February 22, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


There'll be no choice but to train a local workforce from scratch if new gas reserves are proven in the Centre, says oil and gas company Central Petroleum.
The company is optimistic about proving both oil and gas reserves, with the intention of converting any gas found to diesel and shipping it north to Darwin by rail. Some would also be available for local sale.
The conversion is made economically viable because of the high price of oil and the process would provide 80 to 100 local jobs.
Central Petroleum has permits granted to explore for oil and gas across 12 million acres and is seeking permits for a further 38 million, in total a 205,000 square kilometre exploration area centred on Alice Springs.
The contemplated conversion process, using a Fischer Tropsch plant, has been around since the Second World War but is only economical if oil prices are at $40US per barrel and over. Current oil trading prices range between US$50 and US$60 per barrel.
"It's a way for us to monetarise gas which otherwise would be difficult to commercialise because of relatively low gas prices in Australia," says Central Petroleum's John Heugh.
"Pumping it to South Australia or to the well established markets of the eastern seaboard would not be very profitable if at all, but by adding value and turning it into diesel and other middle distillates we can sell it for $80 a barrel or more, given the prevailing oil prices."
In the current global context it's hard to greet fossil fuel discovery as unqualified good news, even with jobs attached.
Says Mr Heugh: "Fuels from the Fischer Tropsch process have essentially zero sulphur, are much cleaner and burn more efficiently. Thus a net positive impact on emissions in comparison to other fuels can be anticipated."
Around the world there are four Fischer Tropsch (GTL) plants under construction and about 20 more are planned. In Australia two companies besides Central Petroleum have GTL plants on the drawing board.
An obstacle to overcome in the Centre is the lack of skilled labour.
Apart from the existing fields at Palm Valley and Mereenie (owned by Santos and Magellan, and almost depleted) there has been no petrol drilling in the Centre since 1992, says Mr Heugh.
"A lot of the local contractors have faded away.
"In any case there is a shortage of skilled engineers across Australia so we will have to take people on and train them."
These will be Aboriginal traditional owners on the lands where the gas is found and processed "wherever practicable".
Sufficient reserves have yet to be proven.
Once they are, a feasibility study must follow and then there's the lead time for plant construction, which means production is at least three to five years away.
Oil is a different matter.
"If we discover oil there'll be cash flow in six to 12 months from the date of discovery but it will involve far fewer local jobs."
However, right now there are access problems for some permits.
Says Mr Heugh: "There is a disagreement with the Central Land Council about what road to use to gain access to the acreage to drill wells."
He describes the negotiation experience with the CLC as "mixed".
"It's very clear that the CLC lacks certain resources.
"There is some controversy over which groups should attend the meetings and a number of meetings have been cancelled because of this.
"Generally speaking relations between Central and the CLC are amicable and cooperative.
"But we are frustrated at the time taken to gain appropriate access in some cases.
"We can't come to grips with the problem.
"Their reasons seem irrelevant to us and perhaps our proposal seems irrelevant to them.
"It's up to the people concerned, the traditional owners, to say yes or no."
Mr Heugh says new computer and GPS technology means that seismic exploration no longer needs to go in a dead straight line, minimising surface disturbance.
In cooperation with the CLC and the Parks and Wildlife Service, Central Petroleum is able to avoid sacred sites and habitats of protected species.
Meanwhile, South Australian based uranium explorer, Toro Energy Limited plans to spend more than $2-3 million in an intensive drilling campaign on the Napperby Project northwest of Alice Springs over the next three years, to advance its already known uranium mineralisation to a potential mine.


Alice Springs can expect a land release in Mount John's Valley in the near future, says newly elected chairman of Lhere Artepe, Frank Ansell. A land release will take pressure off the over-heated housing market.
There is room for up to 1000 blocks on the land between the golf gourse and the MacDonnell Range.
Mr Ansell was voted to head up the native title holder body at its AGM last Friday.
