September 28, 2005.


The Alice town council has voted overwhelmingly to demand a halt to the NT Government's process of handing over ownership of national parks to Aborigines.
On Monday night only the Mayor - an unsuccessful Labor party candidate in the recent Territory elections - and Alderman Jane Muré voted against three motions by Ald Melanie van Haaren, seconded by Ald David Koch.
Aldermen Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke and Geoff Bell were absent.
Mayor Kilgariff told the Alice News last week: "We have very defined areas of responsibility, and this isn't one."
But Ald van Haaren called for a delay of further negotiations about the future of the parks until the council has had time to adopt an informed position.
The second motion was to advise Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone, who would need to initiate a change to the Land Rights Act in the national Parliament for the handover to take place, that because of inadequate information about the handover process, there is a lack of support for it.
And thirdly, the council should be seeking a briefing from the government, as well as directions from stakeholders as to whether the council should support or oppose the handover.
Speaking to her motion Ald van Haaren said Alice is in the middle of national parks yet "we are not in the picture".
The process is unfolding behind closed doors "and we don't know when, where, why".
She said Chief Minister Clare Martin has no mandate from Central Australians to speak on national parks.
It's a matter of "lifestyle and livelihood: if the council became involved in issues of nuclear dumps and unsniffable Opal fuel, then it should be equally involved in the parks issues".
Ald Koch said, to the best of his recollection, the council had several years ago expressed its opposition to the "distribution of parks to traditional owners".
It was "imperative" that the council had a position on the issue: even the Telegraph Station was part of the deal involving "significant chunks of the NT".
He said Aborigines did not have a good track record in managing parks, while the present system is working well.
The government's plans were not in the best interest of the Territory.
"The council must have a strong position on this," Ald Koch said.
TWO NATIONS Ald Samih Habib said the move was divisive, creating "two nations", and not to the benefit of Aborigines.
"We need to take a stand - enough is enough," he said. "The taxpayer can't afford to pay any more."
Ald Mure said the council should stick to its core business - roads, rates and rubbish. Other diversions should be avoided, especially as the budget isn't being managed well.
Ald Murray Stewart said the parks were very much a core issue for the council: in other states people go the beach while in The Centre "we retreat to our national parks".
They are a magnet for people coming to The Centre as workers and tourists alike.
He said the Central Land Council may well be agreeing not to charge admission to the parks, but it would have other ways of generating income, such as the sale of intellectual property rights for photography.
"The council needs a seat at the table," said Ald Stewart.
He was all in favor of creating business opportunities for Aborigines "but not at the expense of other locals".
The government has not been given a mandate from Central Australia to dispose of the parks ownership.
Mayor Kilgariff said there is "a great deal of misunderstanding" of the issues and she would seek a briefing for the council from the government.
Ald Koch snapped back that "briefing" had the ring of instructions: what the council needed was better information.
Meanwhile the CEO of the NT Chamber of Commerce, Graham Poon, said the chamber had not been consulted by the NT Government about its parks policies, but neither had the membership raised the issue as something the chamber should be taking up.
"I'm strongly of the opinion that people should be able to get individual freehold titles to certain areas," he said.
"Then you can see proper economic development, people raising money against property."
Mr Poon says the government's parks strategy could be an indirect contributor to these objectives if it creates "good economic development in an area that's controlled by Indigenous people, and those people are not only the workers, but they are also the owner-managers.
"That's where you get a true long-term sustainable development."


