August 24, 2005.


The transfer of ownership to Aborigines of most Territory national parks, including Central Australia's icon, the West MacDonnells, is set to go ahead unless there is a hitch in financial negotiations underway at present.
But many of the deal's details remain secret, and the NT government is refusing to answer questions about its justification for the move.
Aborigines have threatened to lodge native title and land claims over parks, made possible by flaws in their declaration uncovered in 2002 by the "Ward Decision" of the High Court.
But that decision, as well as the recently handed down Federal Court ruling dealing with the proposed Davenport Ranges National Park south of Tennant Creek (Alice News, Aug 17), have described strict limitations of native title (see box this page), especially its extinguishment by grants of pastoral leases at any time in the past. This is raising serious questions about why the government is "rolling over" ­ as the Opposition has put it ­ in the face of land council demands for possession of prime public assets.
The government's parks web site claims the High Court had ruled "that 49 declared Territory parks were invalid."
The Alice News asked the government to point out where in the Ward Decision that ruling appeared. We got no reply.
The proposed transfer of the parks, their 99 year lease-back and joint management between the government's park service and Aborigines, are handled by the staff of Chief Minister Clare Martin.
All she will say, in essence, is that there will be no access permits nor fees, and that the sole alternative to a surrender of ownership would be expensive, socially divisive and drawn-out land rights and native title litigation, to be avoided at all cost.
Legislation enabling the handover was rammed through Parliament in March, opposed by the CLP which said "parks should be for all Territorians".
But the issue failed to gain prominence in the June election as the Opposition continued its decline to near annihilation by focussing its campaign on an ill-conceived plan of joining the Territory to the national electricity grid, and sticking with an unpopular leader.
Meanwhile the government has remained mum on the following questions:-
If some parks are exposed to land rights and native title claims (which may not succeed), why are not only those surrendered to Aboriginal ownership, instead of all of them?
What is the money value of the parks to be handed over? What will be the annual lease payments to the new owners?
What safeguards are there for the leases agreements to be kept by the new owners? The proposed title for the parks is a form of "inalienable" freehold, that means once granted, the land cannot be taken back or transferred to another owner, and consequently, cannot be used as collateral.
The "Ward Decision" on native title issues in the north of Western Australia dealt peripherally with issues across the border in the NT, relating to the Keep River National Park.
According to the Territory government's parks web site, the judges ruled that in the Territory, parks or reserves can only be declared "if Śall the right, title and interest' in that land was Śvested in the Territory', or if no one other than the Territory or the Conservation Land Corporation held Śa right, title or interest' in that land".
That means parks declared between 1978 and 1998 had "no underlying title" if native title existed, or if a land rights claim had been lodged.
Although, according to the web site, only 11 of the 49 parks declared in that period are affected, the government is set to hand over all parks except for four in the Top End, withdrawn from the deal by the Northern Land Council.
Included now are 19 parks and reserves in The Centre.
There are only five minor parks in the Northern and three in the Katherine Region.
The mainstay of Alice Springs' tourism industry, the West MacDonnells National Park, is part of the package although it seems to be safe from both native title and land rights claims.
The 2000 square kilometer park west of Alice ­ the biggest in The Center ­ consists entirely or almost entirely of former pastoral leases.
These would be likely to be ruled as having extinguished native title.
The first conservation reserve was a one square mile national park at Simpsons Gap which was declared in November 1957. During the next 11 years, four more reserves were declared at Glen Helen Gorge (1965), Ormiston Gorge and Pound (1966), Serpentine Gorge (1968), and Ellery Creek Big Hole (1968).
A greatly enlarged reserve of 118.5 square miles surrounding Simpsons Gap was declared in June 1970.
Declaration of Ellery Creek Big Hole Nature Park, Glen Helen Gorge Nature Park, Ormiston Gorge and Pound National Park, Serpentine Gorge Nature Park and Simpsons Gap National Park under section 12 of the Territory Parks and Conservation Ordinance occurred on 30 June 1978.
The Central Land Council says it lodged a land claim on Ormiston Gorge and Simpsons Gap in 1980 ­ well after the two locations had already been declared as parks.
Redbank Nature Park was added to the park system in 1984, and after the addition of smaller national parks and nature parks, the area was officially declared as the West MacDonnell National Park in October 1992.
In 1992 an extra 724.2 square kilometers of land acquired from the Glen Helen pastoral lease was added, bringing the park to a total area of 2,057.56 square kilometers.
The parks web site portrays the government's "Parks and Reserves (Framework for the Future) Act", providing for the surrender of the parks to Aboriginal ownership, as the only measure that "resolves and removes" uncertainty, and avoids litigation that is "prohibitively expensive for Territory taxpayers, not to mention the potential compensation costs, which would take many years to settle".
However, no time and money estimates are given.
The web site points out "it has been standard practice to negotiate ways to manage native title issues, including through Indigenous Land Use Agreements", for example, for the Alice to Darwin railway corridor.
But the text does not say why this option has apparently been ruled out in the parks issue.
Government propaganda is upbeat about "social and economic outcomes directly or indirectly from joint management.
"Training and job opportunities for Aboriginal people are being created in a range of roles. This will, include ranger-type work.
"It is also foreseen that Aboriginal people will develop skills and gain employment through land management contracts, such as fire management, and through park-related enterprises including tourism."
But none of this is supported by the response of Aborigines to opportunities already available, nor the Aboriginal ownership of Uluru (Ayers Rock), where rampant unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence are currently the subject yet again of blanket coverage in national media.


In the Ward Decision ­ Western Australia v Ward; Attorney-General (NT) v Ward; Ningarmara v Northern Territo [2002] HCA 28 (8 August 2002) ­ the highest court in the land sets out conditions for the survival of native title, what rights it confers, and who can claim them.
This is an extract from the "summary of holdings" handed down in October 2002 by the full bench of the High Court's seven judges.
€ Native title does not include the right to exploit minerals. No evidence was presented which demonstrated that there were native title rights to exploit minerals or petroleum, or any right to inhibit the exploitation of those resources. € Cultural knowledge does not constitute a native title right or interest "in relation to land or waters". € The maintenance of a spiritual connection does not suffice to found a "connection with the land or waters". It is essential that claimants maintain a physical presence on the land.
€ The grant of pastoral leases in Western Australia extinguished all native title rights and interests. The decision of this Court in Wik is distinguishable. It should be confined largely to its own situation.
All native title rights and interests over the land are extinguished by: ... € The grant of a permit to occupy land under the Land Act 1898;
€ The conditional purchase lease granted under the Land Act 1898;
€ Resumptions of land under the Public Works Act;
€ The grant of special leases under the Land Regulations and Land Acts.
€ Leases of reserves under ... the Land Act 1933. € The dedication or identification by the State of land for road or road purposes or the regular (not unlawful) use of a strip of land for road purposes extinguished native title in respect of land otherwise subject to native title rights. € The creation of reserves under the Land Regulations, the Land Act 1898 and the Land Act 1933 involved the creation of rights in the public that were inconsistent with native title. All native title rights and interests over the lands reserved were extinguished.
€ By-laws enacted to preserve fauna under the Wildlife Conservation Act were inconsistent with the existence of any remaining native title right to hunt fauna in nature reserves in Western Australia.
€ The vesting of "irrigation works" in the Minister under ... the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act extinguished all proprietary and personal interests in those works. The Crown land set apart for future expansion of the Ord Project and used, among other things, as buffer zones fell within the definition of "irrigation works". Native title over that land was therefore extinguished. € The by-laws made under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act extinguished native title rights to hunt fauna and enter certain areas. Those by-laws were of general application and were not racially discriminatory. The by-laws made in 1991 by the Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley were valid and effective. € The "public works" provisions of the Native Title Act and the State Validation Act extinguished native title over vacant Crown land used, among other things, as buffer zones and as areas for future expansion of the Ord Project.
€ The grant of mining leases under the Mining Act 1978 conferred on the lessees a right of exclusive possession over the land. That right was inconsistent with, and thus extinguished, all native title.
€ The general purpose lease granted under the Mining Act 1978 extinguished all native title rights and interests.
€ Pastoral leases and other leases registered under the Transfer of Land Act were rendered indefeasible and were freed from all encumbrances not notified on the register. The effect of registering such leases was to extinguish any surviving native title in respect of the land. € The grant of pastoral leases in the Northern Territory extinguished all native title rights and interests over that land. The decision of this Court in Wik is distinguishable. € The perpetual leases in the Northern Territory granted under the Crown Lands Act and the Special Purposes Leases Act extinguished all native title rights and interests. The RDA did not invalidate the grant of those leases. € The declaration under s 12(1) of the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act in 1981 did not extinguish native title rights and interests that might have survived the grant of the perpetual leases.


