October 5, 2005.


Huge sales to the Middle East are dragging Central Australia's camel industry out of a two year slump induced by the war in Iraq and the Kormo Express scandal in 2003, when thousands of sheep died on a live export ship rejected by Saudi Arabia.
Camel industry spokesman Peter Seidel says the Alice Springs region is again leading the development of an industry with the capacity of turning over $12m a year, whilst being much more environmentally friendly than cattle, better suited to the arid zone, and with broad social benefits because Aborigines in remote communities have opportunities of participating.
Mr Seidel, executive officer of the Central Australian Camel Industry Association, says he's just clinched a deal for a minimum of 3000 head for Saudi Arabia, with a "very long term view of continued trade".
Another big buyer from Oman is "very interested", and Egypt is looking for 3000 head a month, although this enquiry is "price sensitive, not a firm order yet".
Because of a huge backlog in shipping caused by the war in Iraq, current unfilled orders for Central Australian camels now amount to nearly 9000 head.
The animals sell for around $500 a head in Alice Springs, providing a net return of $380 to $400 to the producer.
Mr Seidel says the camels are shipped mainly for breeding and milking. Only a few will be slaughtered.
Racing camels are found from time to time, but the camels originally brought to Australia were selected for their ability to carry heavy loads, not to run fast.
Mr Seidel says the camel industry here is only 10 years old, and live exports, five years, developed with the help of the NT governments, past and present, as well as from Austrade and Meat and Livestock Australia.
Because Australia has no export abattoir, the industry's focus has been on live export. (Wamboden abattoir just north of Alice Springs began slaughtering camels for domestic consumption a few weeks ago.) Before 2003 the live export industry was on track, shipping 5000 head.
Then came SARS and the Iraq war and the trade hit "rock bottom" in 2004.
Mr Seidel says availability of shipping is still the main problem.
"The beef cattle and sheep guys are still playing catchup," he says.
"It's hard to get space on ships, but there's more shipping now."
Mr Seidel says Australia has an "easily sustainable" turnoff of 25,000 head a year.
The camel population in The Centre is 200,000, and 600,000 Australia wide.
Mr Seidel says camels are ideally suited to "drought proofing" pastoralism in The Centre.
"In times of drought the camel still does well whereas cattle die," he says.
"You've got something to fall back on.
"In the very early stage of a drought you can send your cattle away on agistment or sell them, knowing that you're still going to have a percentage of your income from your camels."
Camels, with their soft feet, are also far less harmful to the environment than cattle and horses, which have hard hooves.
"Of all the introduced species the camel is the biggest but it creates the least environmental impact.
"For example, the feral cat has a disastrous impact on our environment.
"There are a lot of areas in Australia that are far more suited to camel production than cattle, such as the marginal regions in The Centre.
"They eat different things. Cattle and camels actually complement one another.
"You can safely co-graze both species, and a lot of people are doing it now."
Camels are fast learners, after just a week's handling in yards they're fit for road and sea transport.


