August 17, 2005.


The Northern Territory is being catapulted into geo-political significance by its massive uranium deposits as several countries around the world, including China, are moving towards new or expanded use of nuclear power.
The escalating uranium mining debate has the CLP Opposition in favour of more mines in the Territory, although it is against the proposed nuclear waste dump.
The Labor Government is sticking to its "no new mines" policy although, according to Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane, neighbouring South Australia ­ also under a Labor administration ­ will allow more mines.
Western Australia (Labor) remains against new mines.
It is unclear to what degree the Territory government will assist informed debate of the issues. The Alice News asked NT Mines Minister Kon Vatskalis whether his department will provide information relevant to the debate (see editorial page 2). We got no reply.
Mr Vatskalis has already washed his hands of anything to do with uranium mining, and Mr Macfarlane has announced Canberra will be taking over administrative functions previously exercised by the NT.
We also asked Mr Vatskalis why he declined an offer from Mr Macfarlane of joint decision making but there was no reply to that, either.
CLP Senator for the NT Nigel Scullion, by contrast, says he is an "enthusiastic supporter" of mining, including uranium, "which has made a great contribution to the economy of the NT, especially through royalties flowing to Aboriginal communities.
"I expect uranium mining to play a significant role in the Territory's future."
Meanwhile a small player in the uranium industry, the Aboriginal-owned Yuendumu Mining Company (YMC), will be selling an interest it has in a deposit 65 km west of the community, and will put its money into a road gravel plant.
"We don't have policy on uranium, and don't want to be used for political purposes," says YMC's CEO Frank Baarda.
The power shift resulting from a reduced dependence on Arab oil aside, as well as the environmental damage caused by the use of fossil fuel, the money stakes of uranium mining is mind boggling.
The nation has 40 per cent of the world's known "low cost" reserves ­ the kind that can be mined easily. According to Mr Macfarlane's office that amounts to 701,400 tonnes.
The NT has about 20 per cent of that, worth $12b, after the price of yellowcake has recently trebled to US$29 per pound.
Australia's deposit is worth around $60b.
Mr Macfarlane says "an intending miner must first gain the approval of the Traditional Owners [and] the application is then gauged against federal environment, Native Title and Workplace Safety legislation."
The granting of an export permit and the permission to move and store the uranium is also in Canberra's hands.
Aboriginal control of the mining will fall into two categories.
Roughly half of the Territory is under Aboriginal freehold under the NT Land Rights Act 1976.
That act requires Aboriginal consent for exploration. Once exploration has been approved mining cannot be opposed.
However, this "mining veto" is subject to "national interest" provisions in the Act, under which the Governor General can order the issue of exploration licences.
This provision has never been used.
Most of the other half of the NT is under pastoral leases where Aborigines may assert native title rights, which ­ if proven ­ may allow Aborigines to claim compensation for mining activities.
Meanwhile Mr Baarda says YMC in May this year sold its uranium interests to Jindalee Resources for 800,000 shares in that company.
These shares will be able to be sold 12 months after their acquisition.
Mr Baarda says the shares were worth 27.5 cents at the time of the deal and have since almost doubled in value to 50 cents.
Once sold, the money will be used to re-establish a road sealing aggregate plant to supply contractors working on the Tanami Road.
Mr Baarda says: "We sold our uranium interest because we held a minority position in a relatively small deposit, and did so after receiving professional financial advice."
YMC, which also runs a general store in the community, has about 300 Aboriginal shareholders in the Yuendumu region.


