right person is meant to come by he will."
Natasha Peterson, 27, split up from her husband in November, and says she's only met male friends since she's been here: "All the nice guys that I've met lately, who dress nicely, don't live in Alice Springs. They're here for work from Adelaide, or Melbourne or Darwin. I can pick them a mile away!
"I'm not fussy but I want someone who's good looking, nicely dressed, with a job.
"There are heaps of lovely guys in town but unfortunately they're just friends."
Rebecca Smith, a teacher at Alice Springs High, agrees. She's come over from England (like me) and has lived here for six months: "There is a lack of the sort of man you would like to meet here all the men I've come across are either younger than me or travellers.
"In places like Melankas, men tend to stick together in little groups with their own friends and don't mingle so much as back home.
"It's not a priority but if I met a nice Australian man, that would be nice."
I thought someone who might be able to shed light on dating in Alice would be Meredith Campbell, a marriage celebrant for six years who has conducted wedding ceremonies for hundreds of couples in Alice Springs.
"I'm 47 and the ladies in my professional circle who are single find it hard to find someone who matches their expectations," she says. "I think as you get older you get more picky.
"Do I think it's hard to find a man in Alice Springs? I can't comment on the younger dating scene but I'm getting married, to Richard Brady who I met here in town. It's my second marriage. I would say once you meet the right man you have to go for it whether you're in Alice Springs or not!"
In the meantime, I'm still looking.
Mind you, I have to admit that the things my friends here say about the lack of male excitement were exactly the same problems I used to gossip about with my friends back in England.
Maybe it's not the men who are the problem.


Forget harder training or smarter tactics according to Rover's president and coach, beer is the reason why the club is pulling itself out of their two-year AFL slump.
The footy club began leasing the former indoor volleyball court shed in George Street in May, and have turned it into a clubhouse, with a bar, cooking facilities, a small gym and pool tables.
"I thought if we wanted to get Rovers back on track, we had to have a place of our own," says the club's president, Jeremy Watkins.
"The last time we had a clubhouse was the Snake Pit in Traeger Park that was over 15 years ago.
"I spent all last summer and the pre-season looking for a place.
"The whole committee and team have pulled together to make it a reality.
"Now we're getting unity back into the club. The Rovers flags haven't been displayed for years but we've got them up now, and once we've painted the walls blue we'll put photos up, and honour boards.
"If any old Rovers fellers come back to town and want a beer, this is the place to do it.
"It's starting to show on the field. Member numbers are growing and I reckon it's because of this."
Geoff Miller senior, the club's A grade coach, agrees: "The club is definitely on the up.
"It's a really good atmosphere here which is important from a coach's point of view.
ENJOYING If you're not enjoying yourself with your team, you won't play good football.
"That's why Pioneers were so successful. We worked as a group, we knew each other's movements on the field because we knew each other off the field so well."
Both A and B grade players as well as the under 17s side have been coming back to the clubhouse after training and matches, for drinks and food.
Miller believes the result last weekend (Rovers only lost by 15 points to Pioneer, after being beaten into the ground by over 150 points twice earlier in the season) is because of better mateship amongst the players.
Says Watkins, who first started playing for Rovers under 15s: "Last weekend's match was so good to watch, I was really proud.
"After the match the team came back here and that's what it's all about. It gives the players a place.
"Rovers is going through a major change, the team has taken a turn for the better.
"We're coming out of our slump. We've still got a long way to go but we're on the road."
The darts club is sharing the clubhouse with Rovers, and they are inviting other clubs call Jeremy, 0400 773742. PICTURED ABOVE: The Rovers return: enjoying a beer in their new clubhouse are (at back) Dave Sanders, B Grade coach, (third from right) Geoff Miller, A grade coach, and the club president, Jeremy Watkins (end right).