The sellout Wearable Art Awards at Araluen last Saturday rose to a new level of sophistication with stunning audio-visuals accompanying models on the catwalk.
The audience was given a taste of what was to come with first up, a six minute compilation of footage from this year's Alice Desert Festival. Alice Springs had never been served up such a rich and exciting image of itself ­ wild cheering and applause showed how much it was appreciated.
The video was the work of David Nixon, who has worked in the local film industry for the last 15 years. Together with the Wearable Art audio-visuals, the work should serve to put his name on the map as one of our most talented film-makers.
And it was all done out of his own resources though hopefully sales of the Wearable Arts DVD will offset his considerable costs.
"I wanted to show people the potential of video installations to support community events," says Nixon.
"I'm hoping everyone sat up and took notice. "If you get video outside of the television box you can achieve a huge Śwow!' factor and Alice Springs is a Śwow!' factor kind of place.
"Everything is so big and graphic here.
There's not an operator in town that I couldn't conceive of a big bang for, but it would need the backing of a body like the tourist commission."
Video is an expensive medium if you're thinking about one-off screenings with maybe a repeat down the track. Nixon's vision is to have video that screens over and over again to the ever-changing audience of visitors to our town. "If we're on about getting people to stay longer," he says, "then we have to add to the experience of what they do here."
He certainly added to the experience of the Wearable Arts show, working from Thursday morning through to late Saturday night without sleep.
Each of the awards' 43 creations had its own music, chosen by the designer, together with background footage sourced by Nixon and layered with still images of detail of the work taken by photographer Mick Vovers ­ all appearing with the event insignia and the name of the category, the sponsor, designer and the creation.
Getting all this programmed in sequence and with perfect timing that nonetheless allowed for the spontaneous interventions of the MC was no mean feat, especially when so many elements depended on last minute adjustment involving a large number of players.
It required nerves of steel on the part of Nixon, artistic director Craig Mathewson and coordinator Nicky Schonkala.
"I knew I could deliver," says Nixon, "but they had to have faith in me. And they did it without freaking out. I'd crawl over broken glass to work with them again!"
The work made a quantum leap in terms of presentation but it could go even further.
"Imagine if you could get a collaboration between film-maker, designer and models," says Nixon, "what a show!"
Wearable Arts has definitely got potential to go further. It's a highly entertaining and hugely creative event that could easily fill Araluen on more than one night, though managing the awards aspect over more than one show would take some thought.
The designers ­ mostly local but there were several interstate entries ­ again showed an extraordinary breadth of talent.
And they mostly took up with vigour the art part of the challenge ­ the show is much more than a fashion parade.
The audience rewarded this with enthusiastic response to the daring, the unusual, the humorous. And they loved seeing all kinds of bodies ­ little kids, older women, big women, not only leggy beauties though they loved them too.
They crowned Philomena Hali as the Alice Śqueen' of Wearable Art, giving her the people's choice award for "Don't ruffle my patterns".
This was entered in a new category, the Noisy Art! Award, for which the creation needed to make a sound when worn.
Most entries went for percussive sounds. Hali's work stood out for its refined subtlety ­ the faintest ruffle of paper on paper of a stunning Elizabethan-style gown made from old dress-making patterns, modelled with hauteur by Lauren Mengel.
The entry also won in its category. This is the third time Hali has won an award since the event's inception.
The creative team that thrilled everyone at last year's event with an oriental-flavoured bridal dress made from venetian blinds, again took out the Recycled or Found Object award.
"It's all in the bag" was a brilliantly constructed fetish dress made from old black handbags, modelled by the tall and stately Shakti Prem.
On its own it would have been impressive enough, but halfway down the catwalk a hand suddenly shot out of a bag, throwing mementoes into the audience. And did it again from another bag.
When the model turned to leave the catwalk she left a crouching figure behind, the diminutive Jessica Lopes who sprang to her feet in a bra and hotpants made from glo-mesh purses.
For surprise and ingenuity this creation was on its own, a well-deserved win for Jo Nixon, Steph Gaynor, Liz Scott and Virginia Sitzler.
Carmel Ryan won in the Natural Fibre category for "Chrysalis", the creation featured on the front page of last week's Alice News, which stood out from other entrants for the sheer drama of its statement ­ life bursting forth, taking wing.
Josie Callipari, popular hairdresser and makeup artist, showed hitherto hidden talents with the creation of "Queen of Hearts", modelled by Kaylene Williams, winning the Desert Fantasia category.
Although competing entries all made reference to the natural landscape and its creatures, this is not necessarily a requirement of this category which allows "complete artistic freedom in construction and use of materials".
Callipari's reference was to the 18th century and period films, although her use of recycled playing cards from the casino could have had a social reference, whether intended or not.
Whatever the case, she achieved a contemporary interpretation of the 18th century coquette, with plenty of pizzazz and sex appeal.
Other awards went to Megan Bennett for "Spokeswoman" in the Accessorise category, a clever play with bicycle parts; to the multi-talented and hard-working Kael Murray, who took the student award for "A waste of TIME", made from TIME magazine covers; and to Tan Dann, who deserved the encouragement award for her daring "Power to the People" piece, which used an angle grinder on body armour to create a shower of golden sparks.
At least two other contributions to a great evening deserve mention: Jacinta Castle opened the evening with an impressive blues song of her own composition, "Dry River", and went on to be a charming MC; and Drum Atweme delivered a delightful entertainment after interval.
These are a group of young children living on town camps in Alice and taught by big-hearted, talented drummer Peter Lowson.
It was a deft, disciplined performance with very high cuteness value.
They deserve lots of exposure.


