Alice Springs News, February 8, 2007



February 8, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


It's likely that people buying take-away alcohol in Alice Springs may soon need to show a photo ID, a proposal in the fight against alcohol abuse and the resulting anti-social behaviour around town.
The Chamber of Commerce and CATIA are set to call on the NT Government to introduce an "alcohol card" and to pay for its implementation and continuing use.
The executives of both powerful organisations are recommending the go-ahead to their membership.
The Alice Town Council has already voiced its support for such a scheme in a bid especially to rein in repeat offenders.
This is how it would work: a central data base would track take-away purchases from all bottle shops and clubs, which in turn could access the information to prevent multiple sales to the one person.
The facility would also identify under-age people and those barred by court orders from buying grog.
CATIA manager Craig Catchlove says the tourism lobby and the chamber have formed a close relationship since CATIA's last AGM at which Steve Rattray was elected president.
To date the tourism lobby has been reluctant to back decisive action on alcohol control.
The new link with the chamber signals an emerging force in the community: "If we sing from the same hymn book we have more chance for demands to be met," says Mr Catchlove.
Under current alcohol restrictions, on any one day a person is permitted to buy only one cask of wine, or one bottle of port or fortified wine.
However nothing prevents drinkers from doing the round of several outlets and buying further restricted liquor.
One "alcohol card" system can utilise any of about 100 existing forms of photo IDs, including passports and drivers' licences, removing the need to obtain a new card.
The documents are scanned, display to the liquor seller on a screen the purchaser's photo, together with personal details including age.
Any previous alcohol purchases on that day, in any of the local outlets, would also be displayed, plus any court restrictions applying to the intending buyer.
The scheme is being investigated by the Licensing Commission which is going to release a discussion paper soon.
Mr Catchlove says in a report to his members a similar scheme was voluntarily introduced on Groote Eylandt in the Top End last year, with outstanding results, and has been funded by the NT Government.
He says because the area is Aboriginal freehold land, the introduction was implemented by the regional council.
As this council runs the only take-away liquor outlet, the process was introduced speedily and with no NT Government intervention.
The "permit" is a swipe card and is confiscated if alcohol access is withdrawn from a person.
A liquor industry source says each terminal installed in bottle shops would cost around $8000, and 20 would be needed in Alice as clubs with bottle shop facilities would need to be part of the scheme.
Then a central database would be needed, with someone manning it.
The source favoured this to be done by a government instrumentality.
For privacy reasons transactions should be erased at the end of each trading day.
People with legitimate reasons to buy quantities otherwise restricted, such as tourism operators, could be identified by the system.
In a written report about the initiatives in the Top End Mr Catchlove says : "The decisions whether to issue, revoke or refuse a permit are made by a local committee composed of community representatives from the land council, Aboriginal community councils, police, health, the local mining company and the licensees.
"The results so far: crime and anti-social behaviour are down by about 75%; and sick leave at the Gemco mine has dropped by two-thirds for their Aboriginal employees."
Mr Catchlove says a similar system will be introduced at Nhulunbuy on March 1.
"This is again a permit system where all residents (and visitors) will be required to apply for a card (permit) from the Police Station.
"This swipe card will be linked to a central database that will tell if the profferer has any restrictions imposed or previous bulk alcohol purchases on the day.
"The liquor outlet will compare manually the photo on the card to [the appearance of] the profferer to confirm identity.
"The hardware and personnel to run the system is being paid for by the NT Government.
"As there is no Alcohol Court in Nhulunbuy, restrictions will be imposed by a community group made up of relevant persons."
Mr Catchlove says a system of that kind "allows targeting of individuals abusing alcohol rather than blanket restrictions affecting all residents."
RIGHT While some may claim that this is a removal of the "right" to buy alcohol, "this is easily countered" by examples such as limiting access to drivers licences, firearm licences, chemicals and drugs.
"Already, if you have a youthful visage, you must produce photo ID to purchase alcohol as sales to those under 18 years of age is banned," says Mr Catchlove.
He says an alternate scheme is a dedicated smart card, "basically a permit to buy take-away alcohol within the restricted area.
"Any restrictions imposed or previous purchases would be logged on a database and would be displayed at time of purchase."
Visitors to the restricted area would be exempted if they can prove by way of photo ID that they have a permanent address outside the restricted area.
Mr Catchlove says each scheme presented issues of privacy protection which needed to be resolved.
Last year the town council discussed measures to manage "the supply of take away alcohol products and to control entry to licensed premises".
Ald Robyn Lambley moved, and Ald Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke seconded, that "Council recommends that the NT Licensing Commission undertake the necessary measures to introduce the idEye or a similar commercial product in Alice Springs as a requirement of Licensing."
The motion was carried.