The town council has ruled out training time becoming available to AFL clubs at Traeger Park ­ despite the building of a new $3m grandstand which began last week.
AFL clubs were banned at the end of last year from using the ground for training because the council says they failed to look after the pitch properly.
"Football caused a substantial amount of damage to the oval last year," said Ian Palmer, who is the acting manager of technical services at the council.
"It was a situation council could not tolerate or allow to continue.
"The clubs were asked to move away from the heavy use areas when they trained but for whatever reason they failed to go further down the oval.
"The goal area at the northern end was scuffed so badly it looked like a mud patch.
"The clubs were approached in a conciliatory manner but they were not co-operative.
"Cricket lost seven weeks of their season last summer while the council repaired the oval," he said.
Mr Palmer says a decision for next year will be made after the current football season has finished, but says at the moment: "The grandstand won't make any difference to training time".
The AFL of Central Australia is angry at the decision. Gary Learmonth, the general manager said: "The grandstand will be a great facility but clubs won't able to use it properly.
"The council thinks the ground is overused by clubs but there are a lack of facilities for sports clubs to train.
"We're trying to become more professional as a sport in Alice Springs but this is stopping us."
AFL clubs say they need to be able to train under spotlights, especially during the winter when it gets dark earlier. Currently there are only three pitches with lights ­ Traeger Park, Flynn Drive and Anzac Oval.
"At the moment clubs have to finish training as soon as it gets dark," says Mr Learmonth. "It's hard for some players if they don't finish work until it's dark already.
"We would manage the time at Traegar Park on a club at a time basis, which would have to be spread out over the year so that all clubs had a chance to train here.
"Being able to train under lights would mean clubs could train for longer, and do more complicated drills."
Dave Gloede is the vice-president of Federal football club. His club was told at the start of the football year, in March, that they were no longer allowed to train at Traeger.
"We use the baseball diamond to train on and we are appreciative of that.
"But if it comes to a time when the baseball teams need to use the oval, I don't know where we will train.
"It would be good to train on the oval we play matches on.
"I can understand the turf is a sensitive area but there's no reason why it can't be cordoned off so it has a chance to recover. There's plenty of oval for us and everyone to use.
"It's disappointing and a shame we can't use our own oval."


The shameful charade about petrol sniffing measures is continuing: While the government continues to procrastinate, don't expect any effective criticism from the Opposition.
Why? Because the CLP and the ALP are both guilty as hell for the serial death of young Territorians, about one every week, a tragedy beyond measure.
For decades there has been in place legislation to take effective action against sniffing.
The Opposition won't admit it, because this puts them into the frame no less than the Government which for four years has stood by callously as people are dying.
The Community Welfare Act, not amended since 1982, spells it all out: "The Minister, an authorized person or a member of the Police Force may, where he or she believes on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of care and that no other action would ensure the adequate care of the child, take the child into custody [and] may have the child held in a place of safety for the period he or she considers appropriate."
So, why did the CLP governments not act? Why is the Labor government not acting? It seems the new Minister, Deliah Lawrie, who refuses to be interviewed on the subject, is equally puzzled. Last week she said the obvious in the Assembly: "I cannot explain why the Coroner [in whose court, sitting at Ayers Rock, a petrol sniffer was present] did not alert the police or someone to take the petrol off the child. I hope that, in the instances that this occurs in the future ... because that is what our government is saying to communities and to the law officers in communities: take the petrol off them. Quite clearly, we are saying that in policy."
No, Ms Lawrie, your government is not saying that at all to your police force under whose nose kids are sniffing in dozens of communities, and in Alice Springs. We raised the issue with Police Minister Paul Henderson in August last year. He said: "The Minister cannot direct the Police Commissioner. I cannot countenance an area where I would instruct the police to engage in a particular operation. That is fundamentally an issue under the Police Administration Act for the Police Commissioner."
Neither Mr Henderson nor Police Commissioner Paul White would discuss the matter.
As a fellow minister Ms Lawrie may have more luck than the Alice Springs News with Mr Henderson if she told him that he's irresponsibly wrong.
We pointed out to Mr Henderson that Police Administration Act says: "The Commissioner shall exercise and perform all the powers and functions of his office in accordance with the directions in writing, if any, given to him by the Minister."
So Police Minister Henderson has every right to instruct his Police Commissioner and by failing to do so bears direct responsibility for the substance abuse carnage.
In August last year Ms Lawrie's predecessor, Marion Scrymgour said: "I am not just going to look at the problem, I am going to tackle the problem.
"I do not need more information before taking action. The easiest thing for me and the government to do would be to announce another review. I will not."
Well guess what the government is doing a year later? It's setting up yet another enquiry, by a Parliamentary Select Committee, headed up by new Member for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson, who over the years would have seen hundreds of petrol sniffers within a stone's throw of her home at Papunya. What more does she need to know before taking action? And what else are the Labor politicians doing, who four years ago told us "we're ready for government Š we have the answers"?
They're considering a draft Bill for a Care and Protection of Children and Young People Act 2005. Says a minder for Ms Lawrie: "We will await the expert advice of the founding professor of the new Australian Centre for Child Protection, Professor Dorothy Scott OAM, who is being engaged by the Department of Health and Community Services to provide expert comment to the Minister on the draft Bill. When we receive Professor Scott's comment we will have a better idea on the parliamentary timeframe of this Bill."
One thing we can tell Ms Lawrie without holding an enquiry: the dying will go on while the nation's most lavishly funded government ­ hers ­ remains pathetically incompetent in the care for its children.


