ALCOHOL MAYHEM NEEDS TOUGH MEASURES - KOCH . Report by ERWIN CHLANDA .
Limiting liquor takeaways to one day a week, possibly Tuesdays, at the end of the cycle of welfare payments, should be amongst a cocktail of proposals to combat the escalating grog fueled mayhem in town, according to alderman and former publican, David Koch.
This would put an end most days to "the huge line-ups to get the stuff" at local bottle shops, followed by the rampant public drinking and anti social behavior which are "sending the town down the gurgler".
Ald Koch says tourists, who are currently inconvenienced by the the 2pm trading start, could have access to alcohol 24 hours a day, provided they could prove, by passport or driver's license, that their normal domicile is outside - say - a 1500 kilometer radius from Alice Springs.
And there could be a home delivery service, while Aboriginal town camps could declare themselves dry.
"The creekbed isn't an address for home delivery," he says. Ald Koch says he wants to stimulate debate about this issue, and claims resolute measures may be needed "because nothing has worked in the past".
He says voluntary measures, education and minor restrictions of alcohol supply on their own, whilst legitimately part of the debate, have consistently failed.
An ID card, a "license to drink" that can be removed, could also be looked at.
Another measure worth considering is setting the price of liquor on pure alcohol content.
The former owner of the Todd Tavern says while Alice Springs has four trading hours less a day than Darwin the consumption here, measured as pure alcohol, has gone up.
He says the "magic figure" of 97 liquor licenses in the town is irrelevant: nearly 80 of them are restaurants not providing take-away.
To have about 10 take-aways is "not out of proportion".
Ald Koch says it's distressing to see that current discussion is offering nothing new: "Some ideas have been around for 25 years.
"They haven't worked.
"And if we don't get it right quickly it will get worse."
Ald Koch says it appears the law and order debate is stuck in a rut while the level of disorder has become "unacceptable".
"The public now wants remedies immediately.
"Lhere Artepe's protocols are not a new issue.
"But they should have been promulgated 15 years ago and we wouldn't be in the same position now."
Ald Koch says while a range of measures, such as mooted in last Saturday's public meeting, are given time to kick in, immediate and determined measures are clearly needed in the short term.
People committing public disorder are a small but highly visible minority.
"They need to regain pride in themselves.
"There is extreme poverty in refugee camps in Africa.
"People there are clean and proud but they have nothing. They try to better themselves.
"They have no social services.
"Some of our welfare recipients are cash rich compared to those people but they still live in poverty.
"They drink not for pleasure but for the result which is getting drunk.
"Those issues need to be addressed," says Ald Koch.
By contrast, speakers at a rally in Todd Mall last Saturday claimed that short term solutions like making Alice Springs a dry town and closing schools will not solve the social problems that have escalated over the past 12 months.
Instead, culture and language should be the focus for change, the meeting advocated.
A coronial enquiry was called for to investigate the 15 deaths among local Aboriginal people in 16 months caused by homicide and manslaughter.
And a vote of no confidence in Syd Stirling was put forward over his failure to reduce the supply of alcohol in Alice Springs, his threatened closure of Anzac Hill High School and the shutting down of the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre.
Other resolutions included the need for more government money to be spent in communities for employment and services, and for the federal government's budget surplus to be directed at the housing crises in urban and remote areas.
BUDGET PUZZLES . Report by ERWIN CHLANDA .
What you see is not what you get when the "bricks & mortar" part of the Budget is handed down with big fanfare in May.
And that hurts even more when the total spend in that category is at a record low since the Labor Government came to power.
Infrastructure spending is the money that goes to contractors and pumps cash into the community.
In Central Australia, both for 2005-06 and 2006-07, the two major items were the Mereenie loop road and the Desert Knowledge complex.
For the fiscal year ending next month Treasurer Sid Stirling and Chief Minister Clare Martin had announced $17.3m for 90 kilometers of loop road new seal.
In fact to date no new road has been built at all and only $6.8m has been spent, for widening of 41 kms of the existing road from single to dual lane.
And of the $18.5m announced for Desert Knowledge in 2005-06 just $2.8m had been spent by the end of last month, just 15% of the figure trumpeted by Mr Stirling in May 2005.
