March 23, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


Centrecorp Aboriginal Investment Corporation Pty Ltd has a tax concession status as a charitable institution.
This means it is an institution that is established and run to advance or promote a charitable purpose.
Among other privileges it has an exemption from paying income tax, removing the need to lodge income tax returns, according to information obtained from the Australian Business Register.
The Alice Springs News has asked Centrecorp how, since July 1, 2005, it has advanced or promoted a charitable purpose.
Meanwhile, the much-anticipated list of non-rateable properties was examined in confidential session by the Alice Springs Town Council on Monday night.
As reported previously in the Alice Springs News (March 2/3), there are 466 such properties in the municipal area.
Comments by aldermen and an officer had led the News to believe that these included properties in the Centrecorp portfolio, which includes a 60 per cent share of Yeperenye Pty Ltd (Lhere Artepe has the other 40 per cent), owners of the Yeperenye shopping centre and numerous other commercial buildings in town, and significant slices of the Peter Kittle Motor Company and Kings Canyon Resort.
At the time this was not denied by a Centrecorp director, Owen Cole.
Subsequently, further research by the News drew this brusque response from Centrecorp manager R. W. (Bob) Kennedy:
"Do not own, and never have owned, any 'non-rateable properties'.
"Do not hold, never have held, 'PBI [public benevolent institution, a criteria for rates exemption] status'."
Following Monday's meeting, Alderman Melanie Van Haaren appeared to confirm this, telling the News: "Out of a long list supplied, in reality there were not many questionable properties. The vast majority meet the criteria for rates exemption.
"Some need looking at more closely because circumstances may have changed, but in reality the list is not controversial.
"Anything said around council about organisations beating the system has not been borne out."


If the town is feeling the impact of urban drift, the town camps are feeling it more, the Alice Springs Town Council heard on Monday night. Olga Havnen, chair of the Town Camp Task Force, told council the town camp population has risen from 973 in 2001 (counted in the Census) to between 1765 and 2065, counted in four surveys conducted by Tangentyere Council during 2004-05.
This figure does not include visitors who swelled the population to 2560 and up to 3300.
All these people for just 192 houses, an increase of only 58 since 1986. The rough maths makes that a minimum of nine people per house, and up to 17 at peak visitor time. The visitors to the camps include 20 per cent of the renal dialysis patients being treated at the Alice Springs renal unit: an ironic contrast of highly technical and expensive health care on the one hand and lack of basic housing conducive to good health on the other.
Town camp residents are desperate for something to be done to cope with visitor numbers, said Ms Havnen.
They are taking more than their "share" of the overflow: if the base population is taken as 2000 they are coping with between 500 to 1300 visitors at a time.
The Tangentyere Council survey indicated that the average length of stay was three months.
Campers in public places are also increasing.
According to Alderman Melanie Van Haaren, the ranger unit use to ask less than 200 people a month to move on. In January the figure was 493; in February 630; and to date this month it has been 425.
Ald Van Haaren says it is expected to reach around the 850 mark by the end of the month. Interestingly the number of juveniles included in these figures is relatively small: 67 in January; 27 in February; and 23 so far this month.
The figures relate to the "river runs" by council rangers, done a minimum of three times a week, between 5am and 8am.
Ms Havnen warned the council that the worst is yet to come: there will be a real "tidal wave" she said as the present 0-25 years age group grows up.
Ever increasing rates of alcohol consumption with all its attendant problems was the "resounding issue" for everyone consulted by the task force.
Alice Springs is showing upward trends in alcohol-related harms at a more alarming rate than any other Territory centre, said Ms Havnen.
A "hard rethink" on alcohol will be among the immediate priority actions the task force report will identify. Others are: Improvement of infrastructure; the good news is that the Commonwealth has committed $10m through its Connecting Neighbours program. Improvement of municipal-type services, such as garbage collection; there's a role for the town council there, said Ms Havnen. The long overdue provision of managed temporary accommodation for visitors. A greater engagement of NGOs could possibly help, said Ms Havnen. A more rigorous planning of major events so that people don't get stuck in town. Enhancement of patrol services, both day and night, which would help alleviate the demand on police time. Improvement of community relationships. This would require a lot of hard work and thought, said Ms Havnen, but she also said there is "a lot of good will out there".
"I may be a Pollyanna," she said, "but I'm hopeful."
Ms Havnen, from the Office of Indigenous Policy (Department of the Chief Minister), said the task force would ask that people at very senior levels of responsibility be tasked with the implementation of the report's recommendations. She also emphasised the importance of much more detailed research under all headings of the report, all marked by the absence of baseline data.
Analysis of the impact of policy changes was also required, she said, expressing concern about the possible impact on urban centres of the Territory of the lifting of the remote area exemption on the activity test for dole recipients (see Alice News, March 9/10).
The Town Camp Task Force was convened by Minister for Local Government and Housing, Elliot McAdam.
Mr McAdam says that some of the pressure being placed on Alice Springs, reflects a national trend facing regional centres, but specific factors impacting on the town include it being a service centre for some 260 remote communities.
"In trying to deal with all of the factors that impact on the town camps, we must also face the bigger question relating to services in the bush and the capacity for governments to deliver them," says Mr McAdam.


