December 21, 2005. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


This is the picture they didn't want you to see: Christian activist Adele Goldie, 29, from Brisbane, sitting on the roof of a building reached by breaking into the top secret US-run Pine Gap.
The photo was taken by fellow Christian Jim Dowling, 50, from Brisbane.
The flash from his camera could well have been from a rocket propelled grenade had the "insurgents" been from Al Qaeda instead of the Christians Against All Terrorism.
They take the view that terrorism includes fighting illegal wars and carpet bombing civilians from 40,000 feet, no matter who's doing it.
The Territory taxpayer is footing quite a bit of the bill for the spy base's incompetence in providing rudimentary security for itself: five protesters have been charged in a Territory court.
Most irritatingly, the police media liaison person in Alice Springs, employed to inform the public via the media, was doing a ring-around trying to shut the media up.
She phoned the Alice News and, presumably, other local media, pointing out that under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 "a person is guilty of an offence if the person makes a photograph, sketch, plan, model, article, note or other document of, or relating to, an area or anything in an area; or obtains, collects, records, uses, has in his or her possession, publishes or communicates to some other person a photograph, sketch, plan, model, article, note or other document or information relating to, or used in, an area, or relating to anything in an area; and the area is a prohibited area.
"Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years."
Pine Gap pictures used to be a good little earner for this reporter: as a pilot I used to fly around the base quite a lot, just outside the restricted (now prohibited) airspace, take TV and still pix and sell them to media around the world.
This, I'm guessing, got up the nose of the spy base and they supplied their own images to all media who asked for them, ruining my lucrative trade.
I wonder how many Pine Gap spooks are now doing seven years for communicating "a photograph, sketch, plan, model, article Š" well, see above.
Times may have changed: maybe we should have a book burning or image burning in Todd Mall.
The NT Government may well join in as it's doing a fine job getting nosey reporters on the straight and narrow (see Comment pages 4 and 5).
Another likely participant is the thought police at Uluru. We had a call from them earlier this year asking to submit for their inspection our entire archive of Ayers Rock photographs, so they could tell us which ones we can use and which ones we can't.
We haven't complied with their request.


Aboriginal culture must not be used as an excuse for abuse of children: "Keep the bottom line in mind: the safety of children.
"If culture threatens that then the culture has to back down, not the child.
"It doesn't mean a disregard for the culture but safety is the prominent issue."
So says Pauline Meemeduma (pictured), an associate professor of social work at Edith Cowan University in WA and a consultant for UNICEF.
Based in Bunbury, WA, Ms Meemeduma has worked with organisations in Alice Springs for the last seven years including the hospital and the department of family and children's services.
She drew up a framework for practice standards in child protection in Aboriginal communities in Central Australia, commissioned by the NPY Women's Council and Ngaanyatjarra Health Service.
"Many Aboriginal people are acutely aware that children need to be kept safe," she says.
"But poverty, disadvantage, marginalisation and lack of resources prevent this."
Prof Meemeduma, a Scottish woman with a no nonsense air about her, believes that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for the care and protection of children should be applied to young Aboriginals in Central Australia.
"In Vietnam, there are 65 ethnic cultures. But we're not creating 65 different rules for child protection, we're following the UN guidelines.
Ms Meemeduma says what she's written is not intended to blame organisations for failing to protect children in the past, but to acknowledge that it's a complicated and difficult area, and that child protection isn't being carried out effectively at the moment.
"We have to think and act out Aboriginal child protection differently," she says.
"You may not agree with everything in the document but I challenge you to come up with different ideas.
"It's like a lighthouse - so we all know what we're trying to achieve."
Daisy Ward , an executive member of the NPY Women's Council, acknowledged the problems in Aboriginal communities at the meeting: "All different races, we all have problems.
"So the NPY Women's Council have done this [written the document] to work better."
"The policing side, all different organisations to work together as one."
Ms Meemeduma will not be involved in the implementation of the strategies.
Sue Cragg of the NPY Women's Council stressed that a second stolen generation situation is not the aim of the document: "That would be an absolute last resort.
"Our executive have told sad stories of their experiences and we hope things happen differently this time."
The chairwoman of the council, Yanyi Bandicha, agreed. Although not a stolen generation child herself, she says she has spoken at length with people who were: "They've returned now. Now they are reading the book [Ms Meemeduma's document].
"They talk to families. Talking to the whole family is important - mother, father, grandmother. Especially grandmother."
SHARED PARENTING Ms Meemeduma says it's proven that families are more likely to abuse children if they are in social and economic difficulty: "Supporting families economically, with adequate housing and help with bringing up a child, like shared parenting can protect children.
"Many communities have the idea of shared parenting but are not sure how to do it."
She insists that support services like the health department, police, mental health, child protection services become more effective by operating as a co-ordinated whole: "It's a huge problem.
"There are lots of services around but they are ad hoc and disjointed.
"They're not helping even though there are lots of them."
She says that the system must become more transparent and become under the control of Aboriginal people: "At the moment they're just told what's happening.
"We need to look at why we're not getting it right through better tracking of cases and the outcomes and learning from our mistakes.
"We need to hold our services, organisations and government accountable for the practice of protecting Aboriginal children."
She suggests regular visits from individual workers to communities would be effective in tracking particular cases and their outcomes.
Ms Cragg says that better co ordination is needed between states and territories.
She cites a theoretical example of a baby born in the Alice Springs Hospital: "Say he has problems with his lungs and has to stay in hospital for six months. His family are from Warburton in WA. It's hard to get communication to them, and hard for him to go back to Warburton.
"If his aunt who lives locally is willing to be a foster parent, she can't because she is in another state.
Ms Meemeduma says attracting qualified professionals and keeping them is a huge problem.
"There is a huge staff turnover - a family might see one social worker one day and two weeks later get another one.
"We need to make practicing in Central Australia attractive - better salaries, good working conditions and professional development.
"People shouldn't feel they'll become deskilled in Central Australia.
"And we need to train Aboriginal people so they can do many parts of these jobs."
When asked about the time it will take to implement these changes, Ms Cragg replies she isn't able to say.


