October 26, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

A letter from a senior public servant in her own department, leaked to the Alice Springs News, gives the lie to Chief Minister Clare Martin’s attack in Parliament on the credibility of former Territory public servant Gregory Andrews.
Ms Martin, responding to a question from Jodeen Carney about the Chief Minister’s knowledge since 2004 of child abuse in Mutitjulu, sought to deflect attention to supposed deficiencies in the work of Mr Andrews, yet the letter from the Executive Director of her own Office of Indigenous Policy, Neil Westbury, gives a glowing account of that same work by Mr Andrews.
In the Legislative Assembly on October 11 Ms Martin said: “The memo that is published today [in The Australian, the same memo the Alice News asked Ms Martin about on August 17] was the work of Greg Andrews who was employed as the coordinator in the Working Together projects between the Territory and the Federal Government at Mutitjulu.
“One of the things that I have had to recognise in the appointment of Greg Andrews to that position is that he was very disappointing. He made a lot of allegations about Mutitjulu that we have seen since he appeared as the anonymous youth worker in that Lateline program, much to his enduring shame, that many of the allegations that he made have had no substance.”
Responding to a further question from Ms Carney on the child sexual abuse issue in Mutitjulu, Ms Martin acknowledged the problem of “people feeling fearful of stepping forward and saying: ‘That’s the perpetrator. I want him to go to court’” – in other words, she did not deny the facts of abuse.
Yet immediately afterwards she again sought to undermine the credibility of the person who had drawn the problem to her government’s attention.
“I say again, the information [on child sexual abuse] that was passed to me by someone I trusted, ie the Project Manager of Working Together, Greg Andrews, a lot of it has been unsubstantiated.
“He did not, as an employee of the Federal government working in the Territory, pass on issues that he was instructed to do to our police. He never did that – only an anonymous fax after he left employ and the Territory.”
This statement is certainly factually wrong on one point: Mr Andrews, when he worked for the Mutitjulu Working Together project, was an employee of the Territory, not the Federal, Government.
When Mr Andrews left that position this is what Neil Westbury had to say in a letter on Department of Chief Minister letterhead dated December 19, 2005:
“The purpose of this letter is to express both my and the Office of Indigenous Policy’s sincere thanks and appreciation for your tireless work in relation to the Mutitjulu Working Together Project. There is no doubt there has been significant progress made under this project over the past two years. [Mr Andrews had been in the job since September 2004.]
“This has been in no small part due to your own energetic efforts in assisting both the community and various government agencies to identify and confront a number of issues that are critical to the future well being of all community members at Mutitjulu.
“Your imminent departure will undoubtedly create a significant gap and consequent challenge for all the project partners.”
The letter ends with personal wishes to Mr Andrews’ wife and newborn child and concludes, “I look forward to working with you again”.

From the safety of Parliament, “cowards’ castle”, Chief Minister Clare Martin and her deputy Syd Stirling have tried to shoot the messengers, rather than staying with the issues in Indigenous affairs.
Their faces should be bright red right now because one of the messengers, whipping boy of the moment Gregory Andrews, is someone Ms Martin’s own department praised highly for his work when he left her employ late last year.
Ms Martin and Mr Stirling aligned themselves with the National Indigenous Times newspaper to attack Mr Andrews and the ABC current affairs program, Lateline, and their contributions to the now national debate on child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities.
Ms Martin’s attack on Mr Andrews (see our lead story) looks almost prim in contrast to Mr Stirling’s nine days later:
“We all know about the infamous Greg Andrews,” Mr Stirling told the Parliament on October 20.
“What a lying little grub he is. What a lying little grub Greg Andrews is. Sat there, shaded out – don’t put the light on, don’t let the dawn light on his face because he, as we all know, is a staffer to Minister Brough.”
Mr Stirling is talking here about Mr Andrews’ anonymous appearance on Lateline on June 21, the reasons for which have been explained in a statement by Mr Andrews published in part by the Alice News on August 3 (see our website).
Mr Stirling then goes on to denigrate the program itself and its presenter Tony Jones: 
“Little did I know what a pack of lies and innuendo had been drawn together to present, as fact, something that was far, far from the truth.
“To hear and learn that ABC Lateline and Tony Jones are up for a Walkley Award [one of Australian journalism’s most prestigious] just beggars belief.
“Just to be nominated demeans the Walkley Awards. You would not want one! You would not want a Walkley if Lateline has been nominated for it and Tony Jones ...
“Lateline ought, one, sack Tony Jones and apologise for the lies that they have run out or, two, be removed from the air because it no longer enjoys any integrity or any reputation for honest reporting in the community and that [is] sad ...
“It hurts me that a program like this, based on lies, fuelled and fed by the likes of the malicious rumour mongering of the Member for Araluen [Jodeen Carney, who can at least defend herself in Parliament] can all be held up against the ABC until such time as they come out and say: ‘We actually got this wrong’.”
What exactly is Mr Stirling saying Lateline got wrong?  What is he saying is “far, far from the truth”?
He is far more muted when it comes to criticising another source for the program, refraining even from naming Mantatjara Wilson, a founding member of the widely respected NPY Women’s Council, instead referring to her patronisingly as “this old lady”.
He suggests that her comments were merely part of Lateline’s “beat up” because she has not lived in Mutitjulu for seven years.
He conveniently overlooks NPY Women’s Council’s defence of the substance of the Lateline allegations.
In an opinion piece, published in The Australian on August 7 and since released to other media, the council, under the names Muyuru Burton, chairwoman, Margaret Smith, vice-chairwoman and Yanyi Bandicha, director, stated in part:
“Mantatjara Wilson, who talked on the ABC’s Lateline  in June about violence and child sexual abuse ... has lived in the Mutitjulu (NT), Kalka and Ernabella  (SA) area her whole life, moving between these communities.
“We set up NPY many years ago because  governments and others were listening only to the men. Nobody heard our voices. Sometimes this still happens.
“In our communities there is a lot of petrol  sniffing, illegal grog, people using marijuana and trafficking drugs and a  lot of violence. There are a lot of people dying because of the violence,  grog, petrol and marijuana, mental health problems and suicide.
“There are children and young people who  wander around hungry and neglected, with no one to look after them.
“There are some men who will find weak young  women and girls and give them petrol, grog or marijuana to get them to have  sex with them.
“Many of our communities have no police close  by, so it is very hard to catch people who are doing the wrong thing and  causing trouble. Our communities are very small and it is very hard for us  to speak up about these problems because sometimes it is our family members  or countrymen who are involved.
“Sometimes the men who are powerful on  community councils are the ones doing all the talking and sometimes they  are involved in making the problems. We also know that this happens in  other parts of Australia,  and all over the world, and that we are not the only ones with problems of  domestic violence and child abuse.
“Sometimes these people who make big trouble  are born in other places or have grown up in other places, moved in to our communities, taken over jobs and taken a lot of power in the community.  Often it is these people who organise local people to sell drugs or grog,  and they make big money from this. This happens in many communities in our region.
“Now we see what happens when Mantatjara  Wilson and other people who know what has been going on, including our  staff, speak up after years of seeing these things happening. We are very  upset that after many years of worrying about these things and seeing no  action, their story gets pushed away or turned into another story.  Mantatjara Wilson and the other people who spoke on Lateline  did not make up those stories. They are not liars or mad.
“Our women and young people are human beings.  They should be able to grow up healthy and strong and not be sold or given petrol and drugs, or be assaulted or used by adults. That is the real, true  issue.
“This should not be a political game for newspaper reporters and politicians who shut their eyes and ears to our worries and our voices.
“When they do this, they are twisting the story. They are really supporting the ones who do the wrong thing, and pushing us and our ideas and problems away so no one hears us – again.”
Ms Martin and Mr Stirling would do well to focus on the “real, true” issues.
Their latest nasty little performance has only further damaged their credibility, no one else’s.
As Ms Martin and Mr Stirling routinely ignore enquiries by the Alice Springs News on controversial subjects, we invite them to write a letter to the editor for next week’s edition if they have anything to say on this matter. 