Children are the target audience for the cultural protocols launched at Sunday's Harmony Day festivities by local native title holder organisation, Lhere Artepe.
Why, one may wonder, when much of the disturbance in public places and disrespect to Arrernte country comes from adults, in particular those under the influence of alcohol.
Doreen Franey, deputy chair of Lhere Artepe, is frank: "The young ones are not getting the education they should be because of the use of alcohol, so they are the ones we have to target."
She and Esther Pearce, cultural protocols project officer, are confident that the Yeperenye Man and his message, contained in particular in four television commercials, voiced over by a young girl (a native title holder herself), will have an impact on these children.
Getting through to adults is a taller order. Strategies include the appointment of cultural liaison officers who will work in the CBD in a kind of ambassador role.
"They will provide a positive image of Aboriginal people, particularly to tourists," says Ms Pearce. They may also be able to calm difficult situations but this is really outside of their role, she says; responding to anti-social behaviour remains a job for the police.
The liaison officers will receive training in conflict resolution, mediation and presentation, with assistance from the Tourist Commission and Congress, says Ms Pearce. She hopes they will be on the job by May.
Lhere Artepe are also looking to add teeth to the protocols by developing cultural-by-laws, which would be enforceable in the way that council by-laws are, with homeland rangers doing the job alongside their counterparts in the town council.
The by-laws would address things like burning trees in the river and camping on sacred sites Ms Franey says the visitor protocols are aimed at white visitors as well as black: "All visitors need to respect Arrernte country".
"They are no more than a code of behaviour that would be expected within any society," says Ms Pearce.
However, some, such as no humbugging of tourists, no begging, are clearly intended to address behaviour identifies with certain Aboriginal people in town.
Ms Pearce says urban drift is clearly escalating and Lhere Artepe is contributing to the Town Camp Task Force (see report this page) which is looking at some of issues that flow from it.
"We have to address the drinking," says Ms Franey, "and we are trying our damnedest. It's running us off our feet but it's got to be done."


