May 11, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


They are "The Desert Mums", walking across the Simpson Desert to raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation of Australia and to promote early breast cancer detection through self breast examination and mammograms. They are walking because world-wide 375,000 people will die this year from breast cancer, 2,500 of them Australian women. On Tuesday as the Alice News went to press, they had done 138 kilometres, trying for around 30 kms a day.
The last 10 are "very, very hard", says Susan Bartell, daughter of Denis who 22 years ago completed the first recorded solo and unaided walk across the Simpson. Denis, with Andrew McLean, is driving the support vehicle for the Mums and their venture is being filmed by Canadian Kathy Richy.
From left are: Richy, Margot Burns, Carolyn McLean, Bartell, and Debbie Shiell. Behind them is Ingrid Phillips of the Alice Springs Aero Club who flew the Mums to Dalhousie Springs where they started their journey, donating her services.


On the eve of its silver jubilee as a dry town Alice's alcohol problem is worse than ever.
Now as the town prepares to renew its vows of responsible drinking its credibility is on the line: with authorities having failed to adequately enforce a raft of public order laws over a quarter of a century, how can they - the council, the government and police - be trusted to get tough using new laws?
Only last week the council refused to support any reduction of grog take-away trading, doing nothing as daily hundreds of drinkers swamp the northern end of Todd Mall from 2pm, bottle shop opening hour, in a grog-buying frenzy whose noise and intermittent violence scares locals and tourists alike.
Since the early 80s there's been the so-called two kilometre law, section 45 D of the Summary Offences Act. And other provisions of that Act can deal with things like fighting, swearing or disorderly behavior.
Where is the evidence that the new dry town law, announced by the Chief Minister with fanfare last Friday, will be more stringently enforced and will make a difference?
On any day residents and visitors can see public drinking taking place apparently unhindered, and each morning the evidence of it adorns the streets.
It is widely held, including by a majority of aldermen, that the two kilometre law is under-enforced, although this is not accepted by police.
In a written statement on Monday they said: "Alice Springs police actively enforce public drinking legislation with dedicated patrols, targeting hot spots tipping out alcohol and taking appropriate action in respect of drunkenness and associated offences.
"The high volume of work in this area is reflected in statistics.
"Recently in a three months period police tipped out 5500 litres of alcohol, took more than 2200 people into protective custody and moved on more than 10,000 people.
"Where there is evidence of offences being committed, police take appropriate action which may include infringement notices, summonsing or arresting the offenders.
"Where persons are severely affected by alcohol, they may also be taken into protective custody.
"Police in Alice Springs always do their level best to protect the wider community from the effects of anti-social behaviour and will continue to do so."
These assertions fly in the face of the perceptions of most locals: things have gotten worse.
The Alice News had asked for statistics on the use of provisions of the Summary Offences Act to deal with fighting, swearing or disorderly behaviour.
These were not supplied.
A former police sergeant says that the under-utilisation of the Act to enforce public order is due to the associated paperwork.
That's not because police are lazy, he says, but because an arrest ties them up for two hours which means one unit off the road while the defendant is being processed.
The News put this to police, but they did not comment.
Instead of arresting offenders, the former sergeant says, police rely heavily on protective custody.
"It was never intended to soak up offenders but it has become the fix all approach to civil disorder," he says.
The 2004-05 police annual report, the latest available, shows a total of 6364 people taken into protective custody in the Alice region (the Territory total was 21,862).
This contrasts with 1112 public order offences cleared.
Comparative statistics for public order offences in other areas reflect a higher level of disorder in Alice.
The Alice figure is almost half of all the cleared public order offences in the Territory (2555) and it is more than double the figure for the Greater Darwin area (515).
The new dry area provisions have been instigated by the town council.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff, representing the council on the Alcohol Taskforce together with deputy mayor David Koch, says the new law will "come on top of the two kilometre law".
She says Friday's taskforce meeting was rushed but did discuss the issue of penalties: police will still be able to pour out liquor, but there will also be an infringement notice and people will be sent to the new Alcohol Court.
The penalties discussed included rehabilitation, community service and confinement to the person's home community for a period of time.
The question remains, how will these more elaborate provisions make a difference when existing provisions are not being taken advantage of.
Is the new dry town legislation anything more than window dressing?
The meeting decided that the taskforce will "spearhead" the local alcohol management plan, that is, the plan for measures that will deal with the broader issues of excessive alcohol consumption and its harms.
There was "general support" for the same group to develop the plan, says Ms Kilgariff.
Apart from the town council members, who have already demonstrated their unwillingness to support stringent measures, it consists of Neville Perkins and Pat Miller representing the combined Aboriginal organizations, Clare Martin and Alison Anderson for the Territory government, and Terry Lillis representing the business sector.