There is nothing new about the current debate over radioactive waste dumps, or repositories, in the Northern Territory.
A bizarre proposal was put forward in 1977 when "Dr A Matheson, an American scientist who is in Australia as a guest of the Uranium Producers Forum" made the "suggestion that Ayers Rock could be used for storage of nuclear waste" as "it is a stable formation which has been there for millions of years" ("Scientist suggests Rock for nuclear waste", Centralian Advocate, 24/3/77).
The article continued: "Dr Matheson added that he could see the possibility that Australia, because of its vast and arid regions, would be asked to store uranium waste". Dr Matheson's idea received short shrift, publicly rejected by local Conservation Foundation representative John Reeves, and by the Reserves Board director Tom Hare.
However, it was research conducted in Australia in the 1970s, partly under the auspices of the CSIRO, that led to the development of a material called Synroc (synthetic rock), which is designed to encapsulate high-level nuclear waste for long-term storage in deep underground repositories, and considered to be superior to other materials used for that purpose.
Synroc was a key element of the ambitious arguments advanced in the booklet "The Nuclear Power Industry ­ A Responsible Approach", a summary of a paper presented to the 10th Australian Radiation Protection Society Conference in Melbourne in August 1985, by Roger A Watters and S. Chandra (Mr Watters was then the Chief Uranium Officer in the NT).
It is an astonishingly prescient publication.
The abstract at the beginning is worth quoting: "A scheme Š designed to minimize risks associated with the nuclear fuel cycle (particularly waste products), transportation of radioactive materials, nuclear proliferation and terrorism.
"Specifically, it is argued that uranium enrichment, fabrication of fuel elements, spent fuel reprocessing, and the storage and disposal of wastes could take place in the Northern Territory of Australia. The first two could be located in the Darwin area and the remainder near the Centre in Precambrian lithologies which abound there in a stable tectonic and arid environment. At the very least, Australia can reprocess uranium of Australian origin and care for the waste produced from it.
"Spin-off from the scheme could include the construction of the Darwin-Alice Springs rail link and the development of a Territory university.
"Australia, in concert with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could de facto control the safety of much of the world nuclear cycle".
It proceeds to describe all the aspects of the nuclear fuel industry from mining and milling through to waste storage and disposal, and some of these are of particular interest. In "Step 5: Outward Shipment of Fuel Elements to the Consumer" the reader is informed: "Maritime and railway facilities would need to be upgraded, and the safe transportation of radioactive material would be justification enough for building the Darwin - Alice Springs railway line. A smaller link from Mt Isa to Tennant Creek could bring Townsville into the system" (my emphasis) and "a new port in the Gulf of Carpentaria, servicing the MacArthur River area for instance, could arguably by-pass all major population centres altogether".
An accompanying map of Australia entitled "Rail links required" illustrates all the major national routes and the proposed links in the NT.
The next section "Inward Shipment of Spent Fuel Elements" is of equal interest: "Spent fuel elements are highly radioactive, are usually transported in 90 tonne containers 6.5m long, shielded by lead and are encased in water to absorb neutrons.
"Such a flask Š was the subject of a spectacular test in Britain in 1984 when a locomotive ploughed into one at 160 kph.
"No significant damage was inflicted on the flask. The locomotive was not so lucky".
(This point was illustrated by the experts brought to the NT recently by Senator Nigel Scullion, although the current proposal is supposedly about low to intermediate level wastes).
The section continues: "The ingress port should be ideally in a geologically stable, non-cyclonic area. Its approaches should be free of navigation hazards such as narrow channels or coral reefs. In order to be even more conservatively safe than "acceptable", the port should be reasonably remote from large population centres. An area at or near Whyalla is indicated by these criteria".
The booklet concludes with a discussion on suitable locations for disposal of nuclear waste: "The areas of disposal strategies should occupy a dry crystalline self-healing lithology, such as gneiss-schist-granulite".
"The area should have been tectonically stable for at least 10 million years"; also: "The area should have been arid for 10 million years in a region of disorganised drainage, sparsely populated and relatively unattractive for alternative economic exploitation".
"Repositories should not be located near continental margins. Only three areas satisfy all the criteria, two on the African continent and one in Australia" but: "The two African locations suffer from lack of technological infrastructure, but Central Australia does not".
The booklet notes: "This site was first suggested for waste disposal Š in 1972 and published in 1974. The idea was circulated as a Conference Document at the ALP National Conference at Terrigal NSW in 1975".
A "Map of NT showing existing and proposed installations" including the "region in which reprocessing, storage and disposal could take place" indicates an area encompassed by a large circle located in the Harts Range vicinity, incorporating one of the sites currently under consideration for a low level radioactive waste dump.
Perhaps it is coincidental but this area also covers much of the Anmatjerre traditional lands, to which the CLP devoted much attention since the late 1980s.
Although Central Australia has long been touted as an ideal location for storage of nuclear waste, what is in it for us?
Based on figures from 1984, the booklet calculates Australia could earn $16 billion per annum if we were to accept all the world's nuclear waste.
By contrast, Australia is currently the world's leading exporter of coal, earning $13 billion annually.
In its foreword, the booklet coyly notes "while the Northern Territory Government supports its publication, it is not necessarily its official position nor should it be seen as a firm proposal by that government".
But the CLP actually did lend strong support for involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle in its entirety.
NOTE: In my article "Pollies' Holy Grails" (August 3) it was stated that former independent candidate Maggie Hickey "had run on a platform opposing the proposal for a low-level nuclear waste repository near Phillip Creek Station just north of Tennant Creek" in the elections of March 1987.
This is incorrect ­ Mrs Hickey had campaigned against the decision by former Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth to locate a toxic waste incinerator on Phillip Creek Station, intended for the disposal of all such waste materials from Australia.
The confusion arises from the coincidence of the news that the Northern Territory Government was the sole respondent to the Federal Government's call for expressions of interest "in housing a low-level radio-active waste dump" ("Govt reacts to waste move", Centralian Advocate, 27/03/87).
The Federal Government (then Labor) made the call for expressions of interest in August 1986, to which the NT Government had responded positively.
A spokesman for then-Senator Gareth Evans, the Minister for Resources and Energy, was reported saying "the Federal Government had asked the Territory to provide a Śdefinitive proposal' on how it would approach field studies to determine a suitable site" which would store "low-level medical and industrial radio-active waste, which is stored at a number of waste dumps around Australia, many of which are in capital cities". The article stated: "The Territory's chief uranium officer Roger Watters said Š the most likely site for such a dump would be Central Australia because of its stable geology, isolation and dry climate" but "that no particular site had been selected yet"; however, "he said Central Australia was ideally suited for such a dump". The editorial "Great site for a dump!" (Centralian Advocate, 27/03/87) enthusiastically endorsed this proposal, stating that "Central Australia would seem an ideal site" and reiterated "Central Australia is an obvious site with its stable geology, its isolated areas and dry climate". The editorial was notably confused about the topic, however, as justification for it was based on "modern methods of encasing such material in synthetic rock and burying it kilometres underground", which is actually the containment method recommended for high-level nuclear waste disposal. The editorial went on: "Nobody should seriously suggest that such a dump should be close to a population centre ­ such as the one floated for Tennant Creek" (a reference to Tuxworth's toxic waste incinerator, not a nuclear waste dump). The concluding line added to the confusion: "And any proposal to dump material with a high level of radiation should be considered quite separately to the current proposal", effectively contradicting the earlier statement about encasing the material in synthetic rock and burying it deep underground. It all goes to show that the Book of Ecclesiastes is quite right ­ "There is nothing new under the sun".