When is commitment to "open government" for real?
The question is, yet again, troubling Alice Springs, with much town council business transacted behind closed doors, and Ald Murray Stewart using intemperate language - to put it mildly - in frustration over this paranoid secrecy.
Here in Aspen, a town much the same size as Alice, the city council is also under fire, but being used to local government, Alice Springs style, one cannot help wondering what the fuss is all about.
This is the issue of the moment: The council called three public hearings before deciding the fate of a single house, known as the Blue Victorian.
It is one of several hundred dwellings dating back to the town's first boom time, as a silver mining centre, more than 100 years ago.
Public hearings called by the council? Yes, these are commonplace in Aspen.
In Alice they're unheard of, the best the public can expect is that petitioners or delegates get a time-limited presentation, usually10 minutes, during a council meeting.
The Alice council has held, together with Lhere Artepe, public meetings about anti-social behaviour. Since then the problems have gotten worse.
And yes, the Aspen City Council is the authority that looks after the town's heritage.
What's more, all council meetings in Aspen are broadcast live on one of the local TV stations, and have been over the past 15 years.
The closest Alice Springs has come to comprehensive electronic media coverage, to the best of my memory, was some 20 years ago when Radio 8HA journalist Geoffrey Huddlestone recorded a few council meetings and later broadcast excerpts.
To the Central Australian observer, "open government" seems very much a reality here.
But back to Aspen's Blue Victorian: This fuss is not about whether this rather ramshackle building should be bulldozed or nor, Alice Springs style at four o'clock in the morning, to make room for the Plaza shopping centre.
No. The proposal was, and the council has now said yes, to allow further development on the large block, and permit access to it through a presently rarely used lane.
After the third public hearing on the issue, Aspen's Mayor Helen Klanderud told the Alice Springs News: "The same people had spoken at each hearing, and more or less said the same thing at each hearing, and in addition to speaking had written maybe one, two or three letters to us.
"So, yes, [the Aspen City Council] is very democratic."
Most people in Alice would readily agree with that assertion, but the expectations in Aspen seem a lot higher.
Scott Condon is a senior reporter, 19 years with the Aspen Times, one of the two daily papers here, both distributed free.
It's a lot of press in this town of 28,000 people, of whom only 6000 are permanent residents (a significant proportion of others are property-owners in the town, for instance, of second homes).
Mr Condon says he has higher expectations for democracy than the council displayed over the Blue Victorian.
"When you're a public official, even if you've heard it before, I don't see how you can say, sorry, we've heard you, and we just don't want to hear you again.
"I think that's a good way to get yourself into trouble.
"Maybe tell them to wrap it up in two minutes," but for Mr Condon the right of the public to be heard - at any time - is paramount.
Another difference is readiness of "The City" to react reasonably and intelligently to public criticism, something portions of the Alice Town Council just can't get a handle on.
Mr Condon recounts that a month ago on another issue, it was not clear whether the council had decided to "shield or hide information".
He was following a tip-off that the city manager had received a bonus of "pretty tremendous size". "I talked to the Mayor about that issue," says Mr Condon.
"She was very up front about what the size of the bonus was.
"It seemed a little bit strange that when people [from the competing paper] had been enquiring previously about what does the city manager make, you're finding out what he got paid in wages but there was no mention of what he was getting paid in bonus.
"What they were saying was, well, the question just wasn't asked the right way previously."
However, the council acted immediately to change the remuneration system.
"They say it wasn't because of the article, but they switched the way they compensate [the city managers], and now just about all is in salary, and the size of the bonus is greatly reduced," says Mr Condon.
"I don't know that you could really pinpoint that as a way that they were shielding information but, let's put it his way, the additional scrutiny didn't hurt."
Mr Condon says at published public hearings public comment is part of the agenda but "sometimes they had a public meeting where they don't necessarily take public comment."
All council meetings are open to the public.
Compared to the Aspen, the Alice town council's frequent hiding of matters in "confidential" sessions is an abuse of process.
Says Mr Condon: "Over 90 per cent of all the business is done in public open sessions, although the public can't always comment.
"There are very specific times under Colorado state law where a body such as the Aspen City Council can go into what they call executive session."
Mr Condon says these are discussions on:- litigation and a strategy to fight a law suit; tenders and future acquisitions - how much the City would offer for land, goods and services; and personnel issues.
All the rest is transacted in open council.
Mr Condon says the live TV broadcasts of the meetings are popular, "very much so.
"There's a lot of people who for whatever reason don't want to come down to City Hall, they rather [watch the meetings] in the comfort of their own home, getting their family's dinner ready."
The portfolio of responsibilities of the Aspen City Council puts to shame the Alice Town Council's range of activities, which hardly exceeds the 3Rs ... rates, roads and rubbish.
Aspen has a Mayor and four aldermen. All have same voting rights. The Council has a budget of $105m and 235 employees.
According to Ms Klanderud the council runs, in conjunction with the county, "affordable housing", embracing 2500 dwellings.
On its own the City runs the local opera house, where national stars are appearing frequently; day care centres; an electric utility and a water utility; a golf course; two art and recreation centres; and, an "extensive" recreation program.
Most of these earn fees for services provided. There's also a no-charge shuttle bus service around town and to all the skiing mountains; and - of course - the council looks after Aspen's roads.
The City subsidises tourism promotion to the tune of $650,000 a year.
The main sources of income are sales tax, property taxes and two real estate transfer taxes (which, given that the average house price in Aspen is $4m, are lucrative for the council).