Steve Brown, who heads up Advance Alice, with an agenda of fixing the town's problems, says the start of 2007 isn't what he was hoping for.
On the weekend two of his nephews, both aged 16, were bashed by "dozens" of teenage gang members, all Aboriginal, screaming "get the whities, get the whities," outside the 24 hour bakery on Stuart Highway in the early hours of the morning. An hour or so later a friend of theirs also became victim of a "thrill bashing".
According to police, remarks by the offenders indicated that the attack may have been linked to the arrest of a gang member following an earlier bashing. The same night the tennis club, of which Mr Brown is the president, was broken into for the second time in a month.
It took police more than two hours to turn up.
"It has to stop," says Mr Brown. "We are not going to tolerate it. I will not use word vigilante but we're getting close."
Things don't look a great deal better from where Police Acting Superintendent Rob Burgoyne is sitting.
The night of the tennis club break-in, an eight hour shift had to deal with as many "jobs" – around 40 – as the police normally get in a busy 24 hour day.
The report from the club manager Matt Roberts, who lives on the premises, according to the police log stated the offenders had left, had not broken into the building and had merely moved around a few chairs outside the building.
Obviously they had broken the law by getting into the complex.
But, says Supt Burgoyne, car accidents and domestic violence during that night demanded more urgent police action. He says there was no report to the police about the bashing of the two Brown boys.
However, they had taken themselves to hospital which, although they were clearly the victims of a serious crime, had not notified police.
Supt Burgoyne says at the moment the hospital doesn't ring "automatically" but a memorandum of understanding is being drawn up about the hospital and the police exchanging information about crime.
He says this will no doubt be high on the list for Sean Parnell, the new Superintendent of the Alice Springs Division starting duties on Monday.
Supt Burgoyne says under the new loitering provisions police can "move on" for up to 72 hours people in groups, and arrest them if they don't comply.
This can include telling them not to be in the CBD.
It's required to give the order in writing, on a simple form, and to log the order on the police computer.
This can be done if police suspect someone to have committed an offense or is about to, or is in the company of someone about to commit an offense. So far this has been used only about a dozen times, says Supt Burgoyne.
A new measure – this one came in late last year and is know as the "gang law" – needs to be used sparingly, he says, so as not to be "abused. After all, young people have a right to be on the streets, too." All this has diverted attention of Mr Brown's group from a positive initiative, a joint clean-up of Billygoat Hill by white and black citizens, manifesting that despite all the problems, there is a strong common purpose in the town. That cleanup will be on Sunday, March 4. Mr Brown's contact number is 0427 792194.


The race is on between developers of rural residential land south of The Gap to get their land on the market.
First off the blocks is Ron Sterry's Coolibah Tree Estate in Ragonesi Road who has 85 lots in his stage one, expecting to start selling "soon", with 40 buyers already having put down their names.
A syndicate of unnamed people, Emily Valley Estates Pty Ltd, headed by real estate agent John McEwen, got the nod from the Development Consent Authority early last month for 94 blocks, just to the east of Mr Sterry's land, in Emily Valley.
And in the wings are the Brown Family at White Gums, west of Ilparpa, who have vowed to have another bash at a rural subdivision after being knocked back by Lands Minister Delia Lawrie last year.
The Development Consent Authority (DCA) is rumoured to have recommended the go-ahead of that project. Ms Lawrie declined to make public the DCA report.
Mr Sterry's blocks range in size from 1300 to 2000 square metres. He says they will sell "from $160,000 upwards".
They will include underground electricity, gravity sewerage, a rainwater tank and 200 native plant seedlings each.
He says the management of storm water is yet to be "ticked off" by the council.
A council spokesman said the system will need to be capable of coping with a flood no greater than is likely to occur every five years.
Mr Sterry says land development is an expensive business: "I will need to sell 75 blocks before I make even one cent."
He touts the project as a mix of urban and rural lifestyles, with greenie aspirations including water conservation, native vegetation buffers between blocks, fostering native flora generally and eradicating buffel grass.
Further stages will bring the total number of blocks to about 250, plus a retirement village into which Mr Sterry expects single women will also buy, seeking security.
The Emily Valley project had been knocked back twice by the DCA and the permit granted now is subject to 22 conditions, and relates only to the eastern-most portion of a much larger block sought to be developed.
Some conditions are such fundamental elements of the design that it is surprising that they were left up in the air.
The granting of the permit means that the project is no longer under the scrutiny of the public including the 21 objectors, according to the chairman of the Rural Area Association, Rod Cramer.
The association objected to the project three times, in part because about one third of it is on land zoned Rural, which has a minimum block size of 40 hectares or 40,0000 square metres.
Now the DCA is allowing 4000 square metre blocks on that land.
"We are very disappointed," says Mr Cramer.
The authority has a discretion of varying minimum block sizes by 5% in other zonings, such as Rural Living 1 and 2 (RL1 and RL2).
In Rural zones, including the one extending east down Emily Valley, that discretion is unlimited.
This is a source of anxiety for blockies along Heenan Road.
What point, they ask, is there in having a block zoned Rural over their northern fence, supposedly offering protection from development of a dense settlement, when the DCA, at its whim, can apparently give the green light to anything including cluster dwellings, without even Ministerial consent.
Another absurdity, Mr Cramer points out, is that 29 blocks in Emily Valley Estates are still zoned Rural, yet are much too small to be suitable for uses approved in that zoning.
When Labor came to power more than five years ago it promised to create a town planning regime that makes sense.
It clearly still has a long way to go.
The development now permitted is separated from the rest of Emily Valley – one of the region's prettiest locations, and full of rare flora – by three small hills, creating a logical setting for the subdivision.
But Mr McEwen's group has already signalled that it wants to create two more stages further east in the valley.
Will the DCA be persuaded by the precedent it has now set next-door, and chop up some more of the Rural land into small blocks?
Says DCA chairman Peter McQueen: "Planning decisions aren't based on precedent.
"Each application is considered as it comes up.
"As a general rule precedent doesn't play a significant part in planning authority decisions."
The permit just granted was appropriate, given the whole circumstance of the development, he says, and nine of the 22 conditions must be complied with before works can even be commenced.
Some of these seem a tall order, but Mr McEwen isn't fazed.
Several of the conditions will need to be "to the satisfaction of the DCA on advice" from the town council, the Power and Water Corporation or the Department of Health, the Central Land Council, Lhere Artepe and so on.
Among the main items undecided is sewerage.
Mr McEwen says a high pressure system is the favoured option.
It is approved Australia wide since 1954 but not yet in the NT.
The Department of Health has already "signed off, and I don't see a problem".
He says traditional gravity systems typically require large pipes, sometimes at big depths.
The pressure system gets by with smaller pipes in shallow trenches.
Other yet to be finalised issues are:-
• Stormwater.
• Access from Stegar Road.
• Post-subdivision management.
• Fire management.
• Street lighting.
• Underground electricity reticulation.
Mr McEwen says subdivision works are likely to start in four months' time and the first blocks, ranging from 4000 to 7700 square metres, will be ready for sale "hopefully" in September.
Sale prices have yet to be worked out.