"I want to get an unbiased understanding of the world. I hope that by living without Śnecessities' like swimming pools, showers and food every day I will understand what it is to live rather than be lived for.
"If the government isn't going to do anything about international aid then we as citizens must."
It's easy to forget when you're speaking to David Caffery that he is only 18 years old. So passionate is he about the importance of aid in the third world, David has worked all hours in two jobs (as a supervisor at Hanuman's restaurant and also a coffee maker at Bar Doppio) to raise $7,500 to go to Costa Rica as an aid worker for two months.
He left on Sunday.
"One of the reasons why I wanted to do this project is that Australia seems like an international arsehole at the moment," said David before he left.
"We think of ourselves as a kind country but apart from the Tsunami we're not a very aiding country in many ways.
"I think it's important for Australians to go out there and help give practical aid."
The scheme David is involved with is run by Youth Challenge Australia, a non-profit organisation which organises young volunteers to work on projects in 16 countries, currently Guyana, Costa Rica and Vanuatu. Typically the projects include building and repairing schools, health posts and other community services.
Raising the money to take part is only one of the hurdles David has had to overcome - "It was a relatively gruelling process to get in", he explained.
"I'm the only person going from Alice Springs ­ usually people will go to selection days and take part in a day of team activities.
"But I had to do a phone interview and answer a fair few questions on the net, like why I want to go, what I want to get out of it, what I will do with that experience in the future."
Only eight other Australians were selected, along with 14 other people from around the world.
But David said volunteering abroad is something he's always wanted to do. He had a taste of it through the organisation Round Square, of which his former schoo,l St Philip's College, is a member.
With Round Square David attended an international youth conference in South Africa, and spent two weeks on a service project.
After leaving St Philip's last year, David heard about Youth Challenge through his former school counsellor, Phil Walcott.
"I've always been family friends with him and he's the most generous person you could ever meet. He has the most amazing relationships with students that no other teacher has."
After Phil's encouragement, David emailed the organisation: "When I looked on the website and read the stories of other people who've been on the trips, it was incredible. Everyone says it is the most eye-opening thing you can possibly do with your life.
"Costa Rica sounded like such an amazing country, and having the opportunity to go there was amazing.
"I always wanted to do something like this. I've been to South Africa for a Round Square conference but never done a long project like this.
"It will be the first of many I imagine."
David won't know exactly where he'll be working in Costa Rica until after the pre-conference briefing he'll attend on August 23 in San Jose.
Volunteers will be given a number of choices of projects and locations they can get involved in:
"I know I'll be doing two projects, one conservation and one infrastructure. It'll be very hands on and we may also be teaching kids.
"We will be working with the local people ­ two thirds of the projects carried out by Youth Challenge are contributed to by the community.
"It helps to improve relations between countries."
David said he's been teaching himself Spanish ­ although he admits he's "not getting too far actually".
He expected the experience to be tough: "I'm going to be sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground under a mosquito net for two months.
"I'll have bucket showers ­ cold water scooped out of a pot, that's a bucket shower.
"But these are the conditions people live in their whole lives. I can do it for two months.
"Put yourself in the position of someone in Costa Rica ­ there is typhoid, Aids, no running water.
"You see what Australia has and is spending money on but it's not helping you."
David believes that Australia is putting its money in the wrong places: "There have been nearly 100,000 killed in Iraq and we've sent nine troops to Sudan where there is genocide going on.
"This is what seems to be the government's priority. It's being so naďve ­ we're called a democracy but it's like a dictatorship.
"A lot of society does understand there are mass problems in third world countries, but we're not spending half of what we should be on international aid."
David's family are "very supportive" of his involvement with the project.
Originally from Victoria, they came to Alice Springs when David was nine.
Previously they spent three and a half years on the community Ampilatwatja where his mother worked as an administrator.
After Costa Rica, David will spend three months travelling around the world: "I'm going to the US to see some bands play ­ the Rolling Stones and U2 - and meeting my girlfriend there. Then we're going to England, Europe and South Africa."
When David returns to Australia he'll go to Canberra to study at ANU: "I wanted to be a lawyer but now I'm reconsidering it.
"I'm very interested in philosophy although there aren't many employment prospects - I'm considering being a uni lecturer.
"I want something different."
"It seems like something that will change my life," he said of trip to Costa Rica.
"I don't know exactly how, it might have some huge effects later on.
"More people need to be more understanding that not everyone in the world has a full stomach.
"We have an ethical responsibility to help others."


Most Australian students go to university within their home state. Only in the Northern Territory is that less of an obvious choice, with its only university just 16 years old and battling poor public perception of its performance.
Richard Evered, project manager of the Good Universities Guide (GUG), questions the worth of assessing a whole institution.
"At the end of the day we say to prospective students, it is not a uni that you buy, it's a course within a uni."
The guide, whose edition for undergraduates has been around for 14 years, organises its information under 30 fields of study headings: "If you want to study accountancy, here are the universities that offer it and here's how the courses are rated for all sorts of criteria."
With this approach, Mr Evered says Charles Darwin University (CDU) is not necessarily at the bottom of the heap, as it was controversially identified by The Australian on August 12.
The Australian reported a ranking based on a report by the federal Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST). Like DEST, GUG bases some of its information on student feedback forms collated by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA), although GUG includes international students' responses, while DEST looked only at domestic students.
Mr Evered says an Śin-field' student assessment of teaching quality puts CDU in the top 25 per cent for its courses in business, creative arts and humanities.
It gets an average rating (middle 50 per cent) for education, law, psychology and science.
Nursing is the only course ranked in the bottom 25 per cent.
These figures relate to the GCA survey of 2003 graduates, the most recent available.
Mr Evered also questions the use by the government report of figures on student retention from first to second year as a measure of teaching quality.
"Why a student leaves university after first year may have everything to do with personal circumstances and nothing to do with teaching quality," he says.
He also notes that CDU has places in "feeder courses" in Pharmacy and Occupational Therapy, specifically designed so that students can begin their studies at CDU and move on to another state to complete them in another institution.
However, employment outcomes for graduates is a good measure of a university, he argues, and it's one where CDU does not do very well, scoring two stars out of a possible five.
But, says Mr Evered, local economic factors can come into this picture: "The 16 top ranked universities on employment outcomes are in Queensland, NSW, the ACT and Victoria, where economies are growing faster than elsewhere."
The popular perception is that CDU is easy to get into but its scores three out of five for entry flexibility, so it's not a complete pushover. Only nine per cent of students have been given credit for prior TAFE courses. This is average compared to other universities, and is an interesting result, says Mr Evered, given CDU's relationship with TAFE institutions like Centralian College and Katherine Rural College.
CDU continues to have a very high proportion (62 per cent) of mature age students (over 25 years), putting it in the top 20 per cent for this category.
Conversely, it has a low proportion of school leavers, only 20 per cent.
Its proportion of overseas students, at five per cent, is "fairly low".
However, it is boosting enrolments with Australian students from outside the Territory, making up 10 per cent of the total ­ an "interesting stat", says Mr Evered, although he didn't know whether these students were doing external studies.
The university could do more to attract international students by positioning itself in relation to its unique environment, says Mr Evered, "and the example is already there with their postgraduate course in Tropical and Desert Region Studies. which I believe is attracting students from Texas".
"The new vice-chancellor, Professor Garnett, is making a difference," he says. "She has a clear idea of what the institution is about and where she wants it to be."
Meanwhile, Monday saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by CDU and Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, hailed as "historic" and "a giant step forward" by the two institutions.
In a joint statement, CDU Vice Chancellor Professor Helen Garnett and Batchelor Institute Interim Director John Ingram said the Memorandum has four main objectives: € collaboration between the Territory's two tertiary education providers; € service delivery designed to achieve optimal tertiary education outcomes for Indigenous people; € the development, modelling and sharing of best practice in teaching and learning across higher education and vocational education and training; € and, research on Indigenous matters. "We recognise that each institution brings different strengths to the joint activities and this is one of the advantages of collaboration. This agreement is based on mutual respect and cooperation, with the aim of minimising duplication and maximising opportunities for Indigenous people. "Staff in the various areas will work together on this. We will build on existing relationships between staff at the two institutions and examine the most efficient use of infrastructure in remote, regional and urban areas. There may be some sharing of facilities." The development of the MoU and associated collaborative projects has been made possible by a $3m grant from the Commonwealth Government.
Batchelor Institute has over 3000 students, with more than one-third enrolled in higher education. Charles Darwin University has enrolled 197 Indigenous students in Higher Education this year, and 1197 in VET.