I've spoken to and visited Gerry Baddock several times over the last three weeks. The indomitable 80 plus year old lives with her animals on the banks of Charles Creek, on the northern edge of of town.
The spot that's been her home for a quarter of a century would be idyllic if it weren't for the fact that the creek gets regularly used as a camping ground by Aboriginal visitors from the bush as well as Aboriginal people who are living in town but who are homeless.
This has been the case for years and Mrs Baddock has been protesting loudly for years, in particular about the hygiene implications, as there are, obviously, no toilets.
The numbers of people camping in the creek has intensified over the summer.
Here are the notes I've taken of our conversations:-
Three weeks ago:
"There were 80 to 90 here over the weekend. They set fire to the bushes on the western side on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It ran along the banks behind the used car yards.
"It left another magnificent tree to smoulder and die.
"They come after the rangers finish work for the day and leave before they start.
"I've written to the Ombudsman to complain about the council's failure to enforce the by-laws.
"By my reckoning there are seven by-laws broken all day every day. They include not camping or sleeping in a public place, not lighting fires in a public place, not urinating or defecating in a public, not depositing offensive materials in a public place.
"The Ombudsman says I haven't done enough to sort this out myself.
"I've phoned the rangers hundreds of times in the last five years.
"I've had long talks to the present head ranger, Mr Everett.
"I've written to the council's CEO, Mr Mooney.
"While the rangers were on leave over Christmas I called the police 32 times. They've been marvelous by the way."
Two weeks ago:
"I spoke to Peter Toyne on the radio. This is his electorate. I told him there are up to 100 people a night without toilets. He said it's a 'tricky situation'. What's 'tricky' about it?
"There were three wrecks in the creek this week, set on fire.
"The river is cut to pieces. When it next floods it will all wash down to the RSL causeway and the waters will back up to here.
"The rat track on the opposite bank has been worn by un-roadworthy, unregistered cars to get to town.
"I've asked for it to be blocked off with rocks: not their responsibility says the council, too expensive says the government.
"I want the council administration stood down and an administrator put in place who will enforce the by-laws."
The day after the AFL exhibition match:
"I called the police three times last night. The noise was unbelievable.
"Three police cars came at 2am. But nobody moved.
"At 5.15am someone sat on their horn for a whole minute. I think by that time I had had one hour's sleep.
The Monday after the AFL match:
"This weekend there were 500 people camped between the Basso Road causeway and the Telegraph Station causeway. I know because I count them when I walk my dogs. "Now you multiply 500 by 250 grams of faces. You get the best part of a tonne!"
Last Saturday:
"There were 77 sleeping over here last night, 11 carloads moved in as soon as the rangers had been through.
"They include more than 40 people who have been here for six weeks now. I don't know where they go during the day but they come back every night. The group includes about 20 school-age children.
"I've had 12 pages from Peter Toyne about all the things the government has been doing, but none of it is working is it, so what's the point of the 12 pages?"
Mrs Baddock has shown me the many pages of her recent correspondence to authorities on these matters.
Each authority refers her on to the next and so it goes. And so the river campers continue to come (and where else are they to go?) and so the peaceful nights that an elderly woman might hope for in her later years recede as a distant memory.
And meanwhile, she is supposed to take comfort from "the launch of a community consultation program for Alice in 10 (2005 to 2015) seeking feedback on Safety in the Community" (I'm quoting from the 12 pages) and from the formation of "the new Community Connections Safe Community group [which] will be working towards the satisfactory resolution of issues raise by the community".
One of the "new initiatives" under the Community Safety heading is "developing managed camping facilities for visitors from remote communities" (I'm quoting now from the recent Alice in 10 brochure).
As a "new initiative" this has supposed to have been happening for the last four years.Don't hold your breath, Mrs Baddock.