The alderman who last week moved in council for a halt to transferring ownership of national parks to Aborigines says she's had "very positive responses to the council's action in questioning what's happening to the national parks.
"People have phoned or actually stopped me in the street, because they feel very uncomfortable about the situation," says Ald Melanie van Haaren.
"They certainly don't understand what's going on."
And Shadow Minister for Central Australia Richard Lim, who before the June election said parks should belong to all Territorians, and not be given away to a minority, said: "I'm pleased that the council, at long last, has focussed on this issues.
"Until the expose [in recent issues of the Alice Springs News] the issue has been found to be too difficult for many people."
Ald van Haaren says contrary to the June election landslide in the Top End there was a swing away from the government in Alice Springs, and the parks issue had no prominence in the campaign.
"We cannot trust the Chief Minister to sit back and respect our request for a halt in the negotiations," says Ald van Haaren.
"We're bypassing protocol, writing direct to the Federal Government, to introduce some disquiet in their minds in terms of what the actual feeling is on the ground, in Central Australia.
"We will point out to [Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister] Amanda Vanstone that there is not enough information, and certainly no consultation, with stakeholders.
"Until there is more information we are not supporting the initiative.
"We want them to know that.
"We don't believe the Chief Minister has been mandated by Central Australians to hand over national parks to traditional owners."
Ald van Haaren says the letter to Senator Vanstone may "go so far as to point out the election anomalies between north and south".
The NT government has already put in place Territory legislation required for the handover, but amendments to the Federal land rights act are still needed, and it would be up to Senator Vanstone to continue the process.
On Monday last week a strong majority carried three motions by Ald van Haaren to suspend the process until more information about it has been provided by the NT government, and until the town council has had an opportunity to adopt a policy.
Only Ald Jane Muré voted against all three motions.
The Alice News was in error when it reported last week that Mayor Fran Kilgariff did also.
In fact she supported Ald van Haaren on the call for a halt to the process, the need for more information and an opportunity for deciding whether or not to support the NT Government's policy.
This is a major change of tack by the Mayor who only a week earlier had told the Alice News that the NT government's strategy is "a realistic way to go, given that the parks have been declared illegally" and "I don't have a problem with the parks strategy".
Asked whether the council had a stake in the issue, the Mayor, who unsuccessfully contested an Alice Springs seat for the government in the June election, said: "Not really. We have very defined areas of responsibility, and that isn't one."
Ms Kilgariff did vote against a direct approach to Senator Vanstone, on the grounds that it was a breach of protocol.
But Ald van Haaren said this week: "We are ignoring protocol and saying this is such an important issue.
"People here agree wholeheartedly that given the current political scene in the Territory, local government needs to be responsible and vigilant in terms of protecting our lifestyle and livelihood.
"And they feel both may be at risk.
"There's a big thumbs up, from what I gather, for Alice Springs Town Council lobbying hard on that issue, including our decision of writing to the Federal Government.
Dr Lim said: "There is information available [about this issue] but people have to go and find it.
"I think it should be widely displayed, in shopping centres, at the council office, where people normally congregate, without having to make a special effort.
"This information needs to be provided freely, fully, prominently, and in public places. It is vital to everybody. People are interested but it's too hard.
"What parts of parks owned by Territorians are being given away without any claims having been made for them, just to avoid legal arguments?
"The government needs to tell us which parks may in fact be exposed to native title or land claims, and what conditions are attached to the proposed 99 year leases.
"What will it cost the public to lease back the parks?
"Who would be managing them? How?
"There may not be any entry fees but will there be others?"
Dr Lim says a rental fee of $1m for all the parks "is the ball park figure that has been thrown around.
"The Chief Minister has said something like that in one of our questions to her."
At the moment Indigenous people own 51 per cent of the Territory, as inalienable free hold land.
"How much more would the parks give-away entail?"
About living areas mooted to be set up in parks, Dr Lim says the questions the need to be asked are: "What sort of facilities are going to be provided, who provides them, is the government going to be building homes, will it supply power, water and sewerage?
"Where would the living areas be? Will the new owners be generating income from their parks to pay for the maintenance of the living areas?
"What terms will the Chief Minister negotiate? How much will all this cost the tax payer?"
Dr Lim says Ms Martin was "in a damned hurry" to push through the legislation before the last election.
"They had some legal advice.
"Those opinions should be available for scrutiny by the public.
"They have been paid for with public money."
It appears Mayor Fran Kilgariff will set up information sessions with government people. How should they be run?
Says Dr Lim: "The government should call them community meetings.
"Officers and the Chief Minister herself should respond to questions from the floor.
"Those would be truly informative sessions," says Dr Lim.
He makes it clear that the decimated Opposition, too, had run into brick walls seeking details from the government.
He says time and resources are very short in supply for a Parliamentary wing consisting of just four Members.


A hitch with the construction of a new drag racing strip is raising questions about government planning.
It was proposed to combine facilities at the Finke Desert Race start and finish line, with a new drag strip, but this is now in doubt. Power and Water says it will make further investigations about the likely impact of an additional facility on the underground aquifer: it needs to ensure that the town's drinking water isn't contaminated by fuels and other chemicals used in drag racing.
However, staff for Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne issued a statement this week saying he has "assurances from the agencies concerned that the issues raised by Power Water about the drag strip have been fully explored by [an earlier] consultancy.
"I have been assured that the project can go ahead at the Finke Desert Race start / finish line and this will happen as soon as possible."
Dr Toyne was not available for any further comment, and it seems clear the government wants to overrule anything Power and Water has to say.
Meanwhile Brewer Estate has been mooted as an alternate location for the drag strip.
But this would mean that facilities such as spectator car parking, toilets, shelter and competitor pits have to be duplicated at public expense.
The Finke facilities were set up hastily at a cost of $650,000 and opened with great fanfare by Chief Minister Clare Martin and Dr Toyne before the 2004 race.
Says Alan Stainer, the secretary of the Central Australian Drag Racing Association (CADRA): "There were a lot of issues that may have been missed in the preparation, being an NT Major Events thing.
"They wanted it just up and operational for that year, so a lot of things may have been overlooked."
Depending on Power and Water's findings, the expenditure may now need to be duplicated, having one facility used just once a year, and another used 16 times. The question is, if there are concerns about fuels seeping through to the water table, why have the Finke facilities not been set up at Brewer Estate, ensuring economies of scale by serving two sports?
Mr Stainer says: "Now that we apparently have an option about the site, our view is that in the long term it would be more beneficial for us to be out at the Brewer Estate.
"We'd like not to be seen to be environmentally unfriendly. If there are concerns about the ground water we'd rather not be there."
One of the substances is a traction compound containing Toluene, 100 per cent liquid hydrocarbon. One of the issues the club will be looking at are the chemicals allowed to be used in racing on the Finke site.
He says Dr Toyne is scheduling a "lock down meeting" with the next four weeks which will continue until the issues are sorted out.
Mr Stainer says CADRA has been unable to race in Alice Springs since the start of 2004 because it no longer has access to the airport runway used previously. He says a move to Brewer Estate would lose the sport spectators "being twice the distance out of town."
He says: "Our income would be down.
"We would probably have to increase race fees, but the competitors are happy to bear that."
The club could run nitro methane fuelled cars at Brewer Estate, already ruled out at the Finke site.
Mr Stainer says the club is planning eight "full on" meetings a year for purpose built cars and bikes, "and anyone off the street"; and eight meetings strictly for street machines "to give the young blokes somewhere to go rather than tearing up the road all the time".
He says: "We will go wherever the government ends up sending us, whether we like it or not, because I don't personally believe we that we will have a choice.
"If we end up at the Finke, and I personally think we will, we will just have to run under these constraints."
There has already been one environmental impact study and Mr Stainer says he is surprised Power and Water hadn't raised its current doubts about ground water contamination earlier: "Why didn't they say 12 months ago that they had other concerns, when the study was done?"
But Power and Water area manager Alan Whyte says: "We would like to take a closer look at it. We don't think there is going to be a problem.
"We're merely looking at minimising the risk. We're making sure, playing it safe."
The area already accommodates the airport, highway and the railway corridor, but these are "long standing and pre-existing.
"You wouldn't do it now if you had the ideal situation, you would make it a closed catchment area where nothing could be built over the top of the aquifer.
"We're just going to make sure that if there are other facilities going to be located there, they don't increase the level of risk.
"How many more facilities do you continue to put out there?"
Mr Whyte says the water table is about 150 metres below ground: "How is it going to infiltrate that far?
"Well, maybe it's not. We just want to make sure," says Mr Whyte. "It might be an overkill but it's our job to make sure that you and I are drinking clean water, and safe water."
He says it's not clear how long the new study will take, nor indeed whether the government will put a stop to the probe in the light of Dr Toyne's announcement this week.