Little or nothing has been spent of the $800,000 for a drag strip because an environmental study is still in progress. The same goes for the $1.7m for the "completion" of upgrading of the Stuart Lodge, meant to provide accommodation for the families of hospital patients who otherwise may be camping in public areas or staying in already overcrowded town camps.
A year later the Budget allocation, $1.9m, is for "work in progress on the Stuart Lodge redevelopment".
How the dramatic under-spending in 2005-06 augurs for the two major projects in the 2006-07 Budget is not clear: on May 2 this year Mr Stirling announced $13.9m for Mereenie and a total of $13.8m for Desert Knowledge, clearly mostly "re-votes".
When Mr Stirling says in May 2006, to a poorly attended breakfast gathering, that the $13.8m "will all be spent in financial year 2006-07", does he have more credibility than his leader who in May last year promised 90 kms new Mereenie road seal, with the words "we have a schedule"?
However, one thing's for sure: when the Treasurer announces a total of $47m in infrastructure spending, as he has for Central Australia in 2006-07, he knows very well already that he won't be spending anywhere near that.
This is how it works: The Budget has an item called "Capital Works" and one called "Cash".
"Capital Works" is the whole pool of projects, possibly over more than one year, while "Cash" is the component expected to be spent in the Budget year, according to a senior Treasury official.
And "Cash" is a lot less than "Capital Works": for example, in 2006-07 the numbers are $166.5m and $268.3m, respectively, for the whole of the Territory.
At that rate just $29m will be actually spent in The Centre during 2006-07.
That's 17.4% of the infrastructure Budget for an area that's home to 20% of the population.
Detailed "Cash" figures for The Centre are not available.
By contrast, Darwin won't be shedding any tears: In addition to its slice of the total infrastructure cake, the Waterfront Development will be getting a further $100m, but it is not clear how much of that will come from the public purse.
Oppostion Leader Jodeen Carney says the $166 million of new cash is the lowest comitted by the Labor Government since they came to power. These were the figures for the whole Territory:-
2002-03 - $213.7m.
2003-04 - $171.6m.
2004-05 - $181.9m.
2005-06 - $192.0m.
2006-07 - $166.5m.
At the Budget Breakfast on May 10, as usual arranged by the Chamber of Commerce, Mr Stirling had a shot - without naming him - at its president, Terry Lillis, who has been quoted as suggesting that the Waterfront project is draining funds away from Alice.
Mr Stirling then suggested that criticism of the government's failings in Alice Springs should be raised only in "proper forums" and not in the media.
Such comments were mischievous, he suggested, "designed to promote disillusion where none should exist, and worse than that, it has the effect of talking the town down", affecting tourism and local business, damaging the town's image.
"And that's what we need to be careful of."
Mr Lillis said later it was unreasonable for the Minister to expect that people wouldn't have their say, and he had every resolve to continue to do so.
INNOCENT BYSTANDER LOCKED UP: CLAIM. Report by KIERAN FINNANE .
A visitor to Alice Springs who claims he was an innocent bystander watching a fracas outside the Firkin and Hound when he was manhandled, injured and locked up by Alice Springs police, has lodged a formal complaint against them.
The incident occurred on Sunday night, May 6, following the debacle at the Finks' club house on May 5 which has resulted in five officers being suspended from duty and facing disciplinary charges. A probationary constable has also been asked to show why his service shouldn't be terminated.
The visitor, Jack Yeates, says police abused their power when they arrested him.
Mr Yeates is a 23 year old high school teacher from Adelaide, visiting friends and family in the Territory. He grew up in Darwin. His partner is 24 year old Jenna Tartt, a journalist and a niece of alderman and businesswoman, Melanie van Haaren.
The couple were staying with the van Haarens during their visit to Alice and both worked casually in Mrs van Haaren's business while they were here.
They had been in Alice Springs for a week when the incident happened.
Mr Yeates had gone to the Firkin and Hound with Luke Van Haaren, to watch a band. It was around midnight, Mr Yeates had had three beers but says he was not really drunk, "definitely not out of control".
Police officers came into the bar and dragged another patron outside.
Licensee of the Firkin and Hound, Paul Wakefield, says the patron was "linked to a previous problem in our business that night".