He replaces Brian Stirling, who is now vice chair, joined also by Noel Kruger.
Mr Ansell will be a full-time working chairman, having taken leave from his job with the Territory Government.
He says the government has been putting pressure on Lhere Artepe to move more quickly in negotiations over the land release, to resolve native title issues.
"We will do it as soon as possible. It's part of us growing up, understanding business.
"Lhere Artepe hasn't been moving fast enough.
"We've been around for seven years now and we're starting to be an old organisation still behaving like a new one.
"We have to learn how to negotiate with the assets we have, to maximise the benefit to our members of every decision that comes our way.
"We have traditional owners of this country living in squalor.
"It's time for us to do something about that, get our members out of poverty."
Mr Ansell also says Lhere Artepe could make land available to the government to house bush vistors.
Proper houses should be built.
"We want to bring them [the bush visitors] to normality," he says.
"We'll give the government land at the right price."
Mr Ansell leaves a job in mental health.
He has also been chairman of Congress, Arrernte Council, IAD, and the Country Music Association, as well as owner/operator of the Pitchi Ritchi Sanctuary.


He has enough "troops" but is making significant changes to their deployment, says the new head of the uniformed police in Alice Springs, Superintendent Sean Parnell.
Rosters will depend on careful intelligence about when officers are most needed on patrol, day or night.
He will introduce a computer based system called ICAD, in use for some time in Darwin, to prioritize responses to callouts and Ð ingeniously Ð doing much of the tedious paperwork, "auto finalizing" it. "The police member doesn't need to come back and update the paperwork," says Supt Parnell.
"They give the names to the operator and it's all done."
He's just formed a five officer squad which will target the flood of unroadworthy cars, both in town and in the corridors to bush communities.
Cops will be in your face, especially in areas of frequent anti-social behavior.
And Supt Parnell says he will listen to the public, even on issues not directly concerning the police.
His stature is reminiscent of the legendary "Lofty" Moffatt in the Ôeighties who entered local folklore with his ability to carry a villain under each arm.
But Supt Parnell, previously stationed in Darwin and Harts Range, will need to walk tall and strong in more ways than one to tackle public disorder in The Alice, real or perceived.
He says both are equally important: the community must not only be safe, it must also feel safe, he says.
A key community concern, slow police response or no response at all, that there are not enough officers at night when the bashings, and especially the burglaries and property damage are committed, will be allayed by allocating "resources based on known demand".
What will be the average response time? Ten minutes?
"You are putting me on the spot. I've only been here a couple of weeks, I haven't really driven right around the whole place yet either."
What if the callout is within two kilometres of the CBD?
"I would say, if it's in the city, the response time would certainly be under 10 minutes.
"If it's a priority one, for example, and there is no-one available on the road, we can send someone from the station."
He says every single officer is available to attend to calls, "including myself":
"I attended a job on Thursday or Friday in Parsons Street."
Of course, the predictions used for staff rostering are bound to be off the mark from time to time, and there can be a " flurry of activities". How often does that happen?
Says Supt Parnell: "I can't tell you percentage-wise but I wouldn't imagine it would be very frequent at all."
More than 20% of the time?
"No, but I couldn't put a figure on it. Obviously, we would [give priority] to jobs where people's lives or property are in danger."
So when police do get a delay in response, how long would that delay be? The Alice News had a story recently where it took two and a half hours to respond to a burglary that was in progress at the time the report was made.
"If there is no immediate danger police will attend to other jobs where there may be some immediate danger, such as domestic violence incidents, which is a priority of ours."
The public preoccupation about police numbers is less relevant than "how we use them".
"And that's what I'm trying to fine tune, how we use those numbers", including targeting specific problems such as anti-social behaviour.
Such an operation was run in Northside last week. To what effect?
"There was no-one arrested, which is good, but there was a large quantity of alcohol tipped out, and 60 people moved on.
"It's proactive policing" Ð stepping in before offences are committed.
Is moving people on meaningful?