Designing and project managing the construction of your new house is easier than you think.
It saved us at least $100,000: We paid $280,000 for a building and fittings which doing it the "normal" way would have cost us $380,000 to $400,000.
Think about it: if everyone did it, Alice Springs would have a quarter more houses for the same money. We'd get four houses for the price of three.
Fate in no uncertain terms forced us to look at these options: two years ago, after a glorious overnight camp on the Larapinta Trail, we walked into mobile telephone range and got the message that our house was gone, burned to the ground, and all that was in it destroyed.
The initial shock of losing most of what we owned was pretty awful.
The following eight months of negotiations with builders and project managers were worse.
At first we thought the construction slump at the time, late 2003, would have builders clamoring for work.
Not so. Many trades people had left town and the remaining few were quite busy.
Builders interested in our job gave us quotes well in excess of what the project ultimately cost, and what out budget could bear.
They would quote at least $1000 a square meter.
We'd say, OK, let's leave out the Italian marble, the solid gold bath taps and the crystal chandeliers.
How much?
"A thousand dollars a square meter." Clearly, this wasn't getting us anywhere.
Some project managers' opening gambit would be something like this: "Give us all your money and we'll see what we can do."
When we suggested formalizing agreements, a standard response was: "We don't sign contracts."
Appointments weren't kept, calls not returned and promises broken.
A favorite strategy was to inflate the enormity of the task of building a house and its supposed myriad pitfalls.
Builders would imply that if we didn't place our trust in them, we'd be doomed.
We began to wonder if we'd ever have our own house again.
And then we took the bull by the horns: Planning to deal with them direct, we took a punt that the "tradies", the sub-contractors and suppliers, would be reliable, efficient and trustworthy. They were all the above ­ Alice is truly a lucky place to have them!
Around the dinner table we sketched a floor plan of the home we wanted.
We gave that drawing to Judy Barker, of Barker Hume Homes, who fabricates steel wall and roof frames in her factory in Ghan Road, right here in The Alice.
For a fraction of an architect's fee Judy drew up the plans, and $600 later they were certified by an engineer.
But Judy did much more than that.
For example, she'd say, sure, you can have 2.8 meter walls. But it'll cost you.
Make it 2.7 meters and you save lots, because that's two plasterboard sheets on top of one another. No cutting, no waste.
Keep it simple: straight lines, right angles.
Our huge roof, for example, consists of two straight surfaces, gabled in the middle.
That kind of advice paid off when we engaged the trades, from slab to carpentry.
"It's big," the sub-contractors would say. (The house, not counting verandas, is 400 square meters, on a five acre rural block.)
"But it's easy."
We'd achieved the obvious, namely that cost isn't just a factor of size, but also of complexity and difficulty of construction: The square meter formula doesn't make sense.
The kitchen, bathrooms, toilets and laundry are, of course, the dearest part of the house.
But you can double the size of your bedrooms or living rooms at a much smaller additional cost. We averaged the cost of our house at less than $800 a square meter, including all this: two fully equipped bathrooms with toilets, a separate third toilet, a laundry with 16 cubic meters of cupboard space, a large kitchen with a gas stove and electric fan-forced oven; three built-in wardrobes, one walk-in robe, two evaporative and seven reverse cycle air conditioners (to allow cooling or heating to the parts of the house in use), 12 ceiling fans, polished concrete floors in the main living / dining room and kitchen, and wall to wall carpets in most other rooms.
We also have TV and data cabling and broadband to most rooms.
(Rural area residents can obtain a broadband service from Telstra for just $129 because they are outside landline range ­ normal installation and hardware cost is $3629.)
The obvious traps for do-it-yourself home builders are more easily avoided than most people think.
The key one is, of course, how not to get ripped off.
Firstly, make sure the people you engage are reliable.
In a small town like Alice that isn't hard: most people in the industry know the bad eggs. Don't invite them to provide quotes.
Secondly, there needs to be absolute clarity of what the parties ­ you and your sub-contractors ­ will be doing for each-other.
That can only be done in writing. Here you'll run into the reluctance about signing contracts.
We got Śround this by using purchase orders for each trade, signed by us and the sub-contractors.
What they found especially appealing was payment two days after certification, in full, except for five per cent 90 days after completion. (Anyone asking for money in advance, tell them thanks, but no thanks.)
Our purchase orders had the plans attached and:-
€ outlined exactly the work to be performed, usually with specifications such as they are stipulated for government housing, often with reference to Australian Standards, and the requirement to follow manufacturer's printed instructions for the use of materials;
€ the schedule of works and the circumstances, such as bad weather, which would be a reason for not sticking to it;
€ schedule of progress payments, if applicable;
€ whether the job is "supply and fix" and if not, what materials we would provide ourselves (these would be fully itemized in the purchase order);
€ dispute resolution through an arbitrator;
€ and ­ most importantly ­ inspection of the work to trigger the payments: no tick, no pay is what the purchase orders made clear, the key safeguard of our interests.
Putting together these purchase orders was the hardest part of our do-it-yourself building effort. Now they're done. Want a copy? Sing out. Many people helped us after the fire because they felt sorry for us losing our home. We're happy now to return that kindness as best we can.
We engaged Duncan Cooke of Project Building Certifiers as an advisor and as the certifier.
Building regulations require four inspections ­ of the sub-base work before the slab is poured; the slab; wall and roof frames before cladding; and, completion.
We engaged Duncan for three additional inspections so that we could quickly pay the "subbies".
Duncan's expertise was one guarantee that we would get properly executed work; his own insurance cover was a second one, and our own home builder's insurance, a third.
The plumbers and electricians are self-certifying, carrying their own insurance.
Having avoided the risk of misunderstandings through clearly worded purchase orders, and having created, right from the start, a reputation of being super prompt payers, our relationship with the contractors was an absolute pleasure.
For someone like me who sits in front of a computer around 50 hours a week, working with blokes who are good at something totally different, and proud of it, is a hoot.
The procurement of materials was also less daunting than we expected.
Some "subbies" quoted on a "supply and fix" basis, and we didn't have to worry about materials.
For those who quoted for labor only we had to keep up the flow of materials.
These came mainly from One Steel and Home Timber and Hardware, whose senior staff provided "take offs" ­ estimates of quantities required.
We'd chosen Colorbond corrugated iron walls rather than brick ­ much the same cost but a look we wanted, and, with insulation, handling the climate very well.
We used 1.5 batts as wall insulation (including internal walls, for sound dampening), 3.5 batts in the roof, and 10mm plasterboard walls and ceilings.
A hot summer and, of late, a cold winter showed we'd made the right choices.
We did some jobs ourselves, compacted the sub-base for the slab, laid 130 meters of underground cable on the block, fixed the skirting boards (some are not too flash, the experts tell us).
The money we saved wasn't a lot but it gave us a feeling of camaraderie with the experts building our house, and ultimately, a profounder feeling of ownership.
Duncan had advised us well on the optimal sequence of the work, but some of the organizing was left to the ingenuity and good will of the contractors.
It was a mark of their professionalism that when necessary, they worked together, or ensured they weren't in each others' way.
We had a construction schedule, not counting demolition, of three months and two weeks. It took us just one week more.
So far as we can work it out, we paid some subcontractors a little more than builders would have ­ but no skin off our nose: Their outstanding work, and what we saved by not engaging a builder, more made up for the extra cash.
The whole exercise opened our eyes to a range of issues in town.
Charging by the square meter is taking the buyer for a ride, and has potentially wide consequences for the Alice Springs lifestyle: It's one of the answers why so many people live in the tiny boxes that currently dominate the home market.
In a place where the weather is often exceptionally harsh, we need generous indoor living areas.
The extortionate cost of housing ­ buying as well as renting ­ has become a major disincentive to settling in The Centre.
Conversely, better and more appropriate housing would be an incentive, but for that we'd need more residential land and bigger blocks.
Land we have in abundance, living as we are in the middle of a vast, sparsely populated country, but we don't have the leaders who can bring about a sensible distribution of it.
We also need a clever balance between conservation objectives and comfort.
No-one in their right mind would live and work here without extensive air conditioning ­ evaporative "swampies" for when it's hot and dry; split-systems for when it's humid or cold.
Even with seven reverse cycle air conditioners, switched on just one or two at a time (they're also great heaters!) we create a lot less greenhouse gases than big city commuters going to work each day, one person to a car.
Our house has a string of environmental features, and they all work well.
The most significant are its orientation to the north, and a white roof that repels the heat so effectively that you can walk on it barefoot on a forty degree day.
The house faces exactly north. The northern eaves are 900 mm wide and 2700 mm off the ground.
In the summer they completely shield the northern facade from the sun, high in the sky at that time.
In winter the much lower sun streams into the north-facing rooms, warming them up, with the help of a two meter strip of polished concrete just inside the northern wall, providing thermal mass to radiate warmth through the house.
A four meter wide veranda to the west keeps off the afternoon sun.
We have a huge bathtub but no lawn we need to water.
The effluent stays on the block because we use a septic tank.
We put a 150 mm concrete lid on our swimming pool and turned it into a 50,000 liter rainwater tank.
But despite dire warnings from some about their consequences on heating and cooling, we have huge windows and glass doors because we like to look out at our undisturbed witchetty bushes, ironwoods and corkwoods and, and the native grasses and wildflowers burgeoning after we got rid of buffel grass.