What happened subsequently, he says, "all went horribly wrong" but it occurred outside on the street and "I can't comment too much".
Mr Yeates says he and Mr van Haaren and some of his friends walked outside to see what was going on.
There were about 20 to 30 people outside and a lot of police officers.
Mr Yeates was standing next to Mr van Haaren. He says he was suddenly grabbed from behind by one officer and had his arm reefed up behind his back; another officer did the same with his other arm.
He was startled and tried to protest, to ask what was going on.
He says the officers just kept repeating "it's too late now, don't resist".
They pushed him through the fray to the paddy wagon.
He says: "They smashed me into the cage."
He fell and split his lip: "I was bleeding and kept asking what was going on." "They told me to 'get f'd'. "They spoke with raised, aggressive voices, using nasty language and excessive force.
"I told them I wasn't drunk, I asked them to breathalyse me to see.
"It was unprovoked. I was just looking at what was happening.
"They gave me no warning and no opportunity to explain myself.
"At the police station they made me take off my shoes and socks, searched me and locked me in a cell.
"I was in there with bare feet. There was urine on the floor, blood on the mattress. It was absolutely disgusting.
"I was kept in there all night. "I was finally let out at 5.30am. I didn't know the phone number where we'd been staying. So I had to walk there, after a rough night."
During the arrest Mr Yeates lost his wallet. It had his full week's wages in it and he felt very upset about this loss. (Fortunately, an onlooker found the wallet and handed it in at the Firkin and Hound where he was able to pick it up the next day.)
Mr Yeates says he was having a good time in Alice before the incident happened.
He says he used to have a lot of respect for the police.
"Now I can't trust them. It was such a blatant misuse of force. They abused their power completely.
"I have lodged a formal complaint against them, I have five or six witnesses who saw what happened."
Luke van Haaren was also grabbed by the police but was released.
GRABBED Says Mr Yeates: "They gave him the opportunity to explain himself but from the moment they grabbed me they were pushing me to the police wagon.
"There was no assessment of whether I was drunk.
"I've got a shaved head and a small goatee. I can only assume that I was targeted because of my appearance.
"If they'd spoken to me they could have seen that I wasn't a threat."
Shortly after he arrived home Mr Yeates and Ms Tartt drove back to the police station for him to lodge his complaint.
"I was really worked up," he says, "I felt abused.
"There was no senior sergeant there to take the complaint so we went away and returned in the afternoon. The watch commander took the complaint. He was neutral but helpful."
Mr Yeates spent the last year teaching in Japan. He says the contrast between the way Japanese police treat people - "They are so respectful" - and the experience he had is "quite depressing".
Ms Tartt has also made a formal complaint about her dealings with the police on that night.
"Jack wasn't given the opportunity to make a phone call from the police station. I wouldn't have known where he was if Luke hadn't told me.
"I immediately phoned the station to find out what had happened and to ask when he would be released.
"They told me 5am. "I asked them if he had been breathalysed. They said it was up to the arresting officer.
"I told them he didn't have the number for the place where we were staying and could they please give it him so he could call me to pick him up.
"They said they would. "Three hours later I rang again to check that they had passed on the number.
"This time they said he would be released at 6.30am.
"I asked why they were keeping him longer. They said they didn't know.
"I couldn't sleep. Five am came. I rang again to check when he would be released. This time they said 6am.
"There was a discrepancy each time.
"I asked them again to pass on the number. They said 'no problem'.
"Then at 6.10 am Jack walked through the door after a 40 minute walk home in a very devastated state."
A police spokesperson says Mr Yeates' and Ms Tartt's complaints are being investigated. She declined to comment further.
FORMER SENIOR PUBLIC SERVANT LASHES OUT . Report by KIERAN FINNANE .
Governments and public servants of the last 30 years were scathingly criticised by one of their own for their Indigenous policy failures at the town council meeting on Monday night. Mayor Fran Kilgariff had invited Bob Beadman to speak on his paper, "Do Indigenous Youth Have a Dream?", published by the Menzies Research Centre in 2004.
Mr Beadman spoke as a private individual but drew on his experience of 43 years in the federal and Territory public services before retiring in 2001.