A tourism operator in Alice since the early ‘eighties is mustering support from the industry to give its local lobby, CATIA, a major shake-up.
Chris Chambers says the tourism industry is in decline throughout The Centre.
But in the town itself the decline has been going on for 16 years because the government’s tourist commission is failing to promote it adequately, focussing on the Ayers Rock Resort, and big operators at the expense of the small, creative ones.
And CATIA lets them get away with it.
Mr Chambers says CATIA’s executive, of which he’s a member, needs new blood, and the courage to take the tourist commission to task, even though it supplies a good slice of the lobby’s budget.
“The CATIA executive is a talk fest, not achieving anything.
“No-one’s asking the hard questions.
“Come to the annual meeting on November 9, put up your hand and get involved,” he says.
Mr Chambers himself is moving his “business focus” to Port Lincoln in South Australia “because of a poor operating environment” in Central Australia.
He’s gathered a wealth of statistical information in the past 20 years, across a string of indicators from bed nights to visitor numbers at Simpson’s Gap, mostly statistics from government agencies.
He says the pilots’ dispute, the Ansett collapse, SARS and 9/11, still blamed for the woes of the industry, are irrelevant glitches over the long term trend.
“They did not cause the long term trend,” he says.
“Visitation numbers in Central Australia peaked in about 2001 and have been declining ever since.
“But Alice Springs itself peaked in the early 1990s.” 
And the picture emerging from the statistics contrasts sharply with the “hype” put out by the NT Tourist Commission, now called Tourism Northern Territory.
He says in the past four years, when the decline set in, there’s been far too much promotion of the Ayers Rock Resort and hardly any for the attractions around Alice Springs, a trend that had started in the ‘eighties.
“Recent attempts to change the focus back to all of Central Australia are inadequate to stem the decline – as the numbers show,” says Mr Chambers.
Attractions such as the West MacDonnells have been neglected for some years now: “Why would people go there if they’re not told they exist?”
• Visitor nights in Central Australia are down 8% compared to 1985. In that year Central Australia had 2.88m room nights. Today the annual figure is 2.65m, that’s 371,000 fewer nights.
• In 1985 visitors were staying 9.8 days in The Centre; last year it was 3.6 – mostly at Ayers Rock.
• A top hotel in Alice charged $150 in 1991 and is now down to $100. It now shuts down one of its three blocks of rooms for four months of the year.
• The top hotel at Ayers Rock charged $250 in 1991 and is now charging $480. (The figures collected by Mr Chamber’s are not CPI adjusted.)
• A major bus company is manoeuvring to shut its Alice depot, concentrating its operations on Ayers Rock.
• In the 1980s an average of 25 people took Alice town tours, 365 days a year. Now three out of seven tours are cancelled, the average number of passengers is 10 and the tour stops in summer.
• Visitation to Simpsons Gap reached a peak of 240,000 in 1987 and was down to half that number in 2005.
• Ten tourism properties in Alice Springs have gone “off line” and are no longer available for tourism because they have been converted to flats and homes, or are concentrating on local business, largely from Aboriginal communities, frequently with governments paying the bill.
• The number of beds in Alice Springs for tourists has dropped 30% over 20 years while doubling at Ayers Rock.
• An operator of an Alice caravan park has been unable to sell it and recently just walked away.
• The current Qantas Holiday brochure, where operators pay to be included, has eight pages about the Ayers Rock Resort, which has about four operators, and eight pages for Alice Springs, which has hundreds of operators.
Mr Chambers says it’s a trap for the town to rely on “single focus” tourism such as conventions and the Masters Games, at the expense of the Free Independent Traveller (FIT).
Single focus tourists come on the same day and leave on the same day, creating an air travel logjam on those days, while booking out all accommodation for a period during which demand for flights evaporates because no-one can get a room.
And single focus tourists, travelling on a package, are less likely to patronise the wide range of shops and services in town and surroundings.
There is a decreasing amount of “pre and post” touring and the global trend is not to bring one’s spouse.
Mr Chambers and his wife, Naomi, employ two to three drivers and run four luxury 4WD vehicles.
He came to Alice in 1983 as a mechanic for the Central Australian Tourist Association, a group of tour businesses headed by Keith Castle and including Ross River, Wallara Ranch, the Chalet at The Rock, Glen Helen and the Alice Springs Motel.
He later worked as a mechanic for Ansett Trailways and Australian Pacific Tours, before going into business on his own right with the Campoven Kitchen.
He now says the way forward is to – urgently – make the existing “product” viable again, getting the small operators out of their slump.
Seeking a second airline now would be premature and “set it up to fail” as the current level of demand is not adequate and still declining.
Mr Chambers is calling on the NT Government to raise visitation to Alice Springs to the level of Ayers Rock by 2008; to return visitation to “regional” Alice Springs – places like PalmValley, Ormiston Gorge and Chambers Pillar – to the level of the year 2000; and to increase the average length of stay to six days.
“It’s all about promotion, promotion and promotion,” says Mr Chambers.