The Central Land Council (CLC) is making sweeping demands from the Territory Government for more Aboriginal land, on cattle stations and elsewhere; for government-like powers over mining; protection of sacred sites, including some on the Mereenie Loop Road which is meant to be sealed; and for accelerating native title deals.
The CLC wants Aboriginal freehold over Junction Waterhole (Werlatye Atherre), north of the Telegraph Station, where the construction of a dam across the Todd River was stopped by a Federally imposed 20 year moratorium, due to end in 2012.
The moratorium was the response of Labor Aboriginal Affairs Minister Robert Tickner to a plea for protection of women's sacred sites in the area.
However, it's accepted by engineers that a flood mitigation dam on that site is the single most effective measure to prevent catastrophic destruction in the event of a "hundred year flood".
The 1988 flood, which killed two people and caused millions of dollars worth of damage, was a "40 year flood".
Meanwhile the Northern Land Council (NLC) wants "the Government's commitment to authorize mining, including uranium mining, where traditional owners consent". This would be in breach of the Martin government's "no more uranium mines" policy.
And while the CLC says the NT Government should be getting on with the transfer of the Territory's national parks to Aborigines, the NLC seems to be getting cold feet over the deal, which provides for a 99 year lease-back to the NT Government, and joint management.
The NLC is saying the scheme "would seriously diminish the traditional owners' rights to directly develop their land".
This, and an annual rental set by the Australian Office of Valuation, as proposed, "is most unlikely to receive [the traditional owners'] informed consent," says the NLC.
These issues are dealt with in a 16 page memorandum from Paul Tyrrell, Chief Executive of the Department of the Chief Minister, sent to departmental heads who are members of the Chief Executives' Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs.
The Alice Springs News has obtained a copy of the memorandum which is dated July 19.
Some of the issues were raised in the last sittings of Parliament after the information had been leaked to the Opposition.
Mr Tyrrell says in the memo the information would be brought up in a forum to be held "in the next few months".
Neither Mr Tyrrell nor the NLC returned calls from the Alice News, and a media officer of the CLC said only that the CLC was always discussing a number of issues with the government.
The tone of the CLC's wish list, forming part of Mr Tyrrell's memo, suggests a high level of irritation with the NT Government, urging it to "resolve outstanding differences", referring to "highest priority issues", and "seeking to agree on timeframes and processes".
For example, the CLC says on education "it appears there was little progress in [Labor's] first term ... on pre, primary and secondary education in remote communities," and is calling for an Aboriginal committee to be set up to run a cultural maintenance program funded jointly by the NT Government and Canberra.
The CLC is calling for a review of the Sacred Sites Act, and seems to indicate that the upgrading of the tourist road to King's Canyon isn't nearly as close to reality as the government suggested before the elections in June: the CLC is calling for "site protection and work area / site clearances ... in general and over the Mereenie Loop Road".
The CLC wants the government to "confirm the joint approach to reform the Land Rights Act," ensuring it remains Federal legislation, and adopting "the comprehensive package of amendments agreed by the Northern Territory Government and the four land councils".
It says the government should "commence negotiations over the settlement of valid existing land claims, rather than forcing [them] through a costly court process.
"Given the lack of progress on this matter in the last term of government, this should be given a high priority and negotiations should commence immediately over the Wakay-Alyawarr Repeat claim and claims in the Simpson Desert".
This demand is followed by the word "Immediate".
The CLC appears to be suggesting that the NT Government is also dragging its feet on native title: "While there has been general commitment from both the government and CLC to seek to negotiate and reach agreement over native title issues, to date Š no agreed processes and no consent determinations of native title have been achieved."
The land council wants the government to "provide funding and support for emerging PBCs [prescribed bodies corporate, dealing with native title issues] in developed areas (for example Alice Springs and Tennant Creek), to ensure PBCs can develop their own plans and priorities and enhance their ability to negotiate with the Territory Government and other stakeholders".
Acknowledging that the land rights process has resulted in Aborigines having freehold title over half the Territory, the CLC states: "A major focus of the CLC's work is securing and maximising the land base for Aboriginal people in this region.
"There are many unmet land needs, particularly for landowners whose traditional country is covered by pastoral leases and was not available for claim.
"Community Living Areas (CLAs) provide the only option for living on, and accessing, that country.
"The Territory's existing CLA legislation and processes are seriously flawed and require reform."
The CLC says the Territory government should "support a program of strategic land acquisition" of community living areas, conservation areas that can double as living areas, and "address the economic and community development needs of existing CLAs that require access to more land (i.e. Lake Nash). Immediate."
The CLC wants "a single Act that recognises traditional as well as historical residential land interests and could apply to non-pastoral land tenures".
The land council calls for legislative reforms "to remove impediments to economic and commercial developments" in communities while "protecting the intention of inalienability".
That indicates that the CLC wants to maintain the current concept - broadly seen as a major cause of Aboriginal poverty - that land is communally owned and cannot be sold or mortgaged.
On the other hand, "with almost 50 per cent of the Territory's land mass now owned by Aboriginal traditional landowners" they now need better resourced "land and sea" management programs, including the Territory national parks which the NT Government wants to hand over to Aboriginal ownership.
"Priorities are Ntaria (West Macs National Park) and surrounds, the Alyawarr region [near Ti Tree], additional funding for the Tennant Creek region and the Pintupi-Luritja region [west of Alice]."
The CLC wants the government to "immediately act to grant Parks freehold title to relevant parks, and continue to pressure the Australian Government to schedule [the parks as inalienable Aboriginal freehold under the Land Rights Act]'.
The NT Government should "allow adequate resources for future land acquisitions."
The CLC also seems to aspire to rights normally reserved for governments, namely to decide who can and who can't have rights associated with mining.
This is an area where the NT Government has apparently already made significant concessions, as this demand indicates: "Continue to increase co-operative arrangements between DBIRD [the Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development] and the CLC" on such issues as uranium exploration, screening of applicants and a review of the Mining Act.
"In line with ALP policy, and due to the complexity of the issues surrounding uranium exploration and mining, act immediately to stop applying the Native Title Act's Œexpedited procedure' to uranium exploration licence applications.
"Take immediate action to clarify the grounds for refusing an application for an exploration licence, with a view to enhancing the ability of DBIRD to more effectively screen ELA [exploration licence] applications."
Although extensive job opportunities in tourism are being almost totally ignored by Aborigines, the CLC wants the government to "develop a specific incentive scheme aimed at ensuring that the mainstream tourism and pastoral industries employ Aboriginal trainees".
The CLC also sees itself as having a key role in local government reforms in bush communities, including a review of the Act.
Meanwhile the NLC deplores the absence of a "lease or licensing arrangement" which could "deliver many benefits, including through the legal categorisation of tenures in communities (a structural change which will promote economic activity) and the investment by traditional owners of rents or upfront payments from the use of land in regional development (again promoting economic activity)".
The NLC submission - only one third in length compared to the CLC's - has a keen focus on development: "The Government and other stakeholders must proactively work to facilitate economic development on Aboriginal land and native title land including, for example, by augmenting grants from the Aboriginal Benefits Account on a dollar for dollar basis."
The NLC submission also says: "The NLC looks forward to continuing, and developing, its relationship with the Government and other stakeholders whereby community living areas are appropriately granted.
"The NLC seeks the Government's commitment to a programme whereby, as occurred prior to the freeze which arose with the onset of native title issues in 1994, funding is provided for housing and related facilities on living areas."