Just as the nuclear waste dump controversy was about to be unleashed in the Northern Territory, I read in the Guardian Weekly (July 22-28) that France is about to invest 10b euros in research into thermonuclear fusion. An experimental reactor will be built at Cadarache in the south of France.
Conventional nuclear reactors release energy by splitting (fission) the nuclei of heavy elements such as uranium or plutonium. In contrast, thermonuclear fusion joins the nuclei of light elements. It is the fusion of hydrogen nuclei that produces the light of the sun and other stars. The French research into fusion reactions will attract international funding.
The article also reported that research is underway in Britain, and that Japan will eventually house an International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility.
The article, reprinted from Le Monde, suggested "only a few discordant 'green' voices spoilt the harmony" of enthusiastic response in France, although some scientists were also reported as concerned that the massive investment would deprive other programs of funds.
Research on the Net reveals that in 2004 there were 442 nuclear power plants operating in 30 different states around the world, accounting for 16 per cent of the world's electricity (Patricia A. Michaels quoting statistics released by the International Atomic Energy Agency).
The vast majority of operating nuclear power plants are in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. However, most of the new plants under construction are closer to home, in Asia. Eighteen of the 27 nuclear power plants under construction in 2004 were in Asia. Michaels reported the top five states to be operating nuclear power plants as: United States (104); France (59); Japan (54); Russia (30) and United Kingdom (27).
The top five for dependency on electricity from nuclear power plants were: Lithuania (80%); France (78%); Slovakia (57%); Belgium (55%); Sweden (50%). Meanwhile, in the current Guardian Weekly (August 12-18) is an unnerving article about "the worlds' biggest nuclear tip" in the Russian city of Murmansk, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle.
To give but one example, the article talks about a transport ship, the Lepse, built in 1936, which is used to store the radioactive waste produced by the massive nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Lenin.
The hold of the Lepse "contains 642 spent fuel assemblies, amounting to 260 kg of uranium-235.
"No one knows how to get rid of this evil cargo, let alone dismantle the ship, which will have to be treated as radioactive waste."
I cite all this because the current debate in Alice Springs around radioactive waste and uranium mining seems to be peculiarly outdated. Internationally, the horse has well and truly bolted. The local call to fight a rearguard action to halt all uranium mining and exploration appears a particularly impotent response.
Now is the time for the local debate to be reframed. As particularly affected citizens in the Australian context, there is an opportunity for our voices to be heard.
They need to be focussed on achievable objectives in a sophisticated, well-informed response to pressing safety, security and resource issues across the planet as well as to the looming international energy crisis that is going to change the face of the world as we know it.


