July 13, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


Alice Springs is determined to keep a step ahead of Yulara in its readiness to handle international flights as the resort town gears up to take larger aircraft.
Donald McDonald, general manager of the Alice Springs Airport owned by NT Airports, was in Darwin on Monday talking to quarantine officials about how best to spend the $200,000 Territory government grant to CATIA to help bring international charter flights into Alice Springs.
And Craig Catchlove, general manager of CATIA, says he believes Yulara will eventually get direct international flights but before that happens, if the whole of Central Australia is “to share in the spoils”, Alice Springs needs “to cement our position as the first port of call for international charters”.
Word is that Voyages, the company that owns the Ayers Rock Resort, is all but ready to call tenders for development of the Connellan Airport at Yulara.
Mr McDonald says a tender was to be called in April to develop the Connellan Airport “for light-bodied aircraft that would give it an opportunity for international operations”.
However, he understands the project has been delayed for reasons internal to Voyages and the Territory Government has not yet signed off on the plans:  “They have the golden share,” says Mr McDonald.
“Voyages have been talking about this for three or four years. It will be an expensive exercise. My personal estimate is $20m but I understand their pre-tender estimate was more than that.”
The exercise is also a lot more complicated than just “getting a plane on the ground”.
“The ‘back of house’ at Yulara is designed to handle F100s and F28s [65 and 107 passengers respectively]. To unload a 777 with 220 international passengers is a lot harder.”
Mr Catchlove says he understands the strip at Yulara will be widened and strengthened to handle 767s.
“We’ve heard that Qantas is looking at a 767 service out of Sydney for both Alice Springs and Yulara.
“They have 50 more seats than a 737, which is the biggest at present into the Rock.
“If development of the airstrip is for 767 access, we are all in favour. But if it’s for direct international charters, then we want Alice to get up first and for the Mereenie Loop Road to be sealed.
“Them there’ll be no discussion about what the itinerary in Central Australia should be: Alice Springs, West MacDonnells, Kings Canyon, Uluru, perfect for a three to four day trip which is what these Japanese charters have been.”
Alice Springs to date has been having to borrow personnel and equipment to handle passengers on charter flights from Japan. Now they look like being “a permanent part of the landscape” says Mr Catchlove and eyes are turning to Europe and other parts of Asia to expand the market.
Mr McDonald says he understands “the broad view of the NT Government that any infrastructure development and economic activity in Central Australia is good for Central Australia”.
“Whether it’s in Ayers Rock or Alice Springs they will be happy to see the development,” he says.
“I understand that the Rock is concerned that the Japanese charters into Alice may be pulling down on their business but the reality is most of those people spend a night or two at the Rock.
Overall there has been a downturn of Japanese tourist into Australia, in the order of 16 per cent, I believe.”
A spokesperson for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Chris Burns says: “Although there have been various proposals in the past to further develop Connellan Airport, there is no formal proposal before government at this time.”
Voyages had neither confirmed nor denied the development plans at the time the News went to press.
Meanwhile, Mr Catchlove says an application is about to go to Senator Nigel Scullion for extra money to assist Alice Springs Airport. Sen Scullion has assured Mr Catchlove that the Prime Minister has “promised the money”.
The Territory grant is likely to go on a “big aircraft tug and some X-ray machines” while there is also a need to make adaptations at the airport, providing things like offices for quarantine officials and access to toilets for passengers prior to clearing customs.


NT Senator Trish Crossin says Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough certainly has power over the Territory Government plans for removing national parks from public ownership, in a deal with Aboriginal land councils now facing growing opposition.
Senior staff members in Mr Brough’s office have repeatedly said he is compelled by “convention” to ratify any agreement the NT Government makes about land matters.
“I’m a bit amazed,” says Territory Labor Senator Crossin.
“If Mr Brough doesn’t want it to happen it won’t happen.
“They seem to overturn and interfere with everything else that happens here.  Just look at the nuclear waste dump.
“Mr Brough has every obligation to validate this agreement once he has satisfied himself that the agreement is proper.”
Sen Crossin says she herself has had only one contact on the parks hand-over which has sparked a “Save the Park” campaign with a major public meeting in Alice Springs and a petition now signed by 6000 people across the Territory.
She says: “The only letter I’ve actually had is from the Alice Springs Town Council where they said please do not support this piece of legislation because it affects the parks.