It was an "unfortunate incident" last week when a 59 year old Alice Springs woman living in a town camp was killed by dogs, but it does not detract from the "success" of the animal control program on the camps.
So says William Tilmouth, executive director of Tangentyere Council.
Alice Springs Mayor Fran Kilgariff also defends the program and more generally the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with Tangentyere which transfers crucial municipal functions to the Aboriginal controlled organisation. However, far from making Tangentyere a contractor carrying out certain functions, under instruction from the town council, the MOU puts Tangentyere wholly in charge of servicing the town camps, including those with endemic litter problems, domestic violence, substance abuse and chronic unemployment.
This allows the town council to wash its hands of its obligations to control litter, dogs and health hazards.
Alderman Murray Stewart claims the MOU is ineffective and that its worth is being questioned by aldermen. He is angry that council has surrendered control to Tangentyere, yet is "left carrying the can" when things go wrong.
"It's not a MOU," says Ald Stewart. "It's an IOU.
"Put the money our way and we'll do twice the job." Mr Tilmouth claims the widespread perception that basic services in town camps are failing is down to "the media".
"There's no mention of the success that was put into the program prior to [the death of the woman], saying we are doing a good job," he says.
The "success" was that the three monthly animal control program had been conducted in all camps bar one the Monday before the fatal attack.
A total of 129 dogs were put down, including 25 from Trucking Yards, where the woman was found dead on Wednesday morning, having been attacked around 9pm the night before. Another 300 dogs were medicated for diseases like scabies and mange, and 30 female dogs were chemically sterilized.
Only a tenth of the camp dog population - estimated at 1000 by the town council's senior ranger - was put down, and it is unclear what control is exercised over the rest.
Mr Tilmouth plays down the ranger's estimate, suggesting there are only "300 and something" dogs in the camps.
The control program, funded by the Northern Territory Government, is headed by a vet and involved Tangentyere's wardens and staff from their environmental health unit as well as town council rangers.
Ms Kilgariff says it is working: "The dogs are a lot healthier, that's what our rangers are saying. And there's been some reduction in numbers."
The program was "the MOU in action", says Mr Tilmouth.
"It was not because we knew there was [going to be] a crisis the next day, it's a program we work on continuously."
The dogs treated or culled were identified by camp residents as unwanted, aggressive, unhealthy, or as not belonging to anyone, according to Mr Tilmouth.
But there is no other regulation of the dogs.
Only "a handful" are registered, says Mayor Fran Kilgariff.
How can this be, when anyone living outside a town camp would be prosecuted for failure to register a dog?
"It's not the ideal situation," says Ms Kilgariff.
"All dogs should be registered but apart from these few dogs, it's obviously that much more difficult to do.
"Perhaps it's the fact that they are not a nuisance outside the camp that is another reason why we don't go in and insist that they are all registered.
"We need to go in with Tangentyere people anyway to do anything.
"And the fact that there's a floating population anyway makes it much more difficult. The fallback is that the program that Tangentyere has in the camps is one way of managing the dogs that is more suitable than registration at this stage. Registration wouldn't have prevented what happened this week."
This last point does seem up for debate. Registration is a way of making dog-owners accountable for their animal. So far, no one seems to be accountable for the awful death of that woman last week.
Or can we hold the town council accountable for a situation where it is accepted that the gap in quality of life between town camp residents and other residents of Alice Springs is, in Ms Kilgariff's words, "really wide"?
And where it is also accepted, at least by Ms Kilgariff and Mr Tilmouth, that progress on a range of vital issues will be slow?
When the Alice News raised matters concerning other basic services, such as garbage collection, Mr Tilmouth said they are "up to scratch" because "30 years ago it was a lot worse, you would not have seen houses with electric lights and toilets".
"You've got to look historically to measure the success of town camps," he said. "We've been dealing with the whole history of colonisation, you don't change that overnight."
Mr Tilmouth will not disclose the amount of government funding Tangentyere is receiving to provide services to the camps.
On the long overdue camping facilities for bush visitors - whose presence in numbers and sometimes disrespectful behavior Mr Tilmouth cited as problematic for permanent residents - Ms Kilgariff said they were discussed at the MOU meeting last week.
"We talked about the provision of short term camping areas, and how we might find those north and south, and that is going to be one of the focuses of the MOU in the near future, the lobbying [for] and funding [of those areas]."
The News last spoke about the "urgent need" for such areas to Jane Vadiveloo, Tangentyere's Manager of Social Services, on June 30 last year. Over a year later they are still only being "talked about".
Even Stuart Lodge, specifically for bush visitors in town for hospital-related visits, won't be ready for about 12 months, said Ms Kilgariff, as "more money is needed than previously thought".
Is the "back to country" program, which helps bush visitors who get stuck in town to return to their communities, working?
Mr Timouth makes no grand claims for the program. "It's working for the people we take back, yes," he said.
"It's hard to measure, to say it's a success on any given day.
"People are very grateful to be taken back.
"Getting them back to their communities prevents a lot of anti-social behavior, so it's a strategy we are working with until another one is developed."
However, he also said that a lot of the communities are taking measures to get their residents back, for instance during football season, using community busses for transport in and out. On the MOU generally Ms Kilgariff said: "Our steps might be small with the MOU but it's far better than not having that vehicle of cooperation. It's proved its worth a number of times, progress might be slow but there is steady progress."
She cited upgrading of roads within the camps, which she claimed as an achievement before the last town council election, and said "we are investigating" how to provide streetlights.
This last MOU meeting also saw a decision made "to be less operationally based", said Ms Kilgariff.
"We have in the past spent a lot of time talking about how our people work together. We're really trying now to turn our hand to lobbying about various issues around town, changing government opinion about various things, like regular bus services to communities, policy areas, rather than in depth discussion about what ranger works with what warden on what day. Although that's really important and our staff know that is an area where they must cooperate."
Is there a risk, in being less operationally-focussed, that the basics might slip?
The risk is in the media saying so, said Mr Tilmouth. Why wouldn't Tangentyere rather concentrate on its other programs and leave council to deliver basic services?
It was hard to get an answer to this question. Said Mr Tilmouth: "That question comes from the perception that Tangentyere runs those town camps and owns those town camps when in actual fact they have their own incorporations and constitutions, and their own committees.
"I can't go and tell a town camp how to live its life. We can set policies, deliver programs, do things in and around what they see as their progression towards a better quality of life." Are they saying they want you to deliver basic services?
"They are all members of Tangentyere Council, duly elected, not appointed, they have AGMs, it's not like they are loose ends sitting out there."When the issue is raised, do they say they want Tangentyere Council to deliver services?
"That is what they want, that's the whole idea of their membership. Through that membership we achieve economies of scale. If you were to have 18 different associations by themselves, you would have a nightmare, no ability to administer, no ability to get funds, you wouldn't even have the ability to account for what you did get. Through Tangentyere we try to achieve a whole of government approach to what town campers want as well as achieve economies of scale. It's a big operation." Couldn't the town council achieve greater economies of scale than Tangentyere in, for instance, garbage collection?
"We are in our infancy with the MOU and we are fortunate to have a mayor who will sit down and listen to us," says Mr Tilmouth.
"It's something that I've always looked forward to. The cooperation is getting stronger, the programs are getting more and more thought out, and eventually we will hit the right note."
Has there ever been a comparison in per capita expenditure on basic services for residents inside and outside the camps?
The short answer to this is "no". Tangentyere has a multi-million dollar budget to service 1400 residents (although the current mobility study is suggesting that there are more like 2000 at any given time). Are they putting enough into basic services?
"Yes we are," said Mr Tilmouth. "I can't give you actual figures. All our funding is not discretionary funding. It's earmarked for certain programs, whether petrol sniffing, housing, repairs and maintenance, whatever.
"We do not have the ability to move that funding from program to program." Are residents of town camp getting a fair deal?
"We've moved a long way. The town council has maintenance responsibility for roads, through NAHS [National Aboriginal Health Strategy].
"There's also the Connecting Neighbours program which is coming up, upgrading infrastructure, lights, power, sewerage, which Power and Water will take responsibility for. There are a whole heap of things on the horizon that will lift the quality of life."