Good bye 2005, and good riddance.
This year the Territory Government made it quite clear what it thought of Alice Springs: the sparse promises it made before the June election were broken straight after Labor retained government with a landslide, mostly in Darwin.
But among 2005's bright spots were stirrings of assertiveness in the town council, with a majority in favour of challenging the NT Government's plan to transfer ownership of the national parks to Aborigines.
However, a vote on Monday last week showed factions crystallising: Aldermen Melanie van Haaren (who is leading the push), Robyn Lambley, David Koch, Samih Habib and Ernie Nicholls voted for demanding answers from the government.
They usually can expect support also from Aldermen Murray Stewart and Geoff Bell who were absent from the meeting.
Voting in favour of letting the government go ahead with its policy were Mayor Fran Kilgariff (the ALP candidate for Greatorex in June), as well as Aldermen Meredith Campbell, Jane Mure and Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke.
Alice now is home to the Opposition Leader and the president of the Country Liberal Party, what's left of it, confirming Alice Springs as the bastion of conservative politics in the NT and clearly making it the target of Labor's disdain.
Official incompetence and deliberate snubbing of the town reached plague proportions.
€ The government shuts down a school for Alice Springs' most disadvantaged children.
€ A feeble move to bring down exorbitant land prices turns into a fiasco.
€ Major capital works projects - Mereenie loop road, Desert Knowledge - are put on the back burner.
€ The rectification of the hospital's renovation continues to be mishandled at the cost of millions of dollars.
€ For decades there has been a major problem with the town's revolting sewage treatment plant - foul smelling and environmentally absurd. The government embarks on a minor solution and even that stalls.
€ Alison Anderson becomes the Member for MacDonnell despite the most serious allegations of financial misconduct, in her previous roles as Papunya town clerk, as an ATSIC heavy and as a political candidate.
€ And the government is colluding with the Central Land Council in taking away from the public the ownership of its greatest assets, the national parks.


The Alice Springs News reported on Country Liberal Party governments ruling with massive majorities during our first eight years in publication.
We thought we'd seen it all so far as manipulative strategies of secretive administrations are concerned.
So when Labor came to power in 2001, on a platform of open and transparent government, we thought this was the dawn of a long yearned-for new era: easy access to information in the public interest, and enlightened debates with ministers representing "the people" rather than narrow sectional interests.
The disappointment is crushing.
What the Martin regime has put in place makes the CLP, even in its former incarnations, appear a shining beacon of democracy.
These days an army of minders is presuming to tell journalists not only what to write, but also what to ask, and whom.
Elected politicians - with their apparent consent - are reduced to parroting scripted spiels at stage managed events. Or are kept out of sight altogether.
This is fine for the "rip (or download) and read" and the "rip and print" sections of the media, whose "reporting" rarely goes beyond putting their by-lines on handouts.
To investigative reporters this Stalinist style of media "management" is presenting new challenges, as well as new opportunities.
Whistle blowers are having a field day.
Leaks are turning into torrents.


After tortuous negotiations the Martin government, in its first term, strikes a deal with Lhere Artepe for around 85 housing blocks in the Larapinta area.
The agreement sets the significant precedent that Aboriginal native title is worth half the cost of the land.
The native title holders sell their half to a developer who's turning off residential land in Stage One.
Because that's only 40 blocks the impact on the market - overheating for years - is negligible.
The half of the land owned by the public, via the NT Government, isn't faring so well.
It's withdrawn from sale when bidding fails to get anywhere near the reserve price.
PUBLIC HOUSING The underlying problem is apparently the government's requirement for a sprinkling of public housing throughout the subdivision.
Given what's happening in public housing a couple of kilometers away, in Larapinta, the failure of the government's effort to bring down real estate prices is no surprise.
In Larapinta, some tenants of public housing have been behaving abysmally.
Housing Minister Elliott McAdam has ordered a crackdown. This will take some time to show results and the public will take some more time to believe it's happening.
Don't hold your breath for Larapinta Stage Two.


In Darwin the government's spending spree continues, in part on the $300m Waterfront Development, underwritten by the government to the tune of $200m. It includes a convention centre with a 1500 seat capacity and 4000 square metres of exhibition space, a sea wall, wave pool, swimming areas, public promenade, parklands and picnic areas, as well as commercial and residential developments, including a hotel.Unlike with the $26m Desert Knowledge centre in Alice and the Mereenie Loop Road sealing, which have again been deferred, the government is locked into the Waterfront deal, and appears to be exposed to cost increases. In Alice the main capital works spending, $25m according to a well informed source, is on fixing up alleged shoddy workmanship during the $30m refurbishment of the hospital four years ago. Inexplicably, no compensation claim has yet been made.
It's a headache for the Minister of Health (he's responsible for the hospital), the Minister for Justice (his department is reportedly finally putting together a claim) and the Minister for Central Australia. In fact these three ministers are all one bloke, Peter Toyne. Last week he didn't respond to a request for comment.


When on Melbourne Cup Day Territory bureaucrats - not at all faceless in a small town - arrive unannounced at the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre to shut it down, a storm of revulsion sweeps Alice.
The town sure has its share of racial conflict but this is different: these are kids, the poorest ones and most at risk to boot. The town acts as one, with people right across the social and political spectrum protesting, writing letters and contributing to an advertisement, as well as signing their name to it, expressing their disgust at the decision.
The local consensus is these kids, mostly from the town camps, often hungry, rarely clean, frequently exposed to drunken violence, would have great difficulty cutting it in mainstream schools. They need to be nurtured where they are. Education Minister Sid Stirling doesn't agree. The savings are said to be $300,000 - one ten thousandth of the Territory Budget.