Should the Territory be getting conventional local government where there is none at present, namely out in the sticks?
The NT Government is set on the idea, although the only concrete benefit is access to $16m worth of annual road funding from Canberra, available only to “incorporated” areas.
Surely there are more efficient ways of getting roads fixed than setting up yet another bureaucracy.
In the bush, the vast majority of “ratepayers” won’t be paying rates: Aboriginal-owned land cannot be rated.
So, when it comes to coughing up the money, it may have to come from the minority of economically productive people, miners and pastoralists, plus, of course, massive injections from the Feds and the NT Government.
Yet when it comes to voting, the non-payers, because of their overwhelming numbers, will have by far the biggest say in how other people’s money is going to be spent.
CLP Senator Nigel Scullion says he’s already been contacted by several pastoralists “with concerns their holdings may be subjected to the rating process” – up to $300,000 a year, he thinks, “and [they’d] get nothing for it”.
“These new rates would just be another attack on pastoralists,” Senator Scullion says.
Local Government Minister Eliott McAdam wants the proposed “shires” to contain at least 5000 people.
As a guide, the huge electorates of MacDonnell (all of the NT south of The Alice) has just under 8000 people, and Stuart, 6350.
Some areas, Amoonguna, for example, may be tacked on to Alice Springs.
Given the sustained under performing of the Alice Springs Town Council, and the never ending allegations of incompetence and corruption in the bush councils, it all should be a lot of fun.
But first stand by for a some intense activity of consultation, meetings and talkfests by a proposed advisory board and a string of committees.
Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA spoke with Kerry Moir, recently re-elected as president of LGANT, more than half of whose members are from Aboriginal councils.
NEWS: Mr McAdam wants shires with populations of at least 5000 people. Wouldn’t he be scratching to find them?
MOIR: He certainly would. In fact there are currently 300 plus councils of the 700 or so councils with less than 5000 people, for example, Cloncurry with 3900. We’ll also need to investigate whether the groups need to abut each other, or whether or not you’re going to have communities of interest rather than being geographically linked. The Minister has left this open.
NEWS: What personnel would a shire have?
MOIR: I’m looking at what models there are in place all around Australia. We’ve got one example of Darwin working with the Tiwi Islands. We might have a mayor and one representative from each of the councils linked together.  What the Minister has said is that there will no longer be community councils nor Aboriginal councils as such. Community of interest and geographic cohesion will be considered in the establishment of a shire.
NEWS: What would a shire do?
MOIR: None of this has been decided but there are lots of things that could be done. At our conference in Alice [two weeks ago] one council said they had 91 grants to apply for and acquit to be able to carry out their operations. A shire could do that on behalf of all the councils in that grouping. They could have one set of road maintenance equipment, they could apply for road funding, that type of paper work could be done centrally.
NEWS: Would small and currently successful councils be swallowed up to their detriment?
MOIR: In NSW a number of councils amalgamated voluntarily. The major concern was that each one has development priorities, such as a cultural centre or a railway museum, which may drop off the agenda. Each community must have a voice and be able to have their priorities recognised.
NEWS: Who’s going to be paying rates?
MOIR: If people live in houses not owned by the council, but by – for example – the Federal Government, then the people who pay rates are the people who own that property, not the people who rent it. [The Commonwealth is usually rate exempt.]
A community council CEO said people in those [Aboriginal] communities have very little money, they have very little capacity to pay rates.
But in some cases service charges amount to more than rates because they apply per head.
And they’ve got very little capacity to buy their property in the first place to have to pay rates. But they may have to pay a contribution for services, such as garbage collection, upgrading of lighting, having gutters or drainage put in. Many are on CDEP or unemployed, and won’t be able to pay rates. But the aim of all this is for these people to be no longer on CDEP, and to actually have real jobs.
NEWS: Where will the money be coming from to begin with?
MOIR: For the first time the councils, formed as shires, will be able to raise revenue. Under the amended Land Rights Act people will be able to buy 99 year leases. This has caused great upset to traditional owners, as have discussions about taking away the permit system.
NEWS: It seems the rate payers, miners and pastoralists will provide the bulk of the rate money, but as a tiny minority they will have very little voting power. The councils will be run by the people making no financial contribution because they are in the vast majority. What will that do for harmony in the bush?
MOIR: That’s an assumption. There’s nothing to stop pastoralists and miners from putting their hands up to be elected. Pastoralists, in fact, pay rates to the NT Government already, in the form of lease fees.
NEWS: But are they likely to get in? They don’t belong to the majority.
MOIR: There are a number of communities which have a variety of people, not just Aboriginal people, who are elected to the council. The LGANT executive in fact has two Indigenous community leaders and two non-Indigenous. I was elected as president on the votes of Aboriginal community council members.
NEWS: The split up of country is about half Aboriginal freehold and half pastoral leases. Can you imagine many people in Yuendumu casting a vote for one of the handful of white pastoralists in the region, even if he stood for council?
MOIR: That’s a proposition and I can’t dispute that. In the current situation there would be very few pastoralists who would become involved in local government. But that’s not to say [it will be the same] once the shire situation comes in. Yarralin, next to Victoria River Downs, a very important station, has an Aboriginal council. Just over there you’ve got Pigeonhole and just over there you’ve got Timber Creek [both Aboriginal communities]. That’s where a pastoralist could stand for election, on his record of expertise, to the shire council, which may well be called the community management committee.
NEWS: How many councils are currently members of LGANT?
MOIR: There are 62, comprising six municipal councils (Alice, Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Palmerston and Litchfield), one special purpose town (Jabiru), 29 community government, 26 association councils, including two under the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations.
NEWS: Could Alice Springs become part of a larger shire?
MOIR: It could well be. Katherine has just taken on responsibility for Binjiari, 14 kilometres away. It had broken away from Katherine when the Federal Government was encouraging the establishment of outstations, “back to your roots”. That’s when lots of these little councils were declared. The reality is that Binjiari does not have the same quality of life and services as its neighbour. Katherine took them back but they want equality of services, not a second class suburb. This is also happening in Alice Springs [with the town camps]. But whatever happens must be properly funded.
NEWS: Does that include outstations?
MOIR: Absolutely. We’re talking about normalisation in all instances.
NEWS: I believe about five shires are expected to be created.
MOIR: I won’t put a number on it and neither will the minister. And I certainly don’t think it will be just the five administrative districts. When the rumours were flying they went from five to 12.
NEWS: Your meeting in Alice discussed the Public Benevolent Institution status of some councils.
MOIR: Some have it and some don’t. The Australian Taxation Office has advised the 13 councils that do will lose their status which means they will have to pay GST. [This is now under review.] Meanwhile the NT Government has frozen its assistance grants although last year Jack Ah Kit promised to index them. Three per cent inflation means that councils will be doing less because they have less money.
NEWS: Why did LGANT carry a motion to retain the access permit system to Aboriginal land?
MOIR: It was a very vigourous debate.
Many of our members had not been spoken to directly about why the permit system is going, or about people coming to their communities and obtaining 99 year leases, without permission from the traditional owners, I might add, but with a lease granted by another group set up outside the orbit of the traditional owners.
NEWS: I understood the Federal Government wants to abolish permits only for public areas in a community where publicly funded facilities are, such as clinics, schools, police stations and council offices.
MOIR: At the conference it was clear elders did not know the details of the proposal. I’m sure shires will have a discussion about this. [Facilities] that are publicly funded may well become open to the public gaze.
NEWS: Would LGANT support the notion that those public areas should be accessible without permit?
MOIR: In principle we have no problem with making communities open and transparent. I work for the Education Department, people go out to communities all the time. What the owners can say is they don’t want Kerry Moir, for example, coming on their land, they want someone else.
NEWS: People in Alice Springs don’t have the privilege of saying that.
MOIR: This needs a whole lot of debate. The people on the communities do not know what is on [Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal] Brough’s mind.
NEWS: What’s happening in the immediate future?
MOIR: We can’t ignore the fact that there are councils that are about to fall over. [On the other hand] communities have good things in place, such as law and order systems.
The Tiwis have a suicide prevention program going. The elders have created a code of conduct, and a law and order policy. The assumption that every Aboriginal community is dysfunctional is a generalisation that needs to be knocked on the head.