The "dongas solution" is looking more and more like a dud.
At last Thursday's Development Consent Authority hearing into the proposed short-term accommodation facilities at Len Kittle Drive and Dalgety Road, attended by over 100 people, there was plenty of emotion and generalised fears about the facilities' target clients (Aboriginal visitors from the bush) but also plenty of well considered points.
Jill Hall, manager of the RSPCA which will be next door to the Len Kittle Drive facility, was succinct about its glaring inappropriateness for human residence:
"Our dogs bark. They [the clients] won't get an ounce of sleep."
Juliet Madden, an Ilparpa Valley resident, asked the meeting to imagine putting a motel at the location: between a mosquito infested swamp, a smelly rubbish tip, a town camp and the barking dogs at the pound, not to forget the major highway.
DCA chairman Peter McQueen had already told the meeting that proximity to the highway and railway had been identified as a significant issue by planners of the facility, who had noted that clients would have to cross the railway (unfenced) and the Stuart Highway to get to and from the nearest bus stops.
Mr McQueen said a submission from Freightlink had also expressed concern about the likelihood of increased "pedestrian incidents" because of the facility's proximity to the road and railway.
The Dalgety Road site was in the gun for the same reason. Tony Quatermass of Australian Property Projects (responsible for, among others, the North Edge apartment complex) spoke of the "high chance of pedestrian danger" with all footpaths in the area crossed by driveways used by large vehicles.
Mr Quatermass also said provision of power and sewerage in the area is already at capacity.
He said "I know this for a fact", having developed the North Edge complex. He said increasing service infrastructure capacity would add "major cost" to the facility.
He also suggested that the cost of repairs and maintenance to the dongas themselves, already aged, "will be huge".
Both concerns were echoed by businessman Ren Kelly, who ventured an estimate of $10m to $12m to establish the Dalgety Road facility, well beyond the estimated cost of $1m to $2m he said had been suggested by consultants. His estimate included almost $3m to pay for additional capacity to the current utilities and some $4m to provide the "bricks and mortar" to the site.
Mr Kelly also described the proposed management of the facilities, which includes provision of security "24/7 for all guests and the public" as well as things like ensuring that children go to school, as an "impossible task for any management company".
The DCA hearing was not a question and answer session, so there was no response from the consultants and planners present, except on one point, reiterated by many of the speakers: concern that the location of the facilities was a "done deal", particularly as survey pegs are present on both sites.
A representative of consultant Qantec McWilliam clarified that works to date were to enable a cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment and that his company's contract with the Territory Government did not extend beyond last Thursday.
Prominent Alice resident of Afghan and Aboriginal ancestry, Eric Sultan, had already asked how much the exercise had cost so far.
Mr McQueen said that was not a matter for the DCA.
Many more concerns focussed on the undesirability of the facilities from the point of view of neighbouring residents.
Anti-social behaviour topped the list for most speakers.
An Ilparpa Valley resident, Heather Galley, said it wasn't relevant where the facilities went, "they will bring anti-social behaviour into town".
She said she wanted a "100% guarantee" that the facilities wouldn't "end up like the town camps".
Mary Miles, Director of Nursing at Old Timers, said she had "really, really grave concerns about any increase in anti-social behaviour" and its impact on Old Timers residents, particularly those in the cottages. Her concerns were based in part on past experience of the Tyeweretye Club (a licensed Aboriginal social club formerly on the Len Kittle Drive site). People refused entry to the club had caused trouble by "sitting around, fighting, taking refuge in our grounds and accessing the Todd and Old Timers Camp next door".
She said during the life of the Tyeweretye Club Old Timers had experienced theft, intrusions, and violence, including sexual assault.
And even now, said Mrs Miles, Old Timers experience a lot of disruption due particularly to noise coming from the town camp next door, and from people patronising the liquor outlet at the Gap and congregating in the river.
Mal Crowley, a property owner in the vicinity and representing the Rural Areas Association, was also concerned about people being refused entry to the facility and ending up in the river, where at present they "virtually have a taxi rank".
He said the 40 submissions received by the DCA on the Len Kittle Drive site represented almost 10% of properties south of the Gap.
Ms Hall from the RSPCA said she and her staff had concerns for "our well-being", also referring to past problems with the Tyeweretye Club.
She said they had had dealings with Aborigines wanting cars (impounded vehicles are kept behind the dog pound) and stealing parts of cars.
She also feared they would jump the fence and take puppies.
Old Timers resident Margaret Baker also had concerns about dogs: "No one has talked about the dogs coming in with these people."
She said at present 10 dogs a month are removed from Old Timers' grounds. She said existing problems of anti-social behaviour, the subject of a petition to the town council by 25 Old Timers residents some 18months ago, have not been solved, with petty thieving and prowling regular occurrences.
Another resident, Mary Morgan, was worried about the personal hygiene of people using the proposed facility – "I wouldn't be surprised if we all get sick" – and about security – "a closed gate doesn't help".
She wanted to know if extra security at night was going to be provided, but not at the expense of Old Timers. Betty Pearce, of the native title holder body Lhere Artepe, got to her feet at this point, declaring her support for the facilities. She tried to allay fears about the prospective clients, saying they are people who are also frightened of drunks. She later reiterated this point, saying these people need a safe haven when they come to town and emphasising the contribution of the Aboriginal dollar to the economy of Alice Springs.
But she also said too many people are coming into Alice Springs from the communities and that the town is "having to put up with shit, literally as well".
She said some communities have huge housing vacancies, citing 78% at Yuendumu and 60% at Yuelamu.