It was an easy weekend's points for South as the club won all three of its games against Pioneer through forfeit.
Despite having a pool of over 90 men who have played at least one game for the side this year, Pioneer was unable to field enough players for the A grade, B grade or under 17s matches.
According to Pioneer's under 17s coach, Vaughan Hampton, he had no choice but to give away his team's game because many of his young players are playing at a competition in Melbourne or away at school camps.
He called into question the commitment of the senior players to explain why they missed their matches.
Results from the games that were played included a win for Wests in A Grade, beating Federal 88 points to 69.
The low-scoring game showed no surprises as Wests displayed their steady form, with Feds managing to finish strongly, kicking three of the last four goals.
Possibly disadvantaged because of interruptions over the past few weeks due to byes, it was the younger players who helped Federals hold their own, including Sheldon Palmer (named best man), Ralph Turner and Patrick Ah Kit.
Voted best of the match for Wests was Zac Neck, the rover of the team who worked hard on the field for his team mates.
The results were reversed in B grade as Feds won comfortably against Wests, 76 points to 26.
Glen Moreen was named best of the match after demonstrating his good attacking football skills.
Wests could only manage four goals, two by Sam Curtin and one each by David Fisher and Dick Kimber.
In the under 17s match, West suffered from only having 15 players allowing Federals to prove they were too good for them, winning 57 points against West's 29.
Fed's Thomas Gorey and Alvin Wallace were the highest scorers of the match with two goals apiece, and Charlie Furber was named man of the match for the side.
For Wests, the accolade was given to Dylan Measures.


Alice Manalvo (pictured) is currently winning division two of the squash club's championships at the round three stage.
Division one is headed up by Jim Lloyd.
The mixed 10-week competition is played over two 20-minute halves, and 50 competitors are registered in eight divisions.
Ages range from eight to 72 years! (Rae Jones, the oldest competitior, is currently halfway up the table).
Players in the competition are benefiting from new floors which have been laid on two of the courts, at a cost of $16,700 thanks to a grant from the NT government. It's the first time the floors have been replaced since the courts opened 40 years ago.
Students from OLSH and St Philips will also be able to make use of the new courts, as they play squash as part of their PE lessons each week.
The squash club also offers teaching sessions. The club currently has 100 members, and around 200 casual players.


Kate Averay, only 13 years old, beat competitors much older than her to become the Champion Showjumper at this year's Alice Show. She won the competition riding Wellcanya, her ex-racehorse who is the same age as her.
Although the Alice Springs Pony Club member didn't win all the events she entered, her aggregate score throughout the competition meant she gained more points than any of the other riders.
In 2002 at 10 years old, Kate became the youngest ever competitor to win the aggregate trophy on a pony.
There were 50 showjumping events in all, with some 50 riders taking part, mostly from the Alice Springs Pony Club, Dressage Club and Saddle Horse Club.
Conditions were perfect for the riders and horses.
Our selection of results:
SHOWJUMPING The AM2 75cm competition saw the first prize go to Donna Wehr, riding Curry. Second was Jacqui Goalb on Black Magic Comomella, and third was Kate Averay on Wellcanya. In the AM2 90cm competition, Brooke Morley on Sweet Curry Boy won the event, with Kate Averay on Wellcanya second. Brooke Morley entered again, this time on Northern Desire to come third.
The judge called for a second run of the AM2 round (90cm) and the competition saw a win for Donna Wehr and Curry, second was Madeline Kirby riding Northern Desire and third again for Kate Averay on Wellcanya.
In the AM3 75cm showjumping class, Brooke Morley on Sweet Curry Boy won the event, with Kate Averay on Wellcanya second, and Madeline Kirby riding Northern Desire, third.
The jumps went even higher in the AM3 1.1m round, which was won by Brooke Morley on Sweet Curry Boy. Kate Averay on Wellcanya gained second place, and Brooke Morley had a second go, coming third on Northern Desire.
In the Preliminary 1.2 Junior Class dressage competition, it was a win for Madeline Kirby on Northern Desire, second for Kate Averay on Wellcanya, and third for Meikon Elliot on Angus Valley Ruben.
In the senior competition, Julie Cooper won on Doc's Pistol, Jami Huish came second on Crowned Super Surreal and Bernie Hoskins was awarded third place on Clover Fern Gretal.
In the Novice 2.2 Junior division, it was a win for Kate Averay and Wellcanya, second for Madeline Kirby and Northern Desire and third, Meikon Elliot on Angus Valley Ruben.
For the seniors, Jami Huish took the rosette with Crowned Super Surreal, Gaynor Chambers and Delshe Lil Billy Chex came second, and Cody McEvoy was third (horse not known).
In the Elementary 3.2 competition in dressage, Jacqui Goalb on Black Magic Comomella took the blue ribbon, Alison Kennedy and her horse Balmoral Gem were awarded second place and Carol Bernie with Clifton Court Luccio came third.
Only two competitors took part in the next class up, the Elementary 3.3: it was again Jacqui Goalb on Black Magic who won, with Alison Kennedy and horse Balmoral Gem, in second place.
There was only one entry in the difficult Advanced 5.2 and 5.3 dressage classes, and Shirley Stanes on Peaceful River Africa was awarded with both rosettes.