“I wrote back to Fran [Kilgariff, the Mayor] and said the legislation you quoted in your letter has got nothing to do with the parks Bill.
“I’ve had no letters from any constituents, no phone calls, no representation.
“I know there is a petition.
“I have not seen it, I’ve not had copies sent to me.
“Maybe people are lobbying [CLP Senator] Nigel Scullion about this because he’s in government.
“I haven’t asked [ALP Member for Lingiari] Warren Snowdon about it.
“I’ll be backing the work the Northern Territory government has done because they have done it in consultation with the land councils and the traditional owners.
“And they’ve done it through negotiation rather than through the courts.”
Chief Minister Clare Martin claims in the absence of a deal to transfer sole ownership of the parks to Aborigines, litigation would be inevitable, expensive, drawn out and socially divisive.
Sen Crossin says she has not been shown two legal opinions which, according to Ms Martin, assert that the parks are vulnerable to Aboriginal land rights claims because of flaws in the parks’ declaration.
“I haven’t seen them but I’ve had briefings from Clare’s office a number of times.”
Says Sen Crossin: “The Federal Government must be convinced enough that Clare’s done the right thing or else they wouldn’t have put it through the Federal Parliament.
“She’s wants the Commonwealth to validate the agreement she has made with the land councils.
“And [the Commonwealth] are not challenging this in any way.
“If they were in the least doubtful about it they would not back Clare up.
“Ruddock, Vanstone and Brough have all said they support the work she’s done.”
However, the Alice News has had several conversations with senior staff of all three recent Indigenous affairs ministers.
None have passed comment on the merits or otherwise of Ms Martin’s policies.
They only referred to the requirements of the “convention” without giving details about its nature.
Sen Crossin is a strong supporter of Ms Martin’s strategy.
“I can’t see any coherent argument to not proceed with this if it’s going to be in the best interests of protecting this land in terms of indigenous interests,” says Sen Crossin.
“It’s their [the Aborigines’] land, isn’t it?
“So what are we saying? Don’t do it because non-indigenous people might be restricted about what they can and can’t do?
“I say, well, so be it.
“There are restrictions in Kakadu and Uluru but these restrictions are negotiated.
“Clare believes she is doing the right thing by actually coming to some economic development arrangement with Indigenous people, giving them the land back and then leasing it for 99 years.”
Asked about the mounting public opposition to the policy, Sen Crossin says: “Maybe Clare needs to work through some of the concerns people have about restrictions and limitations.
“The Federal Government were happy to endorse it.
“To me it was, like, case closed. I don’t need to get involved if I don’t have any representation and no concerns are raised by the Federal Government.”
However, if she were to receive representations from the public about the issues “we would ask Clare to answer some of the questions and concerns”.
Meanwhile Sen Crossin says there have been mixed reactions to the Federal Government’s recent amendments to the Land Rights Act which have been passed in the House of Representatives and will go before the Senate when sittings resume on August 8.
She says the 99 year lease provisions had been agreed to by both governments “but the land councils were not consulted although Clare would say the Central Land Council briefly flagged it at a conference in Jabiru.
“But flagging it and sitting down with people and saying let’s talk about it are two different things.”
As long term leases are already available under the current Land Rights Act, the land councils are saying substantial changes are unnecessary, Sen Crossin says.
Under the new regime, land councils can be by-passed and deals can be made with traditional owners direct.
She says more information is required about a proposed new Northern Territory entity to hold the 99 year leases, and there is opposition to the capping of revenue from land leasing ventures at five per cent.
“The traditional owners want the ability to negotiate,” she says.
The new laws would give indigenous organizations, as well as companies with a greater than 50% indigenous shareholding, the right to set up new land councils.
“The Federal Minister can delegate to them some of the powers of the major land councils,” she says. 
The Bill also changes the way the land councils are funded, no longer getting a percentage (currently 40%) of the Aboriginal Benefit Account money, but an annual grant from the Minster.


Mayor Fran Kilgariff says the NT Government’s $8m grant from the will be enough to build a heated 25 metre pool with eight to 10 lanes, a therapeutic pool and children’s playground, all under one roof.
A similar facility in Sydney cost $8.5m: but that was 12 years ago.