A court ruling about land some 400 kilometres north of Alice Springs has cast more light on how Aborigines can prove ownership of native title, and what rights it gives them.
The Federal Court handed down a decision on July 29 that:- € confirmed the applicants' ownership of native title in most of the 1120 square kilometres where the NT Government ­ which opposed the application ­ proposes to create the Davenport Ranges National Park, and an area for tourism and camping;
€ generally excluded from native title rights anything that may interfere with the running of a pastoral lease or grazing licence over the land, even if they have expired;
€ withheld from native title holders the right to grant or deny access to the land;
€ determined that native title rights did not mean ownership of the land;
€ spelt out a wide range of activities on the land in which native title holders may engage;
€ said the native title rights should be granted to a single group made up of the seven estate groups who were the applicants; rather than individually to the estate groups;
€ left it to the single group to decide internally what rights and responsibilities the individual native title estates would have;
€ ruled out any right of "trading" in the products of the land, but permitted the right to share, swap or exchange;
€ defined who could be or become a native title holder;
€ and ordered that native title could not be held in trust but only by an entity to be formed by the successful applicants.
The claim area is surrounded by four pastoral properties and land vested in an Aboriginal Land Trust.
Its northern boundary is adjacent to Kurundi Station. The western side is bounded partly by Singleton Station and partly by Murray Downs Station which also adjoins its south western extremities. On the eastern section of its southern border the claim area adjoins Elkedra Station.
Federal Court Judge Mansfield heard the original native title application lodged in 1995, and gave his decision in April last year.
The new Territory Labor Government lodged an appeal which was heard by Federal Court Justices Wilcox, French and Weinberg.
The claim area is the traditional country of the Arrawatyen, Antarrengeny, Keranty, Lyentyawel, Tyaw, Warwepenty and Kelatnyerrang.
The area had been the subject of pastoral lease grants in the past. There are none at present but the judgment says their existence in the past has extinguished some native title rights.
The Conservation Land Corporation of the NT now holds a Crown Lease in Perpetuity over the whole of the area except for the old town site of Hatches Creek (never developed).
The appeal judges first needed to consider who is a native title holder, and what they are entitled to do on the land. The judges say included are "persons recognised as members by virtue of birthplace connection, adoption or spousal affiliation in accordance with traditional laws and customs".
The appeal judges said Judge Mansfield had found that people adopted as minors and having been "grown up" as children of adopted parents can become members of the native title claim group.
Whether native title rights and interests could arise simply by birth on the claim area was not clearly resolved. The judges agreed with Judge Mansfield who took "the view that the simple fact of birth on the claim area was not sufficient to establish membership", but it could be established through knowledge, participation in the activities of the group, and in part by marriage to a member.
The appeal judges said the native title owners have the right "to hunt and fish and use the resources of the land, the right to live on the land and to camp and erect shelters and other structures there".
"They have the right to engage in cultural activities on the land and to teach its physical and spiritual attributes [and] the right of access to maintain and protect places of importance on the land, [and] to share or exchange subsistence and other traditional resources."
They may "engage on the land in cultural activities; conduct ceremonies; hold meetings; teach the physical and spiritual attributes of places and areas of importance on or in the land and waters; and participate in cultural practices relating to birth and death, including burial rights".
However this does not extend to a right to trade, and the appeal judges ruled against Judge Mansfield's decision on that point.
The Northern Territory argued successfully that the right to trade in the resources of the land necessarily implies a native title right to their exclusive possession:
There is a native title right to take flora and fauna but not to own it. There was no historic evidence of "trade" but merely of "sharing and exchanging" goods ranging from ochre, spears, boomerangs and feathers to hair belts for personal use, and ceremonial objects.
The appeal judges modified Judge Mansfield's ruling allowing the right to trade to "the right to share or exchange subsistence and other traditional resources obtained on or from the land and waters".
The appeal judges did not uphold the view of the NT Government that the estate groups should be considered as separate native title holders. (There has been serious conflict within the native title body of Alice Springs, Lhere Artepe, which contains three estate groups.)
The appeal judges said: "Within the claim area there was one set of avoidance relationship rules, one set of mourning customs, one set of gender restriction rules and the same general rules relating to looking after country, whether or not the country was specifically identified by reference to a particular estate group.
"There were aspects of common ceremonial practice consistent throughout the claim area which did not differ by reference to separate estate groups.
"There was no significant evidence to indicate that individual country or estate groups functioned separately as communities with different rules or customs or with different ceremonies or with separate and isolated residential arrangements.
"They shared ceremonies and members of each of the four language groups would attend them.
"There was considerable evidence of marriage between linguistic or tribal groups and between members of different estate groups within the claim group.
"There was commonality of ceremonial and dreaming connections in the claim area between the four language or tribal groups and between the seven estate groups."
The appeal judges took issue with Judge Mansfield's ruling on giving the native title owners control over access.
They say there was evidence that Warlpiri persons and others worked around Hatches Creek when it was functioning as a mine.
"There was no suggestion that they sought the permission of members of the claim group to do so, or that any action was taken to prevent them coming into that part of the claim area.
"The applicants accepted that the right to exclude all others from the claim area was extinguished by the grant of pastoral leases that conferred rights inconsistent with the native title right to control access to the land." (Since October 1881 the claim area has been subject continuously, in various parts and at various times, to a total of 20 pastoral leases.)
The appeal judges also ruled against granting to the native title holders the exclusive right to control access on a more fundamental ground: They don't own the land.
The appeal judges quote judges Gleeson, Gaudron, Gummow and Hayne in Ward HC: "Without a right, as against the whole world, to possess the land 'it may greatly be doubted that there is any right to control access to the land or make binding decisions about the use to which it is put'.
"Having regard to what was said in the High Court it seems that the right to control access cannot be sustained where there is no right to exclusive occupation against the whole world.
"To the extent that the native title holders could collectively exclude particular members from particular areas, such as women from law grounds, that is a matter best left to the intramural workings of the traditional laws and customs.
"It is not a matter requiring determination as a distinct native title right."
The appeal judges ruled that native title holders could erect permanent dwellings on the land so long as they did not conflict with the working of a pastoral lease, in which case the pastoral lessee had the right to require the removal of the dwelling.
They say: "The existence of such a structure does not preclude a pastoralist's right to require its removal in the event that it conflicts with a proposed exercise by the pastoralist of a right under the lease."