Static funding over a decade for the Family Planning Association in Alice Springs has seen its service reduced to merely an advisory one.
The funding has been affected by low client numbers, with only three out of eight clients turning up for their appointments.
Since December the association has been unable to employ a doctor specialising in sexual and reproductive health and its nurse has had her hours halved.
This could see women in Alice Springs more at risk from cervical cancer, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the association.
Before Christmas the association employed a doctor for three clinics a week plus an extra one each month, a nurse for 32 hours a week, plus other casual nurses.
But the amount of money the association was getting back from Medicare for their services meant they simply couldn't afford to maintain the staff and the Territory Government to date has not picked up the shortfall.
"The service will be lost if something isn't done and it will be a real shame," says nurse Margaret McDonald who has worked for the association since last October.
"This is where lots of women have always come for their pap smears - they feel confident and comfortable here.
"We were busy all the time.
"We are still obligated to let patients know they're due for a pap smear but when they ring up for an appointment we have to send them to their GP."
For every pap smear carried out by the doctor the association was losing over $45 and for every patient fitted with a contraceptive device, the loss was $8.75, says Mmaskepe Sejoe, the association's executive director (NT).
The clinic can now only offer advice, no longer carrying out any medical procedures like pap smears, pregnancy tests or prescription of contraception.
The association has sent several hundred pap smear reminder letters to women in Alice Springs since Christmas but Ms McDonald says she expects that some women won't end up bothering if they can't have it done at the FPA clinic.
She also says the lack of services is failing young women too.
"A 13 year old girl who is pregnant and doesn't want to be, might pluck up the courage to come in and see us. We can offer advice but have to send her elsewhere for anything more than that.
"It's the same with STDs. It's hard enough for young people to come in here and tell someone what the problem is. With a doctor we could treat them straight away but now we have to ask them to go all the way across town and tell the whole story to someone else.
"I wonder if they actually do go to see someone else."
Central Australia has the highest incidences of sexually transmitted diseases in the country, with rates comparable to developing countries and steadily increasing among both adults and minors over the last 10 years.
Ms McDonald says that just having a doctor for three hours a week would be "a huge help".
"We are losing face and credibilty. We have been telling people we would have a doctor in a couple of months.
"The community needs something like the Family Planning Clinic."
The organisation received approximately $563,000 for the NT in federal and territory government funding this financial year. To run the Alice Springs clinic costs around $135,000, an amount which the Family Planning Association cannot afford, says Mmaskepe Sejoe.
"Funding is quite complicated, it has to be weighted on a range of indicators and the number of clients that are seen," she says.
"In Alice Springs people want the service but often do not turn up for appointments. If people don't turn up we still have to pay the staff for the full length of the allocated time. In financial terms this creates a loss."
Ms Sejoe says that for eight appointments that are made often only three patients actually turn up.
"At some level people have to take some responsibility," she says.
The clinics in Darwin and Katherine are able to employ a doctor but Ms Sejoe says a full range of services still isn't available due to limited funds.
"Family Planning as a whole is short of funding, not just Alice Springs.
"Take the $563,000 and see how far you go when you have to employ clinicians and pay indemnity insurance, [and offer] intrusive services that are expensive and high risk [for example fitting an IUD contraceptive device]. Funding should reflect this." The health minister, Peter Toyne, wouldn't be drawn over whether he will allocate further funding to the organisation. "I am aware of the financial difficulties the Family Planning Association now finds itself in. Senior health department officers have had regular meetings with Mmaskepe Sejoe to work through the funding issues. Health department officials have also requested to meet with the Family Planning Association board to further the discussions." Dr Toyne said he did recognise the organisation is an important one. "The work the Family Planning Association is involved in is greatly valued and a satisfactory resolution is being sought by all concerned."