"We have got to get out there and force the Northern Territory Government and the Commonwealth to set up infrastructure on the communities for people to stay there ... We've got to go into mass protest ... get off our backsides and do it" said Mrs Pearce to general applause.
Kate Dwyer, a resident of Old Timers, congratulated Mrs Pearce on what she said – "She is a wise Aboriginal lady".
Unlike her fellow residents, Ms Dwyer had no concerns about the proposals: "I feel Aboriginal people are as entitled as we are to have their space ... How do we know all these bad things are going to happen? Don't live in the past, let's live in the future, let's be positive about how [they facilities] will be run," she said, reminding the gathering of the number of Aboriginal hostels in town which are "well run establishments".
This last point was reiterated by Jonathon Pilbrow of NT Shelter, who said if the facilities were well managed like the Sid Ross and Topsy Smith hostels, then "problems wouldn't occur". However, NT Shelter did object to the use of the ex-Woomera demountables in the facilities. Mr Pilbrow asked about their compliance with the health code, about their durability and the cost of renovation.
He reminded the gathering of the NT homeless rate – "four times the [next] highest rate in Australia". He also echoed Mrs Pearce's comments on the need for improved infrastructure in remote communities.
This was further underlined by Lindsay Bookie, chairman of the Central Land Council who said "I talk to people in the communities. They want to see these things [the dongas] set up back in the communities."
Mr Bookie acknowledged the broad spectrum of the problems being considered, from the people living in the creek when they come to town to go shopping or to go to hospital – "a lot of them are sober and then they go back" – to the drunks at Hoppy's.
"Grog is the biggest problem you've got here, it draws people in," he said.
He criticised Tangentyere Council – "They've got a lot of equipment, they need to get out and do it [clean up the town camps], not just sit there" – and night patrol for not being "around".
Businessman Dave Douglas also took up the theme of better services in the bush, from kidney dialysis to better shops and employment opportunities.
"Money should be put into the communities so that there's no need [for these facilities] in the first place."
Gavin Carpenter, formerly in business in Tennant Creek and now retired to Alice Springs – "still one of the best places in Australia" – expressed doubts about the possibility of controlling anti-social behaviour outside the facilities, having seen just the day before, at 4.30 in the afternoon, a group sitting down and drinking in the park opposite the police station.
Graeme Farquharson, a police officer in the Territory for over 25 years – 16 of them in Alice Springs where he is now a senior sergeant – spoke representing his family, not the police.
He and his family live in the Dixon Road area and he said the one merit of the Dalgety Road proposal was that he would "wander down the street 100 metres and be at work".
He said the Northside neighbourhood is already experiencing problems spilling over from "two very dysfunctional communities, Warlpiri Camp and Hoppy's".
He said nearly every night the police are called to Northside shops.
He rejected MLA Richard Lim's picture of Port Augusta's bush visitors' facility as successful: it's known as "tent city", he said, and is next door to Davenport Mission, "a sad place full of drunkenness and violence".
He described the failure of "dense accommodation" over the years – the "shambles" of complexes like South Court, Cawood Court and the Keith Lawrie flats, the "sad state of affairs" at the town camps which had suffered "30 years of neglect" and where "the only whitefellers" to ever visit are the police and ambulance officers.
"All people deserve a better deal," he said, fearing that with the proposed facilities we would be "building a ghetto".
He queried where "well-trained professionals" to run the facilities would be found and wondered about security: when the security guards at Yeperenye and Coles have problems, they ring the police, he said.
He also suggested that drainage works on the site would be very costly, leading to it becoming a permanent fixture. He tabled photos of water roaring through the site during the recent thunder storms.
Another Dixon Road resident, Tanya Williams, queried the process from the outset, with the town having found out about the dongas plan "on the front of the Advocate".
She was worried by the vague eligibility criteria, which could lead to the facilities being used by backpackers and not the target group.
She did a reality check on many of the details in the planners' documents: their definitions of "relatively close", "not in proximity to" and "well away from" and assumptions about the management, behaviour and movements of the prospective clients, worried for instance about their use of the neighbourhood park where they would "litter, urinate, and defecate": "The use of the park [by others] will stop."
She concluded her detailed presentation with one question: "If it was going ahead near your home and family, would you want it?"
David Yeaman spoke on behalf of residents of North Edge apartments: reiterating fears of anti-social behaviour and expressing "major concern" about the detrimental impact of such a facility on the value and sale-ability of homes.
Ren Kelly feared harassment and humbugging as well as threats, broken glass and excreta in public spaces: "We'll become prisoners in our own homes – another reason for Alice Springs residents to pack up and leave before the lights are turned off".
Ms Williams asked how long it would be before the public would hear back on the outcome of the proceedings.
Mr McQueen said he hoped to have the DCA's report to the Minister ready within the fortnight. What happens after that, including public release of the report, will be up to the Minister (Delia Lawrie).
A man in the audience quipped: "Plenty of time to sell your house!"
Another Dixon Road area resident, Jason O'Keefe summed up, stressing that the all statements made during the hearing were the views of "permanent residents, not three-month transients".
But he also said, " If you decide to turn [this proposal] down the problem of transient people will remain. It will be up to the government to go back to the drawing board and find an alternative that is more socially acceptable."
FOOTNOTE: Braitling MLA Loraine Braham spoke in objection to both site proposals; Greatorex MLA Richard Lim spoke in favour of both; Mayor Fran Kilgariff spoke against the Dalgety road proposal on behalf of the town council; MHR Warren Snowdon was present for part of the hearing.