Cattle in national parks: anathema or a management tool?
CSIRO scientist Margaret Friedel has suggested that grazing may need to be considered as a strategy for protecting parts of national parks and nature reserves invaded by buffel grass.
In a recent media release Dr Friedel, who heads up a research project on buffel grass for the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, ruled out biological control because of the scale of the invasion and the adverse impact of such control on the pastoral industry.
"It would represent a massive disadvantage to pastoralists which is why something like that wouldn't be looked at," says Dr Friedel.
Has that disadvantage been weighed up against the benefits for the natural landscape and associated industries? Such a question now seems more pertinent than ever, with Dr Friedel warning that half the continent could be colonised by buffel, impacting on the growing bush foods industry, Indigenous communities, Outback tourism and the bushfire regimes of inland Australia.
The short answer is "no". Relative costs are "an area of considerable interest", but says Dr Friedel, "we are arguing in the dark". She is making initial inquiries about "getting someone on board through the CRC to gather together all the information we have to date".
Meanwhile, she says "strategic grazing" should at least be debated.
For example, grazing after winter rains, when buffel has recovered but other grasses haven't, would cut back on fuel loads thus helping to protect areas from the threat of destructive wildfires.
Of course, animals would need to be controlled by electric fencing, a considerable expense in itself.
There is no official government position on grazing in parks, but Glenn Edwards, senior scientist with the newly formed Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, says, "We would have to be 110 per cent sure that there would be a net benefit.
"Buffel grass causes a lot of headaches for biodiversity conservation but cattle can also have an impact."
While buffel thrives on fire in most natural situations, Dr Edwards says fire can be used strategically to manage the grass, albeit at a very small scale.
Very hot fires will kill the grass and sterilise the soil as well, he says.
However, this approach is only useful in dealing with key parts of the landscape, not where buffel has established itself as a monoculture.
Once again, it needs "further research".
Work done at Watarrka national park, involving aerial reconnaissance to establish the presence of the grass (see Alice News, July 27), has not yet been replicated in other parks. "I would like to think that it would be," says Dr Edwards.
All the present known strategies can only be used to manage buffel in selected areas. "Nothing will halt its spread," says Dr Edwards. "That is the grim picture we are looking at."