Fees charged by an Ayers Rock based Aboriginal corporation, and some of its dealings with government funded programs, have been made public by the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations (ORAC) after the appointment of an administrator for the corporation, suspended last week.
The Federal Court in Adelaide has extended the suspension of the administrator to Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) until the court resumes on May 17.
The documents disclosed by ORAC, on its web site, include information about the Juvenile Diversion program at Imanpa community, population about 150, one of the three Anangu communities on which NAC is active (the others are Mutitjulu and Docker River).
The budget analysis for the program in 2004-05 shows an income of $537,336, including a recurrent grant amount of $180,182.
An amount of almost twice that sum, $355,939, was brought forward from the previous year. The scheme had been first funded in December 2003.
Over half a million dollars ( $536,794 ) was then spent from July 2004 to June 2005.
$40,356 went on administration, not including accounting which cost a further $15,895.
In a number of areas expenditure way exceeded amounts budgeted for: Staff rent went from $10,392 to $26,316. Telephone / fax, from $3996 to $11,217. Travel expenses, from $6000 to $22,582.
A youth support worker was paid $73,570.
It is not clear from the analysis where this worker was based as another, identified as at Imanpa, received $44,292; two assistant youth workers were paid $16,117.
Under capital works, expenditure on the Imanpa recreation centre, budgeted at $14,000, rose to $66,454.
All this suggests an astonishing amount of activity in the tiny community.
Then the money dried up. According to the Territory police, who administer the Juvenile Diversion Scheme (which aims to reduce the number of juveniles who appear before the court), the NAC was "defunded" in June 2005.
This was because "a localised approach of service delivery would achieve more effective results for the communities involved.
"This model is being used in the ongoing Docker River and Mutitjulu programs," according to a police spokesperson.
Yet NAC is described in its press release as "a community benevolent service provider owned by Anangu from Kaltukatjara [Docker River], Mutitjulu, and Imanpa" - surely as "local" as it could possibly be.
The Alice News asked the police what benefit had been derived by the young people for whom the funding was intended.
They provided no meaningful answer: "All young people were eligible to participate in the program at Imanpa.
"I don't have specific numbers to provide - you may wish to try NAC," said the spokesperson.
"Funding for the NAC Imanpa program included a youth worker position [no mention of several], upgrading of an old facility at the community for use as a recreation centre, sport and recreation equipment and purchase of an old basic demountable.
"This was placed nearby at Mt Ebenezer for use of the youth worker.
"It was agreed that at some future stage it would either be transported to Imanpa or purchased by the roadhouse."
Following defunding, "arrangements were made to transfer assets purchased under the former NAC program to the Imanpa Council.
"This included the recreation hall, an old vehicle and the demountable at Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse.
"Mt Ebenezer is currently negotiating with NT Police to finalise arrangements in relation to purchase of the demountable.
"NT Police continues to consult both the community and other key service providers in the region to develop an alternate program for the Imanpa community."
In a press release the NAC says it will submit further evidence to the court supporting its argument that the appointment of an administrator was unlawful and should never have been made.
The Alice News reported last week that the appointment was made by ORAC following concerns about governance and financial viability.
SUBSIDIARY Such concerns have been dismissed by Glendle Schrader, CEO of Wana Unkunytja, a wholly owned subsidiary of NAC.
Wana Unkunytja "was definitely able to pay all outstanding debts now and in the foreseeable future" and would provide "cash injections to [NAC] as and when required", said Mr Schrader in the press release.
"Wana Ungkunytja has substantial liquid assets of more than $10 million and is well able to provide this assurance," he said. A later press release asserts that ORAC, in its appointment of an administrator, is "without understanding [of] the real nature of NAC and what it does".
Says the release, in part: "Mr Schrader, who helped found NAC 14 years ago at the instigation of the local ATSIC regional council, said there had never been complaints concerning NAC from its members."
A lawyer acting for NAC, Johnston Withers partner Graham Harbord, is quoted as saying: "NAC believes it has and can answer the concerns of the Registrar.
"There has been a lot of speculation on the Registrar's part which is based on him not having the proper information and not asking the right questions of the right people in respect to NAC's affairs."
The Registrar declined to comment as the matter is before the court.


Trevor Shiell spent five years building up his small tourist business, spending nearly $100,000 of his own money on the operation.
His Tanamart Tours takes visitors to art centres across Central Australia and beyond. He mortgaged his house in Alice Springs to raise the money and last year was the first year he even looked like breaking even.
It's the kind of business that could well be suited to Indigenous operators, and Mr Shiell says he'd love to see them "out there". "I really would love to see that.
"There are many very capable Indigenous people out there, but how can they finance entry into the industry?
"Because their assets are mostly in unalienable land which can't be mortgaged, it is a huge barrier to entry for Aboriginal people who aspire to do what I'm doing."
Minister for Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough claims to have a solution.
During his visit to the Territory last week he signed a "heads of agreement" with the Tiwi community of Nguiu, providing for the buyback of the town centre.
LEASES The 99 year leases that will be taken up by individuals, he said, will allow Indigenous people "leverage to build business and start an economy where before it has all been collectivism".
However, it remains to be seen how lending institutions will respond to such leverage.
Mr Shiell (pictured), whose wife is Fijian, cites the example of such a situation in Fiji, where he spent nine years.
There, he says, 94 per cent of the land is owned communally by Indigenous Fijian people and administered by a native land trust board.
In a "sad case", a relative of his wife built a house on his own leased family land with his retirement money. When he approached the banks to finance a business tourism venture using his home as security he was consistently turned down because his assets could not be realised should he default.
"The lease was considered virtually worthless to a lender," says Mr Shiell.
"This could well happen here. After all, a beautiful house built on leased land in Papunya is not a readily saleable item."
WELCOME Nonetheless, the Minister's approach should be broadly welcome to people like Mr Shiell.
He says while "some of [his] best friends are Aboriginal", the "them and us attitude", for instance on the issue of the parks handover, is causing a major division in town. "It's the reason why I am thinking of packing up and leaving town after 25 years," says Mr Shiell.
"The Aboriginal community is getting all these resources handed to them over many years at public cost, while everyone else has to work for it without seeing a great deal of return for public money spent."
He has little faith that visiting parks will remain as free as it has been. "There will be a lot of unrest if people find they will have to pay for something that has been accepted as a part of the reason for living here.
"I think it's bad if I want to take my family out there in a tourist plated vehicle and am stopped for doing so because I don't have a concession.
"I've got grandchildren and like to take them to remote places like Birthday Waterhole and Boggy Hole.
"I think it should be a resource for everybody, not owned or operated by one group of people."