In an administration run by women more than ever before in the NT, Alison Anderson occupies an interesting place.
She won the seat of MacDonnell despite serious allegations about her actions as an ATSIC heavy, and before that, as the town clerk of Papunya, a job in which her now estranged husband, Steve Hanley, succeeded her.
The Alice News broke the story after getting a leak of an auditor's report finding that equipment - mainly cars - worth hundreds of thousands of dollars on Papunya's books couldn't be found anywhere.
Two Federal probes are still under way, but the NT Police, after an investigation likely to make the Guinness Book of Records for its brevity, "cleared" Ms Anderson.
Yet some things don't stack up.
Mr Hanley alleges he was told by Ms Anderson earlier this year to hand out as election bribes consumer goods belonging to the Papunya store.
Later a letter surfaced, purportedly written by Mr Hanley, retracting his bribery allegations.
In the margin is a hand written note by a Territory public servant who was investigating the allegations, stating "no further action required".
But Mr Hanley says the letter is a forgery, he's never signed it and he stands by his original allegations.
Where does that leave the so-called investigation?
We asked the government a month ago but still have no answer.
Watch this space.


The Territory government's clandestine nature is nowhere more odious than in its dealing with national parks, mainly those in Central Australia, whose ownership the government wants to transfer to Aboriginal interests.
The government prescribes that there can be debate about the parks master plan, which is a consequence of the handover policy, but not about that policy itself.
A five month investigation by the Alice Springs News (see our web site) was boycotted by the NT Government and the Central Land Council, which will play a key role in the parks management and ownership if the proposal gets legs.
However, the Alice Town Council has now become involved, demanding a halt to the process until more information is available.
And the CLP, under new Central Australian leadership, has reiterated its vehement opposition to the policy.
The CLP will need to do more than that in the next three months: it'll have to show it has regained the capacity, lost by Denis Burke, to communicate important issues to the public, and generate interest and support.
By the degree of success of such an effort the public will gauge whether the CLP is still alive and kicking, what its Federal politicians are made of, and what influence the party still has in Canberra.
So far noises from there suggest the Federal government is disinclined to interfere with a decision by an elected state or Territory Government.
Of course, Canberra had no such qualms when it legislated on the proposed nuclear dump in the NT. By March or April 2006, on present indications, the Federal Government will amend the Land Rights Act. They'll have the options of accommodating the Clare Martin parks handover policies, or of closing the loophole which allowed the attempted land grab to unfold.
The outcome will be an indicator of whether 2006 will be a better year for Alice than 2005.
Merry Christmas!

While Desert Knowledge is still waiting to get a home down the road, the town's sewage plant continues to stink, in more ways than one.
There is the stench of raw sewage pumped into open ponds. Don't linger down-wind.
While Desert Knowledge, presumably, will be telling us all about saving water, the sewage plant is evaporating two billion litres a year, in the driest part of the world's driest continent.
The government, through its Power Water Corporation, embarks not on building a recycling plant, but on a scheme to get rid of the overflow from the ponds, currently streaming into the swamp surrounding them.
From there the only partially treated sewage flows into the St Mary's Creek which meanders past a children's home, CSIRO, the race course and - yes - the Desert Knowledge site.
But not even this mini solution to a maxi problem is working.
Power Water was ordered three years ago to stop "dry weather discharge" from the sewage ponds at the end of this year, that's in 10 days from today.
The plan is to use the surplus effluent for growing fruit trees or grapes.
So far we have a lilac underground pipe but no holding ponds, no pumps, no reticulation and no horticultural company to buy the water.