An Alice Springs man received treatment in the Alice hospital resembling an agonising third world experience.
Josh van Haaren, 24 (pictured), went into hospital on September 24 after he cut the side of his left foot on the front door.
"It was throbbing and sore," he says.
"The redness started running up my leg was like a balloon.
"I don't know how it got infected, maybe because it wasn't covered up."
Mr van Haaren arrived at the hospital's accident and emergency department (A&E) on the Saturday at 2pm. He was seen by a doctor within an hour and given antibiotics through a needle in his arm and some antibiotics to take orally at home.
On Monday at 8am he returned to the hospital as arranged to get some more oral antibiotics. Another doctor checked his foot and was concerned that it hadn't responded to the antibiotics as expected, so he sent Mr van Haaren for an x-ray.
The x-ray showed there were no foreign bodies or damage to the bone. The doctor gave him another dose of antibiotics through a drip in his arm and told him to come back to the accident and emergency department at 8pm for a further dose.
"At 6.30pm my foot was the worst it had been ­ my toes were going blue and my foot was three times the size of my left one.
"I went into the hospital earlier than my appointment and I waited and waited and waited. I went back to the counter twice. It was totally chockablock. There were lots of kids. But I heard one person say they were in there for an earache and another one with a sore throat.
"At 9.15pm, two and a quarter hours after my appointment, I was quite worried because my foot was blue. The coordinator of the A&E department came out and told me that I should be admitted to the hospital but there was no bed for me.
"The doctor then took a look at my foot and said she wanted to admit me but there were no beds. I asked if I could have the antibiotics and then go home.
"She agreed but said I had to come back the next morning for the surgeon to have a look."
Mr van Haaren was seen immediately at 9.30am on the Tuesday morning and the surgeon said he wanted to admit him. "He told me they'd give me a bed upstairs and that I needed antibiotics every six hours.
"But a few minutes later one of the nurses came out and said there were no beds. He said I'd be waiting for 48 hours for a bed because there were 21 people in front of me also waiting for a bed.
"He offered me one bed, outside the corridor of the A&E room in the waiting room. I said no, so he said I could go home but had to come back every six hours for the antibiotics drip. I was given the drip in my arm in the waiting room. There was a bloke behind me on a drip and the doctors were diagnosing people in the waiting room. Kids were getting medicine in there.
"I spoke to the nurse and she said it had been like that for three months ­ each ward is chockablock."
After going into the hospital that night at 10pm, again at 4am on Wednesday morning, then 10am and 4pm, the swelling around Mr van Haaren's foot started to reduce.
On Thursday morning, the doctor prescribed a 10-day course of oral antibiotics. Mr van Haaren says he doesn't believe the staff at the hospital are to blame: "All the nurses and doctors and other staff were brilliant. They were helpful and kind. They have nothing to do with the shortage of beds ­ it's the Labor government.
"They haven't got their priorities right. I can't believe they're spending all that money on a wave pool in Darwin but haven't got the money to get more beds into the hospital.
"It's like me spending money on a plasma TV when I haven't paid my rates."
The Alice News requested an interview with Peter Toyne, Territory Minister for Health, but he was not available by the time of going to press.
Meanwhile, there are still only two ambulances serving Alice Springs and the surrounding region.
St John's Ambulance begins its negotiations with the NT government later this month. The union lobbying on behalf of St John's will present a review to the government asking for more vehicles and better conditions for staff.