Businesses in Alice Springs are increasingly looking overseas to find skilled people to fill job vacancies.
Last year the Territory Department of Business, Economic and Regional Development helped bring 48 skilled workers from overseas to Alice Springs, up from 19 the year before.
In the last eight months, 28 more have arrived to work here so the trend looks set to continue.
In the NT the numbers of skilled workers from overseas has tripled over the past 10 years: there were 59 who came in 1994-1995, and in 2004-2005 there were 154.
The Darwin office of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) has had to increase staff to cope with visa applications, from five people to 10 this year.
A skilled migration forum held a fortnight ago in Alice attracted about 40 representatives from local businesses including from beauty salons, hairdressers, restaurants and health services.
Sandra Hill, the operations manager for Central Communications, says her business is seriously considering recruiting overseas. It has advertised vacancies for radio technicians for two and a half years without success across Australia.
"As a last attempt we're advertising in a trade publication and if that doesn't work we'll look at migration very seriously," she says. "We might contact other private enterprises to see if a consortium from Alice Springs could work together and attend recruitment expos overseas."
Radio technicians train for four years to repair and install broadcasting equipment including high frequency radio and TV transmissions for remote areas like communities, and in town.
Jeff Farmer, Central Communications service centre manager, says the business originally got around the staff shortages by recruiting apprentices, but they aren't able to employ any more of them because a ratio of one apprentice for one qualified person is required.
Poaching also used to be common between competitors, but now none of the other businesses in town can find workers either.
The business is looking into potentially recruiting from South Africa and the UK, as those countries have a training program equivalent to Australia's.
Carol Barnes, the executive director of nursing at the Alice Springs Hospital, recently recruited 25 nurses from the UK. Last October she spent three weeks travelling across England and Scotland. "It was a large amount of work but well worth doing," says Ms Barnes.
"It's a cost-effective exercise: agency fees were costing us $2.5m but are $450,000 now," she says.
Ms Barnes organised advertising on websites and trade papers through an agency, and sent out information to suitable candidates. She had bookings for 195 interviews, from which some 25 have confirmed starting dates and she hopes to confirm another 12.
Ms Barnes says she was expecting a higher number of positions to be filled but by the time she arrived back in Alice and offered jobs, many people had already accepted offers in other states.
Nevertheless she says the trip was worthwhile and generated interest: "People were very interested in working here," says Ms Barnes. "The weather was a big factor, especially in Scotland!"
Training and accommodation opportunities were also important considerations by migrants. A range of benefits were offered by Ms Barnes including paid air fares from the UK if the nurses remained in employment for a certain length of time. The hospital employs nurses and doctors from around the world, most recently from China, Japan and the Philippines.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress recruits about half of its 15 doctors from overseas, and has been doing so for the past 10 years. It uses a federal government agency, advertises independently and also recruits doctors who apply directly.
There is a shortage of doctors in Australia and encouraging them to come to remote areas is difficult," says Paul Acfield, the human resources manager.
He says it doesn't cost Congress any more money than recruiting someone from the coast, as the federal government absorbs relocation and other costs.
"Overseas doctors come for adventure, some because of wanting to work in Australia, others are committed to addressing the issues affecting Aboriginal people.
"Professionally, it's interesting work: Indigenous people in remote areas have particular health issues."
Dr Koen De Decker, from Belgium, has worked for Congress for five and a half years. He and his wife, also a doctor, applied directly to the organisation after seeing its website: "I was interested in working with Indigenous people, and I have experience in this area.
I enjoy my work here, it is challenging professionally."He says he enjoys working with doctors from around the world.
"Sometimes it is challenging, people have different backgrounds of training and we don't always know colloquial English, but generally it works well.
"It's interesting to work in a multi-cultural workplace."
Paul Acfield says retaining staff from overseas is important to Congress: "We do put a good deal of energy into retaining staff and a number of doctors have been with us for quite a few years.
"An important element is to be flexible as quite a few doctors also work privately and part time with us. I think the way we work collaboratively is important professionally for doctors and this is often difficult to achieve in more remote settings." Beth Mildred, of the Chamber of Commerce NT, helped to organise the migration forum held last fortnight. She says that much of the advice sought and questions from local businesses that she deals with are about staffing.
"Businesses are not able to get the right people with the right skills and it affects the growth of the business and it represents an enormous cost," she says.
"More people are using migration programs now: through word of mouth they're feeling more comfortable about it.
"It gives them the capacity to take on trainees which is good for Australia, as trained migrants can then train non-skilled people."
To combat the skills shortage in Australia, the federal government announced last year it has created 20,000 extra places for migrants wanting to permanently move to Australia. This year 160,000 permanent migration places are available across the country.