If it gallops or flies, Doc Cunningham felt at home with it.
Now a cattle buyer in The Alice, he pioneered aerial mustering and shot - with a heavy cinema camera - the spectacular riding scenes in "Man From Snowy River" - from a horse in full flight.
And when they needed an outback character for a beer commercial who could ride and drink, all at the same time, Doc was their man.
He's now been involved in the pastoral industry in Alice Springs for 35 years, starting as a jackaroo.
"It was a dream of mine to come to the bush when I was a kid, I always wanted to go bush," Doc told Alice News reporter ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
His dream came true in 1968.
"When I was 15 I applied for a job as a ringer on Mount Cavanagh station, on the Northern Territory and South Australian border under the guidance of a very lovely lady called Mona Major and I've more or less been here ever since.
"As soon as I arrived at Mount Cavanagh I went out into the neighbouring stock camp at Tieyon and returned to Mount Cavanagh seven months later.
"The roads weren't as good as they are today and in those days it was all horseback mustering - there were no helicopters or bikes.
"We had about 100 horses in our plant which were obviously for all our cattle work.
"It was 12 months before I saw Alice Springs and it was dirt road all the way up the South Road to the airport turnoff.
"It was a township of about 4000 in those days. It was a great town, a real cattle town.
"All the ringers would pull in from out bush in their utes and park outside one of the three hotels - the Riverside [now the Todd Tavern], the Alice Springs Hotel [which burnt down in the 1980s; the Diplomat is now in its place] and the Stuart Arms [on the Todd Mall].
"We'd have all our tools in the back, and swags and dogs and just leave them outside for two or three days while we had a bit of a blowout.
"They'd still be there when we got back! No one would take anything in those days.
"I used to like the Alice Springs Hotel.
"Old Uncle Ly would look after us blokes, giving us a free room every now and then. He knew we'd spend most of our wages there.
"There were two or three of us that used to go into town about every six months for a weekend.
"We were working seven days a week so we didn't get much of chance to go to town in those early days.
ŚIt was a good lifestyle. Most stations around Alice employed six or seven stockmen and we'd get together for race meetings.
"They'd be a bush gymkhana, horse racing and camp drafting.
"Two or three hundred people would turn up, they were pretty big events in those days. People would come from all directions.
"I was the president of the Kulgera Racing Club for three years and ended up being champion rider two years in a row.
"We were all mates but we took the competition fairly seriously - there were up to 200 riders competing over a weekend.
"On the Saturday night we'd have a big ball and everyone would get dressed up and have a dance.
"Everyone worked hard with long hours and it was a chance to let off a bit of steam.
"A lot of race meetings died out over the years except for Harts Range - although Alice Springs and Aileron have just started a bush rodeo again which is great for the country.
"I stayed at Mount Cavanagh for 10 years and then did contract mustering around the southern Alice region.
"I got a group of guys together in the late 1970s when the NT government had a BTEC program to eradicate TB and brucellosis. There was a lot of work around then.
"We went to stations like De Rose Hill, Mount Cavanagh, Tieyon, Umbeara, Curtin Springs.
"I got my pilot's license here in Alice and bought an aeroplane.
"I did all the aerial mustering and four or five blokes would work on the ground. I did that for about seven years.
"I did a Carlton Draught advert in 1980. The film crew came into town and were looking for two good drinkers.
"I don't know why they approached me!
"They needed two people who could ride as well, so along with a friend of mine, Wayne Owen, we went to Mildura for 10 days' filming and then later on to Townsville for another 10 days.
"During the commercial we had to keep in practice how to drink a can and ride a horse so there was plenty of free Cartlon Draught on supply!
"Then I went south to Victoria and was the manager on a cattle property for three years for a man called Geoff Burrowes.
"The property was called Mount Skene, situated at the foot of Mount Buller in the Victorian high country.
"While I was at Mount Skene Geoff Burrowes made the film The Man from Snowy River II on the property.
"He was the producer and director and asked me if I wanted to be a crack rider or do the camera work on horseback. I asked him what paid the most and he said the horseback filming because it was considered stunt work - so I went with that!
"It was a great experience. I had to go to Melbourne and they made a huge aluminium frame for my body with a shoulder piece for the camera, and I had a video split built in my frame so the crew could see what I was filming.
"I had a radio controlled helmet as well so I could talk to them.
"As the horse cam operator everything had to be done at a full gallop so it would achieve that smoother effect.
"I remember riding through the brumbies, and the 21 crack riders - most of these guys were mountain men, absolutely brilliant riders from Victoria's high country.
"The most exciting time for me was swimming in the Murray River at Wentworth with about 100 horses.
"We had to cross the river to the other side six times to get it right.
"The noise was amazing with 100 horses swimming together.
"The main actors were very lovely people - especially Tom Burlinson and Sigrid Thornton.
"Once they met you they'd always say g'day to you no matter where you were.
"I shot about 700m of film over that three months and they used about 20 seconds of action shots throughout the film. In the early 1990s I came back to Alice Springs as a stock agent with Wesfarmers.
"The town had grown considerably since then - the 1980s were big years for tourism in Alice Springs.
"The pastoral industry had lost some cattle numbers but it was and still is an important industry for Central Australia.
"I noticed the quality of the cattle had improved considerably since I'd been away.
"The Centralian Beef Breeders Association had been set up in the 1970s - the brainwave of John Gorey, from Yambah Station.
"He had the backing of well-known pastoralists of the day like Bill Prior from Hamilton Downs, Bill Waudby from Mount Wedge, Ted Hayes from Undoolya, and Grant Heaslip from Bond Springs.
"The idea was to promote and improve the quality of cattle in Central Australia through cattle and bull sales at the Alice Show.
"The quality of cattle of the last 30 years has improved out of sight partially through the Centralian Beef Breeders Association and it's a credit to those who started it.
"I've been a past president and it's been a great association to be involved in.
"I'd like to encourage more people to get involved especially the younger generation.
"I've been a cattle buyer for five years now.
"My area covers pretty well all of northern Australia these days so I do get to travel a bit.
"Central Australia over the years has certainly given me a good lifestyle, I've met a lot of good people and made a lot of good friends."


It is to Alice Springs' credit that although it is so strongly associated with Australia's most internationally renowned and successful artists - the Aboriginal artists of the central deserts - it also nurtures artists of other backgrounds and working in a range of media. The present exhibition at Araluen, Converge, presented in partnership with Watch This Space, is an important new way of doing that - showing a selection of artists who live and work in Alice Springs though not originally from here, and whose art, in a range of ways, is mostly engaged with the Centre's people and landscapes.
The exhibition has also given Araluen's Hannah Presley and Watch This Space's Simha Koether curatorial experience and their work is immediately striking when you enter the gallery. This is a well hung exhibition that allows, within a confined area, each artist to claim their own space. My only quarrel would be with the proximity of works by Alan Bethune and Dan Murphy, who both work sculpturally with found metal - there should have been greater separation of their pieces, as well as tighter selection of Bethune's work, whose Faeries and Elves are a delight but don't belong to this show.
I'm also not a fan of the lighting style for the show, which creates a kind of glow around each work, an effect that might be suited to some work but not to all. I would rather not be made conscious of the lighting when I'm looking at work.
STRIKING Central in the gallery and immediately enticing are Damian Smerdon's digital transparencies on glass. The title list shows this artist travelling widely in the Centre, taking photographs as he goes from Wycliffe Well to Dalhousie Springs, from the Finke River to the Davenport Ranges. He uses computer technology to create new landscapes that elaborate on the existing natural environments. The presentation of the images on internally lit boxes suspended in space is striking but, for me, mostly works against a full appreciation of the images themselves. Form is competing with content, and for someone who is out there looking and experiencing country so energetically this seems regrettable.
Content speaks strongly in Rod Moss' work, which continues his long engagement with Eastern Arrernte families living on the outskirts of Alice Springs. His is a singular path and he goes where no one else does. "Fallen Man", showing Noelly Johnson Christ-like and dying or close to death, is almost unbearably confronting. It is comforting to see this same man out in country in an earlier work, the fine drawing "At Hayes Springs". Moss gets on the other side of people and behaviour about which there is little knowledge or understanding in Alice Springs let alone Australia. I'm not so sure about some of his artistic choices - the insistence on using graphite for the skin of his Aboriginal subjects, their rather frozen gestures in many instances (often quotations of iconic Western paintings), the half-closed or closed eyes, the prettiness of some of the painting - but his unwavering commitment to his subject matter nonetheless continues to make for a remarkable oeuvre.
Suzanne Macleod had a solo show at Watch This Space late last year, which revealed her confidence with a range of media and approaches to landscape and occasional figuration. This showing is very unified, particular by colour choice - there's a luscious creaminess, in colour and texture, across the works, arising no doubt from her "ongoing passion for saltlakes and claypans".
The surface of the works is important to her exploration and I regretted that the gouaches were behind glass. The showing is dominated by the narrative series, Camel Stories, the documents of a contemporary pilgrimage to the Centre.
There is a sense that many more could be added to this series, that all the small landscapes are side stages that could become the ground for other stories, with the series taking on the epic quality of the actual feat that inspired it. But meanwhile Macleod has travelled in Europe, absorbing radically different sources of inspiration. It will be interesting to see where this energetic artist goes next.
Ursula Burmeister, a new name on the local scene, brings her European heritage to the desert. The intense colour and velvety texture of the works reveal a strong visual and tactile response to the new environment which she combines with an older "script" - these elegant works require close inspection for their very fine annotations, writing that is not there for deciphering, but as a kind of underlying cultural pulse.
The soft tactility of Macleod's and Burmeister's work is in contrast to the hard surfaces favoured by Murphy and Bethune. This contrast looks like a gender split, for whatever that observation is worth, but Murphy is able to conjure a certain softness and delicacy from his tough raw materials.
This comes partly from the weathering they have undergone but also from his stitching and perforations of the panels which become lacelike. The lightness and fluidity achieved in "Dog Sketch" is a direction worth pursuing for his more literal 3D representations of animal forms.
Bethune is playful and highly versatile. His artistic contribution to community events, from the Olympic torch celebration to this year's Alice Desert Festival, has been outstanding. However, the work assembled for this show bundles too many strands of practice together. It lacks a focus around which to gather a response and could have benefited from greater curatorial intervention.
Although Henry Smith, in his artist's statement, refers to "travels into the deeply beautiful country of Central Australia" my viewer's impression is that the travels are more into the landscape of childhood.
The works are charming, deeply personal, I sense, but puzzling in their projected naivety. Smith is an accomplished sculptor and I recall some marvellous earlier landscape drawings. In contrast, his current direction is rather mystifying.
There is plenty to think about in this group show, enough work from each artist to get a sense of where they are at, and the combination takes the temperature of contemporary non-Aboriginal practice in the Centre.
The show is not comprehensive but it's healthily diverse and interesting.