GRANTS He was involved with Aboriginal affairs in Canberra, Brisbane, Townsville, Torres Strait, Darwin and Alice Springs.
He continues to chair the NT Grants Commission and in this capacity gets to regularly visit every community in the Territory.
He described welfare as "a bloody curse" whose cumulative effect has been to create "a catastrophic social situation on the ground". And he was fiercely critical of public servants for having "ignored the law that requires school attendance" and for "turning a blind eye" to the way welfare benefits have been "converted to alcohol for the most part".
Mr Beadman said he was not interested in the exceptions; his concern was to speak out on behalf of "the five year olds with beautiful clear eyes and teeth who at 25 break your heart".
GROG He said if grog hasn't got hold of a community, then marijuana and kava have.
There is "lassitude on a huge scale"; school attendance is "abysmal". He said he is also sick of hearing that Western medicine has failed Aboriginal people, arguing that personal hygiene, grog, tobacco and diet are more important than "whether or not you can access a doctor".
He said the Territory is "a classic case of diminishing returns".
Any population growth is coming from the high Aboriginal birth rate, producing an increasingly dependent proportion of the population: "the most gaoled, the most unemployed, the most under-educated".
SUSTAIN "Alice Springs won't be able to sustain this situation. The Commonwealth won't.
"Something has got to give to bring people into the workforce."
Governments and public servants are being "disgracefully neglectful" if they continue to ignore the conversion of welfare benefits to alcohol.
He said the NT Government has had ample opportunity over the last 27 years to use provisions of its own Liquor Act (s122) to have prohibition orders placed on habitual drunks. "It has never happened, I am not aware of a single case!"
He said the current government's proposals during the last election campaign about dealing with anti-social behaviour were "a step in the right direction" but they have since "gone off the radar completely".
NERVOUS He said government agencies are "nervous Nellies" when it comes to tackling the abuse of children: "They keep tacking carpet over the unpalatable truth". "Local government is left to grapple with the failure of other levels of government," said Mr Beadman, though he welcomed recent moves and statements by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mal Brough and Minister for Workforce Participation, Sharman Stone.
"At long last there's some responsiveness."
The Alice News will publish a summary of Mr Beadman's paper in a coming issue.
HOUSES EMPTY AMIDST CLAMOUR FOR MORE CASH . Report by ERWIN CHLANDA .
The Federal and NT Governments are clearly washing their hands of Aboriginal outstations once they have funded their construction, amidst growing evidence that many are abandoned, trashed or only sporadically occupied.
Neither Darwin nor Canberra will - or can - disclose how many people live on outstations nominated in an investigation by the Alice News, nor for how long, nor in what state of repair the outstations are.
It appears neither government knows the answers.
A spokesperson from the Territory Department of Local Government, Housing and Sport, answerable to Minister Elliott McAdam, supplied patchy information to the Alice News, then said the details needed to come from the federal Indigenous Coordination Centre in Alice Springs, who flicked our queries to a Family and Community Services officer in Darwin, who put us on to a media spokesman in Canberra.
He replied that the Department for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, for which the Minister is Mal Brough, "publishes information on grants to community based organisations in its annual reports, which are publicly available on the FaCSIA website.
"Detailed questions about specific assets, are best directed to the individual organisations responsible for the management of those assets."
This is exceedingly difficult, at least in some cases, because no-one is at home.
Foxhall's Well, for example, in the Harts Range area, according to locals has five houses, all in good condition and all solar power equipped, a large shed, now vandalised, but no-one lives there.
One local says there's been no-one there for about four years. A recent inspection also revealed old cars, a four-wheel-drive tractor and a trailer.
The Alice News told Mr Brough's spokesman that we will do our best to contact the organisation his department has funded, but we also asked for information from the Federal Government: How does it gauge the benefit of taxpayers' money the government is spending on housing in remote areas?
We asked: When were the houses built? At what cost? How many people live there? What percentage of the time do the residents spend there? Do they pay rent to the department and if so how much?
So far no reply.
One of the outstations, Irrmarne, at the Ooratippra and Argada Argada boundary, has nine houses.
Last month a spokeswoman for the Territory Department of Local Government, Housing and Sport said seven were currently occupied.