More than 22 accident and emergency patients of the Alice Springs Hospital were waiting for a bed last week.
A sign in the casualty department last week read that patients could expect between a four and six hour wait because of higher than normal patient numbers.
But senior staff say some peak demands are seasonal or periodic. In a press release dated September 28, the hospital explained that there were high numbers of patients in September, and a further increase last week especially in the emergency department.
"We are admitting a number of children quite sick with a wide range of illnesses and injuries, including a large number who have gastro enteritis and respiratory conditions," said Bronwyn Taylor, the hospital's nursing director.
She also said a number of serious road accidents involving tourists in and around Alice Springs had contributed to the increase in patients.
Vicki Taylor, general manager of the hospital said there were double the normal number of paediatric cases from the beginning of last week.
There were also 16 per cent more adult patients, not explained by anything in particular.
Half the paediatric cases were for rotavirus.
"We have regular outbreaks here," said Ms Vicki Taylor. "It normally occurs three or four weeks after rain or if there has been an outbreak of rotavirus outside the region.
"We are also seeing high numbers of respiratory cases, and this is normal over the cooler months."
Usually, the most common cases in the emergency department are patients with respiratory illnesses, chest pain, wound infections and trauma.
"Currently, because of the high activity and because we are trying to find nursing staff for the additional activity we have longer waiting times in the emergency department," Ms Taylor said.
The hospital has 40 beds on the paediatric ward and 75 beds for adults.
"All our wards are full. The surgical and medical wards are full, the paediatric ward is close to full but we can't put anymore patients in there because of the respiratory diseases [which are contagious] and the maternity unit is close to full.
"At the moment we have an overflow ward with 12 beds and we are putting together the second one."
Ms Taylor is working with the NT Medical Administrative Network to obtain short-term nursing relief from other Territory hospitals as well as patient transfer: "Darwin is experiencing similar peak activity but we have had some nurses from that hospital come down here."
Ms Taylor was unable to say how soon the extra nurses would be recruited.
She said that surgery is also being affected: "Elective surgery is being assessed on a daily basis.
"I also want to acknowledge the hard work of our staff."


Daniel Measures, 17, a year 11 student at Centralian College, has won the first ever scholarship for Indigenous students to attend Melbourne Grammar School.
The scholarship, a collaboration of the Centre for Indigenous Education (Banga Yinkorrobun or Catching Dreams) at Melbourne University and Melbourne Grammar School, is worth $60,000 a year.
"It will set a great example ­ there are plenty of talented Indigenous people in the Northern Territory ­ and this will pave the way for people," says Daniel.
"It will let others see that there is more than a town here ­ that more people can catch their dreams."
Daniel, who won the NAIDOC scholar of the year this year and last, hopes to do a degree at Melbourne University in sports medicine and become a physiotherapist ­ but his impressive AFL skills also mean he'd love to be a professional athlete.
"In Alice Springs there is no opportunity for me to train as a physio. But Melbourne will open up a whole new window to sports medicine.
"My future goals are to play AFL at a top level and run my own physiotherapy business."
Daniel is currently studying year 11 physics, maths, French and English as well as year 12 level biology. His scholarship will allow him to complete year 12 at Melbourne Grammar.
Daniel's growing reputation as an AFL player in the Northern Territory saw him play for Territory Thunder under 18s, the NT team which won the national championships last year (the year before he was co-captain of the under 16 side).
And he's played for the Wests club in Alice Springs for five years, helping them win the grand final this year and last year (he's now been part of three premierships). He was playing in the under 18s matches when he was 11.
It was Gary Learmonth, the former manager of the AFL Central Australia, who suggested Daniel apply for the scholarship.
"Daniel has got an enormous amount of talent, not just football wise but also academically," says Gary.
"It's a great opportunity for him to go to one of the best schools in Australia, and it hopefully will help him for his football and his chosen field of work."
Gary, who has now moved to Melbourne, says he'll support him "in whatever way I can".
Daniel hopes moving to Victoria will raise his football game ­ as well as his studies. He'll play for Melbourne Grammar and hopes to also earn a spot with the TAC under 18s side.
"Footy is on a different level down there. My football skills will definitely jump up a few levels.
"In Alice Springs there are only five teams and some have to forfeit games due to lack of numbers or use older players.
"I'll have to raise myself to the standard and strive hard to work on it.
"But I'll miss playing with my brother Dillon and my best mate Lachlan Boal."
This season Daniel says he regularly had to stay up until 2am to finish his schoolwork because football took up so much of his time, both training and travelling interstate for matches.
"It will be much easier when I'm there to fit everything in. I'll be boarding and my teachers will be there 100 per cent of the time for me. I'll be playing for the school and not going away all the time."
Daniel says up until now it has been his family who have helped him cope with his schoolwork and develop his football talent.
"My mum and dad have helped me a lot. They tell me to keep an open mind and pride myself to work hard for what I do.
"And my girlfriend Kate, she's really supportive."
Daniel's mother comes from an Aboriginal family and his father has English roots: "I feel balanced between two worlds and I am proud of both and I know I have to work hard for both. I respect where my family comes from and I'm proud of our heritage."
It will be the first time Daniel has lived away from home. When asked whether reluctance to leave family might hold young Indigenous people back from taking opportunities, he says: "Aboriginal people have a bond to their land. They're connected to it more than we are.
"But I've had tremendous support from my family and everyone who is setting up the scholarship. I can't thank Gary and [his wife] Starsha enough. Paul Sheehan (the principal of Melbourne Grammar) has been so good as well. I've met my houseparent, Nat Charles, and she's lovely and also the sports manager, Michael Ford who has organised everything for me in his own time."
Daniel says he is grateful to the Centre for Indigenous Education and Melbourne Grammar for giving him his golden opportunity.
"It's going to be a great experience ­ I'll make many new friends and set up a future for myself. I have the confidence to complete it the best I can.
"In Alice Springs, some people don't see anything outside the town. But I'll proudly represent my background and I definitely won't let anyone down. I want to do this to make Aboriginal people proud."