The Mayor is contradicting claims by Alderman Jane Clark who last week said the planned facility for Alice would cost up to $20m, judging from similar complexes elsewhere in Australia (Alice News, July 6).
Ald Clark described the government grant as a “poisoned chalice” and claimed the council, which has just spent nearly $11m on its new civic centre, would be massively out of pocket.
But Ms Kilgariff says Ald Clark may be confusing the costs with an earlier study that looked at transferring all the YMCA’s assets to the pool site.
Ms Kilgariff says: “When we added everything in [including] gymnasium, sports halls, child care centre, plus a couple of million for solar technology, the whole thing came to around $16m for basically moving everything that’s at the Y to the pool site.”
That option has now been discounted, at least for the moment, she says.
However, as part of the current deliberations, for which the government has contributed a further $100,000, the council will consider whether “it would make good economic sense to build some extra things [at the pool] such as a gym or a sports hall or whatever, and whether these would attract more people and so make the complex more viable”.
Ms Kilgariff says while the basic construction project is fully funded, additional expenses will be caused by running the pool all year ‘round instead of just from September to April.
She says it’s not unusual for public pools to run at a loss – it’s just the kind of facility a town council provides.
“We’re treating it like any other community service, like the bus which always runs at a huge deficit,” she says, “and like the million dollars we spend each year on parks and ovals.”
The council will also be looking at introducing economies of scale in the pool management.
“We do expect there will be a deficit and we’ll have to budget for that, but we’re looking at ways of reducing that.”
Ms Kilgariff says the current study, likely to cost $70,000, will not be producing a report but “initial sketches, concept drawings, so we can start talking to contractors.
“Yes, we can get straight into it,” she says.
But figures from other parts of Australia for similar facilities suggest Ms Kilgariff’s estimate is years out of date.
The Ripples Aquatic and Recreation Centre at St Marys in western Sydney was built in 1994 at a cost of $6m.
The Centre has an indoor 25m pool and a fun pool, similar facilities as the proposed pool for Alice Springs.
It also has a gym, sauna and spa (not proposed for Alice Springs). Three years ago a hydrotherapy pool was added which cost $2.5m, bringing the total cost of the centre to $8.5m.
Taking into consideration the increase in cost of labour and materials since 1994, Craig O’Halloran, the general manager of the Territory Construction Association, says construction costs will have increased by 60 per cent.
Blacktown Leisure Centre in western Sydney cost $20m and opened in 2003.
It has an 25m indoor pool with a smaller teaching pool and fun pool (pictured). It has a spa but not a hydrotherapy pool (as is being proposed for Alice Springs). However, it also has a gym and two basketball courts (not proposed for Alice Springs).
Construction cost increases since that pool was built are 15 per cent, says Mr O’Halloran of the of the Territory Construction Association.


Eight young people from Alice, including me, joined 22 of our peers in Darwin last week for the YMCA’s Youth Parliament (YP), and four of us took home awards out of the eight given.
This was the second time I’d been to YP, but last year it was held in Alice when Parliament was sitting at the Convention Centre. Although at the time I would have told you nothing could beat it, this time we got to sit in the real Parliamentary Chamber.
The rush I got from debating contentious issues, with smart people my own age, in the Parliamentary Chamber  is almost indescribable; it was like finding a joyous, adrenaline-filled faith in the life and the people around me.
Finding young people who care so passionately is a gift when less than 10% of 15 year old boys can define a political party, when I know people my age who don’t have an opinion on things like the Iraq war or Australia’s immigration policy, or didn’t click onto the fact that in East Timor, one of our closest neighbours, there was huge civil unrest.
In the adjournment debate quite a few Youth Parliamentarians talked about stoking up the political passion amongst our peers, something I desperately hope we can achieve.
But the best thing about YP has to be the people; the volunteer task force members who give us so much encouragement and support; the participants who put their whole souls into the program. I’m sorry, it’s the worst cliché, but you really do make friends for life.
And it’s not for geeks. There is no prescribed sort of person who does YP. Right wing or left wing, male or female, academic or not.  No one gets to the end and regrets doing it: for everyone it’s hugely rewarding.
The way YP works is that you are in your teams and then teams form coalition parties. Each party has one day in Government and one day in Opposition. On your day in Government your party presents its bills. Our team’s bill  was to provide for Civil Unions. 