Alice Springs a hardship posting? COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

If I hear anyone else say that a town with pavement cafes, international cuisine and a sophisticated cinema is a hardship posting I'm going to present them with a ticket to a real hardship posting and see how they like that.
Try the outer suburbs of Brisbane, for example. There are no proper shops and everything is sold out of huge multi-coloured sheds surrounded by bitumen.
I know because I've been there.
Then there's Sydney, where crossing the road to a pavement caf is a life-threatening experience due to high-speed traffic driven by crazed white collar workers.
At the other end of the hardship scale, away from the big cities, there is competition too. Step forward Port Hedland, Derby and Wyndham, to name but three and overlooking altogether the really isolated and far away places where people arrive having visited a relocate to the Territory' website, take one look and climb back on the plane.
I don't underestimate the daily trials that we all face, but Alice Springs must be one of the least taxing places to work remotely.
It's only remote if you live in a southern sprawl.
The sprawl is where most people do live. They spend growing amounts of their diminishing leisure time getting to work and suffer the declining quality of life that comes with a house in the mega-burbs.
But they're near the sea and that's supposed to make up for everything, as if walking along a promenade in Terrigal in a howling gale is an uplifting experience that makes you forget your two-hour commute.
Why the national obsession with the ocean? One day the other seventeen million people will snap out of it and realise that they really need to live in a place that has dust storms.
The quality of life in the cities is going down but the corresponding change in middle-sized towns is a positive one. Assuming that Alice Springs is middle-sized (we can argue later), it beats me that persuading anyone to relocate to Central Australia remains so tough. The national skills shortage is not just biting but chewing a deep crevasse through any business that reckons it can win custom and expand while being located in remote Australia.
Part of my work involves recruitment. Here's the future: in looking for suitable specialised applicants from interstate, it is only a matter of time before local recruiters are driven to skip the part where you receive applications and assess them with a considered and semi-scientific method.
Instead, we'll simply ring the best person and unashamedly beg them to come. In my case, I may even sob down the line, while quietly wondering if I tried hard enough locally.
The skills shortage in Australia is now international news. For instance, my vast family of tradespeople knows lots of other tradespeople. One of them contacted me by email saying that he had heard that the migration rules to Australia had been relaxed.
As he is a 53 year old electrician, did I think the government would let him in? I had no idea but my ignorance would not satisfy the 52 per cent of English people who, according to a recent poll, would like to move to a different country.
So with trepidation I clicked on the Federal Government migration website. There I found a list of categories. You select one that applies to you, such as skilled person, and download a heavy manual that includes all the details.
You leave it on your bedside cabinet for several weeks, occasionally mustering the courage required to actually read it.
Finally, you decide whether you still want to move to Australia or you're too bored to care any more.
I found the section on skilled tradespeople. It said he was too old, even for a hardship posting.

Now you're talking!? COLUMN by MANDY WEBB.