Pat Brown, Patrick Homes (crane hire, demolition).
"Pommy" Graham (Graham's Bobcat and Tipper Hire).
Mike Singer (CSR Readymix): Demolition and sub-base preparation; seamless delivery of 17 loads of concrete.
Judy Barker (Barker Hume Homes): Plans, advice, all the metal wall and roof frames to the accuracy of a millimetre.
Peter McDonald (Araluen Plumbing): Plumbing, including sewerage, solar hot water and gas fitting.
Suzanne Bitar (Taps, Tubs & Tiles): Supplied tiles and kitchen as well as bathroom fittings, basins and tubs.
Luke Redden (L & M Redden Electrical): Supplied and fixed all electrical services, fans, TV and data links throughout the house.
Phil Pomare: Erected wall and roof frames; fixed wall and roof cladding; poured veranda slabs and paths.
Smajo Spahic (Alice Springs Painting Service).
Paolo Morelli (Morelli Cabinet Makers): All cabinets, including kitchen, laundry and bathrooms ­ another guy generous with advice and meticulous in his work.
John Oravsky (Condition Air Pty Ltd): Supplied and fixed two evaporative air conditioners and ducting.
Greg and Chris Neck (Murray Neck): Furnishings, TV and sound systems, reverse-cycle air conditioners.
Wayne Bennett, Amoonguna Constructions: Gave great advice on kitchen and bathroom design.
Home Timber & Hardware: Insulation, plasterboard, hardware ­ and comprehensive advice.
Max Klein (Neata Glass): All windows and external glass doors.
Lorraine Pfau (OneSteel): Supplied roof and wall cladding, helped with "take offs" (estimating quantities).
Trevor Bitner (Alice Equipment Hire): Generous with weekend hires.
Simon Kilgariff (Alice Sheds and Structures): Supplied shed (separate from the home), displayed the patience of a saint explaining to us how to erect it.
Paul Halliday (Wastemaster): Rubbish removal.
Jim Nylan (M&M Formwork): Supplied form work for pool conversion to rainwater tank.
Daryl Napier (Desert City Tiling): Great attention to detail in extensive tiling work.
Paul Warner: Slab.
Darrell Mason, his mate Ritchie and my son Laurie (all the way from Perth): Fixing plasterboard.

LETTERS: What next? Opal glue? Opal paint?

Sir,­ I address this letter to all politicians from Bob Brown to Nigel Scullion.
Sniffing is not the problem. Sniffing is the answer.
And Opal fuel alone will not change that, no matter how far and at what expense it is rolled out.
Do we also introduce Opal glue? Opal paint? Opal polystyrene?
Sooner or later the problem will have to be faced. And the problem is the lack of any meaningful horizon that the young can aim for. In the cities this takes the form of drug and alcohol addiction. On our remote communities petrol is accessible and by default becomes the oblivion of choice.
By all means let's roll out Opal fuel if that will help in the immediate short term. Something has to be done to keep the current generation of ghosts from ruining any more lives, including their own.
But I almost hesitate to say this for fear a cosmetic fix will be mistaken for a substantive remedy.
The only way out of this impasse is through increased education leading into meaningful work.
We know that. We have known that for decades.
But such a remedy needs start-up funds, continuing funds, and a generational commitment.
To be fair, programs promoting a better future have been and are being attempted by both the NT and Federal governments.
And many communities are working hard to provide a sustainable living environment for their residents.
In this vein I call on the elders and councils at Mutitjulu and Yuendumu to reconsider how you are spending your Śgate' and royalty monies.
It looks like it is being mostly squandered on motor cars and grog.
Until you are seen to commit your own funds to your own problems, you will have to expect some resentment when you approach the wider community for assistance.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

ED­ In last week's letters Greg Andrews, project manager for Mutitjulu Working Together, indicated that people at Mutitjulu have agreed to spend the park's rent and gate monies on community development projects.
Sir,­ The stories about Australian Aboriginal children being taken from their families is a complex story that can sound so grim and harsh as it was, but it is important to be understood in context.
Today there are adults and young children in Aboriginal communities sniffing petrol in cans, parents placating their babies with cloth dipped in petrol. There are grim stories told of parents afraid of their children who have become violent and brain damaged from petrol sniffing.
Parents keep imploring the government to help them. Millions of dollars are spent on welfare and now a petrol that is not toxic will be substituted for the sniffing petrol in some communities.
In pensive moments do the parents of children slowly killing themselves ever cry out: "Please take my children to some other place where they can find a life less destructive."
I think they might and it's shameful that they can't.
Kathryn Pollard
Chelmer, Qld