Last year's crop of Year 12 students at Centralian College and OLSH College were neck and neck with both their average TERs and their top scores.
Centralian's average was 67, while OLSH's was 66.23.
The averages were below what each school achieved in the previous year: 75.95 and 72.55 respectively.
Centralian's top TER was 98.7 (Jordan Beverley), while OLSH's was 98.25 (Matthew Higgins). Both students were among the Territory's top 20 (actually 22), at 17th and 18th place respectively.
At Centralian Antje Chalmers and Timothy Dunn joined Jordan Beverley in the Territory's top 50 and a further five scored over 90.
St Philip's College declined to provide an average TER. One St Philip's student received a result in the 90s and 23% received results in the 80s.
At OLSH five students or 10% received scores in the 80s.
TER stands for Tertiary Entrance Ranking, the score used to decide which students will be accepted into the university courses they have applied for. It's calculated by university admission centres across Australia. TERs of Territory students are calculated by the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia (SSABSA).
The ranking is not the same as the Northern Territory Certificate of Education (NTCE) score and and not all NTCE studies – for instance, vocational and community studies – generate a TER.
The TER is not the only measure of student or school success but it is a measure.
Four Centralian students received perfect scores in individual subjects, with Ronja Moss claiming two of them.
OLSH and St Philip's each had a student receiving a perfect score.
There were a total of 55 perfect scores in the Territory, with the top student, Winnie Chen from Darwin High School, receiving five out of five perfect scores over two years (in Maths Studies, Physics, Chemistry, Japanese and Chinese).
St Philip's College principal Chris Tudor says it's important not to forget "those students who received a moderate TER, being mindful that such a score could be a result of a student receiving very healthy results such as five B's".
"It is also interesting to note that a student with a TER of 55 is in the top 45% of students within Australia. Nobody can claim these results are not sound; indeed students access university with these results.
"In Alice Springs, kids have a balanced lifestyle full of school, sport and family activities and they go on to be very successful in life because of all the opportunities afforded them during their school years.
"I personally feel I have been reasonably successful in life, due to hard work and taking advantage of opportunities that came my way. In hindsight, I doubt my matriculation results would have produced a TER in the 90s," says Mr Tudor.
At OLSH 46 out of 48 (96%) students completed their NTCE, while at Centralian 82/90 (91%) did so. St Philip's did not supply figures.
At Centralian 11 out of 12 Indigenous students completed their NTCE and four of them obtained a TER.
Alice Springs High School (ASHS) had the last of its Year 12 candidates go through in 2006. Following restructuring, the programs they have been offering for students at this year level will now be offered through Centralian College.
ASHS' Alice Outcomes program achieved their first "full completer", Catherine Atkinson, who has also been accepted for entry into university (teaching).  From 17 year 12 students at  ASHS, 11 obtained their NTCE. They included Kimberly Buckley, ASHS' first school based apprentice to complete her NTCE.
Eight of the completers were Indigenous; two were special education students. 
One of the Indigenous students, Kirstin Wilkinson, received an Outstanding Achievement award from the NT Board of Studies.
Four students went into full time employment during the year.
Alice's Indigenous graduates join 130 others receiving their NTCE in 2006, with a record 30 coming from remote schools (building from three in 2003). All these remote schools are in the Top End.
The 130 represent 14% of the total number (929) of Territory students obtaining their NTCE.