Managed camping sites and hostels will be built "in the immediate term" to relieve pressure on town camps from visitors, said Chief Minister Clare Martin at a joint press conference last week with federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough.
Mr Brough said such facilities should be alcohol and drug free and managed on a commercial basis - "people should pay". And children should attend school if they are staying in town for a few months.
Ms Martin said there was still a need for "a bit of assessment of visitor needs" but this could be done "very quickly" in parallel with the building of the short-term accommodation.
On Tuesday Tangentyere Council, together with the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre and the Centre for Remote Health, released a population and mobility study of the town camps.
The Alice News has previously reported (March 23) on the study's finding that the service population of the town camps can rise to 3300, from a base population of 1955.
These figures do not include people living in tin sheds on the camps, or squatting in community facilities and ablution blocks.
Some camps feel the impact of visitors more than others.
The study contrasts the relatively stable population of Yarrenyty-Arltere (Larapinta Valley) with the high level of visitors at Karnte, south of the Gap. These visitors come mainly from Amata, Ernabella and Imanpa.
Family visit was the most common reason given for visitors coming to town.
This reason was followed by housing, shopping, sport and government services (mainly health).
The most common good thing for residents in having visitors was enjoying their company, the study found.
Many people also said that it was good when visitors came in for a short time (one or two nights) and then went back bush.
A few people said they had visitors who only came for the day.
The most common bad thing was difficulty in controlling noise, followed by fighting, people getting angry and domestic violence.
The survey team commented on the difficulties people had in talking about domestic violence: "People interviewed may not want to talk about it for fear of causing trouble for themselves and their families." Visitors tend to travel in small family groups of seven to 10 people per car. Most tend to stay in town until they can catch a ride with the next lot of family travelling back out bush.
A few visitors said they had problems getting home as cars were full, or there was no money until pay day, or they were staying on as they wanted a change from community life or had some part-time employment.
The study also conducted a small survey of people camping in public places around Alice Springs.
Campers, with five to 10 groups staying together, had set up camp in the creeks, under bridges and in the hills. They came from Ammaroo, Utopia, Napperby and Yuendumu, to name a few places.
BLANKETS Some of the places people camp are the Heavitree Gap causeway over the Todd River, Sissy Hill (near Elder St), Middle Park (Gosse St), South Bridge causeway and Morris Soak Hill.
The campers are generally aged between 40-60 years.
Says the study: "All they have is each other's company and a few items such as blankets, clothes, a billy can for tea and a grill to cook their meat on.
"They share what they have with each other and walk together when they go into town or back to their camp."
The study says Tangentyere Council wardens work two mornings, Monday and Friday from 5am to 8am, in conjunction with workers from the Alice Springs Town Council. They visit all the public places where people are camping and talk to them about why they are there and when they plan on going home.
They offer assistance to help people get back to their community.
"Both are keen to see a non-punitive system that deals with the issues and avoids unnecessary contact with the criminal justice system."
In its summary of findings the study says: "Mobility is a part of Aboriginal life in central Australia and is a key to people maintaining social relationships and relationships to places. It may now also be a dangerous part, as a look at related data indicates a disturbing aspect.
"The leading cause of injury deaths for Aboriginal people in Central Australia is land transport accidents (51.9 per 100,000).
"At June 2003, 30% of Aboriginal prisoners were in custody for driving offences, and 39% of Aboriginal people apprehended in 2003 were apprehended for driving offences (Mitchell et al 2005).
"It is not the first time that movement has been a tool of destructiveness‹removals from country and family proved a potent tool in the hands of non-Aboriginal authorities in the past."
A press release accompanying the study says it "adds further weight to arguments that enforcement of the two km law prohibiting public drinking drives many visitors into town camps, adding to social stress for families and children".
Meanwhile concern has been expressed by Central Arrernte elder and former Lhere Artepe vice-chair, Betty Pearce, as well as Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, that half of the Commonwealth's $20m for town camps comes from the Aboriginal Benefit Account (ABA).
The Alice News asked the Minister if it is an appropriate use of ABA money.
A spokesperson replied: "Projects that benefit Aboriginal Territorians are approved for funding from the ABA by the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister."
What are the guidelines for expenditure of ABA money?
"The money can be used for any purpose that will benefit Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory."
Did the ABA committee agree to this use of ABA funds?
"The ABA advisory committee supported the use of the $10 million for infrastructure in Alice Springs."