It's taken 31 years but Valerie Johnson and her three daughters - Tracy (now 42), Lisa (40) and Carmel (39) who were all born here, were finally reunited in Alice Springs to celebrate Valerie's 70th birthday.
Valerie lived at Oodnadatta for seven years in the 1960s with her husband, Anthony, who was a telephone lineman.
She was given the plane ticket as a 70th birthday present from her son, Christopher.
She had Tracy in the old Alice Springs hospital: "She was the only white baby in the ward - I couldn't lose her!" Valerie laughs.
Carmel and Lisa were born when the newer hospital was built on Gap Road.
Valerie says Alice Springs has changed a great deal since then. "It all looks so different and modern. I don't recognise it.
"The Todd Mall wasn't here, and the John Flynn church wasn't there, it was all gardens instead.
"But I remember the Telegraph Station and as soon as I walked into the Old Adelaide Hospital [now the John Flynn museum] I remembered it.
"I had to push my son through the window above the door once because we got locked out!
"That window is still there."
Valerie had to live in town for a few weeks before the birth of each of her daughters, and remembers how she loved Alice - because it sold pineapple juice!
"It was lovely coming here.
"Oodnadatta only had two shops - two general stores, and a pub of course.
"I stayed at the old Adelaide Hospital. It was a hostel, it had finished being a hospital.
"The café opposite [now the Red Ochre] sold pineapple juice which I couldn't get enough of."
Her daughters were thrilled to make the journey with their mother from Victoria where they now all live.
"We've all travelled widely and overseas but it's taken us this long to come to where we were born," says Carmel. "I expected some place bigger but this size is perfect.
"It's a thriving, modern town and the quality of the staff in the tourist industry is hard to beat - they are very courteous. "The sunsets are beyond belief, you are so lucky here. And the stars are so bright," she says.
"I'm amazed by the space, how huge it is here, the massive vastness," says Lisa.
"There are no trees blocking the view like in Victoria.
"I thought the colours I'd seen in Aboriginal paintings couldn't be true, that they looked garish, but I can't get over the redness here."
Tracy, who like her sisters now has a family of her own, says it's hard to appreciate her mother bringing up children here: "I'm a Melbourne girl. I couldn't imagine at 21 coming over to Central Australia with two young children and having another four.
"What a different upbringing we would have had if we'd stayed here."

Treadmill to nowhere. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

For a couple of days last week, it was impossible to avoid coverage of awards being handed out in big public ceremonies.
For starters, there was the Brownlow medal build-up, the event itself and the wrap-up.
After that came the vast jamboree of the Emmys. For the average viewer of breakfast television, tuxedo overload kicked in, turning me into a deranged bald man who shouts at the television from his treadle machine, this being the place from where I watch the news.
The worst part of the Brownlow event was the endless red carpet arrivals of the footballers' wives and girlfriends with their skimpy designer frocks. Look, my stomach sometimes gets exposed as I bounce up and down on the treadle machine. My chest does too, but I won't show you mine if you promise not to show me yours. But none of the women were listening.
I must be getting old because I found myself wanting less on-screen flesh, not more. Meanwhile any footballing wife of size 10 or over lurked in the background to avoid looking like Ten-ton Tessie next to the stick insects at the front. Our society is getting sadder. My background in engineering means that I look at fashionable clothing in the way that my old engineering tutor might consider the steel shade structures at the Alice Plaza car park.
He would stop, align his eye with the uppermost point and work out if the beams were properly designed and executed.
In the same way, I ask myself how a particular dress can possibly be structurally sound.
Taffy Pick Crossing would cross nothing if held up on one side only. You don't need to be an engineer to know that.
So how does clothing made from a material less robust than Kleenex remain in place without proper engineering design, calculations checked by men in rimless spectacles and structural members that meet Australian Standards?
It's a total mystery and was the only interesting part of the whole Brownlow experience for me this year. In fact, I plan to write an article about it.
By the time we moved on to the Emmy Awards extravaganza I wished I had completed our cubby house so that I could crawl into it and scream. A wooden box up a gum tree in Alice Springs ought to be one place to escape the self-congratulation of the film and theatre industry. I pledge to have the cubby finished for next year so my children can pass food up to me on plastic trays.
Prior to the Emmys, Hugh Jackman irritated me for months with his repeated hard-sell television commercials for Austar Digital. Look, I told you the first time that I don't want it. Weren't you listening?
The irony is that one day digital broadcasting will let us delete all the adverts in advance, meaning no more larrikin beer commercials, no accountants and insurance people trying to be funky, and no Hugh Jackman sending women wild with his boy-next-door leering out of the television screen.
On the news last week, Hugh was at the Emmys making a speech about some award that the Americans gave him for being a floppy-haired Australian who does something clever on the stage. I don't know about it and I don't care.
Please give our school crossing attendant an award, together with anyone who manages to be kind on a regular basis and the fine people who make the Central Australian economy tick over, whoever they might be.
I've finished now. My exercise regime aims to break down the bad compounds in my blood caused by unsatisfactory television. But it's time to get off the treadmill. I think I'll have a nice cup of tea and a low-fat biscuit.