"We haven't moved far from the swagman days - people being pushed along from town to town," says Jim Holland, who has been the director of Anglicare NT in Alice Springs for three and a half years.
The organisation (which celebrates its 60th birthday next year) runs The Lodge, a boarding house for homeless people ­ but it's in serious danger of closing down because of no government funding.
"There are people sleeping rough in Alice Springs. Often when I get to work there'll be someone sleeping by the church.
"Homelessness is a problem which comes and goes in this town.
"It depends on the capacity of people here. Out of season, people can get accommodation ­ at Melanka Lodge or somewhere like that. But once the tourist season comes, people can't access accommodation anymore."
Jim says a particular challenge in Alice Springs is the large itinerant population. "Indigenous and non-Indigenous come into town and get stuck here for whatever reason.
"They find it difficult to get accommodation ­ most of the motels are focused on tourists and are too costly and uptown for them."
Jim says most of the other programs Anglicare NT provides (like disability and foster care services) are adequately funded by the Territory and Commonwealth governments, but there is absolutely no funding for the homeless in Alice Springs.
The Lodge is paid for entirely by the people who stay there, at $22 for a bed for the night.
"We have to run it as a small business and target people who are homeless and need accommodation. They're our priority.
"But we're running at a $60,000 to $70,000 a year loss providing this service. Over the last 10 years we've put an enormous amount of money into this facility.
"There's always the argument between the Commonwealth and Territory over who is responsible for funding. But the Territory Government has to see a role for itself here." The last time Jim tried to secure funding for the project was two years ago.
"We were told we were the wrong model. But in the absence of another model, what choice do you have but to work with what you've got?
"We have to make the decision every year, 'Can we keep this facility going?'
"I think there will be a time when we say 'enough is enough, we can't do it anymore'".
Jim says that the government has put Alice's homelessness problem in the too hard basket, taking it for granted that there is an adequate service in town while the facility exists.
"The Government doesn't realise how tenuous The Lodge's existence is.
"Another question we keep asking ourselves is do we want to keep providing a minimal service and hide the problem that government and others don't want to face? We need to have trained staff supporting the people who stay here, like social workers and counsellors.
"Homelessness isn't just about not having a building ­ Aboriginal people have been homeless for thousands of years if that was true.
"It's mostly about exclusion from family and the community," explains Jim.
"We very rarely have vacancies here [The Lodge can cater for 32 people].
"Most of the people here never thought they would be homeless and alone. Their circumstances changed and they found they weren't valued by anyone anymore.
"It's easy for you and me to traverse the world while we're fit and healthy. But imagine if you had a stroke and couldn't work anymore. If you have a family, that's OK, but if you don't, it's hard to persuade strangers that you're valuable."
Jim says a growing number of the people staying at The Lodge are non-Indigenous, mainly male and over fifty.
"They used to have jobs and other things, but are now unemployed and dislocated from their family.
"The typical person who comes here has significant health problems like renal, breathing or circulation problems ­ the same as anyone else but they have the added problem of being a single man.
"Single older men don't gain sympathy from the community ­ young people maybe do, or women suffering domestic violence.
"These people are seen as blokes who can look after themselves.
"But when a man retires or becomes unemployed, and their relationship breaks up, that's when the problems begin. It's not uncommon for a husband to retire and his wife to leave him. Their marriage was fine while he was out to work but suddenly, he's at home all the time."
Jim says that people stay at The Lodge for varying lengths of time ­ sometimes weeks, others years. One man stayed for 10 years.
But the aim of the shelter is to support people to become independent again. Although it is affiliated with the Anglican church which stands next door on Bath Street, people staying at The Lodge are not expected to be Christians.
Counselling is offered, and health services like community mental health nurses and a renal van pays regular visits.
Staff encourage people to find a job: "We don't see most of the people who stay here as unemployable, just unemployed.
"They aren't a group of people who don't want jobs."
Some of the people who have stayed at The Lodge are now employed by Anglicare NT.
The facility doesn't provide meals, instead encouraging the visitors to use the communal kitchen. "We encourage and support people to move on but it's not as simple as getting someone on the bus to Katherine and the problem is solved. We can't have blinkers on.
"Homelessness is always seen as someone else's problem. But the reality is that on any one day, there are thousands of people on the streets of Australia who move from place to place to find accommodation."
And Jim predicts the problem will get worse over the next ten years: "More and more in the next decade there'll be an increased need for accommodation.
"The government is saying that it needs to grow the Territory but where do you stay if you're a young person coming up here for a job? Do you have to buy a house before you get here? Stay in a hotel?"
"I don't want to seem alarmist but we're creating an unnecessary crisis by not seeing what the future looks like."

LETTERS: Selection panel all Darwin based.

Sir,­ I noticed your article (in last week's News) about the Senior Citizens Club not getting their funding this year.
Well, the seniors dinner dance was not funded either but thanks to Lions Club, who supplemented the cost of the dinner with me, it was able to go ahead and was a great success.
On inquiry I was advised that a panel of three made the selection of who would get the funding and sure enough there was no one from Alice Springs on that panel - all Darwin-based!!!!!!
Without them consulting, how would they be able to prioritise what is important to seniors down here?
The Berrimah Line is alive and well!
Loraine Braham
MLA Braitling