LETTERS: Why dongas in town while remote facilities in tatters?

Sir,– I spent most of last Thursday in the Andy McNeill room listening to objections to the proposed temporary accommodation facilities. Aside from Dr Richard Lim, MLA, and Ms Betty Pearce, I heard almost no one speak in favor of the initiative. Given this nearly unanimous negative, I wonder if the DCA can possibly recommend either site be granted the [exceptional development permit] necessary to proceed.
And yet no one seemed to think the problems were going to come from inside the facilities or from those taking advantage of the temporary accommodation they would offer. All the objections seemed to stem from what might happen outside the fence.
The fear was almost palpable.
We are truly scared of what is happening in Alice Springs and not without good reason. The homeland refugees drifting permanently into Alice Springs all too often show neither self respect nor respect for any other. And by any other I mean not just white Australian and Arrernte people, but also the town of Alice Springs.
Between us we are trying to make a good place to live both for today and for tomorrow. Their dominant attitude seems to be one of take it and trash it.
Alcohol fuels this, and we have no one but ourselves to blame. For how many years has Alice Springs had the 2km law? Not once during that time has the NT government empowered the police to diligently and consistently enforce that very sensible and potentially effective method of alcohol restriction.
So these hopeless ones lie about in drunken squalor dominating everyone's perception of Aboriginal people, and let's face it – they are a contemptible and sorry lot.
At the same time, it is very important to remember that the fear and contempt cuts both ways. How can any young person coming out of a squalid environment with no education and no structure have anything but fear and contempt for the world around them? Again, the NT government has to answer for this.
We all know that education begins with primary school and it is exactly that which is so lacking. No kid is going to go to school unless told to. And if the parents can't or won't do it, someone has to step in and force the issue. Otherwise we will end up with dysfunctional and ignorant kids growing up to be dysfunctional and ignorant adults.
While on the issue of contempt, has anyone considered the choice of the southern end of Len Kittle Drive as a suitable site for any form of accommodation? How many of us would willingly camp next to a sewer pond with its overflows, its pongs and its clouds of mosquitoes? Mal Brough and whatever action group he had advising him did their effort no good favor by suggesting that particular location, location, location.
On the remote communities today the physical infrastructure lies in tatters. One speaker mentioned that up to 70% of the housing on Yuendumu stands vacant. I have no reason to doubt the allegation, and with the permit system barring any reporter from verifying it, the statement will have to stand.
Fewer and fewer people are willing to live out there. Those who are willing are forced to come into the urban centres on essential R&R visits whether of a health, education, shopping, sports or what-have-you nature. Without a massive effort from both the NT and the Federal governments clearly demonstrating that they care, these conditions will not improve. Both the short and long term urban drift will continue, and the urban centres will just have to cope as best they can. The situation is volatile.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Bullying at meetings?

Sir,– As a citizen of Alice Springs, I am personally concerned about the current trend to hold ‘public meetings' to discuss hot and emotive topics in Alice Springs.  There is no way that the results of these meetings can be taken to mean anything very much at all. 
They attract bullies who shout down and intimidate people with alternate views and they certainly do not facilitate intelligent debate. 
I refuse to believe a public meeting has anything to do with public consultation. Public meetings are breeding grounds for racism, bigotry and divisiveness.  If you don't support the views of the angry mob you have to shut up or take abuse and that should not be endorsed by any level of government.
Beware the headlines, be aware of the underlying dynamics.  Outpouring of emotion is NOT valid unless viewed side by side with considered opinions.  Also, those attending meetings with the intention of slandering others should be aware that ‘parliamentary privilege' does not exist in these forums and they could be up for legal action.
Jane Clark
Alice Springs
ED – Jane Clark is an alderman on the Alice Town Council.