"It can be, if it is used properly with other enforcement tools.
"Moving people on but not tipping their alcohol out would be ineffective, particularly if they are going to breach the law 100 metres down the road.
"We're getting people's names; there might be restrictions on movements of people on bail.
"We find out who's there.
"It's police presence, the visibility of police ... which in itself is a deterrent."
Are there as many officers at night as there are rostered during the day?
"If it's busier at night then there would be more officers rostered on.
"It gets back to how we use this intelligence-based rostering.
"We can certainly predict when some of the busy times are going to be.
"But it's an imperfect science. We do the best with the data we have."
A new unit of one sergeant and four constables will start on March 8 "purely dedicated to traffic enforcement, including unroadworthy vehicles, which are obviously a major safety issue, and drink driving, not just in town but also in the transport corridors to the remote communities, in conjunction with the bush stations."
Supt Parnell says there are specialist units such as dealing with domestic violence or property crime reduction but they don't syphon off manpower from general policing.
They free up the cops in the street "but if an emergency happened, they are still available to attend a call.
"They've all got a wireless in their cars."
Does Alice Springs have two and a half times as many police officers, per head of population, as Victoria?
"I wouldn't doubt it, I think it's been bandied around in Parliament" but the allocations are made "on the basis of disadvantage and the requirements of remote area policing".
Is the quality of policing an issue of numbers or of organisation and skills?
Supt. Parnell says much can be achieved "by the way you roster officers, by targeting known offenders, by the way you proactively use [officers] to prevent issues before they arise."
While dealing with gangs is a specialist area for the CIB, Supt Parnell put the police's point of view to Parliament when the gang laws were introduced, and he will maintain a "keen interest" in how those laws will be used".
They include the police power to issue orders for people to stay away from certain places.
Supt Parnell is not uttering empty rhetoric when he says perception is as important as reality.
A member of the public tried to report a littering offense to the police and was all but fobbed off by the officer answering the phone Ð not the best PR for the police, although litter is primarily a local government responsibility.
Now Supt Parnell is personally looking into the incident: "It may not be our responsibility but it doesn't preclude police from taking interest and passing it on to other organisations.
"Police can deal with any offence. We can deal with illegal immigrants but we leave that to the Immigration Department."
It's not the only example of the new top cop keeping his ear to the ground.
A lot of people are irritated with the hidden speed cameras, which are in fact a clandestine surveillance.
The police officer takes his photos through the back window of the police vehicle which isn't marked at the rear.
Says Supt Parnell: "Not more than half an hour ago my station sergeant has been organising for the van to be marked properly, like they are in Darwin, with much higher visibility.
"It's all about deterrence, the visible police presence."
Sean Parnell has been in the Northern Territory Police Force for 22 years. He worked in the Alice for a few years when he first joined the police force, then worked in Darwin.
He served for two years at Harts Range in the 1990s before returning to Darwin with his family.
He has most recently worked in the Commissioner's Office in Darwin as the relief Superintendent.


MHR Warren Snowdon's continued dogged championing of the CDEP scheme is now at odds with widespread criticism of it.
The Federal Government's latest move against it, announced last week, will take 6100 Indigenous Australians off it and into mainstream jobseeker networks.
The moves are supposed to apply to places where there is a vibrant labour market and an unemployment rate lower than 7%.
Mr Snowdon's electorate escapes the move, even though Alice Springs's unemployment rate is well below the threshold.
It's variously quoted as 3.5% (town council), 5.3% (Territory government) and 5.5% (ABS).
Editor ERWIN CHLANDA continues his interview with the Member for Lingiari, who will face voters later this year, seeking his seventh term in parliament. (See last week's issue for the first installment of the interview.)

NEWS: Are you satisfied with the rate of progression from CDEP "jobs for the dole" to mainstream work in the 30 years that CDEP has been in use?
SNOWDON: No, because I think the opportunities weren't there. Before the Howard Government there were seamless connections between CDEP and broader labour market programs and people were induced to try and get into employment outside CDEP.