"Two are empty due to sorry business," she said.
"There has been a new solar bore recently installed and household power supply is via a Bushlight system.
"There are currently 20 people living at this location, but I understand that this number varies."
She would neither confirm nor deny information from locals that the outstation was deserted, or occupied by just a handful of people, for about a year, when the bulk of the population had gone to Lake Nash, and water and power supplies were defective or unavailable.
QUESTIONS Neither government replied to questions about three other outstations in the Harts Range area:-
Spotted Tiger outstation: There are cabins with solar lights, some time ago established for a tourism enterprise which now no-one wants to run.
Eaglebeak, on the Mt Riddock and Huckitta boundary, south of the highway: People are "sometimes" there.
Jinka outstation: People don't live there permanently.
The NT spokeswoman said "the only outstations near to Gosses Bluff are Undurrana and Kulpittara (Kulpitharra).
"Undarrana has a permanent population as this family is running a camel project from the outstation.
"Kulpittara was last visited by our departmental offices in October 2005 whilst completing a housing survey and there was one permanent resident at the time."
We asked: What's the Kulpittara population on an ongoing basis? How often are housing surveys carried out and what do they cover?
The spokeswoman said Willowra "has a total of 44 houses with three currently empty.
"Three are currently being renovated with another five identified for renovation once the next program comes around.
"Five are beyond economical repair and have been identified for demolition. The population varies between 200 and 250.
"Willowra is administered by Yuendumu."
We asked: How old are the houses identified for demolition? What's wrong with them?
The spokeswoman said while the NT Government takes responsibility for housing in large communities such as Papunya and Yuendumu, the small outstations are a Federal responsibility.
IRRKERLANTYE CHILDREN ENJOYING NEW SCHOOLS . Report by KIERAN FINNANE .
A core group of students moved at the start of this term from the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre to mainstream schools in Alice Springs are voting with their feet: they're regular attenders at their new schools.
At Alice Springs High a group of seven students in a year seven/eight class has attended consistently, with one boy showing 100% attendance and his brother having missed only two days in four weeks. The other five have been at school most days.
At Bradshaw Primary School, where there are two classes, 15 to 17 children are attending consistently, with a high of 21 from time to time.
According to Bradshaw principal Ursula Balfour this is "not bad on previous history".
Average attendance at Irrkerlantye across the age groups was 24, says Ms Balfour.
MONITORED A department spokesperson says enrolment and attendance of the students is being closely monitored.
He says current attendance patterns are similar to the same period in previous years. He says the Transition Project Officer has accounted for all students who were considered to be regular attenders at [Irrkerlantye]. "Student movement between schools and between local towns will continue to be a feature of these students' schooling. "For instance, two students have enrolled at OLSH, three students have returned to Santa Teresa, three students who initially enrolled at Sadadeen Primary have since moved to Hermannsburg, and one student has moved to Katherine."
Interestingly, given the comments made last year by Education Minister Syd Stirling on the children's low levels of literacy and numeracy, the older students at ASHS and Bradshaw are getting the thumbs up from their teachers:
"They have been well taught, there's no question about that. I'm delighted," says Peter Humphreys , teacher of the ASHS class.
"I was pleasantly surprised," says Catherine Rooke of her years four/five/six class at Bradshaw. They've dubbed themselves Tyape, meaning witchetty grub. "Their reading is good, they'd read all day if they had half a chance.
"When it comes to writing their own stories they're not quite as confident.
"It's a matter of praising, encouraging, supporting them. They'll get there."
In the youngest class - transition to year three, called Alangkwe (bush passionfruit) - literacy levels are varied, which is what you'd expect of the age group. It includes a couple of good readers, says teacher Steven Sharp.
All three teachers commented on the keenness of the students, both to learn and to enjoy their new environment.
The classrooms at Bradshaw have only just been completed (the open plan classroom was divided to create two separate rooms for the two age groups) but Mr Sharp says his students are loving the grassed yard for sports and games.
Ms Rooke says she is still building her relationship with the class: she has met some families, and has visited Hidden Valley town camp "to get the big picture".
MAJORITY The majority of students come from Hidden Valley and Amoonguna, with a few also living in suburban Alice Springs.