1. We need to retain ownership of national parks in public hands.
CARNEY: The CLP agrees without reservation. 
2. We should develop parks, especially the West Macs, as the prime tourism attraction in Central Australia.
3. This would include the promotion and facilitation of the establishment of a string of new resorts, and promote the creation, by private enterprise, of activities ranging from trekking to 4WD routes and motorbike adventures, horse and camel riding, camping, ballooning etc, and experiencing traditional Aboriginal culture. Tasmania is a great example of how to do this well.
CARNEY: If the tourist project could be conducted sustainably without adverse impact on the park the CLP would look at any option.
4. Insofar as it enhances the role of the parks as assets promoting the broad social and commercial development of the region, we need to encourage the participation of Aborigines in their management and the running and owning of concessions.
CARNEY: The CLP strongly supports Aboriginal people becoming part of the general economy rather than merely being dependent on it.  To that end we support the proposition that Aboriginal people should develop their land.
5. This should be part of a broad revolution in Aboriginal affairs: We must move away from nurse maiding perpetually dependent and supposedly incompetent people. We must forge a partnership focussing on realizing the vast commercial potential of this region and the enjoyment of its superb environment by all races. That will require, over time, a fundamental change of personnel dealing with Aborigines, in government as well as NGOs, currently the remnants of bureaucrats and social workers who over 30 years have brought about failure and misery on a massive scale, ignoring or suppressing the resilience and resourcefulness of Aborigines here.
CARNEY: The CLP has never been a supporter of welfare models. Aboriginal people should be participants not dependants.
6. The establishment of facilities for international flights to Alice Springs must be accelerated and given priority. The Alice is ideally situated to become a hub for national and international flights in and to Australia. An example of international hub and spoke airports is Denver, Colorado. As the owner of the Yulara airport, the NT Government must prevent any moves towards international flights there, but the Ayers Rock Resort will benefit from an upgrading of Alice Springs.
CARNEY: The CLP would not legislate against business.  The airport is privately owned in Yulara as is the resort.  If the company spends the money to extend the runway privately then the CLP would not, and probably could not consider legislation to hinder an expansion.  Having said that, the CLP remains a party committed to its birthplace in Alice Springs and stands on a long proud record of tourism development in the Centre. 
7. The NT Government should spend $10m a year to acquire cattle station land to expand the parks estate, and create commercial incentives for Aboriginal land holders to add some of their land to the parks estate.
CARNEY: Hard to put a figure on it but the Owen Springs lease buy back is an example of CLP commitment in this area.
8. The government should return its parks administration to Alice Springs.
CARNEY: Not to mention the 30 DCIS jobs that have been wound back.
9. It should put 50% of the Tourist Commission budget, around $20m, at the disposal, for tourism promotion, of Alice-based community interests, such as the Chamber of Commerce, in consultation with the Town Council and CATIA.
CARNEY: The CLP will place money where it is needed.  Arbitrary figures of commitment are not necessarily the best way to proceed.
10. Make continued public support for Desert Knowledge conditional upon its demonstrated benefit to the social and commercial development of the region.
CARNEY: Desert Knowledge is largely funded from Federal coffers and much of the money is being spent in Alice Springs in terms of construction. However, progress has been too slow.  All development projects must demonstrate social and commercial benefits.  There are enormous social and economic benefits of Desert Knowledge, however, more work needs to be done informing and educating the public.
11. The government needs to double expenditure on road construction and
maintenance, including the Mereenie Loop, the Tanami Road and the East West Highway.
CARNEY: The CLP had Mereenie placed on the forward design list.  The Land Councils are the delay at the moment because of the road corridor.  The CLP would ensure that both projects were properly supported.  GST windfalls should guarantee significant increases in all road funding. 
12. scalate alcohol control measures until crime, public misconduct and ill health are reduced to levels no greater than the Australian averages.
CARNEY: Alcohol is restricted now. That is what the Liquor Act is for.  Levels and availability will be set in accordance with public expectations.  This is a difficult issue and whatever decision is taken the answer will never be the right one for everyone in the community.
13. CDU should establish a fully fledged campus in Alice Springs, with comprehensive courses and local staff, enticing families with tertiary education age children to stay in town.
CARNEY: The CLP brought tertiary education to the Territory.  The CDU Board however does function independently of Government.  If it was to be established by Government, then Government would have to contract the work to CDU. Without a costing available for that outcome it is hard to commit completely for such a move.
14. The Larapinta development has set the value of native title rights at half the freehold price of land. This needs to be reversed. The clear intention of Federal laws is that the value of native title rights should be set on a case by case basis. Native title claims over Yulara and Darwin have recently been rejected by the court.
CARNEY: Larapinta should have had the rights acquired years ago.  Then the compensation for loss of title rights would have been with the title holders months not years after the assessment of title on the area and the development of Alice Springs could have proceeded unhindered.
The model chosen by Labor went the long way around to achieve exactly the same result.
15. The government needs to remove onerous conditions from the development of the second half of Larapinta so it can go ahead and land prices in the town are reduced and affordable housing is created through an increase in supply.
CARNEY: If they can they should, but in their negotiations they may be committed to staying the course.  If native title had been acquired the cost of the compensation could have been paid for by the sale of the blocks.
16. The government needs to replace the evaporation sewage plant with a fully fledged recycling facility, requiring just a couple of hectares. It can then rehabilitate the freehold land presently used for the evaporation ponds, some two square kilometers, and sell it for residential housing. This would further lower currently excessive land prices in the town, and pay for the recycling facility.
CARNEY: Tempting course of action but needs more research.  As shown in Queensland recently there is a ‘yuck factor’ involved with this and public support is needed to sell the idea.
17. The government needs to close the rubbish tip, rehabilitate it and start a new one at Brewer Estate. The power station should also be moved to Brewer Estate.
CARNEY: The site of the rubbish tip is becoming a concern.  The power station is also a concern.  In both cases cost becomes a major issue, however, as part of a major infrastructure overhaul, the relocation of these sites would make sense.
18. The government needs to make a comprehensive assessment of the state of the town’s sewage pipes and start a replacement program, if and as required.
CARNEY: Not to mention the water pipes that are also 30 years old.  What the CLP will do is commit itself to the core functions of government before all else.  Power, water, law and order must take priority over non-core functions such as wave pools in Darwin.
19. The government needs to put in place effective flood mitigation for Alice Springs which, on present indications, requires the construction of a dam upstream from the Telegraph Station. This can either be a dry or a wet dam. Failure to do so will have catastrophic consequences as global warming will cause rainstorms to become more frequent and ferocious.
CARNEY: The CLP will continue to argue for a flood mitigation dam in Alice Springs.  The only truly effective protection against a 1 in 100 event.

I am a fifteen year old skateboarder living in Alice Springs. Our town has a population smaller than the number of people attending the University of NSW. Even though it is small, it is not unknown and this makes me quite proud to live here. But there are a limited number of activities for teenagers. The activities that are available should be taken full advantage of and this is why our local skate park should have an extension.
If we have enough money to make a $800,000 hockey field, a four million dollar football grandstand and a 10.6 million dollar extension to the council chambers, we should have enough for a small extension to our skate park.
Many riders including roller bladers, skate boarders, bikers and scooterers would be able to use a ‘street based’ facility like the one that has been suggested. Street based means that the facilities mimic street structures like stairs, railings and ledges.
The skate park as it is now is mostly suitable for bike riders and it is difficult for the skaters to skate the same terrain. The extension would separate the two groups more and help avoid many painful collisions.
One of the main reasons the skate park was built was so that the users would spend their time there and not in places like the mall or the streets where riding and skating can be an annoyance for the public.
The reason skaters and riders ride on the street is because of the structures like stairs and rails. They are an essential part of skateboarding and BMX riding as sports.
The skate park does not contain any stairs and has only one rail. This is considered unusable because of the blocked landing – it is blocked by another ledge. This makes the skate park a poor substitute for the street and for this reason it is unsuccessful in keeping skaters and riders off the street.
The extension could easily provide a small range of stairs with rails and ledges going down them and some more street based facilities like ‘manual pads’ – platforms for skaters to jump up on, balance and then jump down. 
The provision of an extension would benefit many in the community – keeping skaters and riders off the street and happily occupied with their challenging sport.
It would also encourage more professional skaters and bikers to come to Alice Springs and hold competitions here, which would raise the profile of our town in the skating world.

Spots, stripes, bold colours, chunky shoes, play-suits and shiny disco style accessories. Take you back to the 80s?
Well, those from that generation are about to have a blast from the past and teens will be raiding their parents’ wardrobes as old trends become new fashion.
The winter bohemian look is out and the 70s and 80s style is back this summer, in a big way, according to Mixed Lollies owner Anastasia Byrnes.     
Alice Springs is not usually known for following fashion trends, but that’s about to change.
Store owners, managers and assistants I spoke to say they are now bringing in more “city style” clothing and accessories, and young people are willing to become bolder in their fashion choices.
So, what’s hot for summer? 
All of the people I interviewed agreed on one thing: spots, stripes and prints are all very popular for the girls. Bright colours, such as blues, reds and yellows, are the “new black”. 
Dresses will be massive, short shorts have taken over denim minis, and bubble skirts have made a comeback.
Get ready to throw away those hipsters, traditional high-waisted pants and skirts are back in.
“Play-suits are also in,” says Anastasia, “it’s just a matter of girls being brave enough to wear them”.
Play-suits – mini shorts and top all in one – are a new take on the old jump-suit.
Accessorise with chunky necklaces, huge bangles, bright headbands and shiny belts. When accessorising, remember big. Big jewellery, belts, sun glasses and bags – you can’t go wrong with oversized accessories.  Big jeweller and high waist belts can dress up any outfit.
As for shoes, bright court shoes, colourful wedges, girlie flats and casual thongs are all hot this summer, according to Rachel Anzolin, manager of our local Betts shoe store.
And in today’s society, females aren’t the only fashion victims. Males are becoming more aware of fashion, and taking pride in their appearance. Everyone agrees that girls are no longer the only ones who dress to impress.
“Army style clothing” is in for boys, commented Just Jeans sales assistant, Sarah Delsar. Striped polo tops, 80s style shirts and colourful tees with vintage prints are also in for the guys.
“Coloured denim is what all the boys in the city are wearing,” says Anastasia.
There is no reason for Alice Springs to be behind in the fashion department.
Tania Bone, manager of clothing store Chain Reaction, says, “There is not as much choice in Alice Springs, but we are definitely not behind.”
Just because we live in a small town, does not mean we can’t follow fashion.  
So leave those comfy track pants for lounging around the house and give your wardrobe a touch of summer style.
(Bianca Geppa is a Year 10 student at OLSH, who was doing work experience with the Alice News.)