Twenty five years of community involvement, fellowship and sharing ideas will be celebrated on Friday, March 31, when the Alice Springs Quilting Club holds its special Silver Dinner.
The quilting club was the very first in Australia: it had its inaugural meeting on March 1981 at the Community College, now Anzac Hill High School.
Constance Price (PICTURED with some of her quilted items), was the first secretary of the club.
"Kaye Reust, who was teaching machine and hand quilting as part of the school's adult education, put an ad in the paper to see if anyone was interested in forming a quilting club.
"The six or eight people who attended were very enthusiastic and each time there was a meeting, they'd invite others to come along.
"We met at each other's homes then," says Mrs Price.
That July, the women exhibited a few items at the Alice Springs Show and the club had its first exhibition that December at the Alice Springs Town Library.
The Quilting Club's annual exhibition has continued ever since, and is now shown at Araluen.
"I've had something in every exhibition," Mrs Price said.
"Even when I was living overseas for a year I sent something for the exhibition through the mail.
"Many tourists like to see the exhibition and we get a lot of interest and feedback also from the Alice Springs community.
"Many comment that they wish the exhibition was longer than a week."
Mrs Price said that one difficulty in the early days of the club was getting fabric and other materials: there were no fabric shops in Alice Springs at the time.
"Members shared what they had with each other and if anyone went overseas or interstate they would bring back material for others," Mrs Price said.
"The same was true for learning new techniques.
"I remember attending a quilting workshop overseas and when I got back to Alice Springs I shared what I had learned with others.
"We still do that today although today there are several places where one can get fabrics, and the stores, as well as the club, hold periodic workshops conducted by visiting tutors or lecturers."
Mrs Price said that over the years the style and techniques of quilting have changed.
"At first everyone did hand quilting but more recently people have been looking at computerised quilting machinery and designs," Mrs Price said.
What Mrs Price likes best about quilting is making quilted items for gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas.
She recently made a quilt out of material from Canada with a Canadian theme for an elderly friend who lives there.
This use of quilts to reflect one's history or personal interests was evident during last year's Show and Tell which the club held at the Senior Citizens with the theme The Celebration of Quilting.
The day provided an opportunity for local people and visitors to find out more about the club.
A number of quilts were shown and talked about as well as other quilted items including a teddy bear, a bag, a jacket, pictures, wall hangings, ornaments and a Christmas stocking.
And the quilters' sense of humour was also evident in much of the work and the stories told.
One showed the quilt she had made for her dog!
The fellowship resulting from the quilters discussing their work and working together on numerous projects has also been an essential part of the club during its 25 years.
Projects have included making teddy bears and cloth dolls for organisations such as the police and Salvation Army to distribute to children caught up in domestic violence or other stressful circumstances.
Club members have also made kids' quilts for the Women's Shelter and donated quilts for various community groups to raffle off as a fundraiser.
Mrs Price has also introduced quilting to Alice Springs school students encouraging them to express their creativity through fabric and also by participating in the annual Australia's Biggest Quilting Bee which raises funds for the Cancer Council.
The Alice Springs Quilting Club has also put out a recipe book.
"Quilters do a lot of eating," Mrs Price said.
"More than 400 copies of the book have been sold, it is now in its second printing."
And the club's Silver Anniversary Dinner on Friday March 31, is expected to feature those essential club ingredients: eating, fellowship and quilting.
Members are being asked to create a name tag with a silver theme and all members, former members, friends and partners are welcome to attend.
The guest speaker for the evening will be the Alice Springs textile artist, Philomena Hali.
Tickets are available from Dymocks in Alice Plaza. The Alice Springs Quilting Club meets at the Masonic Lodge, Allchurch Street on the fourth Monday in the month (except December) with doors opening at 7pm for a 7.30pm meeting time.
Everyone is welcome.