Sir,­ I have noticed in recent days that Mr Howard and Mr Abbott have claimed that the Aboriginal people of Mutitjulu have to take responsibility too [for petrol sniffing]. Apart from having to cut their sons down from trees when they have hung themselves, grieving constantly about their children who are sniffing petrol in wheelchairs, putting up with the violence from people who have been drinking excessively and smoking marijuana every day, and suffering severe depression themselves, the people of Mutitjulu are:
€ designing and implementing a youth development strategy to protect their children and get them back on the right track;
€ engaging in governance training and considering reforming their community constitution to make more informed decisions about their future;
€ running a childcare centre to protect the young children;
€ running their community store after the previous manager left with minimal warning;
€ recruiting and supervising a substance abuse worker to help people get off the grog, petrol and marijuana and to help those families who are affected by it ;
€ have agreed to start paying for power as a first step away from dependency;
€ have agreed to close up the world heritage car dump to protect the national park;
€ have agreed to conditionality that funding from the park's rent and gate monies provided to the community will be spent on community development projects;
€ implementing a school nutrition and hygiene program that will help to ensure that the children are fed.
And importantly, this [last] also includes contributions from parents. So for the first time ever, parents are not being absolved of their responsibilities.
Some members of the community, whose kids have already grown up, are so committed that they have agreed to make a financial contribution to the program as well.
Gregory Andrews
Manager, Mutitjulu 'Working Together' Project

Say 'no' to dump

Sir,­ People of the Central Desert, stand up and stop those who want to impose a nuclear waste dump in your midst. I have lived most of my life next to one in the UK, and have seen first hand the results of nuclear accidents and daily nuclear discharges into the air and sea.
This industry will make you or your great great grandchildren sick. It is not a case of maybe, but when. Do not let them seduce you with their jobs and their dirty money. Say no, and keep control of your future. For your kids' sake.
Martin Wyness
Franklin, Tas

Fish's networked world

Sir,­ Somehow or other (I was trolling for info about the solar city project) I came across Steve Fisher's article about networking (June 1), which gave me the best laugh I have had for awhile.
I decided I could share with you this example of wonderful 'Official Report Language', which will help to impress all those unimpressive souls you meet in the networked world. Of course, we are all now networked technologically as well ­ don't think too deeply on that one!
I put the following into a report ­ not a single body questioned or raised an eyebrow (it's a worry!):
"This is a functional policy projection into systematised reciprocal time-phase, relevant to all parallel monitored programming."
Have fun!
Enid Moore
Wynyard, Tas

'Fantastic' hospital

Sir,­ I recently came to Alice Springs to have a look around the Aviation Museum, particularly with respect to my family history. Eddie Connellan was my uncle.
My intention was to go on to meet my cousin Chris in Rockhampton, but unfortunately I became quite seriously ill.
I was hospitalised in Alice Springs for four days and I found the care given by Dr A. Kumar to be fantastic. He left no stone unturned.
I'd also like to mention the care of a male nurse by the name of Chris who saw me through several difficult nights.
Indeed, all the staff were great, even the cleaning lady who helped get my TV working.
Perhaps people in Alice should be reminded of what a fantastic hospital they have got.
Paddy Connellan
Dunolly, Victoria.

Be fair!

Sir,­ The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association Inc (NTCA) is calling for the debate surrounding the further sale of Telstra to focus on the delivery of legislative mechanisms which will ensure that rural Australia has equitable telecommunications now and into the future.
NTCA shares the same concerns as National Farmers Federation (NFF) that there has been too much discussion about the money in recent weeks.
While funding is clearly essential to the ongoing delivery of telecommunications services, NTCA and NFF believe that the focus of the debate at this stage should be on the legislation which was recommended by the Rural Telecommunications (Estens) Inquiry and which is necessary to get services up to scratch in the bush. The Estens Inquiry recommended nearly three years ago that government funds be made available to support service improvements, and the government has agreed to fully implement all 39 Estens recommendations.
Farmers are still waiting to see legislation, coupled with a regular review process linked to the market failure funding mechanism, to ensure that their remote businesses can function in the same manner as their city cousins into the future.
NT cattle producers manage and operate businesses across 620,000 sq kms of land, producing over 510,000 quality animals per year for sale to all states and territories within Australia and suited for the lucrative export trade to South East Asia.
The pastoral industry in the NT is estimated to generate over $330m directly and $880m indirectly into the economy, contributing over 65 per cent of the primary production in the NT.
Our members require sound and equitable services.
John Armstrong
NT Cattlemen's Association Inc