We decided on this topic soon after the ACT had passed its Civil Unions laws and when the federal government overturned the legislation we felt that our bill was all the more relevant  – not only did we debate for it along moral lines, but also as a way of showing solidarity with Territory rights.
All YP bills were passed. Other bills were for compulsory political education in the middle years of schooling, STI (sexually transmitted infection) awareness, seat belts on school buses, bicameral Parliament and performance vehicle recreation.
At the end of the program all bills passed by the Youth Parliament were presented to the Speaker of the Northern Territory (real) Parliament for consideration.
The week also included niceties such as a morning tea reception at Government House with the Administrator Ted Egan and Nerys Evans, and a breakfast with all the politicians where we were able to ask them about issues that we were concerned about.
At the closing ceremony the eight awards were presented. Emilio Roberts was awarded the Best Parliamentary Performer, Adele Saint was given the Whip award which is presented to the person who encourages and helps their team the best. Both Tom Snowdon and I were recognised as outstanding parliamentary performers.
Youth Parliament is not as civilised as I may have put across thus far. It is a week long, relatively sleepless, utterly exhausting and regularly hysterical program. Participants are often up way past midnight writing speeches, submitting questions on notice and making amendments to the bills. All nighters are not rare. And even our ‘break’ day was hard.
We went to the YMCA for mini-Olimpics, which is just normal camp games, and Boot Camp, which is definitely not. We finished of the week with a few hours at the beautiful Mindil Beach Markets and then good-byes that lasted till dawn.


Those seeking solutions to Aboriginal housing have not been looking hard enough, according to the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DK CRC).
Traditional solutions have focussed on using more durable materials, slight improvements to design, and funding regular external maintenance teams – all of which are expensive.
The focus should rather be on “investing in human capacity as a community wide capital”, says  Kurt Seemann, project leader for the DK CRC’s housing life cycle scoping study.
In other words, use the labour and talents of people on the ground, the ones who are going to live in the houses.
They may not be able or even choose to build a conventional besser block house but they are going to be able to work with just one licensed tradesperson to construct houses from semi-modular kits and install standardised fittings and fixtures. 
Semi-modular housing would also have the advantage of a flexible floorplan, to meet the varying needs of different family groups, and flexible orientation to take advantage of natural heating and cooling cycles. And it would increase employment opportunities.
Having built the houses themselves, residents would be more familiar with their maintenance requirements. The community store and education centre could work together to support “do it yourself” maintenance: the store supplying basic hardware items, the school supplying targeted training.
Says Dr Seemann: “People in towns and cities take for granted that they can go to a hardware store and buy a tap, for example. People on communities would take this opportunity too, and so extend the life of their houses.
“This would also allow them to customise and accessorise their home, to engage with it and make it their place.”
Extending the life cycle of housing would put a dent in the massive housing shortfall, though there’s no reliable estimate about how big a dent that would be, says Dr Seemann.
The cost of new housing and associated infrastructure needed across Australia is put at  $3.5b. This figure is arrived at by calculating “this many people need this many rooms” and the traditional cost to supply. Minister for Housing Elliott McAdam has costed Indigenous housing needs in the Territory at $1b.
The “dent” can be achieved by the new thinking about supply being proposed by the CRC in its scoping study. The CRC hopes that what they find in this arid area would offer a potential insight into and positive impact on both the arid and broader Australian contexts.
There’s no reliable information about how long current housing life cycles are in remote communities, but anecdotal information suggests they can be as short as eight years, extending in some circumstances to 15 to 20 years.
The length of the cycle depends on a variety of conditions, with the type of house and how well it has been installed at the top of the list.
What’s good now, according to Dr Seemann, is that “end users and providers are aware that they need to look at the way housing is designed for desert conditions and a variety of families”.
Desert conditions require desert performance standards, rather than standardised design and technologies. These new standards, which “take advantage of local opportunity, ecology, climate and social conditions”, need to be established.
The DK CRC has also identified the need for web-based software tool to bring the different levels of housing data into a single system. This would allow service centres and governments right up to grants commissions to see where they are at, what they should do next, where they should direct money to get the best value.
“It is possible to predict cycles in the provision and maintenance of housing,” says Dr Seemann,” if you can bring all the data into play, like materials, water conditions, climate, the number of occupants and so on.”