LETTERS: Wagging school, dirty bombs, an oil company's boast and an Ayers Rock furphy.


Sir,- I write about your article "gas royalties to come under the microscope" (Alice News, Dec 14), especially the Santos statement of oil royalty being paid in "cash, kind, education training and other things like the camel farm". Regardless of Santos promotion of itself as the main instigator and support of the Camel Farm project the truth is that Santos was a late "partner" in the project, coming to it reluctantly and only under pressure from CLC during the renewal of the lease negotiations.
Prior to this Santos had virtually no dealings with Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre and only a minor involvement with a small number of outstation people.
The Camel Farm was developed through a combination of people from various organizations.
The majority of funding was provided by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), Tjuwanpa with the backup of a large STEP training element provided by the Federal Government. Project development in terms of personnel and planning but not with cash was provided by CLC.
Santos provided cash and personnel support for the final completion stage.
It is my understanding that Santos arranged for a further $30,000 to be paid by the ILC through Santos to complete the project.
To this date ILC / Santos has not accounted for this money to Tjuwanpa who holds the funding contract for the Camel Farm development with the ILC.
Whether Santos includes this $30,000 in their often quoted $83,000 cost of the Camel Farm I couldn't tell you.
It is unfortunate that during the recent Santos self promotion of the Camel Farm through the media, that the contribution of others, especially the role of Tjuwanpa, was deliberately forgotten by Santos as well as the CLC.
Tjuwanpa in terms of direct funding support, CDEP involvement, training for Camel Farm participants through DOTARS, provision of all tools and equipment and providing heavy plant and equipment is well in excess of $300,000.
The quoting by Santos of the $83,000 (in cash and kind) for the Camel Farm is an insult to Tjuwanpa community members, various organisations and particularly the outstation family who worked to bring the Camel Farm into existence.
A proper reckoning of the total cost of the camel farm to date would be in excess of $500,000. Apart from the financial input of Tjuwanpa and ILC, Tjuwanpa lost out on other community training opportunities from Centralian College due to the $150,000 Camel Farm participant training it had provided.
In all the contribution that Tjuwanpa made, and the resources that were diverted to the Camel Farm from other Outstation needs, caused a huge financial and service drain on our resources.
That has taken a great deal of effort to overcome and all without any acknowledgment from ILC, CLC and especially Santos.
Santos tactics in their negotiations with Tjuwanpa at times amounted to what I can only describe as "bullying" especially in relation to their "requests" for continued plant and machinery support from Tjuwanpa for "their" pet project, regardless of the cost to Tjuwanpa and our obligations to the other 40 outstations that Tjuwanpa has under Federal funding conditions.
Tjuwanpa provides all of the services in terms of housing, roads, power and water and human resources throughout the 5000 square kilometers, a large part of the Western Aranda region. We receive absolutely no NT Government funding and have relied and still do on inadequate Federal funding.
Santos still cannot or will not pay up the $15,000 that Tjuwanpa billed it for heavy plant hire time - hugely under valued - that was part of their $83,000.
Tjuwanpa thinks Santos is just another "book up" bad debt.
Peter Byrne
General Manager

Sir,- Congratulations to John Cooper, Principal of Anzac Hill High School, on his award and for his courage in speaking up about non-attendance at school.
It was refreshing to hear him raise the issue of non-attendance and ways the community can help.
Absenteeism stares us in the face every day with children from town and community schools seen everywhere.
We need to adopt a whole town approach.
We could learn from Western Australia and urge everyone to report to authorities, children unaccompanied by parents wandering the town - or as Mr Cooper says, "dob in students who are too young to make a decision to stop school learning."
Which makes the government's decision to do away with the attendance officer's position even more ridiculous in Alice Springs.
Isn't it about time the government stopped the damage students do to themselves, their neighborhood and the town?
Loraine Braham
MLA for Braitling