The local Duprada Dance Company will bring a taste of European choreography and style for their Central Australian audiences following an international ballet master class in Prague , capital of the Czech Republic.
In August seven members of the company ­ Peta Stella, Claire Macdonald, Cathy Young, Erin McKinnon and Tamara Diehl ­ were joined by company director Lynne Hanton and ballet teacher Lisa Jackson for an intensive two-week workshop in the studios of the Prague National Ballet Company.
What a contrast to their usual studio next to the MacDonnell Ranges! It was amazing to see the Alice dancers walking across the cobbled streets of Prague's Old Town, hair in neat buns, leotards and pink tights at the ready.
They danced alongside nearly 100 professional and semi-professional students from France, Italy and England.
Class would start at 10 each morning ­ choreographer Christopher Hampson (English National Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet and the Royal Swedish Ballet) telling the dancers to take it easy for the first couple of days so they didn't wear themselves out.
In fact, the girls needed six months of solid preparation for the workshop, which often required them to be on their feet for up to eight hours a day. But it wasn't all about the hard physical and mental slog.
"We are here to share our passion and love of dance and to come together to celebrate our craft," administrator Ian Comer said.
During the master class the girls participated in solo and group repertoire workshops, learning some of the world's most famous choreography from the traditional Swan Lake to the 1940s ragtime ballet Elite Syncopations. Each class was taught by well known dancers such as Daria Klimentova of the English National Ballet.
The pas de deux classes gave the girls the opportunity to dance with young male ballet dancers, a rare commodity in Central Australia, giving them a new understanding of the difficult and necessary art of dancing with a partner.
By the second week the girls were partnered up and dancing challenging works such as the Onegin pas de deux, taught by the Stuttgart Ballet Company's Ivan Cavallari. Opportunities like that are not common ­ Cavallari is one of only three people in the world who are licensed to stage the ballet of Onegin.
Now home in Alice and preparing for their next appearance at the Araluen Arts Centre the girls would argue that living and dancing in Central Australia offers opportunities that dancers on the other side of the world do not always have access to.
"We are lucky to have a company structure to work and train in [in Alice Springs]," said Peta Stella.
"We saw how dancers in Prague and other big cities often have to struggle ­ sometimes they can't take classes unless they are in a full-time school or company. "In Alice we are often on stage too, which is important for a dancers' development."
The Duprada Dance Company will present their annual Magic of Dance performance on October 8 and are staging La Fille Mal Gardee on November 26 and 27.


Alice Springs will hold a 15-week women's cricket competition this summer for the first time ever.
A six-week pilot competition was held last year, and because of high demand among players a full-length competition has been organised for the 2005-2006 season.
Each of the four cricket clubs (Federals, Wests, Memo Rovers and RSL Works) are currently recruiting players.
The rules will be the same as the men's cricket competition but will run to a Super 8s format ­ that is, 14 overs will be played by eight players per side.
"It's pretty exciting," says Jenny Kroker, who is the coordinator of the women's competition and the secretary of the Alice Springs Cricket Association. "I'm looking forward to getting the competition running.
"Last year we had 40 women turn up for the pilot competition and we're getting good numbers at training.
"Some have already played before but for many, it's their first time.
"The girls are asking to train together, even if they're playing for different teams. We're teaching a lot of basic skills like catching and batting."
Volunteers from the men's cricket clubs are coaching the women, and have also offered to umpire games which will be held at Flynn Drive on weeknights throughout the summer.
"Many of the women here are involved in sports with their children at the weekends so we're trying to make it easier for them by having matches during the week," explains Kroker.
Lyndall Smythe played in the pilot competition last year and wants to come back for more: "Girls have always wanted to play but we needed the opportunity.
"There's mixed abilities here and it's all about participation. If you've never played before, it's not an issue at all."
Interested in getting involved? There is a sign-on day this Sunday at 4pm at the RSL nets at Ross Park or contact Jenny Kroker for more information on 0419 865 667.