Jodeen on Hicks

Sir,– Member for Araluen and Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney has become the first lawyer from Alice Springs to speak out against the detention of David Hicks.  In so doing she has gazumped NT Labor, the local legal community and every other conservative political leader in the country.
During a local radio interview she said, "…I feel strongly about it…this is about the role of law…it was not good enough for an Australian citizen to be held in a small prison cell for five years, that's without charge and with no immediate prospect of going to trial…"
 The Alice has a legal tradition of which it can be very proud, going back to the days of a young Geoff Eames and the formation of the Central Land Council.  Lawyers these days have now become our leaders but on a community level seemed to have lost their voice.
Have we all become too comfortable and relaxed?  How much more bastardisation of our rights and freedoms will it take before we take to the streets?   In creating and supporting Guantanamo Bay for their own political ends both the US and Australian governments have actively undermined the legal system itself. 
The predictions of international human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson are coming true.  He has often stated that [the Hicks case] would take at least eight years just to get to trial.
We publicly state our full support for our member Jodeen Carney on this issue.  Our only question, given her strong feelings, is why did it take you so long to come out?  D. R. Chewings
D. Whitehouse
Alice Springs

Excellence in journalism  
Sir,– I have just read and may I congratulate you and your staff on your latest edition (21 Dec), once again an informative and fact driven Alice Springs News.
I am an avid reader and look forward to reading excellence in journalism. This edition was spot on in relation to the issues which will either make this town the success that it and its hard working businesses and people deserve or it wil,l as you so correctly predict, decline into a welfare town for the dysfunctional "residents" no matter what racial background they belong to. Kerry Rickards
Alice Springs

Pride in their profession

Sir,– When good customer service is received, we all know it is a pleasure. But when excellence in customer service is delivered, it reminds us that there are still people in this tired world who take pride in their profession and deliver it with heart and generosity of spirit.
Once such person is Marie at Alice on Todd Apartments. She helped me to arrange the transfer of my friend, who had suffered a serious bout of depression, to the airport and back home to Perth. She did this with the minimum of fuss or questions and helped someone miles from home feel safe and taken care of.
Thank you Marie and Alice on Todd Apartments for easing our minds here in WA and helping our dear friend home.
Fi Sturgeon
Drummonds Cove
Western Australia


Mayor Fran Kilgariff spent most of last Thursday at the Development Consent Authority hearing into the "dongas solution" and most of last Friday at the latest meeting of the Towns Camps Taskforce Implementation Steering Committee. A member of the public attended the council's January 29 meeting to draw council's attention to the escalating problem of illegal campers in the vicinity of Hoppy's camp and the problems arising, spilling over into Hearne Place where the Northside shops are located.
Questions without notice in the meeting focussed on litter, particularly around Northside, and the suggestion that this new hot spot for littering, let alone more serious anti-social behaviour, has developed as a result of Alice's latest liquor restrictions.
Ald David Koch said the licensee had formerly stocked only a limited number of large casks. Now that this product is not available and drinkers have switched, they find their new choices conveniently available in the local outlet.
He said: "The operator now has a security problem created by the restrictions."
And council has a litter problem. CEO Rex Mooney estimates that litter has increased by 70%. (Prisoners were drafted into a clean-up opposite Hoppy's last Monday.)
Aldermen voted to call on the Territory Government to financially compensate council for its increased litter control costs (a machine that will suck up broken glass at a cost of $50,000); and to provide adequate police to enforce the 2km law in Alice.
There will now be a meeting next week between representatives of council, the Territory Government, Police, the Licensing Commission, Tangentyere Council and Correctional Services focussing solely on litter.
So at this point it seems fair to say that urban drift and the whole gamut of problems flowing from it look set to stay centre stage for council in 2007.
Ms Kilgariff says anecdotal evidence and council rangers' counts point to two trends: that the influx of people from the bush is steadily increasing and that it peaks over the summer.
Rangers dealt with 340 people camping in public areas in November; 146 in December (the lower figure explained in part by rangers having a 10 day break over Christmas); and 258 in January.
(The January figure is lower than the 493 the Alice News reported last year but the ranger workforce is under-staffed, with three people doing the job of five. Mr Mooney says the two vacancies were advertised recently with a "limited" response and will have to be re-advertised.)
Ms Kilgariff says council with Lhere Artepe is chairing a committee of government and NGO representatives that is drawing up terms of reference for credible research to be done into "rural migration".
She says the research will give all concerned a clear picture of how many people are involved and why it is happening.
"We didn't know about the overcrowding in the town camps until the mobility study [released last year]. We are hoping to get the same kind of clarity from this research.
"The research will be done before next summer's influx."
In other respects council seems severely challenged by the problems.
At the January 29 meeting a budget review showed council's financial resources stretched to the limit.
Urgent repair work on the Gap Youth centre had required money diverted from verge works.
The allocation to reflooring of the basketball stadium (which has one court out of use) is a fraction of what is required ($50,000 out of $360,000) but at least it allows work to commence.
Under pressure from the public, $100,000 has been found for a CBD Security Camera System, but a range of other works have been put on the back burner.
Mr Mooney pointed out to aldermen the unique position of the town council with respect to revenue-raising: the municipality covers 327 sqkm, 95% of which is non-rateable. Of 9000 properties within the town boundary 468 are non-rateable. These include hospitals, schools, town camps and public benevolent institutions.
There is a "high number" of the latter compared to other towns, says Mr Mooney.
If the properties are being used for commercial purposes their rate exemption does not apply and council is trying to establish where this may be the case.
On the unfortunate image of a cash-strapped council sitting in brand new offices with a price tag of nearly $11m, Mr Mooney says repayments on the loan are no more than the amount being set aside for many years by previous councils to pay for an eventual upgrade or new building.
"I would contend that the issues confronting council are not affected by the cost of the Civic Centre,' he says.
Meanwhile, council's responsibilities are set to expand. Mr Mooney says negotiations are well advanced for council to take over rubbish collection on the town camps, in a fee for service arrangement.
This will happen in the "very near future", says Ms Kilgariff, with a further meeting with Tangentyere Council taking place today. Ms Kilagriff says the animal by-laws are being rewritten and will soon apply uniformly across the town. An amnesty will apply for a couple of months but afterwards all households will be limited to two dogs and all dogs will have to be registered.
However, Mr Mooney says rangers haven't been waiting to deal with troublesome and unhealthy dogs, with 38 removed from town camps in December (30 were put down, and eight were sent to the pound to find new homes).
Arrangements with respect to other municipal responsibilities are "bogged down in questions of tenure".