Sir,- Charlie Carter (Alices News, Letters, Dec 7) says that the World Heritage listing of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park relies heavily "on Aboriginal culture and ownership".
I beg to differ and would like to point out that according to the Department of Environment and Heritage website, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was first listed as a World Heritage site in 1987 because of NATURAL criteria (my emphasis) - most notably the fact that it contains "unique, rare or superlative natural phenomena, [and] formations or features or areas of exceptional natural beauty ..."
Take away this superlative natural phenomena - the Rock itself and the grand stone mountains of Kata Tjuta - and most people would have little reason for visiting the national park.
The subsequent re-listing of Uluru-Kata Tjuta in 1994 for cultural criteria maintains that it is "a cultural landscape representing the combined work of nature and of man, manifesting the interaction between humankind and its natural environment". Intriguingly, there is no mention made whatsoever of its Aboriginal ownership being a factor in this renewed World Heritage listing.
The cultural landscape listing also reflects the "politically-correct" perspectives of both Parks Australia and the World Heritage body itself. There is virtually nowhere on this Earth that could not be described as a "cultural landscape" (except some of the remote parts of Antarctica), yet most of this land is not a World Heritage site.
Additionally, the Department of Environment and Heritage website says that Uluru-Kata Tjuta as a World Heritage cultural site is directly associated with "living traditions and beliefs of outstanding universal significance".
But how relevant to the outside world are these beliefs of "outstanding universal significance" when Anangu won't reveal anything of the Tjukurpa stories that relate to Kata Tjuta, except to say that this area is of special significance to Anangu men?
Charlie Carter may not like to hear this but in the mid-1990s a PhD student from Queensland's Griffith University did a survey of visitors to Uluru, specifically asking them to rate their visitor activities and what they saw as the expected highlight of the visit (prior to arrival) and also the actual highlight of the visit.
It is interesting to note that amongst the visitors he surveyed only 6.5 per cent expected Aboriginal art and culture to be the highlight of their visit to the national park.
When assessing the actual highlight of their visit, this figure for Aboriginal art and culture declined to a mere 3.7 per cent of visitors. In the PhD student's survey some 24.8 per cent of visitors noted "climbing Uluru" as the actual highlight of their visit, whilst other natural features rated much higher in appeal than the cultural element of Uluru.
The notion that an appetite for a "genuine Aboriginal cultural experience" is the major driver for tourism at Uluru is a politically correct myth and a complete furphy.
Ross Barnett
Sydney, NSW

Sir,- One of the arguments used by opponents [including NT Chief Minister Clare Martin, on the ABC recently - ED] of the proposed nuclear waste repository is that the waste could be used by terrorists to make a "dirty bomb", which could be used to spread radioactive material and kill large numbers of people.
The Science Show on ABC Radio National on December 10, rebroadcast part of the soundtrack of the SBS television series "The Power of Nightmares".
It included the following quote: "But in reality the threat of a dirty bomb is yet another illusion.
"Its aim is to spread radioactive material through a conventional explosion.
"But almost all studies of such a possible weapon have concluded that the radiation spread in this way would not kill anybody because the radioactive material would be so dispersed, and providing the area was cleaned promptly the long-term effects would be negligible.
"In the past both the American army and the Iraqi military tested such devices and both concluded that they were completely ineffectual weapons for this very reason."
The Science Show presenter, Robyn Williams, then interviewed Dr Bob Hunter, former president of Scientists against Nuclear Arms, about whether he thought so-called dirty bombs were a real threat.
Dr Hunter agreed that the radioactive material would hardly make the bomb more dangerous, and thought that the dirty bomb story is "just another part of the technique of keeping us worried. You know as long as we keep frightened then the government can keep passing laws to limit our freedom in the guise of protecting us." I have sympathy for some of the arguments for not having a nuclear waste dump in Central Australia, but the threat of dirty bombs is one argument that is just not worth using.
Gavan Breen
Alice Springs


Sir,- The NT Government will not keep most of its election promises until shortly before the next election according to the Treasurer's Half Yearly report.
Page 17 of that report demonstrates that of the $60 million of elections promises $40 million will not be spent until immediately prior to the next election.
They don't have the money to keep their promises now so they've decided to use the debt they are going to run up in the next couple of years to buy off Territorians.
Politics doesn't get more cynical than this.
By the time the next election comes around the Territory will have its highest debt ever according to Government statistics rather than managing their spending by spreading the expenditure over several years they're going to spend more as the Territory's debt climbs.
Jodeen Carney
Opposition Leader


Sir,- I am a Athenge Lhere traditional owner. I previously worked for Gagudju Association / Energy Resource of Australia (ERA) Ranger Uranium Mine in Jabiru as an assistant in the environmental toxicology laboratory.
I fully understand the impact of contamination to the environment and have now been personally forced into researching further about the topic of nuclear waste because it's about to be dumped on my door step. just 35kms from Alice Springs.
It's interesting that the cost of establishing the new proposed nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney will be at least half a billion dollars. In the past the Federal Government has been prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to dispose of its nuclear waste, not to mention the cost associated with operating the reactor.
We're not going to be fooled, no compensation will ever be enough to take this type of waste. We need to think about our environment, our heritage, our kids and their kids futures.
There are a number of issues here. One of how deadly nuclear waste is and how it will directly affect our health.
The nuclear waste is obviously too dangerous for city people but safe enough for us black fellas. The Federal Government is obviously not sorry enough yet.
The other major issue is our responsibility to look after our country.
Mount Everard to us at Athenge Lhere is known as Altyerre. Altyerre to us means the dreaming - the Dreamtime. It's our beginning and the creation of our world.
Since Altyerre, we've had strong links to our country, each other, our law and our traditional customs. We have a responsibility to look after our country and protect it. If we allow the proposed nuclear waste dump to go ahead, our spirits will punish the responsible traditional owners for not stopping it, regardless of whether or not it was their fault.
If we don't protect our land, we'll get sick and die. The best way to describe it, is that it's a form of payback for not looking after your country.
The people of Alice Springs are not aware that our property 10kms from the proposed nuclear waste dump, is a part of the Todd River catchment area. This should be a concern for all Alice Springs residents.
Raelene Martin
Athenge Lhere traditional owner