Inside a musical box. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

The greatest deluge of responses to anything I have written in the Alice News came after I related my experience of buying a car. This was last December. The gist of what I wrote was that I am middle-aged but had not bought a car before.
When it came to sizing up the options, I didn't know my dashboard console from my underbody spoiler.
In preparation for the wild adventure of the world of car selection, I read the kinds of magazines that can be found in dentists' waiting rooms and practised questions for the car dealer in front of my bedroom mirror.
Under the pressure of the forecourt, these questions came out entirely wrong. Fortunately car sales staff seem like tolerant people. But however much the desert environment and local culture may be a new experience to anyone who comes to live in Alice Springs, in no way did it compete for shock value with the used car lot at Peter Kittle's.
Of course, I was pushed into doing this by the other members of my family, who believe that any sacrifice is worth making for the chance to drive around in a shiny Japanese box on wheels.
This is the fate of us people who used to call the shots in their household. We have become sad individuals who are bullied by rellies half our size into paying off a loan for everything from an iPod to a shopping trip to Darwin.
Actually, I didn't think there was anywhere to shop in Darwin, but more on that next week.
Given the sadistic curiosity of readers in my car purchase, I thought I would let you know how the first nine months have been. The answer is good and bad. Let's start with the bad.
It is not the fuel prices that present a problem. We don't go far enough around town to incur high petrol bills.
But the peripherals are the costs that mount up. You know; insurance, registration, service, accessories for Pete's sake. Is there anything in the world that doesn't come with accessories these days?
Then there's the dubious pleasure of actually having to look after your car. If the accessories include customised dog rugs, Subaru-branded bonnet protectors and low dish cargo trays, why can't there be an accessory that checks the oil and tyres?
While I do these tasks, my domineering family members lounge in the back seat reading Girlfriend magazine and analysing cricket statistics. I had the last laugh.
School holidays arrived in July. The plan was to drive somewhere south, meaning towards the sea. On the map of Australia, this looks like a modest journey to any teenager who imagines that this country is little more than an overgrown desert island.
Before the trip I drove to Elder St. with my children in the back and one of them said ŚI'm bored.
Are we there yet?' at around the time that we reached Lovegrove Drive.
I sniggered sneakily into the back of my hand imagining how they might react to the slightly longer haul between the Alice and Port Augusta.
What about the good parts of car ownership? I can't think of any except that you don't get wet when it rains. But I do admit to one change for the better in my transport habits, which is that I now buy records again. I mean CDs.
Not only that, but I share them with my family, who respond well to my digitally remastered Scorpions double live heavy metal album even if we only get to hear one drum solo between home and the Coles Complex. I even bought Morrissey's latest and one by the Chemical Brothers. A car is not a musical box, but it serves the same purpose.

Alice Springs, the real world. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

Most of us have probably at some time in our lives felt that we don't fit in, that we are different to the people around us in some way, and that we are alone.
Acceptance and a feeling of belonging is important. To feel safe we need to know that we are among friends or in an environment that we can relate to.
One of the best things about our Alice Springs community is that many of us find friends quickly and easily when we move here.
People are generally happy to let you into their lives.
We don't live as regimented lives as our fellow Australians in the cities and may have more time to socialize, stop for a chat, go for lunch or drop in for a cuppa.
I often meet people I know when I go shopping, and it makes me feel at home and that I'm part of the community.
Recently I got on a plane and left the comforts of my adopted home in order to visit my past. I sat next to a French couple and said hello to them as I got into my seat. I wondered what their experience of Central Australia had been, if they had had a good time, and whether it had lived up to their expectations.
I did not ask, as my French is just about non-existent and I felt that quizzing them would have been intrusive.
On the next flight I sat beside a very polite man who said hello and goodbye in the eight hours we spent in each other's company. I was getting tired and was grateful that he did not want to talk.
I then had a three hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur and opened my mouth only twice in that time, once in a shop and once in the queue before getting on the plane.
I was fortunate enough to sit next to a pleasant lady from the Philippines on the last leg of my trip, and we enjoyed a few brief conversations.
It felt very strange to say so little for such a long time. Although I was surrounded by hundreds of people I was completely alone in my head with my thoughts.
Apart from the sounds of people and machines it was also very quiet.
It was a sterile kind of silence without birds, insects, the wind in the grass and the trees. It did not smell good or bad, it wasn't hot or cold and it was just about colourless. It was a world completely alien to me, an in-between space, an alternative reality that seemed very unreal.
Once I reached my destination I was surrounded by people speaking my mother tongue, but they were not speaking to me. I could understand them, but felt like I was listening in on their conversations.
It was like the way ghosts are sometimes portrayed in movies, when they want people to see and hear them but nobody does.
As I was met by my parents and a dear old friend I finally stepped back into reality, or focus, and I became visible.
I used to think that I had chosen to live a quiet life in a remote area, far removed from the real world. I now think that maybe I wanted more, not less, reality and to hear life better, to notice colours, smells and textures because they are intense and in my face, and to have some kind of contact and communication with the people I share time and space with on this planet.
It is easy to say that we should all be happy in ourselves and with who we are regardless of others, but "no man is an island".
We all need a context, we need to fit in somewhere.
One of the philosophers coined the expression "I think, therefore I am", but for me I think it needs to be "I communicate, therefore I am".

LETTERS: Whom should we put last next time round?

Sir,­ As a ratepayer I would like to congratulate and thank you for last week's insight into the Alice Springs Town Council in session ("Parks issue hits council").
While it has not completely allayed my suspicion that we have a one man band, under the direction of the NT Government, it was most encouraging to learn that most of the people we elected to run Alice Springs, were actually doing so.
I look forward to more council meeting insights as it is helpful to know the views of the people we need to place at the bottom of the ballot in the next council election.
Gerry Baddock
Alice Springs