Today I visited my local bank branch and signed up for a credit card. I have decided to move into the 21st century. Once upon a time if you "looked after the pennies, the pounds looked after themselves", but these days you have to do better than that if you want to
survive financially, or at least that is what I've been led to believe.
You have to be clever with your money and know how to maximise your tax return and your point earnings on your credit and store cards. You have to save your receipts that work as discount vouchers at the petrol station so that you can save a few cents when you fuel up.
We should think in terms of investments, returns and savings and make sure to look after our super so that we can retire in style.
I still haven't come to grips with all the new technology and to me money matters are equally confusing and frustrating. I know enough to get by and stay out of major trouble but I don't feel confident.
I have a nagging feeling that I should be working the situation to my advantage but I don't seem to get around to it. As long as the bills are paid and there is food on the table I'm happy, although it would be nice to save up enough points to fly off on a family holiday somewhere.
As at least a couple of my Alice friends have proven, the different advantage systems can really work, if you are a bit more determined and focused on financial matters than I am. They tell me it is easy and wonder why I don't join in the game. I know I might be tempted to borrow more than I can pay off or lose track of points and deadlines.
After all, these systems that look so good for the consumers, have been set up to lure us into spending more in particular shops or in particular ways. It can be a win-win situation if you keep your head cool and clear, but it is all too easy to take on a bit more than you can handle.
Australians have huge personal debt but our economy is dependant on our continuous spending. Shopping has become much more than a necessity, it has become a hobby, a lifestyle, even a coping mechanism.
Our whole life-style revolves around spending money. Consumerism and ultimately debt is encouraged. Often, at least subconsciously, self-worth is measured in income and money, in what you have managed to acquire materially.
Many of us dream of winning the lottery, of freeing ourselves from debt and at the same time being able to afford a comfortable life style, maybe with a few luxuries. The lottery adverts egg us on, encouraging us to imagine being able to pay off the mortgage, retire while still young, go on that luxury holiday Š
The dream of lots of money solving all our problems and dissolving all our worries. And we are constantly reminded of the things we could buy that would make us feel better.
It worries me that my children are so excited about a trip to the shops and that they are already firmly caught up in the consumerism of our society.
I try to think of things for them to do during the school holidays that don't cost money, like visiting friends and playing board-games, but they want to go bowling, swimming at the pool, get videos out and have meals at the fast food places.
I hope that, although we have to spend to stay alive, our choice of living in a smaller rural place like Alice is going to instil values other than those concerned with money. That we don't all succumb to the pressures of keeping up with the times, or "the Joneses", and that we take time to think about what really matters.

LETTERS: Gerry votes but still gets a fine.

Sir,- It was not enough [for the electorate of Stuart] to annex part of Braitling and for those annexed to not be told, nor be provided with a polling booth [in the last Legislative Assembly elections].
Not enough to have them slosh around in the rain while more crucial voters were provided with mobile polling booths complete with MLA.
Nor was it enough [that I had] to vote absentee while actually being present, and to have to refuse to hand the completed vote to a returning officer, until it was placed into an envelope, but then what happened to it?
Why have I got an infringement notice for failing to vote, and why is the fine $25 when the fine we are being threatened with if we fail to vote in the town council by-election is $110?
Or [did I get] a pensioner discount?
Gerry Baddock
Alice Springs
ED - See the coverage on our website of Mrs Baddock's plight in our edition of of June 22 last.

Sir,- In reply to Linda Wells' letter in last week's Alice News:-
The World Health Organisation early this month released a major study on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
They found that the number of deaths was far lower than had been reported in the past (although certainly the accident should still be regarded as a disaster).
The accident was caused, and aggravated, by a combination of a lack of safety features present in other reactors, and deliberate disabling, by poorly-trained staff, of some of the safety features that were there.
An accident in Japan in 1999, also caused by workers violating safety rules, resulted in the deaths of two people.
This is the only fatal nuclear accident in the 19 years since the Chernobyl disaster.
There are hundreds of nuclear reactors operating in the world today. The nuclear power industry is far safer than fossil fuel power industries.
Maybe sustainable methods of power generation can be developed that are safer than nuclear, but you can't get much safer than two deaths in 19 years.
However, a nuclear power industry should not be supported in countries where the government does not take adequate measures to ensure safety in its industries (in general).
To judge from the death rate of miners in its coalmines, China is such a country. There are certainly many others.
Gavan Breen
Alice Springs

Nuclear risks

Sir,- Gavan Breen (Alice News, Sept 7, letters) is right: power or more specifically electricity, is a major output of a civilian nuclear reactor. Isotopes for medical diagnostics and treatments are a minor output and mostly can be sourced elsewhere, for instance cyclotrons.
Two further issues, radiation and alternatives for generating electricity, are important to the discussion.
I do not think that the nuclear industry should be closed down because it grew out of the development of nuclear weapons. Rather the opposite.
Nuclear weapons now grow out of nuclear reactors. Nuclear weapons, true weapons of terror, need to be abolished.
Proliferation needs to halted. So further development of nuclear power needs to stop.
Radioactive contamination is another output of the nuclear industry at all stages of the chain from mining to waste disposal and storage. This results in illness in workers, those living nearby and to the general environment.
Electricity only contributes about 16 per cent to world energy use. Several recent studies have demonstrated that expanding nuclear energy is not the answer to mitigating global warming. Other strategies can deliver more energy without the risks inherent in nuclear power.
An expansion of the nuclear industry also carries opportunity costs, in resources lost to research, development, commercialisation and deployment of increasing energy efficiencies and renewables.
This view is based on an assessment that a more radioactive biosphere and more nuclear weapons are not good for the environment, health, human security and the economy.
Our need, to maintain complex society, is energy. But how much energy do we need, and for what? We need to put resources into harvesting the immediate windfall of energy from reducing demand and increasing efficiencies. I want a cleaner and not more radioactive world for my children.
Peter Tait
Alice Springs