In January this year - remember, the hottest on record -extreme athlete Larry Burtt ran 60 kms a day for 20 days, covering the 1160km from Alice Springs to Yulara via the Mereenie Loop road and back again.
The only time he slept in a proper bed was at King's Canyon, and again half way through the challenge during a two night stopover at Yulara.
Although Burtt says he never thought about giving up, there were times when his tiredness was almost unbearable.
"The fourth day was the toughest," he says.
"Fatigue started to set in. I was running on a gravel corrugated road which was very rough. It took a lot more effort running on it and I got a lot of chafing and blisters on the inside of my feet and on my legs.
"It was very hot and extremely dry. It was over 40 degrees and there was no shade."
You may wonder why even an extreme athlete would undertake such a venture in the middle of our summer. Burtt runs the Bodynamics fitness centre and January was the only time he could take off.
He says he never considered giving up. "Knowing that people had pledged $25,000 for the Alice Springs Auxiliary of the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide gave me the inspiration to keep going.
"Once the commitment was there to get started it was just a matter of working through it.
"These sorts of runs rely a lot on mental ability. You have to go on cruise control: I had to let my mind drift off, enjoy the scenery. You can only think about the next five kilometres not the next 1000 kilometres, otherwise it's too daunting.
"I thought about small things. Food was a big motivation! I was hungry a lot of the time: I couldn't eat enough food to supply me with the energy I was burning off."
Burtt calculates he burned off around 10,000 calories and drank 20 litres of fluid every day. Every three km he drank a big cup of water plus regular sports drinks. He split the day into three 20 km sets and after each one he'd eat a carbohydrate-rich snack like canned spaghetti, cereal, a few slices of bread or rice crackers.
He also ate "heaps" of bananas and lots of canned fruit and creamed rice washed down with plenty of low fat milk.
After his feed he'd sleep for a couple of hours in his support vehicle, a four wheel drive camper van which carried enough food and water for five days plus six pairs of running shoes (he wore out six on his journey). His wife, Julia, and friend and colleague, Lex Ballantyne, took it in turns to drive the van.
"Without them it wouldn't have been able to happen," says Burtt.
"It was very hard for them as well, being in a vehicle for 24 hours a day. But it was great knowing they were there, and because of the effort they were putting in I didn't want to let them down."
He says Julia deserves as much acknowledgment as he's been given: they got married in October and went on honeymoon to Broome just two weeks before the big run. "I did nothing but train. We went to Broome and I spent most of the time running up and down Cable Beach," says Burtt.
Julia admits it was agonising watching her new husband suffer.
"The conditions were horrible. It was 50 degrees and there were so many flies you couldn't open your mouth to have a drink.
"At night all the moths came out when we were trying to sleep. There was no shower, no toilet, no running water.
"It was hard to watch him battling the elements.
"As soon as he finished each section we put his feet into ice. The skin between his toenails rubbed off because of the friction and he lost toenails."
It's not the first time Julia has supported her man: Burtt ran between Adelaide and Melbourne in 2002, and then to Darwin from Ayers Rock the year afterwards.
"This was my most challenging run because it was the hottest time of year: it was over 40 degrees most days," he says.
Surprisingly he found the second half of the journey less difficult than the first. The stretch from Ayers Rock to Alice was a lot easier.
Around the 13th day my body had become acclimatised to the running and the heat and towards the end of the run I didn't feel the fatigue.
"I ran the last 47 kms on Australia Day and I carried the flag the whole way."
He arrived into Alice at 9pm, finishing at Bojangles to a big reception of cheering locals.
He says the end of the run made the whole challenge worthwhile.
Volunteers with the Alice Springs Auxiliary of the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide were there to greet him. They provide accommodation and other practical help for mothers and children who can't get the treatment they need in Alice Springs.
"To see all those people there who had pledged money for me and appreciated what I'd done was excellent.
"The auxiliary is a cause that people quite often overlook with all the drastic things happen around the world.
"Sometimes we need to look in our own backyards," says Burtt.
He says completing his challenge without support from the town would have been very difficult. "A lot of local businesses in town donated things, like Britz who supplied the four wheel drive camper, Stuart Highway Autos who supplied a vehicle to bring food and water to the support vehicle, Coca Cola and the 24 Hour Store in Alice Springs gave me all the water and sports drinks, and McDonald's and Alice Coffee Services donated all the food I needed.
"Desert Dwellers supplied camping equipment, Alice Springs Hire Service gave us the generator for the air con for the camper, Centralian Sports gave me shoes and socks, Sabadin Mobil Petroleum supplied us with all the fuel, and CentralComs leant us a satellite phone for emergencies. Bojangles collected money for us nightly."
What's next for the extreme athlete? "A long rest!" he laughs.