With greater pressure now on Indigenous people to equip themselves for the world of work than at any time in its more than 30-year existence, how is Batchelor Institute meeting the challenge?
Vice-chair of the institute’s council Des Rogers say the overhaul of the last two years has seen a shift back to core business – education and training “for grassroots Indigenous people” – and  away from the push for university status.
“The average age of students at Batchelor is 34, so we’re picking up Indigenous people who’ve fallen through the gaps, whom the system has failed.
“But we can’t be seen as the institute to solve all the disadvantage of Indigenous people. We have a role in it,” he says.
The council led a restructure of the senior positions at the institute as well as an extensive community consultation and review process.
“Now we’ve got a really good team working together,” says Mr Rogers.
He says Batchelor’s vision is to provide steps towards education and training Indigenous people want.
Whether it’s higher education or literacy and numeracy skills, “it builds capacity of those people”.
There are still higher education offerings: “We haven’t moved away entirely,” says new director Jeannie Herbert, “but we’ve put our energy back with the teaching program, across both VET and higher ed.”
Students might begin with the certificate course in spoken and written English (CSWE) and “then might have a go at something else”, says Dr Herbert.  Is that really enough? Do most of the CSWE students move on?
Research by Metta Young for the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre shows fewer students doing VET courses across desert Australia, most of those courses being at pre-vocational levels and enrolments shifting to single subjects. (Ms Young’s research drew on 2004 data, the most recently released, from the National Centre for Vocational Research.)
Dr Herbert suggests that the decline in VET is a national trend, not confined to the desert.
But she says Indigenous people are turning away because of what they perceive as lack of relevance – something Batchelor is “working on” – and also because of the cost.
She says Abstudy does not recognise the reality of Indigenous lives, that money might have to be shared between a much larger group than a student’s immediate family.  Both Mr Rogers and Dr Herbert insist that participating in CSWE is “a great outcome” whether or not it leads to employment or further education and training.
But is CSWE enough to gain the students greater independence?
Says Dr Herbert: “If you’re living out in the desert and surviving I would have thought that was pretty independent.”
In the context of trying to break welfare dependency is this position sustainable. Dr Herbert did not answer. 
Mr Rogers, a successful businessman in his own right, is highly sceptical about the expectation of greater economic independence for remote communities: “It’s going to be same old, same old. People will still be reliant on some sort of subsidy because the real jobs simply aren’t there.
“We, as Indigenous people, are a contiuous experiment, this will be another experiment. Take Wallace Rockhole where I live. You simply can’t generate enough income to pay 100 people in full-time jobs. A lot of people on remote communities are always going to be in subsidised jobs.”
The Alice News asked Mr Rogers about the potential of, apart from opportunities in tourism and hospitality, a market garden whose produce could supply his fruit and veg wholesale business. Mr Rogers says this kind of enterprise is not “part of the culture” of Aboriginal people.
Yet both Dr Herbert and Mr Rogers acknowledge the importance of linking Batchelor’s programs to employment.
“In our new way of doing business, training has to be linked to some sort of employment,” says Mr Rogers.
And Dr Herbert says: “It’s important to know where our students go in the end. We want to know and do know that they’ve got employment.” 
Mr Rogers says Batchelor’s recent community consultation showed them that they “need to get out more, get more lecturers out in the bush”.
There are now some well-equipped study centres in some communities but the biggest obstacle to a greater presence in the bush is lack of staff housing.
Lifestyles on communities might also make for “very poor attendance” at courses delivered full-time over a year, suggests Dr Herbert.
“The workshops model, of one week or two week blocks, comes out of years of experience.”
Mr Rogers looks forward to the campus moving to the Desert Knowledge precinct: “It’ll be better, safer, away from the bright lights, Indigenous peope will be more comfortable out there.”
The recent graduation ceremony on the Alice campus – always a colourful and moving occasion – coincided with the release of the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) audit of Batchelor Institute.
Both Dr Herbert and Mr Rogers were delighted that AUQA recognises Batchelor’s role on the national scene “as the only higher educational institution solely for Indigenous students”.
Says the audit:  “Many institutions of higher education are multi-campus, many are mixed mode, some are dual sector, some have a high proportion of students from equity groups or remote areas or non-English speaking backgrounds, but Batchelor is the only institution that has all these characteristics.
“In addition, its location in the Northern Territory causes difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff. This makes it a very complex institution and poses unique challenges for governance and management.”
Elsewhere the audit refers to OECD figures on the population base for a VET college and a university: 400,000 and 500,000 respectively.
The audit did not question the on-going existence of Batchelor, pointing rather to the necessity of different approaches for funding and structure.
But as the Northern Territory has a population base of some 200,000 and supports both Charles Darwin University and Batchelor, both of which provide higher education and VET, the Alice News asked what is the case for having a separate institute for Indigenous people. 
Education and training of Indigenous people is also “core business” for CDU.
In a recent posting on the AUQA website the university reported an Indigenous enrolment of just over 25%, “nearing population parity in the VET sector”.
It also reported a higher education Indigenous enrolment of 5% in undergraduate programs, “high by national comparisons” although “there remains considerable distance to go to reach the Northern Territory goal”.
So, the News asked, why not put resources into supporting Indigenous students through the mainstream institution?
“We do it better,” says Dr Herbert, while Mr Rogers invited the News to “look at our AUQA report and look at theirs.”
The audit reports do not make the comparison, but the CDU audit describes, for instance, their enrolment of 230 higher education students and employment of  46 Indigenous staff as “an admirable achievement” although “there needs to be a more fully expressed plan for increasing the participation of Indigenous students and staff”.
It also gives CDU a commendation for recognising “its vital role in Indigenous development and its commitment to valuing Indigenous people”.
Batchelor also gets a lot of ticks, including one for its shift away from placing priority on gaining university status.
The audit refers to “a difficult period of dissension and confusion over direction”, concluding “while all is not yet solved, there appears now to be largely a sense of shared purpose in a culturally safe and supportive environment, characterised by optimism and hopes for the future.”
The audit identifies Batchelor’s strengths as including:
• high level of commitment by council and staff;
• the belief of staff in Batchelor’s unique vision which is highly appreciated by students, past and present;
• relation to remote communities in the Northern Territory and across northern Australia;
• increasing visibility as a national institution.
And it lists as issues for attention:
• development of the both-ways philosophy and its practical implementation;
• the role of research;
• performance management;
• staff retention;
• implications of a changing student population, including greater variety of study modes.
On the both-ways philosophy the audit says Batchelor has continually struggled to enunciate it in a way that would enable staff to use it to inform their teaching and research.
“That no fixed position has ever been reached on this may be an inevitable consequence of changing ideas and contexts. However, this variability is a liability for [Batchelor] when it has stated that the both-ways approach is its defining characteristic. The concept is being revisited this year, and AUQA urges [Batchelor] to approach it creatively.”