At present there is no rationalisation of data in a single system. The DK CRC is developing a prototype of such a software tool.
A scoping study establishes the useful questions to be asked and researched. Further research on all fronts is the next step, says Dr Seemann.
“We need all of these ducks lined up” to bring about “a modest extension in the lifecycle of settlement systems”, which would have a significant impact on lives, services and the public purse.


Aboriginal leader, Des Rogers, former chair of ATSIC regional council and of the Indigenous Housing Authority of the NT, openly acknowledges there are “heaps” of abandoned outstations, including “quite a number I have visited”.
One is on the Wallace Rockhole land trust where Mr Rogers now lives.
It has four houses with verandahs, two of which have four bedrooms, and is equipped with a generator and a telephone link.
“No-one has lived there for a number of years,” says Mr Rogers.
“They went out there initially but life was too difficult. It’s tough living with no services.”
But the future of outstations should be considered on a case by case basis, he argues.
“Wallace started as an outstation. With good leadership over a long period of time, it developed into a community.
“The majority of houses are well looked after.
“There are others like it but a hell of a lot of outstations are not occupied, and the only person who has been there recently is a contractor building something else that people aren’t going to use.”
Mr Rogers also argues against the expectation of suburban-style housing in remote communities.
“If you live at Kintore you can’t expect to have all the wonderful mod cons like reverse cycle air-conditioning. The power station can’t keep up with the power and you, if you’re a welfare recipient, can’t keep up with the bills.”
But people in the bush have been “disenfranchised” by the demise of ATSIC, he says.
“ATSIC wasn’t perfect but the 35 regional councils delivered a lot of good programs and I hear from reliable sources that mainstream agencies are struggling to deal with their new role in looking after services to Indigenous people.”
Mr Rogers challenges the credibility of the new push to private ownership of housing in Aboriginal communities.
“In principal, having a mix of private and public is a good idea but whether it’s HomeNorth or a private investor, they would want to know how their investment is going to appreciate or how they are going to get their money back.
“And a lot of the existing housing stock is well below Australian standards. No-one should buy it while it’s in that state.
“All these complicated details need to be worked through and until they are the debate is largely rhetorical.”
(Minister for Housing Elliott McAdam did not respond to the News’ request for comment on the commercial viability of private investment in housing on remote communities.)
Mr Rogers says the emphasis right now should be on developing Indigenous people’s life skills – their understanding of finances, consumer rights, and expectations of living in an urban situation.
And he calls for a moratorium on new housing until this happens.
“A lot of houses have been refurbished five, six, seven, eight times only to return to the same deplorable situation because people lack these life skills.”
Meanwhile, Bushlight, the program to equip Aboriginal communities and outstations with solar power, says that only one outstation that it has supplied has been abandoned. It is in Western Australia and the system installed is being dismantled and transported elsewhere.
The mobility of systems is a feature of the program, says group manager Grant Behrendorff.
Permanent occupancy is also one of their eligibility criteria, and documented evidence of it is required.
In any case, Bushlight has not done much work at outstations, says Mr Behrendorff.
An outstation, Irrmarne, referred to in a recent article in the Alice News (May 18) was not equipped by Bushlight, says Mr Behrendorff.
The Alice News was quoting a spokesperson for the Territory Department of Local Government, Housing and Sport.


It’s independent businesses not commercial chain stores which keep local sports teams and charities alive, argue local company owners, but the big supermarkets claim to be doing their bit.
Suzanne Bitar (owner) and Kim St John (manager) of Taps, Tubs and Tiles and A Home Like Alice have donated approximately $22,000 this year to local groups including bush sports associations, the AFLCA Umpires Association, the gun club, soccer teams, the Central Australian Bike Challenge and other sports teams.
The company sponsored the Finke desert race for five years from 1989 and supports it today through sponsoring the veterans’ race and individual riders.
“We try and help people who help us. It’s hard to decide who gets what and how much: a lot of people ask us and we do say yes to a lot of people,” says Mr St John. 
“We’re helping out 10 riders this year from young apprentices to top riders. We give them upwards of $200,” says Ms Bitar.
“We’ve been around for 25 years thanks to the loyalty of local people and I like to give that back.”
Ms Bitar believes it’s independent companies rather than commercial chains that donate to local causes.