You couldn't meet a more passionate Memo supporter than Mary Meldrum. Whether it's bowls, cricket or AFL, she'll be there, cheering from the sidelines or taking part herself.
She predicts the club will be a strong contender in the local sports leagues in 2006.
"Netball is doing really well, and I think the AFL will do all right. They're bringing the young through and that's good for any club, it keeps the club stable.
"I was disappointed with the cricket but then they [the A grade team] came from the bottom to get runners up and that was a good achievement."
Mary has been a member of the club for 10 years and she's proud of it.
"Every dollar in the Memo club goes to sporting people, for equipment, if they're going away, things like that. And it's a family club.
"Most sporting clubs in town are and that's very important for the community."
Formerly an A grade golfer for 30 years in Mount Gambier, Mary switched to bowls because of arthritis. She was chairperson of the Memo bowling club for six years.
This year the Memo is the host club for the Masters Games, for which Mary has been an ambassador eight times.
She regularly uses sport to raise money for local and national charities, holding a barefoot bowls night once a month at the Memo Club. "We've done everything, the Flying Doctors, Beyond Blue, lots of charities.
"I've always done voluntary work, I enjoy it and it helps other people.
"I feel I get more from volunteering than I ever give."
She recently returned from north Queensland where she hand-delivered a cheque for $8000 for those affected by Cyclone Larry.
"I felt it was one of the better things done in my life. The people there were so grateful, they were crying when we gave them the money."


Sir,- In your article "Centercorp: Elders fume" (May 5) Leo Abbott, refers to this organization's "hundreds of millions of dollars" in wealth.
Is Mr Abbott exaggerating or is there truth in his claim?
If this is true, then the myth of Aboriginal poverty is immediately debunked.
Furthermore, the mere utterance that this taxpayer-funded organization possesses such a vast amount of money should be a prompt for the NT and Federal Governments to immediately demand an audit of its books and assets.
Imagine what could be done with that amount of money if it were properly distributed!
This begs the question, why haven't successive NT and Federal Governments had the nerve to demand proper accountability of this organization?
Even ASIO is more transparent than this.
It makes one wonder therefore what forces are arrayed against the government to cower them into not making a full and public examination of Centrecorp's transactions.
If what Mr Abbott says is true, then why are us economic serfs continuing to cough up big dollars in taxes just to fatten an already bloated coffer?
From where I'm sitting Centrecorp smells very much like the stink that befouls the air in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Prove Mr Abbott wrong.
Gerard Carter
Alice Springs

ED - Centrecorp Aboriginal Investment Corporation is a private company with charitable institution status, which exempts it from paying taxes, including the GST. Its wealth, we understand, is based on the investment of mining royalty payments.

Thou shalt not!

Sir,- I would first like to congratulate you on your recent articles on the money trail and Central Land Council.
I would also like to comment on two letters in your opinion pages, the first being by Rosalie Schultz, "Grog prices should go up" (May 4).
Well Rosalie, that will certainly make the liquor vendors happy, but will not solve the problem, after all grog is a liquid, kept in a bottle or cask, it has no mind of its own and cannot bash heads or break bones, so what is the problem?
It is a people problem, Rosalie. It would not matter how much it cost, those addicted to it will steal, rob and even murder to get what they want. Raising the price will only inconvenience other decent people!
I read Valmai McDonald's letter with great interest, a highly educated view of some of the problems here in Alice Springs that are attracting the attention of the World Health Organization, and also her view that people vote the governments into power who look after the people controlling the resource and finance that could make life better for all.
I put it to you, Valmai, that it is the people controlling the resources and finance that also control the government, not the people!
This is due to our "educated" two party policy that can redirect John Citzen's vote to a candidate that he himself would not choose in a million years.
The present government holds power with only 17% of the first choice vote. Our Federal Government has created its own monopoly that cannot be broken.
The fact that we have compulsory voting, with abstinence being a punishable offence in a "freedom of choice" democratic Society speaks for itself.
It is good to see so many educated people discussing our parks, health, and legal issues here in Alice Springs in a seemingly never ending round of talk-fests that will achieve nothing other than empty the taxpayers' purse. This brings us to solving the "people" problem. Instead of 500 laws and by-laws that nobody really understands, let's go back to the original 10, beginning with an enforceable THOU SHALT NOT!
Alf Lang
Alice Springs