Double Trouble, the first commercial television drama series by a Territory production company,  is the culmination of CAAMA Productions’ efforts over two decades to show that “Indigenous films do rate”, says CEO Priscilla Collins.
“When we started the assumption was ‘Indigenous films don’t rate’.
“We had to keep breaking down the stereotypes every time, to show that they can rate,” says Ms Collins.
CAAMA Productions was established as a company in 1988.
CAAMA TV, set up two years earlier by Freda Glynn and Phillip Batty, had been producing Urrpeye, an Indigenous current affairs program.
“But only the ABC would put it to air, at 11.30 at night,” says Ms Collins.
So CAAMA bid for and won the Imparja licence and set up CAAMA Productions “with a charter to promote and present Indigenous language and culture and to train Indigneous people in the film industry”.
They took on a group of trainees under the National Indigenous Training Strategy and, while training was underway, successfully tendered for Aboriginal Australia, programming produced and paid for by ATSIC.
The group included Ms Collins as well as Rachel Perkins, Erica Glynn, Warwick Thornton, Allan Collins, David Tranter and Jason Ramp, all of whom have gone on to make careers in the industry.
The training, full-time for three years, was accredited by the Australian Film Television and Radio School.
They started making Nganampa Anwernekenhe, an Aboriginal language series, as well as Anwerne Aretyeke, five minute “fillers” on Indigenous current affairs.
Nganampa Anwernekenhe continues to run 18 years later, although it has dwindled from 26 half-hour episodes a year to just four. It is broadcast on Imparja, which pays quite dearly for it – $350,000, the Alice News understands, although Ms Collins says this is cheap compared to standard industry rates. She puts these at  $120,000 for a 30 minute documentary.
Imparja otherwise buys little from the local film and television industry.
Ms Collins also did managerial training at the Institute for Aboriginal Development together with another lot of well known names.
“Every person I did my managerial course at IAD with is now in senior management in town: Donna Ah Chee, Stephanie Bell, Mervyn Franey, Betty Campbell, Barbara Richards
“They put a lot of money into us but the long term benefits are there,” says Ms Collins.
CAAMA has lobbied a recent Senate Select Committee on the need for more intensive training support to be made available.
Meanwhile, Ms Collins says CAAMA pieces together funding for training opportunities from different sources. And with some success.
Last year the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation gave them $250,000 to spend on  training Indigenous people at Santa Teresa and Hermansburg in radio and video.
This year they have received $500,000 from the National Crime Prevention Strategy, also to be spent on training Indigenous youth over two years.
Troy Dowler  was their first Indigenous apprentice technician to graduate in 2004. Josh Wellington is a current apprentice technician.
Three young men are dooing film attachments on Double Trouble and there are currently five trainees in production, as well as others in CAAMA’s other branches.
“Kids will see you don’t need to leave Alice Springs to become skilled in the film industry,” says Ms Collins.
This kind of funding puts into some perspective CAAMA Productions’ claim that it operates as a commercial company, without direct government funding.
However, they have had a number of commercial successes, in the sense of raising healthy budgets and making sales.
Marn Grook, their 1996 documentary about the achievements of Aboriginal Aussie Rules players, was sold to Channel Seven.
Red Storm, made in 1999 about the phenomenon of dust storms, was sold to National Geographic.
Film Australia funded Dhakiyarr vs The King as a National Interest Program in 2003. It deals with the controversial trial for murder  and subsequent disappearance in 1934 of Yolgnu leader, Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda.
Ms Collins says when full-time employment, guaranteed by the contract to make Aboriginal Australia for ATSIC, came to an end it “forced a big change”. 
“People had to go freelance. We started getting confident and wanted to start producing for a national audience, doing docos for ABC, SBS, and then Channel Four in Britain, National Geographic, CBC in Canada.
“Budgets had to be over $300,000 for us to stay afloat. Then we started getting films to festivals, winning awards.”
Allan Collins won AFI and IF awards for his cinematography in Ivan Sen’s Beneath Clouds. He is also the first Indigenous filmmaker to be presented with an accreditation certificate by the Australian Cinematographers Society.
Cold Turkey and My Colour Your Kind both attracted AFI nominations.
Warwick Thornton’s  Greenbush won Best Short Film in the Panorama (auteur section) of the Berlin International Film Festival, and won two Dendy awards in Sydney in 2005.
Yellow Fella screened at Cannes, while Green Bush, Mistake Creek, Bonita Mabo, Karli Jalangu and Cold Turkey all screened at the Sydney Opera House.
Double Trouble was the next step. 
“No one in Australia was hitting the 12 to 15 year old age bracket.
“If we did it, I knew it had to be for a commercial network. My kids think the films CAAMA makes are boring.
“They watch commercial stations and Pay TV. I’m gonna get a commercial network and Disney for Double Trouble!’ I told them.
“They didn’t believe I could but that made me more determined.
“I had a poster dummied up and I pitched with that to Nine and Disney and they bought it.
“Once they were sold on the idea, I said we want the writers, director, cinematographer and sound recordist to be Aboriginal. And they accepted that as well.”
With the Nine and Disney presales in place CAAMA then raised over $1m from the Film Finance Corporation, and $243,000 from the News South Wales state film agency.  At the last minute, after pre-production had already started, the Territory Government matched the NSW government contribution.
Why the Territory Government was so tardy remains a mystery.
Arts Minister Marion Scrymgour’s advisor Chips Mackinolty “flew to Alice to explain exactly what had to go in the Cabinet submission”, says Ms Collins.
And this was after the NT Film Office had prepared the submission and organised a face to face meeting with the Minister.
Water under the bridge now. Ms Collins says: “They were very supportive of our project and went out of their way to make sure we could get the funds.”
“It’s taken us a long time to get this far, from training and presenting Aboriginal culture to hitting a mass audience.”
She brushes aside any doubts about the relevance to Australian, let alone Aboriginal, teenage lives of a remake of a now quite old Hollywood film.
“I know teenagers are going to catch it: it’s got all the ingredients, twins, the fish out of water theme, boyfriends, hip hop, sexy clothes.”
And she says Double Trouble does contain a lot of Aboriginal cultural content. 
“A lot of our kids base their lifestyles on TV, the way they talk and dress and dance is based on  American hip hop culture.
“In Double Trouble they will see how their own people live, people on communities, how they talk, how their families interact, dancing and singing – some traditional, some Aboriginal contemporary bands – Aboriginal elders, kids as they are playing footy, nanna and poppa cheering them on.
“It promotes how Aboriginal people are today.”
But is the emphasis at CAAMA now more on promoting Indigenous careers, rather than Indigenous culture?
Says Ms Collins: “We do promote traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture through our films, in both documentaries and dramas, we do it all the time.
“We also promote Indigenous careers, from people like Allan Collins and Rachel Perkins to school-based apprentices.
“If anyone comes in and asks for a job I go out of my way to get them one.”
She says CAAMA will also work with non-Indignous producers, citing Red Storm as an example: “Chris Tangey wrote ‘Red Storm’, it was his concept.”
“And David Vadiveloo did Trespass and Beyond Sorry with us.
“If someone comes to us with an idea we are happy to work with them.”
Nganampa Anwernekenhe is quarantined for Indigenous employment; and the Australian Film Commission’s Indigenous Film Unit insists on both writer and director of programs it funds being Indigenous.
How many CAAMA productions have made money?
“None!” is the surprising answer.
 “By the time you take out the distributor’s cut, not much comes back,” says Ms Collins.
Recently they signed up a distribution officer and they are looking at taking on distribution themselves.
Ms Collins says the NT Film Office should operate like the other state film agencies.
“It should be funded at an industry level, so that it’s got money to put into development and production as well as training and getting people to market.”
But she’s patient: “It’s all very new for the government, they don’t know much about the film industry.
“The more we make good productions to show to them, the more they’ll support the industry.”