“I think local businesses do a great job in supporting local events, they have an involvement with the town and know where their customers are,” she says.
Paul Lelliot, sales manager at the Alice Springs Camera Centre, agrees.
“Most private business put a lot into sport: donating products for raffles or services or paying for logos on jumpers and caps. A lot of sponsors come out and volunteer their time at sports events. 
“The same load should be spread on bigger companies.
“Woolworths and Coles make billions of dollars. It should be their signs up at Traeger Park and at other sporting venues and their money helping to upkeep grounds.”
Mr Lelliot says the Camera Centre receives weekly requests from charities and sports teams and helps them by donating camera equipment for raffles: “It might be small amount each time but it does add up.
“If you came up with a list, I bet there’d be a hundred local businesses doing the same thing.”
But Mr Lelliot says that people benefiting from the generosity of local businesses don’t always support them back.
“What I’d like to see from the groups that take on sponsorship is that they should support the businesses that support them. It shouldn’t be all one way.”
A Woolworths spokesperson says: “All of our stores are given a budget which they can support local causes with and these are given as gift vouchers. Alice Springs is very generous in its donations to local sporting organisations and other organisations: there are very few requests the store knocks back.”
The spokesperson said she didn’t know what the budget is for Alice Springs but says it is “several thousand dollars a year”.
Coles manager, Fred Grant, says the company regularly gives money to charity Fred Grant, the manager of Coles in Alice Springs says that the supermarket is “very active” in supporting the community.
“We donate breakfast food each week to students at Yipirinya school.
“The team also participated in the national Walk Safely to School Day, by donating goods and having team members assist in serving breakfast to over 300 students at Ross Park and Braitling primary schools.
“We regularly help local charities and sporting clubs with sausage sizzles held at the store and we have two lawn bowls teams (men and women) competing weekly, with all proceeds going to charity.
“Team members are also active in helping local identity, Mary Meldrum (Territorian of the Year) with numerous fund raising activities. And the store has also just donated 10 cartons of dog food to the local RSPCA.”


Five school friends recently met in Alice Springs, 60 years after they left the classroom.
The friends all went to Mordialloc-Chelsea High School in Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay: Of the five Trish van Dijk moved to Alice Springs 23 years ago, but all the others still live in Victoria.
Menna Hobson, Margaret Noblett, Lyn Williams and Nancy Miller were hosted by Trish and her husband Bill. Jean Robertson, Lyn’s twin sister, was unable to make the trip because of her husband’s ill health.
“On that day we left school we walked down to Mordialloc Beach to the pier. We vowed and declared we would stay in touch. And we have,” says Trish.
“We had such a good time and we were so happy in that last year of school.
“We cried when we left!
“We’re all 75 now and it’s quite remarkable how we’ve all kept in touch over the years,” she says.
The girls were all prefects. Four of them became teachers, while Nancy and Margaret went into business.
Trish’s teaching legacy has been a lasting one in Central Australia. She has taught in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy.
After retirement, she taught at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre for three years, and currently is teaching literature at the University of the Third Age.
Trish and Bill have 22 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Trish has also made a significant impact in the arts here: two years ago she stepped down after 15 years of being part of the Art Foundation with a number of years as president. Her efforts promoting the Alice Prize have heightened the award’s national profile and prestige.
“I wanted to make it as professional as possible. It’s now doing really well which is what I wished for.”
It’s not surprising then that Trish’s friends have led equally rich lives, involved in their communities in all sorts of ways from heading up Croquet Victoria (Nancy) to working as a probation officer (Lyn) to raising $20,000 by making patchwork quilts (Margaret).
After 40 years of teaching Menna now leads three choirs in regional Victoria.
The friends have kept in touch mostly by writing letters, meeting up for the first time in 1975.
“We always met up in Melbourne,” says Trish. “I suggested their coming up here and they all said yes.”
All have visited Alice before, but were looking forward to seeing the Eastern and Western Macs, and enjoyed a special dinner on the Saturday night.
“There’s been a lot of talking and reminiscing, it’s driving our husbands mad I think!” says Lyn.
“Trish and Bill have been marvellous hosts for us.
“But it’s the whole business of talking, eating together, looking at all our photos. We’re really enjoying it.
“We’re all here together which is the main thing. We’re sad that Jean isn’t here.