We need to remember that CDEP came as a result of Aboriginal people, over three decades ago, not wanting to be passive welfare recipients but to work for the money they would otherwise be entitled to as an unemployment payment. NEWS: At what rate did CDEP participants move into the mainstream labour market?
SNOWDON: I don't have those numbers at hand, but the point is that the government has changed the focus on CDEP entirely. It is now simply an employment program, whereas it was set up as a community development program. I think the present government wants to get rid of it as quickly as possible. And if they think that providing the current mainstream labour market services is going to work they are sadly mistaken.
But a great deal more can be done to develop the interface between CDEP, training and the broader labour market.
NEWS: What picture do you have of urban drift as it may or may not impact on Alice Springs? What kinds of publicly funded facilities should or should not be provided to people coming in from the bush?
SNOWDON: I don't know what the figures are. There is research from Tangentyere, the Centre for Remote Health and Desert Knowledge but I don't have it to hand.
What we need to appreciate are the conditions that exist in communities across central Australia, and not just concentrate on town camps.
We also need to understand that it's not unusual for people to move, many on a temporary basis, for the purposes of accessing services that are not available in their home communities such as health, education and retail opportunities, or to play sport or just visit family.
NEWS: No doubt everyone is free to move. The question is, to what degree should these people be aided by the public purse, for example, through the provision of housing? I wanted to come to Alice Springs 32 years ago, so I paid my way here, got a job, paid rent for a house, bought it, started a business, and so on. I got very little in the way of government subsidies.
SNOWDON: We have chronic overcrowding of housing in rural communities, especially in the NT. It should be no surprise that people want to move to get access to better housing. But the simple fact is that there is a chronic housing shortage across the Central Australian region. It is important that there is public housing, which has been a basic feature of public policy, in all jurisdictions for generations and will remain so into the future. My own parents lived in public housing all of their married lives, and that has been the experience of millions of Australians, still is and will remain so.
People should be able to access public housing regardless of where they are from, and whether they are black, white or brindle. People around the world are moving into towns and cities and often have no means of support until they can set themselves up and get a job. That shouldn't be a surprise to us, it has been a significant feature of our nation's history.
We do need to develop more effective strategies to deal with the movement of people into the town including short term accommodation options.
NEWS: There is a lot of concern that we will encourage to come here people who have no means of supporting themselves, who don't fit in.
SNOWDON: All the time I've been in public life I've been talking about the failure of governments, in particular in the Northern Territory, Country Liberal Party governments, to provide people with the basic educational opportunities in the bush. It was only after the election of the Martin Government in 2001 that kids in the bush were given access to high school opportunities. There have been generations of people who have had no or inadequate access to education and training opportunities and as a result, are unable to get employment. Many can't read and write.
NEWS: Should they be assisted to learn the skills necessary for living in town before they leave their communities?
SNOWDON: If your point is they should be educated in their home communities so that if they want to compete in the wider job market, that they've got skills, you're right. There is a large untapped labour supply in the bush which will remain untapped until people in the bush are educated and trained and have the skills to get a job.
What is clear though is that many people in the bush are very frustrated at the lack of services and opportunities available to them.
It is also true that people moving into town should accept that they are moving into someone else's community and know what behaviour is acceptable and what is not.
NEWS: Would bush people not be put under a great deal of stress if they are plonked into a community where they don't fit in?
SNOWDON: I am not sure what you are getting at. People move for a variety of reasons and they make their own judgements. It is clear though that a great deal more needs to be done to involve people in the bush in the discussion, to see precisely what their views and expectations are and insure that they also understand the expectations of them by our community.
NEWS: The Central Land Council has an outstanding Ð albeit not surprising Ð record claiming and obtaining land for traditional owners, but it has failed almost entirely in assisting their clients to capitalise on the clear economic opportunities on their newly acquired land, from pastoralism to horticulture and, especially, tourism.