The teachers are assisted by staff who have come across from Irrkerlantye.
Felicity Hayes has known most of the children from birth. She is working with the Alangkwe group.
Bruce Deen, who worked at Irrkerlantye for the last three years, is with the Tyape class.
There is also a Special Needs Support Officer, Lisa Morrison, who has worked with the children and their families for the last seven years, as well as a tutor cum ISA (Inclusion Support Assistance), Charlie Lowson.
He is also a familiar of the children via his father Peter, the brilliant drumming teacher whom Irrkerlantye engaged to help the children form Drum Atweme: the group now gets regular paying gigs at conferences and festive occasions.
Drum Atweme still rehearse together once a week, meeting at the music room at ASHS, keeping the older students in contact with the younger ones.
The ASHS class is also generously resourced, with a teacher and two teacher assistants, Carol Turner and Bridget Pomery, both of whom formerly worked at Irrkerlantye.
Mr Humphreys describes his as a "dream position": after 13 years teaching in the bush, he is relishing this experience.
"There's no time wasted, when I'm in here I'm teaching. In the bush by the time the kids get to school, the day is half over and it never starts with excitement.
ENTHUSIASM "Some of these kids are getting to school before I do.
"Everything is flowing from their enthusiasm.
"They're showing themselves to be very skilled at adjusting to a very different situation, fitting into a mainstream high school with 450 other kids."
Says Ms Pomery: "If they need to know something, they ask. They're coming out of their shell."
She was going with them into the yard at recess and lunchtime for the first two weeks; now she doesn't need to. Like any group of teenagers, as soon as the bell rings, they're out the door!
Mr Humphreys paid respect to the children's families and to "Deborah [Maidment] and the crew" at Irrkerlantye, for their commitment to supporting the children.
At Bradshaw the children are also getting used to being part of the wider school.
Last Friday they performed as Drum Atweme at a whole school assembly. They played with their usual flair even with all eyes trained upon them. Their peers were thoroughly impressed.
The athletic ability of some of the children also makes for a good introduction in the playground. The runners and the footballers are being snapped up.
Tyape teacher Ms Rooke says one of the main things her students talk to her about is making new friends.
She tells a story about one of the boys, one of the best attenders: "He asked,'Why do we have to come to whitefeller school? I like Irrkerlantye, I want to stay with my family.' I said to him, 'So, why do you come every day?" and he said, 'To have fun.'"
There is daily contact with Irrkerlantye as the children have breakfast there. An early attempt to have breakfast at the schools has been abandoned.
They also spend Monday afternoons there for lunch and then religious education and Arrernte language study and have a cultural trip out bush with family once a month.
HONEY ANTS Last week they went to Sandy Bore, collecting honey ants.
It's very quiet at the South Terrace site without them, even a little sad.
But Deborah Maidment who was coordinating the centre on behalf of Ngkarte Mikwekenhe (a group associated with the Catholic Church), is philosophical:
"If it's working for the kids, then maybe it's a good thing after all," she says.
She was at Bradshaw to watch the drummers perform at assembly, her eyes shining with pride.
The big question , from her point of view, is what are DEET's long term plans for the children. Will they be kept together?
No one the Alice News spoke to could say. The situation will be reviewed later in the year. Mr Humphreys says three out of his seven students could cope with a mainstream classroom now, academically, and one "could go to any school tomorrow, St Philip's, Anzac, anywhere, a natural leader". The primary age children are still getting used to routines and expectations, and the school is being flexible about rules: the children are mostly wearing hats when they're outside but they don't always wear shoes.
"If that's the only problem, then it's very minor," says Ms Balfour.
She says family members haven't come to the school yet but she is hoping a mural project might bring them in and make them feel more welcome and comfortable in the school.
She says the present situation is funded to continue to the end of the year, when it will be reviewed.
"In the long term I'd like to see the children in the mainstream classes. The benefits of that are great, in terms of their contact with a wider group of students.
"These units are about support and building their confidence: we don't want to set them up to fail."
ALICE NOT TOO HOT TO HANDLE . Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Playing to naked audiences, being propositioned for $4000: after 15 years of playing in town, Alice cover duo 2 Hot are still on fire.