Search for staff

Sir,­ Anyone who's tried to hire staff in desert regions knows how frustrating this process can be.
The Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre CRC is no exception.
It's a massive and complex problem that needs fixing if we're to create thriving desert economies.
High staff turnover is troubling most businesses, non-government organisations and the public sector in the desert and a huge amount of 'corporate knowledge' is lost when workers move on after only a short time in the job.
The Desert Knowledge CRC has put a team of researchers from Western Australia's Curtin University on the case.
The nine-month project will embrace a diverse group of employers and employees ­ small businesses, large corporations as well as the public and non-government sectors.
They'll be actively involved through fact-finding workshops and focus groups in several desert locations during September.
These sessions will tap into the wealth of corporate and individual knowledge and experience we suspect to be out there.
Existing research into staff attraction and retention in remote regions is scattered and not available in a user-friendly format.
We're going to put together an online one-stop shop that provides a comprehensive review of the latest data and trends and can be readily used by private and public employers and policy makers to explore long-term solutions.
The web site will feature case studies of successful strategies, including indigenous employment initiatives, and highlight those that have made a difference in setting up sustainable employment in remote desert communities.
Professor Murray McGregor
Associate Professor Martin Bent
Desert Knowledge CRC


Through working, Lena Taylor - recently honoured as NAIDOC's Person of the Year in Alice Springs - discovered strength and confidence.
"I got stronger through working for Congress and IAD," she says after a career of more than 20 years.
"I used to be really shy, like the kids in camps ­ I'd put my head down." Now she is a sought-after qualified interpreter, working particularly in the Alice Springs Courts.
She grew up speaking Pitjantjatjara and Luritja, and learnt English as a matter of necessity when she was taken from her family in Yalata, in South Australia.
She remembers "a beautiful childhood" around Yalata.
"I grew up in a bush tribal way, not living in a house, living in a wurley, and moving around and hunting, it was wonderful."
It was "scary" to be removed from this world:
"I didn't know where I was. I used to cry in the night but I got used to it."
Lena has the gift of optimism, of living her life forwards.
"I always knew I wanted to do something instead of sitting around. I came to where I am today from cleaning."
She moved to Alice Springs when she turned 18,marrying a year later and had four children.
She started working for Congress in 1981 as a family support worker, visiting families in the town camps. She did that job for 17 years, learning as she went along.
Starting work as an interpreter at IADagain she learnt on the job before she got her certificate­ a Diploma of Interpreting ­ and passed the test set by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd ((NAATI).
"My certificate helps me to be more recognised, like a doctor," says Lena.
But the study also showed her "how important language and culture is".
"You talk your language every day and you don't think anything of it," she says.
She feels strongly about young Aboriginal people hanging on to their language but knows first-hand how hard that can be. "My kids are Arrernte through their father but they don't speak Arrernte. I speak to them in my language, they understand but don't speak it fluently.
"When they were at school it was a shame job to speak their language. But I tell them it's never too late, you've got courses here." Daughter Gillian says she would study language "if I could use it".
"It can be beneficial. I used to work at Legal Aid and it was useful to have a bit of knowledge of language." Now she works on the front desk at Morgan & Buckley and says, "I'm not around Aboriginal people enough to speak fluently".
Both she and Lena's youngest son, Chuck, still think having language is important.
Chuck says, "Once you lose your language, you feel lost."
Meanwhile, Lena loves best using her language skills to interpret in the courts.
"You have to ask the lawyers to use simple language and you have to be aware of your own culture.
"It's very hard to interpret for family because you've got to be neutral, be in the middle.
Lena intends to stay in this job until she retires ­ "as long as I can hear and as long as I can see".
The NAIDOC award came at the right moment:
"I'd been feeling sad that week," says Lena. "My husband passed away three years ago at that time.
"When I found out I went out bush to my husband's homeland at John Holland Bore where he is buried.
"I talked to him, I told him I got an award.
"He and I always worked hard for other people, we didn't take enough time for ourselves.
"Getting the award was really special for me. To go into that room, to see so many Aboriginal people all together, it was beautiful.."