“We sent her a telegram from the Telegraph Station.”
Nancy says: “We can still talk about things in the classroom we remember: the teachers we liked, the subjects we didn’t like.” 
Menna agrees: “We still have the common bond we had back then 60 years ago.”


“There is huge potential for a thriving, invigorated and successful music scene here.
“I’d love to see Alice Springs as well known for its music as for its art.
“There is something unique about music from Alice. And it’s all about exporting Alice culture.” 
Vincent Lamberti is the project officer for Music NT in Alice Springs, the organisation which promotes musicians in town, giving them advice and help.
And Lamberti is certainly doing his bit to inject energy into the scene: his trio with Tashka Urban and Mei Lai Swan played at Jamnesia to a highly impressed audience.
As a muso from Melbourne, when he moved here last June Lamberti was pleasantly surprised with “the number, variety and quality of musicians presiding here.
“That’s what I see my job as: to bridge that gap between the huge potential and talent.
“We need that critical mass of opportunities to invigorate the music community here. We need more gigs in town, that’s vital, and more venues supporting original live music.”
Lamberti believes cost is why many bars in Alice have reverted to using a DJ or playing recorded music rather than paying for bands to perform live.
But he says live music can only be good for tourism and believes the restriction on places like The Lane (which received complaints about its music parties earlier in the year because of noise), is disappointing. 
“It impinges on the local music scene. I’m sure tourists as well as locals would love to hear our local music.
“The talent here is largely unknown to the broader community. We hope to get music played in the markets on Sundays. It will be another opportunity for musicians and school music groups to play, and for the community to see we have local musos of quality.”
He’s also promoting music by his regular ABC local radio slot on Friday afternoons, interviewing local bands and playing their songs. 
“It’s easy to bemoan lack of opportunities here but really it’s incredible how much is going on.
“People who come from around Australia notice that. I don’t think there’d be many towns of 27,000 people in Australia that would have the musical wealth that Alice Springs has.”
He says the isolation of Alice is a challenge that can be overcome by giving musicians here a chance to learn from each other.
“We’re looking for corporate support for local musicians to travel to the Darwin Festival in August. Everyone’s very excited about sending four acts to the festival: it will be the first time it’s happened and will be a road trip – a musician’s right of passage!
“They’ll play in Tennant Creek and Katherine as well.
“The festival will be a really great forum for our musicians. The quality of our musicians is just as good as Darwin and they’re crying out for more Alice acts. We just need some support to make it happen.”
Lamberti learnt violin as a child and went on to study music at La Trobe University in Melbourne, specialising in composition. He had his own instrument shop there for 10 years.
After always wanting to come to Alice Springs he came last year after making contact with filmmaker David Vadiveloo.
They’re working on two films together including one on the lives of two town camp kids from the Irrkerlantye community.
Lamberti has immersed himself in the local music scene personally as well as professionally, involved in a mix of different bands playing percussion and bass and composing, including the trio with Tashka Urban and a new artist to town, Mei Lai Swan. Lamberti plays the double bass, Urban the piano and Swan sings and plays the cello.
He also plays the mbira  (a thumb piano from Zimbabwe), and is practising hard with a Brazilian band (“we’ll be in rehearsals for another few months before we perform”).
Lamberti lived in Brazil for seven months learning percussion instruments like the berimbau (a string instrument like a bow and arrow), the cuica (a friction drum) and pandeiro (Brazil’s national instrument, like a tambourine).
“What most struck me is the way that music functions within the community there and the benefit it accrues to community,” he says, giving an example of how a leader of one band he got to know had a profound impact on the lives of a group of teenagers.
“This group kept those kids out of trouble. He really acted like a second father. He was a person they could trust.
“They practised every week and performed and it had all this cultural element to it, dance and religious stuff.
“The thing that’s really important in Brazil is that the music is born out of the culture and is an expression of identity, culture, place. It really excites me: music has a strength and relevance to those people.
“I think those ideas could be relevant to here.”
He said music is one of the ways young Indigenous people in Central Australia can develop themselves: he’s started a music program at the Hidden Valley camp’s community centre.
“Music is probably under utilised in local Aboriginal communities. Programs like this can give a focus and a reason to play.”
He held the first music session last week. 
“It looks very promising.  A group of young fellas came in, and they can play! There were young women interested as well.