Free tax help

Sir,- A team of Tax Help volunteers offer free tax advice and help through the Tax Office's Tax Help program.1700 volunteers across Australia provide the Tax Help service working out of community centres around tax time.
All volunteers are trained by the Tax Office to help people on low incomes to complete straightforward tax returns, baby bonus applications and other tax return matters.
Tax Help is available by appointment at 1000 community centres around Australia. Of these, 30 centres cater to the needs of Indigenous taxpayers in locations close to the community.
Tax returns need to be lodged by October 31 2005. To find out more call 13 28 61.
Australian Tax Office


Many boys dream of playing football for their country - but for Kelvin Caspani, 18, reality surpassed his dreams after he scored a try in the final of the touch rugby world cup, helping Australia beat New Zealand.
"The feeling is hard to describe. I was overjoyed!" laughs Kelvin, captain of this year's rugby league runners-up, Memo.
"I loved it.
"I've got my green and gold kit hanging on my wall, and the gold medal."
The world cup was held in January, in Kawana on the Sunshine Coast, and Kelvin was one of only eight under-18s to be selected.
After "getting bashed" by New Zealand in the game prior to the final, Kelvin and his teamates played brilliantly to end up with the 7-4 win.
He says he'll never forget the experience, and has made good friends: "Not only with the rest of my team but the New Zealand boys that I met were great."
Kelvin has had to work hard for his success but says the disappointments he's had to cope with made him train even harder. "The year before I made the squad as a shadow [reserve] but I didn't get to go and play in the tour of New Zealand.
"All I've ever wanted to do is play for Australia. After getting that close it made me want to more and more."
He took advice from the selectors to "get the basics perfect" and trained every weeknight with his club, Alice Springs Touch Association, practising passing and running with the ball with his coach, Tim Pearson.
Touch rugby has developed as a sport in its own right after originally being used as a training drill for rugby. It's a much faster game than rugby, with just six players on each team allowed to make six touches each game. One point is awarded for each try.
"Fitness is a big thing - the game is fast," says Kelvin, explaining how his coach gave him training sets called hill repeats. These involved repeatedly running up and down Tank Hill, opposite the Scout Hall. Sounds painful!
His school, CDU, was "real supportive" and he did year 12 over two years.
He also had a lot of support from family and friends. After his year of hard work and determination, Kelvin received his reward. After playing in the NT titles, he got selected for the NT side and played in the under 18 Australian Championships in Coff's Harbour. From there, he was selected to go to a training camp on the Gold Coast where the final eight players for the world cup team were chosen.
"Touch is my life," says Kelvin, who has been playing since he was three - both his mother and father play for Alice Springs and the NT.
"I love it - it's totally different from rugby, it's a lot faster, a real speed game.
"Mum's a good player. We play on the same team - the mixed team on Friday nights. I tease my mum the whole game. It's a great social game, it's good fun. If you really want to you can play it seriously but it's a great social place to be."
In his spare time Kelvin coaches younger players twice a week at Flynn Drive and is a satellite coach for the NT coaches in Darwin.
Kelvin plays in the middle of the field - his job is to set up moves and players so others can score and defend. When he's not playing for his country, he's part of the Barbarians squad - made up from a mixture of players from the NT and Western Australia.
He hopes that will further his rugby career: "We play in the National Touch League competition every March, and that's how the Australian team is picked."


Opposition leader Jodeen Carney will write to the federal government about the lack of sports travel subsidies for school athletes in the Northern Territory, prompted by coverage in the Alice Springs News (July 27).
We reported about the Lelliott family who have paid out $6000 already this year for their sons to represent the NT in AFL, football, track and field events.
Ms Carney says: "The support available to Mr Lelliott and his wife is limited when compared to the support that is offered to Aboriginal children from the federal government. It seems unfair and unjust.
"We are not criticising the fact that money is available for Indigenous kids ... the NT government does not appear to be doing anything to fill the gap."
Delia Lawrie, the NT's minister for sport, said in a written statement: "The NT Government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year sending Territorians to sporting competitions around Australia and around the world."


Kieren Perkins, the Australian swimming hero, inspired young athletes in Alice Springs when he recently held a series of swimming clinics.
It was his second time here.
He says children living in remote Australia should not think themselves disadvantaged compared with swimmers in the city: "Obviously a lot of focus goes into coastal areas and cities but really, the best talent is found in regional and rural areas.
"Kids from rural areas are more likely to put in the effort. In the major cities, there tends to be less commitment in pursuing careers in sport - jobs and degrees tend to be more important.
"But in rural areas, being outdoors is a part of life and it's less of a stretch for kids to get involved in sport."
Although Kieren said the outdoor pool in Alice is "a great facility", he says an indoor pool is crucial for the development of swimmers in the town: "Building indoor pools is an issue throughout the country.
"Having an indoor facility is very important to get a year round swimming program going. It's the only way to give kids the opportunity to develop talent."