Lost the plot

Sir,­ I write in response to Hal Duell's Open Letter to Mayor Fran Kilgariff (Sept 21). Mr Duell must have lost the plot in relation to the locating of a nuclear waste facility in the NT. Or is he trying to stimulate debate?
Realistically, how does he think we can have "any influence at all" on what facility we get? Having listened at great length to the scientific experts who have visited us in recent times, what we will get has already been decided.
The basic issue is, can we trust the federal government? On recent track record, definitely not.
Therefore, the low to medium level nuclear waste storage facility currently being proposed is quite likely to become medium to high level storage a little further down the track.
Why the NT? Why not outback Canberra? Is it coincidence there is increased interest in and expedition of uranium mining exploration, talk of changing land rights legislation, weakening of Aboriginal autonomy, etc. What's really going on?
International tourists might already live in a nuclear world. They certainly don't visit Central Australia for the same experience. We need to preserve our pristine environment. Tourists come for a different experience.
Many want contact with Aboriginal culture. This is certainly alive and well here.
Leave the garbage in Canberra. Let's preserve what we have.
M. Church
Alice Springs

Sorry sage of The Alice

Sir,­ The NT Government's defence of the $330,000 grant to the Nine Network for the TV series "The Alice", claiming it is money well-spent showcasing the attractions of Alice Springs and Central Australia, rings hollow in light of the program's impending demise.
I wonder how the government will be able to verify its assertions.
Although Peter Toyne claimed last week that the money was granted only after a very careful assessment, the whole sorry saga appears to have been bungled from go to woe.
It was an ill-considered project that smacks of opportunism that has backfired badly, with Australia's dominant commercial TV network laughing all the way to the bank at our expense.
I recall when Labor in opposition used to hammer the CLP for "picking winners" through grants and concessions given to various enterprises, only to have them fold.
This was particularly the case with the former Trade Development Zone in Darwin where there were some spectacular debacles, such as for Hungerford Refrigeration, Dalway furniture manufacturing and the Heng-Yang clothing factory. But at least these were being paid to set up shop in the NT as opposed to paying a studio in Sydney to pretend it is Alice Springs.
It is also worth recalling the CLP contributed $300,000 to the production of the film "Yolngu Boy" in the Top End in 2000, but refused to assist Ted Egan's fundraising efforts for "The Drover's Boy" which was to be filmed and set in Central Australia ("Govt. Śno' to help for film", Alice Springs News, Feb 7, 2001).
As usual, Central Australia comes off second-best.
A major weakness of "The Alice" was its apparent reliance on concoctions of silly outdated city-oriented "myth-conceptions" of what life is like in the Outback ­ but then again, perhaps we are just not that different from the rest of urban Australia any more, and scriptwriters are forced to invent scenarios to spice up such bland fare.
Some apologists defend "The Alice" on the basis of any publicity being good publicity, and highlight the effect the TV series "Seachange" generated for its location.
However, "Seachange" was filmed on location (to my knowledge) and was faithful to the character and identities of that setting.
Incidentally, "Sea-change" (a highly successful series over several seasons in the late 1990s) was broadcast on ABC-TV ­ a non-commercial government-funded network.
Perhaps we would be better off to commission the ABC to film a series featuring Alice Springs and Central Australia which would be shot on location and be more accurate in its portrayal of the characters of our region.
As for the NT Government, it would appear not to have learnt much from the mistakes of its predecessors in office ­ imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs

Empirical evidence

Sir,­ That "The Alice" will not be commissioned as a second series is a major disappointment. There's no doubt that a commercial series of this scale, set in the Territory, bringing employment and potential tourism marketing benefits was an appropriate initiative for the government to encourage.
The real questions which need to be answered, are did the Territory get its $330,000 worth out of this show, and how do we measure its success?
If the government's funding made the difference between it being made and not being made, then no doubt, many would say it's worth it. But it is unlikely that's the case.
Getting that story and our landscapes, onto screens nationally at a primetime slot for a dozen of the 22 episodes, would be some people's view of success. Sales of the series internationally in the future, might also be an important yardstick.
To what extent the series will influence interstate tourist visitor numbers to the Territory might also well be worth researching by the NTTC in some detail, in order to give some empirical evidence to back up the original intentions.
The government's funding for "The Alice" came through a marketing budget, and it seems there was little involvement from the government's own Film Office, established to provide expert advice on film industry matters.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons to learn from "The Alice "experience, is that the government needs a comprehensive "whole of government" approach to film and television ­ a real strategy, devised and implemented through its own Film Office, which can realise the best outputs for Government funding.
That strategy might well include incentives for productions coming into the Territory, and of course more importantly, for our own industry to tell our own stories. Let's get the best bang for our buck.
Mike Sweet
FATANT (Film and Television Association of the NT)

Selfless bravery

Sir,­ Let me pay tribute to John "Jinka Johnny" Turner who passed away recently.
On the night of March 14, 1977 I was returning towards Alice Springs after being driven out of my camp by heavy rain.
On reaching Colyer Creek in the hills north of town I found it running deep and fast, therefore impassable.
A distraught young man told me that his car, in which were his pregnant wife and another young man, had been washed down stream.
Another man came along in his vehicle.
While we were wondering what could be done, John Turner arrived and immediately took charge of the situation.
He got a long rope and touch from his truck and we walked alongside the torrent.
There was no sign of the car, but the young man and woman were found clinging to a tree trunk. John tied one end of the rope around his waist and got the other man and myself to play the rope out while he made his way to the two who were in serious trouble.
John had put himself in danger as it was difficult to hold the rope.
In rescuing the two in need, John had to enter the water four times. It was an example of selfless bravery.
I bring this to notice because John never would do so.
His attitude was that something needed to be done, it was done, and that was the end of the matter.
Des Nelson
Alice Springs

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