ADAM CONNELLY: 320 days to Christmas.

First things first. Welcome back! Welcome to the hordes of people who fled the town like Israelites from Egypt over the summer.
And to keep the over the top biblical imagery going, like the prodigal son you have returned to a mild and green Eden, a land of milk and honey.
Alice has welcomed summer into its bosom and taken away its sting. Instead of the heat and dust of hell on earth, a verdant paradise awaits those returning to the motherland.
Phew! And to think I thought all those years in Baptist Sunday School were for nothing.
Anyway welcome back. Good to see the Mall filled with folk heading this way and that, all busy trying to avoid young backpackers carrying clipboards and asking if we care about the poor.
"Of course I care about the poor mate but, if you'll excuse me, I have to keep going or this bloke's going to ask me for a couple of dollars."
I've got to be honest with you. For the last couple of months, despite all the lovely weather and all the beautiful greenery, I've had a slight negative attitude towards the town. I know, I know, it's almost illegal to talk the town down. I know! And I'm sorry.
The big boogey man called distance whispered nasty things in my ear.
I was struck by the isolation of the place, a feeling that the problems we have here won't ever get better because we are so far away from everyone else.
I was also struck by a couple of really stupid acts by a handful of people that I allowed to taint my view of the town.
That was until last week. I was lucky enough to be a part of the Australia Day Flag raising and citizenship ceremony held at the Civic Centre.
On a beautiful warm morning in Alice Springs my grumpy bum attitude changed.
A few things happened. Firstly there were 25 men, women and children who had pledged to become Australians.
It's always great to see a group of diverse individuals united by a sense of community.
How on earth could I not feel part of the community surrounded by those who have sworn to do so? It was so moving to see.
But what really got me out of the negative funk was the calibre of the people that surrounded me that day.
Last year's Centralian of the Year John Piper made a speech straight from the heart. His love for the place was contagious.
He made a simple but excellent point that is easy to repeat but tough to replicate.
His point being that if every member of a community does the little things well, the smile in the street, the care for the neighbour, then the community thrives. I wondered just how much smiling in the street I had been doing in the last couple of months. Then this year's Centralians of the Year were announced.
Pippa Tessman and Mildred Inkamala.
Two women with vastly different stories who have an affinity with and a love for Central Australia.
A place from which they expect nothing in return. Yet these two women pour their blood, toil, tears and sweat into improving their community.
After the ceremony, I felt a bit sheepish about the way I had been feeling. I hung around for as long as politely possible and made my goodbyes, leaving those who deserved the accolades to have a laugh and a chat and a catch up.
Sometimes Alice Springs can seem to be all about our social ills. All about the break-ins and the poverty and the brawls.
These things can't be ignored but Alice Springs is a community and it's more than the Mall and Todd Street late on a Friday night.
It's about all the people giving it a go and making a community out of a desert town.
Thank God for that.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.