Only in a town like Alice would folks raise $7,600 to help out an old friend.
When Bruce Green (affectionately known as Greenie) and his wife Liz found out he had three secondary tumours in the lining of his stomach in March this year, they both had to give up work.
But welfare payments were only meeting half of their day to day costs.
That's when their friend of 20 years, Linda Robertson, together with Mal Trull stepped in and organised a quiz night fundraiser, which was held last Tuesday night.
The Memo Club was packed with 200 friends, family and colleagues from the tourist industry in which both Bruce and Liz have worked ­ as well people who had never met Greenie before.
"It was amazing," said Greenie after the event.
"We know a few people in town, but it was a shock to me when I saw the hall was packed out.
"It was quite overwhelming actually."
Greenie and Liz were told by Linda to keep the evening free and knew nothing about the fundraiser until just a few weeks before the event.
Linda and Mal approached local business to donate prizes, which were auctioned on the night for approximately$4000.
Items included a $1500 diamond from Hourglass Jewellers, a painting from Panorama Guth, and trips to Uluru and the MacDonnell ranges donated by AAT Kings, Tailormade Tours and Sahara Outback Tours.
Many other local businesses also donated ­ too many too list here. "Everyone I spoke to was quite willing to donate something," said Linda.
"It's great that the community has supported us ­ especially when businesses in town get asked to donate to things every week."
Linda said it was important to her to support her old friend: "We wanted to make life a bit easier for Greenie while he's having his chemo.
"He and his family been here for a long time ­ they were one of the original Greens out at Ross River.
"He's a respected person in town and lots of people wanted to help him."
In 2001 Greenie was diagnosed and treated with chemotherapy for bowel cancer. The secondary tumours found this year haven't spread to any of his major organs and Greenie is currently undergoing six months of intensive chemotherapy, due to finish in October.
"I have good days and bad days. Some when I'm crawling to get out of bed, others like today when I'm quite happily sitting out in the garden reading a book," says Greenie.
"The fundraiser has been a godsend ­ the welfare system doesn't come anywhere near paying for our living costs.
"We are completely grateful.
"It's really touched us.
"It's one of those things about living in a place like this."


They may have been a player down in the second half, but Wests still managed to beat Pioneer in AFL at the weekend.
The final score was 17-11 (113) to Westies, and 8-6 (54) to Pioneer.
In the other A grade match, it was no surprise as Federals beat Rovers convincingly, 23-18 (156) to 5-5 (35).
However the results were the other way around in the B grade match - Rovers wining 9-14 (68) versus Feds' 8-8 (56).
Wests beat Pioneer again 12-10 (82) versus 2-1 (13) in the other B grade tussle.


The league may be decided ­ but the chase for the football cup is wide open.
The News spoke to Neil Smark, the chairman of the Southern Zone Football Council, to get the rundown on the form of each team running up to September 11.
Matches won: 9
Matches lost: 3
Matches drawn: 3
Goals scored: 29
Goals let in: 9
Points 30
League position: Champions.
Why they'll win the cup: Determination and confidence after a hard-fought league win.
Why they won't: A worrying draw last weekend against Scorpions may have dented their confidence.
Top players: Gavin Munoz and Alby Tilmouth (midfield) and Gio Morelli and Grant Allen (defence).
Matches won: 9
Matches lost: 4
Matches drawn: 2
Goals scored: 30
Goals let in 16
Points: 29
League position: Runners-up.
Why they'll win the cup: Proved themselves to be doggedly determined after a slow start to the season.
Why they won't: Several key players have left including essential wingers Jhana Cowham, Cameron Finlay.
Top players: Rory Hood and Richard Farrell (midfielders).
Matches won: 4
Matches lost: 7
Matches drawn: 4
Goals scored: 13
Goals let in: 23
Points: 16
League position: Third.
Why they'll win the cup: Started the season strongly and on paper are a good side ­ they may be a dangerous dark horse determined to cause upset.
Why they won't: Struggled to get all their best players together on the pitch.
Top players: Conan Robertson in the midfield. And they have three goalkeepers ­ Michael Curtis (ex NT rep), Lee Morgan and newcomer David Hair. Junior player Chris Constable is an upcoming star, bound to be a top striker in years to come. Federals
Matches won: 3
Matches lost: 11
Matches drawn: 1
Goals scored: 19
Goals let in: 42
Points: 10
League position: Fourth.
Why they'll win: In the past they have always concentrated on getting their best side prepared for this competition rather than the league.
Why they won't: The glory team for so many years have struggled for form all season ­ lying bottom of the league for the first time ever.
Top players: Main striker Neil Rutland ­ but he was injured mid-season.
The cup final will be played on September 11.
Next Sunday sees Verdi and Vikings play each other (the winner of the game will go into the cup final), and Scorpions and Feds ­ the winner of this game will play either Verdi or Vikings for a place in the final.