She’s a middle-aged mum with a bunch of kids and an Irish Catholic background.
Fiona O’Loughlin, right?
“Well, we seem to have a lot in common,” says Donna O’Brien, who had the audience in stitches at her first gig, a support act to Fiona’s last week at The Lane “There are a couple of differences though: I’ve got a physics degree and I can see what’s on top of my fridge.”
Donna’s getting a second run at The Lane next week, Wednesday, November 1.I heard her give a hilarious speech at a friend’s 40th a couple of months ago – has she always been able to make people laugh?
“I’d like to think so but when your friends start paying money to hear your jokes that makes it a lot more serious.”
She admits to feeling nervous even though she’s used to standing up in front of people: she’s a maths teacher, at Anzac High now, moving to Centralian next year.
“When you’re trying to keep kids awake during coordinate geometry and trigonometry, you have to throw in a few jokes.
“But my grandmother used to say, ‘Don’t be funny, Donna, it doesn’t suit you’ –  she just thought she was funnier than me.”
How did she go about preparing her gig – it’s not the same as cracking a funny with your mates, is it?
“I told the audience I’d googled stand-up comedy and it said start with a local joke.
“I didn’t really google but I did start with a local joke ... about Dr Panel’s bedside manner.
“That got a good laugh but then a friend started gesturing to me, there he was, sitting in the front row!
“And this was just one minute in.”
Was he laughing?
“He had his hand over his mouth – I’m not sure. I’ve never seen him laugh. He’s a great doctor but just not as chatty as me.”
Her jokes are often at her own expense:  like her biggest worry that on her deathbed she won’t realise that it is her deathbed and her last thought will be, “Oh dam, I forgot to floss my teeth!”
Donna’s married to Arrernte man Andy Ross and took permission to have a few jokes about black politics as well as to take on some of the paternalistic attitudes of her own white Brisbane family, like the aunt who informed her that Aborigines like mutton stew.
“It’s funny being up front and seeing the different responses different jokes get.
“Jokes about Tupperware seem to strike a chord, and so do jokes about body image.
“I’m used to having attention drawn to my faults. Like my 15 year old students saying, ‘Oh, Miss O’Brien, what were you thinking this morning when you put that outfit together!’ They’re really just trying to distract me from the fact that they didn’t do their homework.
“But I like to go for a walk in the evening. Sure, it’s about keeping fit but mostly it’s looking at my 18 foot long shadow with very slender hips.
“I could tell from the laughs that a lot of women do the same thing.”
Has Alice got room for two comediennes from an Irish Catholic background with lots of kids (though Donna has only three)?
“Well, Fiona travels a lot and I just want to hang around here.”
Donna will be supporting Wilson Dixon, the country singer character created by award winning comedian, musician, and television actor Jesse Griffin.
Described as “a laconic cowboy who sings sweet country tunes and delivers more one-liners than a postman at Christmas,” Wilson Dixon has had outings in London at the famous Comedy Store, at the Edinburgh Festival, across Australia and New Zealand headlining comedy clubs, as well as being a cult hit at both the Auckland and Melbourne International Comedy Festivals.

 It’s not often you see a burly rugby player cry. But coach Wayne Middleton  shed plenty of tears after his protégé, Sophia Costello, played her last match.
Having turned 13, Sophia had to give up rugby league at the end of the last season because there is no women’s competition and she’s no longer allowed to play on the male team.
“She’s made me cry twice. When I broke my leg I didn’t shed a tear but this is much worse,” said Middleton who coached her for five years.
“Sophia is like a daughter to me. 
“She’s been fantastic: she’s shown other girls like my daughter Keina that they can play.
“And it made the boys play better: they show off when she’s playing!”
As forward for the West Dragons Sophia scored 48 points last season and was named the players’ player. She also won the coaches’ award and the most improved in junior rugby league trophy, and was the only girl in the under 13s state squad.
Although she’s had to switch to touch football, Sophia is determined to pick up rugby again. 
“I always knew I’d have to give up rugby but I still wish I could keep playing,” says Sophia.
“It’s fun and you can get your aggression out on everyone.
“I love playing against the boys because they’re soft.
“When my brother moves to Queensland I’m going to try out for a team there.”
Her brother Aaron, Memo’s front row and centre, is keen to trial on the East Coast.
“I think the reason why girls don’t play here is that they are scared they might get hurt,” says Sophia who admits she experienced some severe knocks.
“I’ve broken my collarbone and also my wrist twice. I’ve had two concussions.
“But it made me more keen. I played in the national championships with a broken wrist. Did it hurt? A little bit but I wanted to play.” 
A qualified referee, Sophia  played rugby from the age of three: her first two teams were Raiders and Broncos.
Mum Rebecca says she’s amazed at her daughter’s determination and resilience to pain.
“Sitting in the hospital with a broken collarbone, she was desperate to go back on the field and play,” says Rebecca, admitting that having a rugby playing daughter has proved unconventional for some players.
“The Yirara boys didn’t know what to do when they realised they were tackling a girl!” she says.
“When she’s got her hair back and she’s running with the ball, she looks no different to any other player.
“But because in Aboriginal culture boys and girls are separated at this age, the boys jumped back in horror when they realised it was a girl.
“She took advantage of it and kept running.”
Only a handful of girls have played rugby in recent years, and there were only two playing in the last competition.
“Here we just don’t have the population for it,” says Wayne Middleton.
“But we want to incorporate a female tag ball competition into Alice Springs.
“I really hope we can set one up and boost the numbers.”
Tag ball is a modified game of rugby without tackling or scrums: to get involved, contact the Central Australian Rugby Football League 89 525514.

Territory Minister for Sport and Recreation Kon Vatskalis “comes across as a sincere and decent human being but that’s not going to solve the problems confronting our sports facilities.”
So says Alderman Murray Stewart following the town council’s meeting with Mr Vatskalis last Friday.
The council presented him with a submission for funding a new floor at the basketball stadium and also gave him notice of further funding requests.
Ald Stewart says the Sports Facilities Advisory Committee, on which he is council’s representative, will be meeting in November  to nut out the details on what he says will be a submission to government for $100m ($10m a year over 10 years).
That’s what necessary to reverse the steady deterioration of the facilities, he says.
“If we don’t do something some sports will be facing real danger,” says Ald Stewart, “real occupational health and safety issues.
“The recruitment of people in our town into sport in recent years has been nothing short of amazing.
“That can only be good for all the issues confronting us, particularly for obesity and general levels of health and fitness.”
Ald Stewart says Mr Vatskalis spoke favourably of sports facility funding partnerships in Darwin between government and private enterprise. 
“But we’re not in that position,” says Ald Stewart. “We’re not  a gateway to Asia, we haven’t got the same opportunities, we effectively rely on the government.
“I wanted him to understand that our options are quite limited in that regard. 
“I told him I’d just seen the 10 year plan to make Darwin the world’s most attractive tropical town.
“But here,  we’re confused – where do we fit into the picture?
“We’re struggling to get the money to put even our indoor pool together.” 
On completion of the Traeger Park grandstand, Ald Stewart says Mr Vatskalis was immovable: the Territory will only fund half the cost, so it’s back to the drawing board for council.

So how’s your Masters Games going? Come on, there’s only a couple of days to go and you can have all the sleep you want.
Just between you and me, I am kicking myself for not buying shares in Berroca, Red Bull and whatever company makes the little paper umbrellas for cocktail glasses. I have seen more little paper umbrellas in the last week than you could find at a midget Mary Poppins convention.
But while you are all getting on with the business at hand, the business of having a good time, remember to at least in some small way, take care of yourself.
In all the excitement of the sporting and social calendar of the Masters Games, often people over extend themselves and find that towards the end of the week, it catches up with them and they need to take a whole day off.
No one wants to take a whole day off the party of the biennium!
I almost came to grief under such circumstances recently.  After a particularly long week at work mixed with going out every week night I was feeling fairly tired on the Friday night.
And early the next hot and fairly humid morning, when I had to work out in the elements, I got even more emotional.
Feeling seedy, sweaty and somewhat over it all I wondered if I was going to make it through to the end of the shift.
I persevered and somehow made it through. I had resigned myself to the fact that due to my over extending through the week, the rest of the weekend would be spent sleeping and reading.
With an air of resignation I walked home and past the pool into my house.   Hang on a second. It’s almost 40 degrees, it’s Saturday afternoon. I should be in the pool.
Ah! The pool. In the Alice the pool is a better tonic than any aspirin or oyster shooter can provide. I changed and made my way to its ceramic side as quickly as my lethargic body could carry me and fell in. Nirvana.
There is nothing more satisfying in the world than living in a desert and swimming in a body of water. There is nothing more therapeutic than that initial cold water sting from the first plunge into that man made oasis. All of a sudden the rigours of the week fade faster than an Australian Idol’s career.
My suggestion for those of you feeling the pinch is a simple one. Get thee to a pool. Or a waterhole, or a very large bath, but preferably a pool.
There are however rules you must obey in the pool. These aren’t rules to spoil the fun and the relaxation. These rules will enhance the tranquility you feel in the pool.
For example, I have previously told you about the letter all of the units in my block received concerning “special times” in the pool. This is a no no. “Special times” should only be enjoyed out of a pool.
This is a rule that might have been broken a few times by a small number of competitors in town this week.
Now if you are in a share pool and a couple is getting a bit flirty, or perhaps a group of people are being a bit too loud and boisterous, that’s breaking the rules.
If someone is breaking the rules there are ramifications. It’s a simple equation. Crime equals punishment.
And here is the simplest form of punishment possible.
When such crimes are spoiling your fun, simply head slowly down to the deep end of the pool.
Stand in one spot for thirty seconds or so and pull a confused face.
Trust me, the perpetrators of the destruction of your bliss will stop what they are doing and exit the pool. Works every time. 