Peta Steller's beautiful interpretation of the White Swan Solo from act two of Swan Lake had the audience of Araluen in tears on Friday evening.
Her sensitive and graceful movements brought colour, life and emotion to the role of Odette, and was a celebration of the completion of her diploma of dance in classical ballet.
Her performance showed she must surely be destined for a career beyond Du Prada.
Erin McKinnon has also completed the diploma, and will perform her graduation piece, the Flute Solo from the ballet Suite en Blanc et Noir in Darwin next Sunday.
The girls were part of Du Prada's Postcards from Prague presentation which was performed last Friday and Saturday.
Steller and McKinnon were two of the seven ballerinas from Alice who travelled to Prague last year with the artistic director of the Du Prada Dance Company, Lynne Hanton.
The girls took part in two weeks of classes taught by classical ballet masters from around the world.
Ms Hanton said the experienced had changed the dancers: "It was about learning the artistry from the masters.
"Ballet is a moving object and the masters were passing down their knowledge to the girls.
"It's taken the girls six months to process all the information and bring it to life."
Tamara Diehl is a teacher and dancer with the company.
"It was interesting to see how these girls worked in the classroom and developed over time," she says.
"The teachers were very passionate about wanting to teach us. There was lots of information, they tried to share all their experiences in two weeks."
Following the trip, Ms Hanton choreographed a new ballet, Postcards from Prague, which was performed last weekend.
"It's a little bit of a postcard from abroad in dance instead of words.
"I was inspired by Europe: the statues, art, music and architecture."
The piece was performed by the seven senior artists including Peta, Erin and Tamara, with Lisa Thompson, Fayth Lees and Jane O'Loughlin, as well as 25 other students of the company.
I particularly enjoyed the last part of the ballet, when the senior dancers joined in pairs and threes. Their movements changed from elegant, measured arabesques to dramatic pirouettes. Du Prada's next performance will be Sleeping Beauty in June.


Sir,- I had the pleasure of attending a recent function, 'Alice's Blowout', in Melbourne. The event was organised by Wayne Kraft in conjunction with the Alice Springs Town Council who were represented by Deputy Mayor Alderman David Koch.
Being born and bred in the Alice, I was excited to see some familiar faces and along with my mother, Lori, we were not disappointed. The event was also attended by several Melbourne tour and conference organisers and the feedback about Alice as a destination was extremely enthusiastic.
One thing that became apparent at the function was a feeling that Alice Springs is not being promoted adequately as a destination in it's own right by the Northern Territory Government but rather as a hub for travel elsewhere.
I, like many others, believe Alice Springs has plenty more to offer than merely being a 'pitstop' for visitors to other regions in the Northern Territory and would like to see it promoted in cities like Melbourne as the genuine destination itself.
I would like to congratulate Wayne Kraft and the town council for taking the initiative to promote Alice Springs as a destination itself, which I firmly believe it deserves to be, whilst remaining a convenient location for travel to neighbouring areas.
Despite now being a resident of Melbourne, I have always considered Alice as my home but I can confirm that many Melbournians see Alice in the wrong light. Whilst the efforts of Wayne and the town council are trying their hardest to address this matter, I would like to see the Northern Territory Government taking a much more proactive role in these efforts.