Country of origin

Sir,­ Twelve months ago the issue of Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) was not on the agenda. Then Warren Truss, at the time Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, recognized the value of Australian HomeGrown Limited, and backed it with up to $4m of taxpayers' money.
Today we have a least six new COOL "trust marks". We have total focus on the problem. We've had a 2000km tractor drive. We've had rallies and photo opportunities for all. We've had misinformation and beat ups. We've also had both major retailers run a national campaign of COOL identification of fresh food.
Australian HomeGrown is the only logo which continues to categorically, unambiguously and definitively show that food ­ fresh or processed ­ is grown, farmed or fished in Australia. It provides immediate point-of-sale recognition for consumers. It doesn't beat up on retailers or manufacturers.
It is the solution to consumer and industry needs. Not more noise about the problem ­ but a clear solution. Grown, farmed or fished in Australia equals HomeGrown.
The risk to Australian agriculture is that their best intentions will create a confused and disparate message, lost in each other's noise, clawing for the COOL high ground and achieving little of tangible value. Lots of effort on the journey; and little on the destination.
Who will pay for all the new labelling? Who will manage our international trade obligations? Australian HomeGrown is tested, trialled, researched, funded and resourced. It is federally backed and industry backed. Commercial strategy proves that focus and clarity of mission wins ­ the reverse fails.
Marcus Elgin
Australian HomeGrown


"Scrap Yard Magicians are guys with Śreal' jobs having a little creative fun on the side," says Silver Bullet Café proprietor Mike Gillam.
They showed their hand with some 70 sculptural pieces by 23 different individuals at a unique exhibition presented by Silver Bullet last year and will be back with new pieces at the re-opening of the café on September 3, the first weekend of the Alice Desert Festival.
Pictured is a piece by bulldozer operator Simon Holding from last year's show. Most of the sculptors are amateurs, who otherwise ply their trade as plumbers, welders, boilermakers and so on, but the show will also include works by professional sculptor Dan Murphy, who has made a career from creating art out of scrap.
Most of the pieces are personal treasures, not for sale, serving as furniture or ornaments for their creators.
They do them to challenge or hone their skills, says Mike; to decorate their homes; or as an alternative pastime to shopping, watching TV or perhaps drinking to excess.
The show and coffee get underway at 9am and thereafter the much missed Silver Bullet, which has been closed for new construction, will be open weekends till the end of the year.


Epicure are a five piece band from Ballarat who play mellowed out rock, with heart felt melodies and stirring lyrics.
Their music combines a distinct Australian identity with maturity that results in songs that are easy to love and a respect that is hard to gain.
They have climbed their way into Aussie music lovers' hearts and are going to stay there for a long time.
They've been placed three times in one of the world's biggest music polls, Triple J's Hottest 100. Their Good-bye Girl LP had phenomenal success throughout Australia and they have spent the last few months recording their new album Main Street (due out September). They've played at some of Australia's most prestigious music festivals, Big Day Out and Falls, and on September 3 they'll be playing for our very own Alice Desert Festival.
The concert will start at 5pm, kicking off with some of Alice's best musicians at the HUB_space, on the banks of the Todd River.
The beautiful Tashka Urban will be playing her fabulous folky tunes; larger-than-life, funky Kylie Wilson will wow us with her great cabaret voice; and Leon Spurling, the alternative acoustic guitarist with a voice like no one else's, will also sing a few tunes into the dying sun. NoKTuRNL, Alice's stunning success story, will also be playing their blend of metal, blues, hip hop, hard core and all the rest. They released their Time Flies LP in 2003 and toured Germany with it.
Live at the HUB_space promises to be a fantastic night, when a smorgasbord of local talent meets one of Australia's best rock bands.


Alice-based author Jo Dutton has just sold her second novel, Eight Olives, to Random House Australia, this country's leading publisher of fiction. The novel, which treats the theme of loss through a story of the women in three generations of a family, will be released next year in the lead-up to Mothers' Day.
Dutton's first novel, On the Edge of Red, was published by Anchor in 1998. She wrote Eight Olives, a longer work, over the next three years but says she took another three to "get its structure right".
It was submitted to Random House earlier this year.
Like On the Edge of Red, it is set in Western Australia and Central Australia, but unlike in the earlier book, Aboriginal life in the Centre does not play a thematic role. "Place plays a role," says Dutton.
"The grandmother is an immigrant to Australia and there are other geographic separations. "But I guess geographic separation only accounts for so much. "If you move away, what do you move from, what do you take with you?
"And this story particularly looks at the devastation of loss if it happens out of its natural order, how a family deals with tragedy."
Dutton says Random have told her they are "very excited" about Eight Olives and its potential audience.


South are top of the table after the weekend's matches deciding the 2005 AFL minor round results.
Their defeat over bottom-placed Rovers on Saturday was indicative of the disciplined style they've displayed all year.
The final score was 30-19 (199) to South, 1-6 (12) to Rovers.
The team has shown themselves again and again this season to be the standout side, winning all but two of their games (one loss, one draw).
The other match saw Federals guarantee themselves third spot after a win over fourth-placed Pioneer.
In the opening quarter Pioneer started strongly, with a 4-4 lead over Feds' 2-3.
But Federals kept it together to steadily clock up the points, finishing 14-24 over Pioneer's 11-7.
Although Wests still have to play Federals next week, the Westies are definitely placed second in the table.
The first semi-final for the major round begins on September 3.
In B grade, Pioneer was beaten for the first time this year by Federals ­ the score was 23-13 (151) versus Pioneer's weak 6-2 (38).
Rovers strong reserve team once again had a win, this time defeating South 17-5 (107) versus 5-7 (37).

Football's Federals fail finals. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.

Federals' football grand final dream has been shattered - and for the first time ever the team is left bottom of the league.
The former glory team have struggled to find any sort of form this year, only managing to win three of their 15 games.
They looked to be bitterly disappointed with their 4-nil loss to Scorpions at the weekend.
PHYSICAL The game was vocal and physical, but despite the hard work of Feds' David Sabadin and Chris Hatzimihail who set up some promising goal chances between them, the team looked as if they had given up before the game had finished.
Scorpions kept the ball in their half for the much of the game, with the skill and fitness of Paul Wakefield shining through as he scored a hat trick for the reds.
Chris Constable made up the fourth goal.
Scorpions will now play Verdi in the preliminary finals this weekend.
In the other match of the day, Vikings secured themselves a spot in the grand final after defeating Memo 1-nil, the single goal scored by Scott Leitch.
As runners-up in the league, Vikings' steady form over the season means they have a real shot in the grand final, which will be played on September 11.
In B grade, Buckleys are through to the grand final after their 3-nil win over Vikings.
But ASFA are out after losing 3-1 to Scorpions.