Wertaye! Greetings from a very elementary student of Arrernte.
I've taken my first tiny steps in learning the local language, and what a buzz! Well, not steps perhaps so much as crawling. You know what they say "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Example: river red gum is "apere". Easy?
I thought so, but apparently the way I said it meant something unmentionably crude. Just as well my booboo was only heard in class.
Anyway, it was wonderful to hear the energetic flow of Arrernte language the way it should sound (thank you Veronica) and now, occasionally, I can actually recognise words heard down the street "Mpe!" (Let's go!), "kwatye" (water) and "apwerte" (money). It's rather exciting, and I have my ears flapping out to see if I can tell whether people are speaking Arrernte, or some other language.
It's said that no matter how you study a culture, until you can speak the language, you will only be skimming the surface. I got some inklings of the complex Arrernte kinship system through the many different terms for relatives.
The word for "grandfather", for example, depends on whether it's your mother's father or your father's father, and there are important implications.
I do admit defeat however on why a different word is required for the children of a man (as opposed to the children of a woman.)
There's a biological hurdle that my mind can't quite crawl over yet, despite the patient explanations (sorry Barry)!
There are many revelations in the language regarding lifestyle (for want of a better word). I love the way there are two words for shade, depending on whether it's dappled shade or solid shade. And solid shade is "ntulye", pronounced Undoolya. Bingo!
That leads on to the spelling / pronunciation thing, and I'd better be circumspect here. Suffice it to say that it's hard, and I'm not sure that I can forgive the linguists for not including an "o" in the current spelling system.
Anyway, it's about trying to indicate sounds that do not exist in English at least not unless you roll your r's like a Scot, do a Cockney glottal stop, and perhaps have a hint of a lisp.
In Arrernte, there's a "th" "nh" and "lh" spelling where the "h" indicates the tongue between teeth, and you'd better do it right because "aneme" means sitting or living whereas "anheme" means raining or watering.
But still, it is really nice to see a light in the eyes or a smile that says, "Hey, you're trying to speak my language!"
Apparently the vocal chords are pretty much set after puberty, so even if I ever become fluent, I will speak with an accent. Come to think of it, there are regional differences even among native Arrernte speakers.
Maybe when an Eastern Arrernte speaker is talking to a Western Arrernte speaker, it's a bit like some-one from London trying to understand some-one from Glasgow.
No, no, on second thoughts, it couldn't be that bad, surely!
Viktoria Cormack is on holidays.

LETTERS: No strong CLP support across Central Australia.

Sir,- As a member of the Australian Labour Party I am obviously delighted at their overwhelming success at the recent NT elections. But like others I am also worried by the very weak opposition.
This places a huge onus on the remaining rump of the CLP, the independents, the press, and even members of the government, to provide a rational critique of the process of government. Unfortunately the Alice Springs News (25 June 2005) has got off to a disastrous start.
Aldermen Stewart's and van Haaren's idea of a Central Australian political party is quite ludicrous.
They and the Alice News confuse Alice Springs for Central Australia. There was no strong support for the CLP across Central Australia, and its fortunes in Alice Springs were at best mixed: Lim now holds Greatorex with the slimmest of margins Fran Kilgariff is bound to win it next time around and Jones didn't win Braitling.
The press campaign against Alison Anderson, Fran Kilgariff and Peter Toyne didn't succeed.
A party with two members in Parliament to push the case for Central Australia? They'd be better off sticking with their two mates from the Top End to provide some semblance of NT opposition.
We already have a strong Central Australian voice: Loraine Braham as an Independent member, and Peter Toyne and Alison Anderson in government.
I feel confident that all three will not hesitate to argue the case for Central Australia in a reasoned way, and that they would speak out if the need were to arise. Richard Lim can only posture, Jodeen Carney, who did increase her margin, and now leads the opposition, has a record of a rather hysterical performance in the House. No reasoned voice there.
So please Alice News and aldermen Stewart and van Haaren, by all means argue the case for Central Australia, including Alice Springs, and criticise the Government when that is needed, but cut the histrionics. It doesn't work.
Robert Hoogenraad
Alice Springs
ED The Alice News has not got off to any kind of start. We've been around for nearly 12 years. Neither did we promote a new party. We reported on a proposal for one.

Virgin not pulling out?

Sir, Chief Minister Clare Martin has not attached enough importance to telling Territorians the truth following the confirmation that Virgin Airlines is pulling its Sydney to Darwin and Adelaide to Alice Springs services.
Like the Blacktip Trans Territory pipeline deal, the CLP raised the issue of Virgin Airlines scrapping these services and as with the Blacktip issue the Chief Minister refuted our claims.
In both cases the CLP was telling the truth and in both cases the Chief Minister hid the real truth from Territorians during the election campaign.
On May 20 the Chief Minister issued a press statement "refuting suggestions that Virgin Blue was about to pull out of the Territory."
This is the second major setback for the Territory days after the election result, about which the Chief Minister kept the full facts from Territorians during the campaign. Once again the honesty and integrity of Clare Martin is challenged.
Jodeen Carney
Opposition Leader

Calling all gunners

Sir,106 Field Battery Royal Australian Artillery is having a reunion dinner on July 29-31 in Gympie, QLD. Call on (07) 5483 7591 or E-mail
Peter J. Tibbett

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