John Sitzler
Melbourne, VIC

Publicly funded research should be made public

Sir,- This is an open letter to Warren Snowdon MHR Lingiari:-
I read with interest your interview in last week's Alice News. In it you mention the need for a decent baseline mobility study to aid in our understanding of the current topical issue of urban drift.
It is my understanding that Tangentyere Council has recently completed just such a study. This would have involved extensive time, effort and expense.
If this is true, could you perhaps ask for a copy to be sent to your office?
And while you are doing that, could you please ask for a copy to be made public? The time and effort was theirs, but the expense was from the public purse.
As a member of the paying public and a resident in their target area, I too would like to see the results of their study.

Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Alice's role in Iraq war

Sir,- Do the people of Alice Springs realize that the somewhat comical looking collection of giant golf balls about 20kms out of town is actually a very strategically placed US military spy base which has played a significant role in the murder of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians over the last three years.
Not to mention the devastation of essential services such as electricity, water and sanitisation, and the destruction of entire cities including schools and hospitals.
Pine Gap is essential to the US in its totally unjustified ongoing invasion of Iraq, monitoring all phone, radio and computer traffic in and around Iraq via satellite. By hosting Pine Gap, Alice Springs is indirectly responsible for this grossly unethical war.
Though it may not seem like we have that much choice in the matter, it's only when communities start coming together as a whole and speaking out that changes can start to be made.
Jayne Alexander
Alice Springs


I have recently been accused of gadding about too much. According to my dictionary 'gad about' means "to travel round (a place) to enjoy oneself when one should be doing something else". And I must admit I have been doing that.
I could probably also be accused of "gabbing", "talking continuously without thought" as well as "gossiping", "having a conversation or giving a report about the details of other people's behaviour and private lives, often including information that is actually not true". Living in a small town where you know a lot of people it isn't surprising that you might talk to some people about something that someone else you know said or did. Mostly it is innocent enough and part of the light conversation you might have when you catch up with a friend.
By recounting ideas we've heard, we might be communicating our own feelings and opinions in a indirect way in order to establish that we belong to a particular group or would like to be accepted in a certain context.
Gossip becomes a kind of social currency, a tool that may facilitate conversation. It is also an indicator that you are a 'local' to some extent, someone who is up to date with what is 'happening'. But like many tools, it can be turned into a weapon.
There is of course the old saying, "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words cannot hurt me", yet we've all been hurt by someone's words, directly or in directly. In response we might have retaliated by adding a little hurtful something to an otherwise benign observation.
I have on occasion advised newcomers to Alice not to say anything derogatory about anybody. Chances are the person you are speaking of is known to the person you are speaking to, and might even be a good friend of theirs. It might be tempting to feel more like an insider than an outsider by spending some of the newly acquired gossip currency, but a small place doesn't give you much room to move.
Schools, high-schools especially, and gossip magazines are the places where we might expect to find gossip, bullying and backstabbing. Although we don't approve of it, we don't necessarily deal with it effectively or choose not to support it by not buying particular magazines. Nationally we have a "zero tolerance" policy for terrorism, yet kids get away with it every day.
I once heard a story about a plague of sparrows in China which threatened to cause massive starvation as the birds fed on food crops. Apparently Mao instructed the Chinese people not to let the sparrows roost. The birds couldn't eat or reproduce and became nearly extinct and the people were saved. It may seem a drastic solution to a problem and unfair to the birds but it shows that a small action performed by many individuals can make a big difference.
It may be true that nothing unites like a common enemy but it is not a stable foundation on which to build a friendship or a community and there are better ways of expressing how we think and feel than by borrowing other people's lives and shortcomings.
Nasty gossip erodes trust and encourages anxiety and paranoia. No one feels safe. If we want to be part of a particular group or build a strong society we must figure out what interests we have in common and share something from our own lives. Maybe zero tolerance should be paired with praise. Every time someone says something nasty about someone else, counter it with something positive. You may not be able to undo the harm but you may lessen the effect, like the good fairy in Sleeping Beauty, and little by little things will change and "death shall have no dominion".

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