Leave me alone, Houston. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

There were times during the re-entry of the Shuttle Discovery when I thought it might go on for as long as the national farewell to Steve Waugh, which took over a year.
Thankfully, the crew couldn't delay landing the spacecraft because their fuel wouldn't have lasted, so this brought an end to the saga.
This is another instance of the way in which I react badly to international news and not for the standard reasons of politics or through despair at a tragedy like the Boxing Day Tsunami. In the case of the whole Shuttle experience, I just wanted Houston to leave me alone. Look, these were seven people flying upside down in the dark in a foam-lined tin can with fins. This isn't news, it's a fairground ride in space. Now can we get back to the live cricket please.
Perhaps I just don't understand the Shuttle. You see, I was feeling guilty about the self-indulgence of my five thousand kilometre drive across Australia to see a stretch of coast on my holidays.
Having cruise-controlled for hours on end up the Stuart Highway, I sheepishly arrived back in Alice Springs hoping that nobody noticed (they had better things to do).
Meanwhile, the Shuttle crew travelled over 10 million kilometres, felt no scruples and was greeted back to Earth like a triumphant army. After all that, not one news bulletin explained why they went up there in the first place. The consensus seemed to be that the purpose of the Shuttle flight was to see if it would resist the heat of re-entry, which is a bit like me jumping off my roof to see if my leg breaks.
Even more surprising was the way in which the Shuttle was considered so important to Australian audiences that every newscast placed the subject at the top of its program. I don't watch country dramas because I have far more important priorities, of course, but friends told me that even a movie-length edition of All Saints was interrupted to bring the nation wobbly and grainy footage of the finned can coming in to land on a dingy airstrip in Los Angeles. By the time this happened, I was ready to throw my lasagna at the telly.
So all this fuss puzzled me until I heard the crew being interviewed and I detected an Australian accent. A-ha, Andy Thomas the Aussie Astronaut is there so this is clearly a joint mission between the two countries. Pump up the national pride, one of our own is floating in the tin can. I swear that if a member of the American crew owned a pet kangaroo, this would be enough for the Australian media to expect the Shuttle to be emblazoned with the national flag.
My inexplicable angst over a harmless space ship has made me wonder about some other change in my sub-conscious. A lack of interest in international news must be yet another example of the Alice factor. This is, after all, the most remote part of the most remote continent, so international spectacles like the Shuttle are just too far away to matter. Basically, we become lost in the all this space around us.
If anyone offered to fund it, I would propose some research on this subject by living in different towns for a while. For example, if I lived in Port Augusta, would I take a greater interest in international affairs, being just a short hop away from the southern cities? Or if the Discovery landed in Tennant Creek, would it still be too far away for me to care?
I could find out, but I expect that it would make no difference. Once you're lost in space, it's hard to reach home again.

Many happy returns. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

I can only think of one friend in Alice who plans to stay here for the next 20 years.
All the others plan to leave sooner, be it in a year or in five years from now. Kids come and go at my children's schools, best friends are made only to be lost at the end of the year. It is just part of living here. Often when you've just got to know someone it is time to say goodbye.
At present my kitchen is full of spices and an assortment of pantry food items that I have inherited from a family who have just left. There are enough chilli flakes to last me a life time. It seems a shame to throw them away.
Although many leave, quite a few return after a year or just a few months away. Yesterday I met a friend who moved to the coast 10 months ago and has just returned. While the grass turned out not to be greener this time for her and her family they will keep looking for a new home in a different part of the country. Another couple I know left for a year but are now back and plan to stay long term.
Most places look good from a distance. Alice always acquires a halo once I face separation or actually spend time elsewhere. But you only find out what a place is really like by living there. The everyday hardships of traffic, isolation by being just a face in a crowd, or even paying the bills can be daunting. We tend to expect things to improve when we make a big change, and it is easy to feel disappointed when life fails to feel or get better.
I have been leaving since the day I got here, 10 years ago. Although I call Alice home I see it as a temporary stop on my journey through life. But it may well end up being the place where I live most of my life. The place where I raised my family, where I made good friends and a lot of happy memories.
Why can't I just let my roots sink deep into the riverbed and contentedly grow old in one spot? I blame my restlessness on my genes. Once we were all nomads. To hunter-gatherers, staying in one place would have meant starvation. So the urge to keep moving is a survival prompt.
Maybe tourism is a modern manifestation of this. To see new lands, discover new things and meet new people may not fill our stomachs but may feed our souls.
To those who are about to leave, farewell, it has been great knowing you. And to those who have just returned, welcome back, it is good to see you again! And to all of you who have just arrived for the first time, maybe for just a short stay, it is great having you! Never say goodbye, say 'see you later' or like the French, 'au revoir!'

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