How to avoid the pain of poverty

Sir, - Valmai McDonald's waffling letter (May 4) about ownership of the parks ends with her own conclusion that she had better shut up. Couldn't agree more, at least until she understands what makes the real world tick.
The letter was hard to follow, but roughly translated, I think it means the usual stuff: white men bad, white women wearing rainbow outfits and nose rings good. Aboriginal people who are kept on communities as exhibits are "looking after" the land, those getting a life and making a go of it - coconuts.
Thirty years of "looking after" the land, white hippy women's style, has resulted in poverty. The land is actually quite good at looking after itself, as it has done so for past however million years without humans.
Yes, the land is sacred, it was so long before I was born, and will be long after my bones turn to dust, but I now realise it doesn't need me in particular.
These hippies have used Aboriginal people for far too long as political battering rams. The grab for the parks is inspired mainly by white people who want power.
I wonder if Viktoria Cormack (another tumbleweed leaving town) will ever feel shame when she realises that she could have used her influence to help a rather shy people to participate in mainstream society, so avoiding the pain and humiliation of poverty.
Nadia Wright
Alice Springs


Sir, - I am the former Manager Social Service for Tangentyere Council. I held this position for four years before taking extended leave.
I am a psychologist and have worked with children at risk in Alice Springs for 10 years.
I make the following comment in relation to the debate regarding the removal of children. Over five years ago a coalition of community agencies in Central Australia formed the FaCS Welfare Coalition in response to the poor handling of child welfare in the Northern Territory.
All agencies without exception had very poor experiences with the department in relation to the handling of children. Regular experiences included:lack of action in relation to children who were in danger; removal of children who perhaps could have been retained with family; lack of coordination and liaison by FaCS with services on the ground who were working daily with the children and the families.
Despite five years of trying to resolve these issues through protocols and meetings the same problems exist today. The situation is dire in relation to the ability of FaCS to respond to current cases of need. The coalition continues today and Franny Coghlan from Central Australian Aboriginal Congress is the convenor.
Tangentyere, responding to concerns for safety of children, tendered for and won the contract to provide a new crisis accommodation service for children aged 7-15 years.
In that position I had a relentless fight for three years to secure funding that would allow us to provide this as a safe and accountable service that did not result in a revolving door.
The model of care was developed within the community. It is based on Indigenous aunties, uncles and grandmothers caring for children in a crisis accommodation service while field staff liaise with family and agencies to secure a long term care option.
This option is sought in the extended family of the child - in acknowledgement that there are people are strong and responsible carers for children who do not drink, that where possible children should not be removed, and that the Indigenous community maintains a strong kinship culture. Where a safe placement can not be found, children enter the mainstream FaCS service.
The Tangentyere service responds to the very serious need of care and protection for children. It works with the ability of the community. It avoids a repeat of the Stolen Generation.
It is a case of the Indigenous community taking responsibility for the care of their children. It is a rare example of statutory care being forwarded to Indigenous people, and it is working.
The Safe Families program is unable to accommodate the level of referrals.
It is providing a national benchmark in relation to the care and protection of Indigenous children. It was presented to a national child care conference last year and was received with great enthusiasm in the sector.
Jane Vadiveloo
Alice Springs

We're not alone

Sir,- Alice Springs (and Darwin) are not the only ones with social problems. It happens in major towns and cities like Sydney.
Even here on the south coast I live in a suburb which has high unemployment, 40% of its residents live in public housing (eight times the state average of 4.9%), and vandalism and graffiti are part of the landscape - yet those problems probably emanate from only a minority of the population. The rest are decent people working at their jobs, trying to get jobs, and making the best of what they have and trying to achieve something better for their kids.
We need many more of Father Chris Riley 's Youth Off The Streets, which is achieving miracles with kids that the rest of us would have written off as a dead loss long ago.
P. Ferguson
Illawarra, NSW