SNOWDON: Let's not assume that in their three decades in existence the land councils had all that time to set up small businesses. Up until the late 1990s they were spending much of their time fighting CLP Governments in court. Since then the agenda has become land management and business opportunities, including planned horticultural ventures, but that will take time.
NEWS: But it's miniscule, isn't it. Right now there are no substantial businesses at all.
SNOWDON: They are on the cusp of developing quite large scale enterprises if they can work through the processes and there are very significant investments from royalty associations and the commercial life of the region.
NEWS: Which ones?
SNOWDON: Centrefarm, set up under the aegis of the CLC is actively pursuing horticultural and agricultural options here in the Centre.
NEWS: For 10 years at Utopia ...
SNOWDON: They're looking at a whole range of places where they might set up these sorts of enterprises and it does take time.
NEWS: But it is still in the future, isn't it.
SNOWDON: You require capital. You require human resources and intellectual property, a whole range of things which would be extremely new to these indigenous communities.
But the CLC is also actively engaged in a range of other activities which promote employment, training and business opportunities in areas such as land management, the training and employment of rangers, as well as in the tourism, mining and pastoral industries.
NEWS: They certainly have the manpower, thousands of unemployed or underemployed across Central Australia. They have plenty of land, including areas with lots of underground water. And the question of capital is an interesting one. The Central Land Council is the majority shareholder in Centrecorp, which apparently controls assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars acquired with mining royalties. This money is currently invested in businesses with little tangible benefit to Aborigines.
SNOWDON: Centrecorp plays an important role. It's investing into The Centre's economy.
NEWS: How do these investments benefit Aboriginal people?
SNOWDON: The benefits are there now; its investments have given Aboriginal people a considerable financial stake in the economy of Central Australia. However, It is a private organisation, which uses private money and reports to its shareholders.
I don't run their business, I'm not part of the business, I'm not appraised as to what their businesses are doing as I'm not appraised what other private businesses are doing in this town.
NEWS: In response to several enquiries from traditional owners, morally the owners of all those millions, the Alice News has tried for more than a year to get details about Centrecorp's investments and activities. They will not give details. We published information in the public domain but that's scant.
SNOWDON: They are a private company. They don't have to tell you what money they have got. Just as any other private company has no obligation to reveal to you how they run their business, what their profit is if any and how they might distribute benefits. Centrecorp has moneys which they invest on behalf of their shareholders and it is to them that they are responsible. I have no problems with that at all.
NEWS: Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough has told the Alice News last year that he will be investigating as a matter of priority allegations that the CLC's involvement in Centrecorp is in breach of the Land Rights Act. Its Section 23 says land councils aren't permitted to be exposed to financial liability nor benefit. Being a three fifth shareholder in a firm apparently dealing in tens of millions of dollars seems to contravene that.
SNOWDON: Centrecorp is a properly and legally constituted entity and is not part of the CLC.
NEWS: Where is the benefit to the broad Aboriginal community from Centrecorp? Every time there is any kind of Aboriginal initiative the taxpayer is expected to fund it.
SNOWDON: Centrecorp is a private company, it uses private money, it is not taxpayer funded. Like any company charged with investing on behalf of shareholders it will make decisions that are in the best interests of its shareholders, it is their business.


"Let's go naked for a while and check the response," says Alderman Murray Stewart.
That would be a lot better, he says, than what we're dishing up for the unsuspecting tourist at the moment.
They come here expecting fearless bush men, braving the hostile elements out there, relishing their boundless freedom, their opportunity for reckless adventure, and brave, resourceful women with a vision, the Wild West all over again.
"Instead visitors are meeting public servants with long glasses of coffee in one hand, and a thick pencil in the other, striking out whatever they fear may offend someone, until there is nothing left," says the aspiring Mayor, blind since birth.
"Let's not be afraid to be a little bit crazy, do the unguided missile stuff, hit anybody.
"I'm tired of being scrutinised by well meaning people.