Sir,- I write in response to "Washed up in Winnellie" by Steve Fisher (Oct 12).
You're right Steve, there is a lot that sucks in Darwin, but it's a pity you missed (or didn't want to see?) the fine bits.
Being used to moderate climates I lived in Darwin for a couple of years and I can tell you: forget the sterile and plain boring Casuarina Square shopping centre and enjoy a good cup of coffee at BarEspresso or a cold one at the new Deck Bar, then head to Cozy's for some marvellous food.
Get some Asian take away on the wharf and watch the world go by. Get a push bike and ride along the beach toward East Point, enjoying the amazing scenery.
Darwin's heat isn't dirty either. Sweating is a pretty normal process and fresh sweat isn't dirty at all.
Only forgetting to change regularly makes you dirty, regardless of where you are.
Christopher Lueg


Sir,- Apparently, a new definition of the word "sustainable" is being offered to Alice Springs residents.
The Department of Natural Resources, Environment, and the Arts (NRETA) is charged with developing a water strategy for the Alice Springs Water Control District.
As ridiculous as it seems, the draft strategy presents an allocation framework based on the notion that we would be allowed to consume 80 per cent of the available water within 100 years.
The department is asking the community to tell them if this 100 year usage horizon is acceptable. I certainly will be telling them differently!
The idea that the community would approve something as nearsighted as dry wells in 100 years baffles me.
Here at ALEC we think that‹at most‹20 per cent of our non-renewable water should be available for use over 100 years.
Recently, hydrological studies have indicated the presence of huge reserves in the Mereenie Aquifer, and for some people this spells big opportunity.
But not everyone agrees that this non-renewable fossil water could or should be extensively "mined".
ALEC is in favour of appropriate development, not suicidal adventurism. We believe that the people of Alice Springs are clever enough to have their development and save water too.
Some people have been calling this a desertSMART town. Here's a great opportunity to prove it.
John Brisbin
Coordinator, Arid Lands Environment Centre


Sir,- I am a 66 year old grandad living in Middlesbrough in the north of England. I am in the process of writing my two grandchildren, a letter which I hope they will save to show to their children in the future.
In this letter I am recalling some of my childhood memories, one of which occurred in about 1950 when I was about 11 years of age. It concerns a young lady of about 18 to 20 years of age, whose name was Audrey Bamkin who was on a working holiday from Alice Springs.
It happened in Bognor Regis which is in Sussex on the south coast of England, where I used to live, where Audrey was visiting her Aunt, Mrs (Florence?) Jenkins.
On one particular night we had an unexpected fall of snow, and as I was on my way to school the next morning I was passing Mrs Jenkins' house, when Audrey came rushing out "screaming" with delight as it was the first time she had ever seen snow.
The sheer joy that Audrey showed was something I have never forgotten, and never will.
Audrey will now be in her seventies.
I understood that she was one of a large family who lived in the Alice Springs area, and I was wondering if you or your readers have any knowledge of her and I would like to know if Audrey remembers this event after all of these years.
She might remember me as a young friend of the two Miss Robbins who were both paying guests of Mrs Jenkins.
Cliff Jordan


Sir,- Alice Springs hospital just helped us bring our son Noah into the world. We were overwhelmingly impressed by the staff in the maternity ward and special care nursery.
Their professionalism, obvious experience, clinical and medical skills, dedication to duty, and enjoyment and commitment to their jobs was very assuring to us as first parents. The midwifery and nursing standards were first-class - before, during and after the birth.
We particularly appreciated the hospital's flexibility and understanding in allowing the father to stay with, care for, and support the mother and child.
Alice Springs hospital is a tribute to Australia's public hospital system.
Rachael Barge, Gregory Andrews and Baby Noah
Alice Springs


Squash players in Alice Springs says they're not being treated fairly by the council compared with other local sports.
"AFL and cricket are effectively subsidised because they aren't charged rates.
"Clubs pay a fee to use the sporting facilities at Traegar Park and other venues but not the full cost of maintenance," says Randle Walker, the president of the Squash Association.
The club on Gap Road is charged $5000 each year by the council - the normal rate for commercial properties.
It contested the charge last year and again this year, applying for exemption as a sports club. But it was rejected twice.
"We're not subsidsed, we're charged. Why do we have to pay?" says Mrs Walker.
"There's a regulation within council to reduce or waive rates for community or sporting associations.
"We made a claim this year and last year - I heard six sporting clubs last year made one too but we all got rejected."
Mr Walker was asked by Ian McLay, the finance director at the council, to attend a council meeting two Mondays ago to present his case but he heard last week that his application had been rejected again.
"I wasn't given a reason really. I think the council don't want to open it up and have all the sporting clubs apply.
"The council did say they are reviewing the ratings and may create a new category for sporting associations.
"We don't get a whole lot for our money - just the bins picked up. It's our second highest expense other than the wage of the person who runs the centre.
"We will have to consider raising fees for members but it's a catch 22 situation - you raise the fees and lose members.
"It's already quite an expensive sport for people."
Current membership of the club is $80 a year, and if members practice on average twice a week and play in regular competitions, they will pay around another $26 a week. "There is a family with three kids who play - along with equipment, they're handing out a large amount of money every week," says Mr Walker.
A spokesperson from the Alice Springs Bowls Club said that their club paid lower rates to the Council, approximately $1200 - but received no services.
"We had no access to the main street, no street lighting, no cutting of grass verges, no bins collected - we collected our own rubbish.
"We argued with them about it but they said we could apply for a hardship grant. We did apply for one but it only lasted 12 months and we didn't reapply.
"Being a Crown lease I don't think we should pay rates at all.
"If I was leasing property off you, you would be paying rates not me.
"And as a ratepayer, I was paying twice to play my choice of sport.
"If I was playing football or cricket or hockey, all of those are supported by rates I pay as a ratepayer.
"But if I want to pay my own sport like bowling or squash, not only do I pay rates for all those sports in Traegar Park, I have to pay twice."
Ian McLay was on annual leave and unable to make comment before the story went to press.