As the sun set behind the McDonnell ranges on Saturday night, Blatherskite Park looked like a Malboro advert ­ as unshaven cowboys in dark sunglasses and denim shirts cantered and kicked up the red dust at the Alice Springs Rodeo.
A crowd of about 3000 cheered the competitors on as they bucked, sped and lassoed their way around the rodeo ring.
No one even minded about the power failure that cut lights, sound and action for half an hour.
Recognised by some as the most dangerous sport in the world, the most exciting event was the bull riding competition. Cowboys were allocated a bull from a computer draw ­ and prayed they'd got a friendly one as they tried to hold on for the necessary eight seconds.
One of the rodeo circuit's top bull riders, Lindsay Friend, from Dartmoor in Victoria, drew Stone Cold as his bull. At seven years old, the bull is known as notoriously moody.
Going into the competition, Lindsay said he felt fit enough to handle Stone Cold ­ not because of his physical fitness, but because of his mental agility: "Bulls are smarter than horses ­ they change direction, mix it up, you don't know what they're going to do. It's a lot more physical.
"I do my weights and go for a job but it's a challenge to keep mentally fit. You can be the biggest bloke going but if you get on shaking, you're going to get hurt. The bull can sense if you get scared, bulls feel fear."
Lindsay's been rodeoing for about 10 years and says it's something he's always wanted to do after growing up with horses in Queensland ­ his family owned cattle trucks there.
He travels the rodeo circuit every weekend, and this is the second time he's been to Alice Springs. "It's a serious sport. I rate it with footy ­ no one here is half-hearted about it.
"This is a good rodeo, it's well put together and people here are good, kind people, they really get behind it.
"It's a good-sized crowd and they love the sport. They're real vocal, it gets you going heaps."
Australia's leading rodeo cowgirl, Sarah McLean, who is 21, agrees: "Alice Springs rodeo has the best conditions for competing ­ it's not raining or too hot," she says.
Coming from western Victoria, she says she's competed in rainy rodeos far too often, and loves coming to Central Australia. "The rodeo is the same wherever you go but the countryside here is different. I love it. And the weather is beautiful."
Sarah has grown up with horses ­ and says she can't imagine life without them: "I can't remember when I couldn't ride ­ the horses used to babysit us when mum and dad were busy.
"I come from a farm and my dad had sprint horses. They'd sit us on the quiet ones while they worked!"
Sarah has done about 30 rodeos this year, travelling across the country every weekend with her horse Baby Boy who's three. She's accumulated the most points of any cowgirl in Australia this year ­ and hopes to take the title at the end of the season.
Baby Boy has been broken in for a year, and being a quarter horse, is good at short bursts of speed ­ perfect for the barrel-racing event which Sarah specialises in. She's been competing in the event for six years, but for the first time, she entered the breakaway roping competition at the Alice rodeo: "It's a good rodeo to start in - it's friendly and not too competitive."
Michelle Tree, the organiser of this year's rodeo, says that it's only been in recent years that women have become accepted into the rodeo scene.
"Over the last couple of years the prize money has gone up ­ there was very little before.
"Rodeo is a great competition now for men and women to compete in."
Michelle, who describes herself as a "city girl", met her husband at a rodeo ­ he was a competitor ­ and she quickly became immersed in the culture. "I had to learn pretty fast. It's so exciting - I love it."
Judging from the response of the crowd on Saturday night, plenty of the spectators would agree with her.

Misplaced optimism? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

The other day I met a man who recently moved to Alice Springs for work. Apart from his well-groomed beard it was his enthusiasm that really caught my attention.
The sort of enthusiasm you rarely come across when discussing the current state of affairs in our town with more seasoned residents.
I would like to think, most of us who move to the Alice, start out pretty enthusiastic, but like plastics and fabric fade and become brittle, quickly falling apart in the harsh sunshine, our enthusiasm withers away with time and experience.
We start out believing that anything is possible with the right attitude and some hard work but as we are knocked down over and over again we become despondent and cynical.
When that has happened we may see what we define as the truth of a situation, the way things really are and consider enthusiasm to be misplaced optimism.
One of our challenges as humans is that our perspectives are very limited. Our lives are short and we may not be able to experience or reap the fruits of our labour.
We look for instant solutions and quick fixes and when we have thrown all we've got at something and it is still a tragic mess, it is easy to label something or someone hopeless.
I'm looking for a small shade tree to plant in my front garden. I would like it to be quite big already so that it can withstand a few knocks and not get run over by the kids and I would also like it to be fast growing so that I can enjoy its shade soon.
Why don't I just buy a large umbrella you might ask? There is the problem of materials falling apart and the shade from a beautiful tree is special as long as it isn't too big.
I thought I had found the perfect tree, a Candelabra wattle, so off I went in search for one but the specimens I found at one of the nurseries were less than a foot high and I was told it has a relatively short life span.
Fifteen years max. Now something strange happened. Although it was the right size, a native and fast-growing, its short life span deterred me.
If I'm going to plant a tree, I would like it to have a life expectancy of at least 30 years. You plant a tree not only for yourself in the present but also for the future.
Although I may not be around to see the wattle die I would like to think that there will be something to show for my efforts many years from now. When it comes to trees we don't necessarily expect quick returns, and any gardener will know that hard work does not pay off every time, yet there is always hope that the seeds will shoot and the seedlings take off.
Unlike plastic we don't have to fall apart in the sun, nor do we have to believe that hardships are illusions. We may not be able to see that what we are doing here and now is in any way improving a situation, yet it might. We may be planting trees and not perennials. Enthusiasm may not win the long distance race, but it will give the seed of hope a good start.

Dress down every day. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

As you do in Alice Springs, I recently bumped into someone in the Yeperenye who I hadn't seen for a while.
In fact, not since my first weeks in town. She used to be a friendly assistant in a shop that I visited regularly, but she changed jobs and so I hadn't come across her lately.
In those days, I must have looked as green as grass because she immediately identified me as a new arrival.
"Why would you want to come here when the rest of us are trying to escape?" she asked. Very funny, I thought. It must be local custom to be disparaging about the Alice.
In other countries, the locals sometimes label new people with derogatory or even racist nicknames. Illegal immigrants from Mexico to the USA are called Śwetbacks', a play on the fact that many cross the Rio Grande to pass through the border. Given the ease with which Australians use racial identification tags like whitefella and the national fondness for nicknames, you would have through that someone could come up with a witty short hand for newcomers to the Alice. Perhaps they have and didn't tell me.
This brief encounter at the food court was one in which my former acquaintance pointed out that I looked like the locals these days due to the state of my appearance. I had dressed down, she remarked, and was now a Territory scruff. I'm a sensitive soul and so I thought about her comments for a few hours. Actually it was days or it might even have stretched to a few weeks. Admittedly my days of jacket, ironed trouser creases and crisp shirt might be over, but I do try to make an effort.
The trouble is that there are no minimum dress standards in the Northern Territory. While office workers in the cities have Śdress down Friday', where you can be daring and wear brighter colours, our equivalent is Śdress down all the time'.
This means that we go out to a restaurant in clothes that city office workers wouldn't wear to clean out their chook shed.
I'd like to think that appearance doesn't matter because the personality of an individual makes up for any sartorial failings, but I have noticed that this isn't true.
As a parent of teenagers who nags them about the way that they look, I would be two-faced to pretend otherwise.
But the change in my appearance has little to do with the Territory. I have reached the clothing wilderness that men reach once they hit a certain age. There is no acceptable way for mature men to dress these days.
Look around. For starters, we are pathetic in sports clothing. Most blokes cannot remember when they last participated in sport. Clad in acrylic tracksuits for a day out with the wife, we look like hamburger-munching sub-humans.
I saw a man my age the other day with his baseball hat turned back to front and a pair of shorts that would fit an elephant. He looked ridiculous. Dressing like your dad is no longer an option either.
Until now, generations of men have known from the outset what their lifelong wardrobes would look like; a line of sensible shirts, some neat trousers and a couple of jackets.
In the new millennium, dressing like this when not at work makes you seem, well, a bit weird. The alternative is to dress like we did 20 years ago, which becomes the male equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb.
Unless someone tells us how to present ourselves, we middle-aged men stop buying clothes. From there, the only place to go is into decline. So next time you see someone who has dressed down, have sympathy. He's only acting his age.

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