"Let's be hip, stop being afraid of ourselves."
Ald Stewart says when fellow alderman Ernie Nicholls put on a bucks' night for Prince Charles in Bo's Saloon, he got world wide publicity.
The fact that the Prince wasn't game to front up hardly mattered.
There should be more of this, says Ald Stewart.
He takes aim at the Tourist Commission's "Share Our Story" campaign: a total flop, he says, "it has no traction whatsoever".
When he proposed to celebrate the declaration of Alice as a solar city Ð should it happen Ð by cracking a bottle of champagne with Malcolm Turnbull, the thought police in the tourism industry cautioned against it, lest the Alice folk would be suspected to be a lot of drunks.
God forbid.
For all the tight scripting of the official Alice story, it's all a lot of froth and no bubble, says Ald Stewart.
While the rest of the world is getting over political correctness, Alice Ð always behind the eightball Ð is firmly stuck in it.
"We're driven mad by all this," says Ald Stewart.
When Australia squeezed every last drop of propaganda out of Steve Irwin's tragic death, people in Alice proposed a local female identity as a leading figure.
"Who knows her in New York?" asks Ald Stewart.
He's designed a flag (see photo) and says he wants it to be the "people's flag", liberated from tedious officialdom.
"Let's hand the flags to people arriving at the airport and the railway station.
"Let's send them to our rellies interstate.
"Let's wave them when we protest against Clare Martin and her Darwin harbour development which is threatening to drown us."
The flags are available from Advance Alice.
Ald Stewart says the majority of Alice Springs is far from being adventurous.
Would-be leaders, when faced with progressive propositions, are mostly saying "let's see what we can do to ensure it doesn't happen".
He says Advance Alice, the new group headed up by Steve Brown and of which Ald Stewart is a member, wants to go the other way.
"We will make things happen," says Ald Stewart.
The flag, manufactured by the local firm Creative Gifts and Awards, is just the start.
Advance Alice and local film maker David Nixon produced a DVD promoting solar energy for the town, largely with footage shot by tyre dealer Dave Douglas.
It's been sent to Mr Turnbull as an extra push for the solar city bid.
Do we really deserve the gong?
Ald Stewart fervently hopes we'll get it, but when asked how we would have earned it, he's pressed for an answer: "Well, we have so much sunshine."


There's $15,000 in the kitty, $30,000 to go to cover costs and wages for cast and crew: that's the hard cold cash side of theatre production.
The money in the bank comes from Arts NT (on top of their $50,000 to cover operational costs).
The rest, if Red Dust Theatre's artistic director Danielle Loy has her way, will come from corporate sponsorship.
The production is Warren H. Williams' family musical The Magic Coolamon, a good versus evil story inspired by bedtime stories his grandmother told him as a child.
Loy has already had some wins: LJ Hooker in Darwin and Alice have come on board as a major sponsor.
That's where a little family connection comes in handy. Director David Loy is an uncle.
"She's got government funding," he says of his niece, "so someone else has said it's OK, and I'm happy to tag along as the corporate sponsor.
"And they'll promote our business in every way Ð I understand they've got five events coming up in 2007."
It's a departure from the norm for Hookers: David Loy says the company Ôs sponsorship usually focusses on junior development in sport, although he also has a look at backing some of "the larger shows".
Loy has gone on to compile a list of 30 corporate players in the Centre and sent them sponsorship packages, tailoring them where she could to the company's sphere of activity.
One of the earliest responses came from Central Petroleum, whose 200,000 square kilometre exploration area covers both Alice Springs and much of Western Arrernte country where Warren H. Williams was born and raised.
Says Central Petroleum's John Heugh: "If our plans come to fruition in Central Australia we would hope to employ quite a few of the traditional owners.
"So from a purely commercial perspective if we can help the young ones develop interests that take them away from drugs, alcohol and petrol, so much the better. "I know they are not all involved [in substance abuse] but it's a big problem and ultimately it will impact on our operations."