LETTERS to the editor.
Sir,– This is a an open letter to Mayor Fran Kilgariff: 
Dear Ms Kilgariff, What are you doing! I have read and listened to you over the past weeks giving your views on the future of this town and all you seem to be doing in my opinion is inciting more and more tension in an already fragile situation that exists between the Aboriginal and “white” people.
“ Whites will not rule.” (see Alice News, October 5, page 4). For heaven’s sake, Ms Kilgariff, wake up and give people some support and hope that this town will survive.
Is your hope for a Labor seat and indigenous votes more important to you than the welfare of the people of this town, a town where you have grown up.
I spent most of last night scared, because a gang of rampaging youths, mainly half-castes, had taken over my street and neighbourhood, swearing and smashing bottles, and instilling fear into the people.
My friend had a pot plant thrown through her window and her fence kicked in, and Ms. Kilgariff, it was a rental house belonging to your sister, while the other peoples in the neighbourhood were locked insides their homes, in fear!
Why should we have to put up with this? Police have not a hope in hell of keeping some sense of law and order when we have the mayor of this town sitting back and not giving anyone the encouragement or hope that this town will gain some form of respectability and order.
I came to this town 20 years ago and have seen it deteriorate and seen many people, many born here and who raised their families here, that have left and are leaving because of the constant threats that exist here, in the real world, Ms Kilgariff!
All I hear is politicians sitting back in their ivory towers, telling us that equality is the right way and here you are saying, that this town will be an Aboriginal town in 10 years and that whites will not rule – I didn’t know that they did. Oh Ms Kilgariff – why have you let this town down?Give us some hope of survival, before you leave and move next door to Clare Martin!
We certainly do not need you and your political ambitions. You have done more damage in your comments than this town and its people need!
A. L Truman
Alice Springs
The Alice News offered Ms Kilgariff right of reply:
Dear Ms Truman, Thank you for your open letter. My comments about “whites will not rule” have been taken out of context from a longer speech. 
My intention was to highlight the complete lack of representation by Indigenous people on the Alice Springs Town Council since the resignation of Alderman Des Rogers.  I wished to emphasise the need for Indigenous people to stand for council and be part of the governance of the town and leaders of their community and was encouraging Indigenous people to nominate for the council elections in March 2008.
This is especially important given the demographic predictions that around the year 2020 the population of Alice Springs is forecast to be approximately equal [parts, Indigenous and non-Indigenous]. I see this predicted demographic mix as once of the most urgent challenges facing our town. 
These predicitons are not new but as a town leader it is my responsibility to ensure that people are aware of these forecasts, so that we can plan for the future.
 I am not one to bury my head in the sand and hope that this issue will go away instead of being acknowledged and managed. 
No problem has ever been resolved by maintaining ignorance of the true state of affairs.
It is essential to instil a sense of urgency in all government departments and non-government organisations.  The education, employment and training of young Aboriginal people has to be of the highest importance and priority for the sake of the individuals concerned and the economy of our town. 
Indigenous culture is a major drawcard for our local tourism industry and it is important that we celebrate our cultural diversity and work together to ensure that Alice Springs is a place we can all be proud of.
To me the easy availability of welfare has been a tragedy for Aboriginal people and one that has led to many Indigenous people being unable to contribute to the wider community.  I support moves by the Federal Government to reform the welfare system so that public money more truly goes to where it is needed, such as for food and shelter for children.  As Bob Beadman has said and also quoted in the Alice Springs News, “welfare should be a safety net not a hammock”.
 My highest priority apart from my family is the future of Alice Springs.  I work daily with police, Indigenous organisations, community groups and government departments to ensure that we have a peaceful and prosperous future.
 There are many things in Alice Springs that we can be proud of and can build our future prosperity on.  The incredible atmoshpere of the Masters Games in town this week is an example of that.
 I remain positive about the future of our town and will continue to bring issues to the attention of our community.
Fran Kilgariff,
Alice Springs Mayor

We are what we eat
Sir,– This is an open letter to Glendle Schrader, CEO of Wana Ungkunytja Pty Ltd.
Dear Mr Schrader,  As I understand it, Wana Ungkunytja Pty Ltd, or one of its subsidiaries, is responsible for purchasing the food being sold in the stores on many of Central Australia’s remote communities.
If true, I have a question I would ask you, please, to address.
Given that our health is directly related to our diet, and given that the people on the remote communities have the most appalling health statistics, exactly what are those stores selling?
We are what we eat, and I admit I am hoping to hear that you do not stock cool drinks by the pallet, greasy chips or other ersatz foods, or sugar by the tonnage.
If everyone with the responsibility for stocking staple food supplies could forego the easy money items, they would not lose business to the store across the street.  There isn’t one.
This monopoly provides an ideal opportunity to educate as well as to profit, to lead as well as to profit, to do so much more than just profit.
The economic heresy I am suggesting is that the true bottom line is not the store’s annual profit and loss statement.  The true bottom line is the community mortality rate. 
Hal Duell
Alice Springs
ED – The Alice News offered Mr Schrader right of reply. He had not responded by the time of going to press.

Speed kills
Sir, - Fay Miller and John Sheridan (Alice News, Oct 5, letters) may feel threatened by loss of freedom if speed limits are introduced in NT.
What about the freedom of people in wheelchairs after road accidents?
Territorians are twice as likely to be killed on the road as other Australians.
Hardly a mark of a freedom.
Sadly, people who don’t drive fast still suffer. Our colleagues are killed, we wait in over-crowded hospital emergency departments, and our taxes pay for ambulances, hospitals, and road-unkeep. Territory roads are not the Autobahn.
We do not have separated traffic streams, side rails, merging ramps and skid-resistant surfaces which make travel safe at high speed.
We have remote country roads, and speed kills. Let’s slow down.
Rosalie Schultz
Alice Springs
Why Pine Gap?

Sir,– Regarding ‘Peace activist: have hammer, will travel’ (Alice News, oct 12).  
Interesting to see that some things (or, more precisely, minds) never change. There were no rallies against Saddam Hussein slaughtering more than a million of his own people.
No rallies against Russia’s ongoing terrorizing of Chechnya (Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was working on an article on torture in Chechnya when she was murdered).
No rallies against North Korea’s testing of an atomic bomb and threatening of neighbour states to nuke them in the case of economic sanctions.
Consequently South Korea just demanded to be covered by the US nuclear shield and Japan is considering (re)building their arsenal.
Do “peace activists” read newspapers?
Dr Christopher Lueg
Hobart, Tasmania

Lost friend
Sir,– I am trying to contact an old friend who I nursed with in the late 1950s and 60s.
Her married name is Ruth McKenzie-Campbell and her husband’s name was Tom.
She lived for a number of years in Alice Springs.  It is possible her children still live in The Alice.
Any advice anyone can give me in locating her would be very much appreciated as we are planning a nurses reunion, next year it being 50 years since we started our training.
Gwen Munday

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