As the AFL season 2005 ends in Alice Springs, we asked local footy fans (and former players) to share their favourite local football moments - from when the game first started in the 1940s to today.
Reg Harris, who played in the very first AFL game to be held in Alice Springs in 1947, has many early memories of the sport.
He played for Federals between 1947 and 1959, and was the coach for Pioneers for the year following.
"On that very first match, we played on Anzac Oval - there was no Traegar Park, only Anzac Oval.
"We played against Rovers. I can't remember the score but I remember we won.
"I wasn't going to play - I went to the rodeo that was on instead, but it finished when the football was at quarter time. Federals were a player short so I played for the rest of the match.
"It was during the war and because of the army camp on the oval it was quite a mess, with three inches of loose soil. And on the western boundary there was a gravel road. There was no fencing, no toilets, no change rooms.
"Through the war the standard of football was good because of the soldiers in town. The army played on three different ovals - two on Eastside and one on the northern entrance to town.
"Following the war, there were lots of scratch games made from pick-up sides - teams made up on the day.
"In about July 1947 the head jailer Phil Muldoon called a meeting. I remember it was well-attended, and he formed the Central Australian Football Association.
"The oval was under the control of a group of trustees set up before the war but they had lost all interest in looking after it.
"Eventually one of them left town and his place was taken by a very energetic Rob Rumball - and he created such a stir amongst the remaining trustees that they all resigned.
"A new board was set up. I was on the board and I represented the sporting fraternity. Neil Hargrave, the local lawyer, became the chairman.
"By 1948 the oval was so bad we borrowed a water truck from the Department of Works and spent each Saturday spraying water on it ready for the game on Sundays.
"But there were still problems - the two sheds at the end of the park, people were living there. When they moved out we made one shed into a dressing room and the other room for equipment.
"A few years later, a certain amount of money became available from the government and eventually the oval was grassed. It was a great community effort - everyone had masses of couch grass in their garden so we took it and planted it!
"Then when I was chairman of the board, we got enough money to build a toilet.
"In the mid-1950s we were approached by the government which told us that high schools needed their own sports ground. Anzac Hill High School had just opened, so the government said they would create what we had at Anzac south of the hospital and then take over the Anzac oval for the high school.
"We said we had a better idea: give us the money and we'll build it. It seems amazing now a few million is being spent on the grandstand, but we built everything for $120,000. Plus we were able to build entrance gate, curator's cottage and hockey field.
"We were a bit short to build a grandstand but the Hayes family gave us $2000 to make up the difference, and in appreciation we named it after the grandfather, Ted Hayes, one of the very early pioneers here.
"We had to find a name for the oval.
"Traeger was a great asset to the Northern Territory because he invented the pedal radio for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
"No facility in the NT had ever been named after anyone who was still alive but we got special permission."
Mignon Williams was one of the first supporters of the Wests club when it began in 1970 with the name Melankas (supported by the now-backpackers).
She had a pretty unusual way of showing her support for the team: "I used to wash the team's socks and kit!
"I got $1 per pair of socks.
"I used to really like rating the players - I would put the player's jumper on top of the pile who I thought had performed the best - and ones who didn't do so well at the bottom.
"The team colours were green, white and black back then - pretty unusual colours.
"We used to have great parties in the hall when we won - which wasn't that often.
"But I remember when Westies won the league for the first time in about 1975."
1980s and 1990s
Graeme Smith has played A grade football for Pioneer since 1989 but has just announced his retirement from the game. He was been awarded the best and fairest medal for his side this season -the fifth time he's won the accolade.
"Pioneer had golden times from the 1940s - we've won 29 out of 58 premierships - more than all the other sides put together [Smith was involved in eight of them].
"I feel fortunate to be part of that - as a junior in the 1980s, I was very excited to be playing in the league team.
"I used to sit down and watch my idols and hope that I could one day be as good as them.
"Robbie Foster who played in the 1980s in the centre position, he was very fair, fast and skilful.
"He was good to watch, and he really stood out.
"The exciting thing for me was to play with him towards the end of his career.
"Lance White was another one of my idols through the 1980s.
"He coached me for a few years in the 1990s. He had a real player's perspective on the game and he was easy to relate to as a coach and the messages he was trying to put across.
"He knew what football was about.
"The knowledge of the game these people rub off on you is valuable.
"I remember well before I started playing A grade football I was involved in the game.
"My mother was a committee member, and her partner was Richard Taylor, the coach for the A grade. She used to wash the guernseys and they were on the washing line all the time.
"Before we had a club house, a lot of the after-game social gatherings used to happen at our place.
"Football back then was on a Sunday, and we'd be showered and dinnered and getting ready for school the next day, while outside there'd be a party going on.
"We had an undercover garage and a ping pong table and a pool table and there was beer.
"It was hard to get to sleep.
"We'd sneak out and join them from time to time.
"Monday at school was a bit slow for us kids."
Brian Stirling played for Souths in the 1980s, and after retiring coached the B grade team to three consecutive grand finals.
This year he was an assistant A grade coach, with his team making it to the grand final though on the day losing to Wests.
"Charlie Maher winning the Minahan Medal, that's a good thing to happen this year.
"We are proud of him. He can move around the pitch, pass to team mates quickly.
"Gilbert Fishook is an outstanding player for our team.
"He's a reliable bloke, and he shares a lot with other players.
"When we won the B grade in 2002, 2003 and 2004, that was an important part of Souths history, I'm really proud of that."

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