“It’s something to do of a Tuesday morning and we’ve got the idea that we could have a Hidden Valley band which is exciting.” 
Lamberti says the junior drumming group, Drum Atweme, is a good example of how music can benefit young Aboriginals.
“It’s sensational, those kids love it. It gives them an opportunity to present a really positive face to the public and that’s really empowering and rewarding for them.
“The same goes for the public who see them. It’s a way of connecting.
“Peter Lowson has done an extraordinary job and developed a way of teaching that is so ideal for them.
“Over the next couple of years Music NT’s priority will be Indigenous music development and we hope to employ an Aboriginal person to take on that role.”


The crowd at the Alice Springs Show went quackers over this year’s star attraction: the duck racing and fashion show. 
The 15 puddle ducks which modelled evening wear, day wear, bridle gowns and miniature Driza-Bone coats looked like they’d walked straight off the pages of a Beatrix Potter children’s book. And 12 of them also took part in the duck racing, a sprint around a replica garden, displayed obedience skills as they were rounded up by a sheepdog during the grand parade, and made friends with locals when they visited the pavilions.
From Deniliquin in New South Wales, Brian Harrington has been taking his travelling show across Australia for 20 years but has never been to the Centre before.
“It’s been a real educational trip. It is very different country from what I’ve seen before.
“Have I seen any duck ponds? Not yet. Or any goats. I hear the dingos get them.
“We have problems with foxes in New South Wales but not dingos. 
“It’s been a terrific show. The crowd has been good and happy and vocal.
“And the ducks have enjoyed it too. Some of them are 18 years old now. Not too many ducks get to 18 years old if they’re not looked after properly.”
Brad Bellette, president of the Central Australian Show Society, said that the duck show cost half as much as the flipping cars which were shown two years ago.
And on bringing in Australia’s Federation Guard to perform precision drills during the Show as well as leading the grand parade Mr Bellete says “It was the best money we never spent,” The Guard performed free of charge, for the first time displaying drills at a regional show.
The 16 representatives from the army, navy and air force carried out eye-bogglingly precise drill displays which saw them weave in and out of each other in complex patterns.
“It takes 20 hours to perfect a 20 minute routine,” said Bombardier Peter Hesketh.
“We perform precision drills for people who wouldn’t get to see things like this otherwise.  The unit was set up in 2001 to put on parades for dignitaries visiting Australia.”
Bdr Hesketh said that he was astounded by the response of the Alice Springs public.
“There’s been an overwhelming interest.
“A lot of people have been coming over to the stand and asking us what we do.” 
Mr Bellette said 1500 more people came to the show this year compared with last year, and 15 more stalls were booked.
“We had 12,000 on Friday and 6,000 on Saturday and 207 exhibitors which totally booked us out: we had a waiting list,” said Mr Bellette, who suggested town pride was the reason for the increase. 
“Territorians have been getting bad publicity lately so I think everyone wanted to come together to feel proud. And the success of other events like the Beanie Festival has helped as well.”
Mr Bellette said the Society’s decision to change the program of entertainment to include five smaller acts rather than fewer larger ones was a success.
“Normally we have big acts on the oval but we’ve had acts walking around the show this time, like Bubble Boy who can be challenged to make anything out of a balloon, and the stilt walkers.
“It seems to have worked.
“And people have said they really liked the gymkhana being on the grandstand side of the oval so they can see it more easily.”


“A snapshot of my life” is how fabric artist Adrienne Kneebone describes Absolutely Fibrous, her first exhibition in Alice Springs which opened at Watch This Space on Saturday.
Currently living in Darwin River, Kneebone uses a traditional twining technique to make  baskets and sculptural pieces
“The works are related to Northern Territory domestic bush life,” Kneebone (pictured with one of her pieces) says. She gathers and prepares the pandanus fibres for her work from her property.
“I have two young children and while I am raising my kids, I am also making beautiful artwork, out of the house and into the gallery.”
Kneebone began developing her art 10 years ago, joining the Spiral Weavers group in Darwin and completing a mentorship with Western Australian fabric artist Nalda Searles.
At present she is studying for a degree in fine arts at Charles Darwin University.
Her show at the Space, until Saturday, includes digital photographs illustrating her life and work.
Call her on 0408 856179 for more details. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


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