Problem with Pine Gap

Sir,- I am writing in response to Shoana Annesely' (Letters, April13). Shoana, I do not doubt the financial or the social benefits of having the "joint defence facility" in our town, nor do I have anything against the people who are working there. What I do have a problem with is the ongoing injustices happening in Iraq.
I have spoken with people who have lived in Iraq during the occupation and I have seen footage of US soldiers who have spoken out against the actions of the military, disgusted by the things they were ordered to do there, in the form of directly shooting innocent and unarmed men, women and children because "everyone is regarded as a potential threat".
Chemical weapons (white phosphorous) and nuclear weapons (depleted uranium) have both been used extensively by US forces in Iraq, which not only kill lots of people initially, but also cause cancer and genetic mutations for generations to come. They don't put these sorts of things on the evening news, because the truth of it is just absolutely horrifying.
Where is my patriotism, you ask. I love my country but that doesn't mean I have to agree with our government's decision to take part in this, I repeat "grossly unethical war". And I don't agree with the complacency with which Australians accept that decision.
Pine Gap is by far Australia's biggest contribution to the war in Iraq, much more so than our soldiers. Can we honestly continue to support such an obviously unjust terrorist campaign purely because of the "enormous amounts of money" that it puts into our local economy. I thought that we, as Australians were honourable enough not support such outright abuse of another country.
I hope that you now understand a little more about where I'm coming from, Shoana, because I did think about it long and hard after discovering the truth about what is going on over there and before writing that letter.
Jayne Alexander
Alice Springs

Fundamental rights

Sir,- In Kieran Finnane's article "Pine Gap 'Terrorists'" (April 27) Russell Goldflam reported Police Minister Paul Henderson as saying Territorians "will, when extraordinary events occur, temporarily need to sacrifice some fundamental rights". Then Mr Goldflam said: "I had this idea that if something's fundamental you can't need to sacrifice it."
Can Mr Goldflam clarify just what fundamental rights we do have?
Paul Parker
Coaki, NSW

Sir,- I'm calling on all Officers and Instructors of School Cadet Units and Town / Area Naval and Air Cadets, of the old pre-1975 system. Please contact for material which may be of advantage to you.
Email is the only contact because of speed and cost.
Anthony David Marrinon, JP
Brunswick Heads, NSW

St Joe's Celebrates 100 Years

Sir,- St Joseph's Primary School in Quarry Hill, Victoria is celebrating 100 years since the foundation of the school in 1906. We invite all past and present students, parents and teachers to our Centenary Celebrations on September 9 and 10.
Activities include the launch of the Centenary Book, wine and cheese night, historical talks, roll call, photo displays and Mass. Enquiries to myself (principal) or Maureen on 03 5443 2108 or Please let your St Joseph's friends know.
Noel Dillon,
Quarry Hill, Bendigo


Alice folk are a motley bunch who work hard and play even harder, affable larrikins who are welcoming and friendly, with a laid back approach to life.
We have collectively set our watches to "Territory Time".
Want to invite someone for dinner? Invite them to lunch. But for three hours each week this laid back, laconic attitude disappears.
You can see our pupils narrow, our lips thin and our brows furrow. We transform into Neanderthals. We become ... Saturday morning shoppers! Single-minded hunters. Set to tear apart all that stands in between us and the sour cream. Woe betide anyone who gets in the way of Mrs Rogers and the last loaf of Wholegrain sliced.
Mrs Rogers is a lovely mother of three, a pillar of our community.
During the week she helps out at childcare, the tuckshop and washes the soccer jerseys for the under sevens. But on Saturday morning, from the moment her four wheel drive enters the car park, a change comes over her.
A Jekyll and Hyde transformation from pastel-wearing committee member to a character out of the Mad Max movies. Only the gods can spare the obligatory slow walking family of six. "Get out of my way, you..."
Small children hide under shelves. Jars of pickles smash on the floor and on the air you hear language you haven't heard since your stint in the navy!
Territorial battles between trolley-wielding soccer mums recall scenes from nature documentaries. Only Argentinian mountain goats butt heads with more gusto.
I swear, look at Gran the wrong way and suddenly a rhino stampede in Kruger National Park seems slightly appealing. Saturday mornings should be casual affairs, after all it's the weekend.
Time to relax, have a bit of fun, spend time with the kids. Instead, Saturday mornings have turned into the most stressful part of the week.
And to tell you the truth, I can do without it! Parents trying to get in a bit of grocery shopping between rushing Jacinta from gymnastics in the Gap to netball on Undoolya Road, Jackson between hockey at Traeger and his schoolmate's party at Maccas, picking up the dry cleaning and meeting friends in the mall for a coffee ... is it any wonder there's murder in aisle seven! Is there a way out, short of not having kids or responsibilities or a job?
In a time when every doctor with a white coat is telling us we need to reduce stress, how much stress do we manufacture for ourselves?
Maybe we can install a boxing gym out the front of shopping centres so those with pent up stress can thump it out. Or maybe we can employ some people to spend Saturday morning in a perspex cube and we can relieve the stress by yelling at them. Just chill out!
If you shop on a Saturday morning, it's going to take a while. You will line up in a queue for both the checkout and the deli.
Someone will block your way down the aisle with their trolley and from time to time the store might be out of the cream cheese. These are not causes to incite riot. Just take a breath and relax.
Because if one more person snaps at me...

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