"Over the years we've played some wild gigs," laughs singer and guitarist Lorrie Hunt, who with Ron Hodgkinson (singer, guitar and keyboard) make up 2 Hot.
"We played at the old casino when it first opened and there was strip show on one night. It was the graveyard shift, we started around 12.30am and finished at 4.30am.
"At one point Ron was playing You can keep your hat on, and one of the dancers took a shine to him. She came up to him, lifted up her top and there were boobs galore in front of him. He didn't know where to look. At that point Ron's wife at the time came in the door. She wasn't very happy.
"Coober Pedy was another memorable one. It was a gig underground and an old miner came up to Ron and said 'Your woman sings well. How much for her? I'll give you two grand'.
"Ron said that we just sing and don't do anything else together [the pair are only business partners].
"Then he said he'd offer four grand for me! "We found out afterwards he was the richest opal miner there. We could have made the gig a lot more worth our while." The same gig was one of the hardest the pair have done, says Ron.
They played at an underground hotel, which had superb acoustics, but a young local girl had been killed in a car accident and the whole town was in mourning for her.
Despite this they stayed on for 10 days: "Our attitude is if we're playing in front of two or 200 people, if someone says it's a great sound, that's what it's all about."
Another memorable gig was a wedding, on a property away from Alice Springs, on the other side of a huge river in flood. Ron waded across and found someone with a four wheel drive to tow them through.
"We played at the wedding but what we got paid didn't cover the damage to the $70,000 worth of gear in the back!"
Ron and Lorrie (pictured) say the band's success is due to their friendship.
"The thing about musicians is that their egos can be huge," says Ron.
"But we've maintained a steady working relationship and we've survived because of that.
"We love music and we're good friends, we've always been good friends.
"We both respect each other's privacy and taste in music."
Lorrie agrees. "I absolutely love it. Ron and I have always seemed to click as far as music is concerned.
"We both have the same aspirations for singing and putting on a good show.
"It's great teamwork: Ron takes care of the technical side of it, and I get up there and sing."
Both now have families and children of their own, but the two met when Ron joined the Booze Brothers in the 'nineties, a nine piece band which Lorrie was involved in.
Between them they've supported bands as diverse as The Angels, Diesel, The Black Sorrows, James Blundell, and Adam Bran.
Although they both say performing is a lot of fun, gigs haven't always come easy: it comes down to hard work and a reputation built on years of performing.
"And we'll keep going until one of us breaks down or leaves town!" says Lorrie. To keep it interesting they'll change the words, singing things like "Under my boardshorts, down around my knees", but Lorrie also says it doesn't matter how many times she's sung a song, if she can get the passion across, it's still satisfying.
They also try to constantly update their set, listening for new trends and material that suit their duo.
Ron says the old favourites like Elvis and Stevie Wonder are always crowd-pleasers, as well as songs by newer artists like Robbie Williams.
"I always say you should play to the crowd not at them.
"Our longevity is due to the fact we try to cater for people of all age groups."
They'll play at a Young Guns race meeting one day, and at a 50th birthday party the next. The duo also regularly performs corporate shows.
Although they always play cover versions, Ron also has a studio at his home, where he records his own music and helps other musicians.
He first started playing the guitar when he was five and after "hammering all the furniture in the house" his mum bought him a drum.
"I played in high school bands for a while, and joined a seven piece band in Perth back in the mid-eighties. We supported Noise Works and Mental as Anything.
"I toured around WA, and formed a duo in Perth as well.
"I moved back to Alice because most of my family is here, and also because although in the cities you may have more opportunities for exposure, there is a lot of pressure as well.
"I prefer the freedom to work at my own pace."
Lorrie has also been musical all her life, growing up with gospel and traditional Samoan music. "My inspiration has always come from my family. I started in my uncle's band when I was eight and I've always been surrounded by music."
She came to Alice Springs in 1976 and soon sang her stamp on the town. "I started a jam session at the old Stuart Arms before it was pulled down in about 1984."
It's run by the Todd Tavern these days.
LETTER: HAND OVER CASH, DON'T ASK SILLY QUESTIONS! .