I'm dreaming of a hot Christmas. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

What is Christmas? While running some errands yesterday I met a fellow European by birth and Territorian by choice. We compared Christmas memories from our childhoods and she told me that, to her, it didn't really feel like Christmas in Alice until the outdoor lights had been put up in their street and at their house. Then, after dark, when they were all twinkling she felt that Christmassy feeling of excitement and anticipation! I have been here for so long that fresh peaches and cherries make me feel that way! Even the hot weather itself has come to be a positive reminder of this special time of the year.
Our family braved the rain and went to Carols by Candle Light again this year. To me it is an event that has become part of my Christmas tradition in Alice. I love Christmas carols in every form and enjoy being part of people coming together for a musical celebration of Christmas. The rain prevented us from completing the program for the night but was a blessing in itself and also a traditional ingredient for the festive season in Alice. Other popular traditions in our house are the Santas delivering icy-poles to the children and going for a drive at night to look at all the lights.
I grew up with a Christmas smorgasbord of meatballs, ham, breads, cheeses, at least three different kinds of pickled fish, sausages, potatoes, salads and more. Our Christmas traditions have snowballed into something like a smorgasbord, catering for everyone and every taste! Historically in Europe Christmas traditions have been exported and imported from different parts and added to many a country's existing traditions.
My mother-in-law sometimes refers to our family as the league of nations as we try to honour all our different cultural backgrounds by celebrating three different Christmases one after the other. On Christmas Eve we have our version of a Swedish Christmas, on Christmas Day an Australian Christmas with seafood, fruit and an Italian twist and on Boxing Day a traditional Anglo-Saxon Christmas feast with the turkey and the Christmas pudding.
Food is an important part of our Christmas celebrations. Long before the Scandinavians took on Christianity the middle of winter was the time for a big pig-out and the blood of the slaughtered pig against the snow became our Christmas colours, red and white. A bit further south, green was available in the form of holly and other evergreen plants and came to symbolise new life. I had a card from friends wishing me a happy winter solstice, reminding me of the connection with our pagan roots and how this celebration of the birth of Jesus is another layer that we have added to earlier celebrations of life and hope.
Like a Christmas Cracker, the festivities will go off with a bang and we will be left with the smell of gunpowder and ripped golden paper. But despite the mess, the stress and the commercialisation of Christmas, I wouldn't be without it. We may not all believe in Christ but we want to believe in Christmas. We want to believe in our ability to be better human beings, that we can be more loving, caring and compassionate. We want to celebrate the positive, the innocent and the good things in our existence here on earth and we want to feed ourselves!
For many Christmas doesn't live up to all it's wrapped up to be. Despite trying to get into the Christmas spirit we might still feel disappointment or remember past Christmases that were far from joyful and magical. We dream of a "white Christmas", a spotless utopia that is impossible to achieve. But it isn't about how things look. It is about beginnings, possibilities and growth, about opening up and letting the light in, and about celebrating life.

Tearful farewell for Fish as he remembers 2005. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Today the curtain comes down for the last time on A Fish out of Water. Apart from a brief farewell from me, it's time to reflect on a year of pleasure and pain, of misplaced over-exuberance and quiet under-achievement. How was your year? Here's mine.
January. Realise that I need a break, even though I had only just had one. So instead I restart my biological engine and confront the year.
February. Garden infested with unwanted grass so I cover it with thick mulch. Couch grows through mulch. Spray couch with noxious chemicals. Couch dies to be replaced by more couch when it rains. This must be the circle of life, but with herbicide instead of cute lion cubs.
March. Can't remember my name but still manage to remember the number of the reading and writing hotline due to repeated government announcements. As a result, I decide to watch less commercial television for a week as a pilot project. Trial fails as I am drawn back to Desperate Housewives. Become desperate myself but I can't work out why.
April. Begin to covet an expensive cult DVD featuring a music video of Daft Punk that reminds me of past shenanigans involving cycle touring and beer. The DVD glowers from the shelves at Dymocks. I decide to wait for a sale and buy it then. Wait for several months. No sale. Someone else buys DVD.
May. Weather gets cooler but my crotch stays warm. Discover strange lurgy. Rush to doctor who administers miracle cure in tablet form and tells me to work less. Gratefully collapse in a heap for two days. Nobody notices.
June. Undertake ridiculous road trip to Bateman's Bay. I don't even like road trips. Develop an affection for Muffin Break outlets in country towns in New South Wales. Enjoy muffins so much that I forget to visit the unmissable zoo in Dubbo.
July. Clapped out body gives up fight against middle age. Someone innocently asks if I play football or just talk about it. Decide to shave head more regularly. Ask for help but the entire household becomes a conscientious objector and watches telly instead. I cut my head trying to shave it myself.
August. After yet another conversation with a person who uses impregnable code instead of proper English, I decide to wean myself off political correctness once and for all, even though I live in the Old Eastside. Coincidentally, unsolicited spam arrives inviting me to click here for an illicit encounter with someone who weaves her own bedspreads from buffel fibre. Must be a local.
September. Birthday gift arrives in the form of a best-selling scientific book about healthy eating for Australians. In response, I commence new diet regime involving a 20 per cent reduction in cake consumption. Makes no difference. Scrawny pets start to appear more healthy than me. They must have been reading the book while I was out. October. Man spits coleslaw at me during stand-up lunch event. Decide to wear protective gear and do less networking. November. Visit Perth and stay in an expensive hotel with no facilities. On departure, I complete an evaluation form asking why there are no facilities. Staff look blank like it's my fault. Maybe it is; I hadn't thought about that. December. Unrelenting sun fries young plants to a frazzle. Kmart warranty offers replacements for plants that do not grow. I wonder if this includes ones left out in the sun with inadequate water.

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