Sir,- Representatives of three main Northern Territory Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara communities have condemned attempts by the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations to put Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) into administration. Anangu leaders from the communities who met last Thursday at Yulara also strongly rejected suggestions by the Registrar that NAC was in financial trouble [see Alice News, May 4 and 11].
They said the Registrar had shown little regard for the strong financial position of NAC and its related businesses.
NAC, which controls Nyangatjatjara College, is financially sound and the meeting condemned the interference of the Federal Government in successful Anangu businesses.
The Yulara meeting strongly condemned ORAC for acting without proper consultation with the communities who owned and benefited from NAC. It had not consulted relevant people and repeatedly refused requests to sit down with NAC.
Anangu leaders also expressed concern that the highly successful businesses run by Wana Ungkunytja - a related but separate company from NAC - were being deliberately targeted by the Federal Government.
NAC chairperson Phillip Coombes, a Yankunytjatjara man from Imanpa community, said NAC should be left alone to get on with its business which is helping improve the lives of Aboriginal people.
He said the businesses had been developed without government funding and the Federal Government had no right to interfere.
The meeting was told of anxiety amongst NAC staff over the Registrar's actions. The threat of administration was also destablising successful businesses which were owned or managed by Wana Ungkuntyja enterprises, often under contract with both Federal and state governments, the meeting heard.
Ninti Corporate Services
ED- Ninti Corporate Services is a company associated with NAC, contracted to assist with the management of NAC affairs until the appointment of a new CEO.
Ms Debelle did not respond to an offer of comment on the report published in last week's Alice News, which detailed fees charged by NAC and some of its dealings with a government funded juvenile diversion program at Imanpa. An independent audit report of NAC's operations in 2004-2005, available on the ORAC website, shows significant levels of public funding for the corporation. And as a charitable institution the corporation is not subject to income tax.
RIGHTY-O, WHO STOLE THE AUTUMN? COLUMN BY ADAM CONNELLY .
OK! Who do I ring? Town council? Tangentyere? Or does this problem go higher?
Has the Berrimah line struck again? I'm not sure who is responsible but heads must roll. Someone didn't do the paperwork and now we, the people have to pay. Who forgot to order an autumn? "I'm sorry Mr Connelly, we just sold our last autumn to Port Augusta. Tell you what. What do you say to an extended summer? I think somewhere out the back there's a spare week or two of autumn we didn't use last year. No charge of course."
I remember calling my sister complaining about the 46 degree day we had all just endured and two weeks later, two weeks I tell you, I woke up to a four degree morning.
I am not a bloke from Sydney trying to tell you all how to run your climate. But seriously, I need a transition period. This stinking hot to freezing cold situation is just not healthy. I'm struggling!
I'm not the only one. There's a dog where I live. In February I saw him trying to jump on a clothesline so that he had some water to lick off the drying towels. This morning as I came to work I saw the same poor rover stuck frozen, leg first to a tree. We hear people say that Centralians are a tough breed. But I reckon we all deserve service medals. Little bronze stars with the words "Summer 2005-6" inscribed. We can all parade down the mall showing off our medals. We've earned it. Fly people up from Victoria to applaud our efforts in enduring such extremes.
I am amazed that during January the crime rate doesn't explode with people fed up with the inferno. I guess what saves us is that most of the smart ones head out of town for holidays.
Most of us have this wonderful invention, evaporative air conditioning. Machines the size of small rooms that drown out the noise of the Power Plant on the eastside, chug down kilolitres of water and require more maintenance than an old Torana. And what's worse is that if a puff of cloud drifts by and raises the humidity, they don't work! Can you tell I had issues this summer?
Where I'm from, bringing up the weather in conversation is a sign that you have given up or exhausted all other topics. Not here in the Alice. Sit at any one of the pubs in town and locals will regale you with stories of summers past. "Mate I kid you not. It was so hot, half way to Erldunda the road was shut. A pool of molten camels on the road. Fair dinkum!"
In some places, autumn is a wonderful time. The leaves turn orange and brown and fall to make a cool climate carpet in which children can frolic. Leaves here turn brown and fall Š but that's due to them burning on the branch.
I have a suggestion. Hear me out now. I know some of us aren't that keen on change but I think if we just trial it. Next year, let's just try an autumn. Just give it a go. I reckon you'll love it!
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