This is only the company's second sponsorship of a community-based activity, the first being to support last year's tour of town camps and communities by Indigenous boxing champion Anthony Mundine.
Mr Heugh says his company hopes to achieve "business dominance" in the Centre as far as petroleum is concerned and they therefore see themselves as obliged to consider requests for support from the community, regardless of whether or not the request relates to Aboriginal interests.
This could open the floodgates but, he laughs, "we can always say no".
Says Loy: "Corporate sponsorship is not charity, it's a business opportunity Ð they spend this much money and we give them this much market exposure. I really believe it!"
And even as we talk, she takes a call on her mobile and learns that Newmont Mines have come on board for $5000.
Closer to home Red Dust is garnering Ôin kind' support from local businesses, donating goods for a fund-raising raffle (first prize is two Gold Kangaroo Ghan tickets, valued at $2190) which will be drawn when the theatre holds its launch and membership drive on the roof at The Lane on March 2.
Membership is about broadening the base of Red Dust. Because the theatre has involved a core of dedicated people over the nearly six years of its existence, Loy says there's a danger of it being seen as a "private club" but that is not at all the intention.
Becoming a member (for $42) will give people a stake in the theatre, "drawing them in from the beginning, having them follow the Red Dust year".
Add to this a 5% discount to all Red Dust events and a free first beer or house wine with every lunch or dinner booking at The Lane (whether it's for a Red Dust event or not).
Also in the interest of broadening their base, Red Dust are calling for manuscripts of short plays (closing date March 31) and from the selected scripts will stage a short play festival on the roof at The Lane in May/June.
Here Loy puts in a plug for The Lane: "They are really supportive of the arts in Central Australia.
They are supplying us the venue for our launch and the short play festival at no cost and donating a dinner voucher as a raffle prize, on top of the free drink membership incentive."
The Desert Park also gets a big tick: "They are transforming the nature theatre to accommodate our technical requirements (lighting mainly), as well as providing the incredible venue in the first place. They're also providing us with marketing support.
"And Wildlife Park Services, the company running the gift shop and catering at the Desert Park, are running the box office for The Magic Coolamon and opening up the cafe and Madigans restaurant for performance nights, with budget family meals as well as after show options." Red Dust are also hoping to get regular theatre sports events up and running.
And it doesn't stop there.
Far from it.
They've entered into partnership with Darwin Theatre Company (DTC) to stage a Territory production of Michael Watts' play, Not like Beckett, which was staged to critical acclaim and healthy audiences in Melbourne last year.
The DTC are paying for the Darwin season, while Red Dust will tour the production to Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, with Araluen purchasing the show.
The Darwin Festival has purchased Barracking, a Red Dust development production from 2005, about Aussie Rules fans.
Fittingly it was staged at the old Traeger Park stadium, where half of its audience saw a Red Dust production for the first time.
Barracking underwent script development in 2006 with a professional dramaturg and Loy now hopes that enough funds can be raised to take it on a more extensive Territory tour, to not only Tennant Creek and Katherine but some communities as well. Timber Creek and Ali Curung have expressed an interest.
The price ticket for that is $60,000. Submissions have gone into the Australia Council and the AFL Foundation but again, Loy will be working on corporate backing.
The casualty in all this ambitious planning has been Loy's own play, Hit by a bus.
"I haven't got time!" she laughs.
Is that disappointing? Creative people often resent the way the hard reality of production work takes them away from their artistic endeavours. Loy doesn't see it like that.
"I'm loving watching Red Dust grow. I see production as creative, it's the vehicle for the art.
"But also my background has prepared me well for it.
"I come from an entrepreneurial family and I've got legal training and experience."


It makes the slogan t-shirt look pretty basic: a breath-reactive top promoting awareness of that most fundamental but easily overlooked fact, our intimate connection with the natural world.
Soft circuitry sewn into the fabric of the top in a series of ribs sitting over the human rib cage operates a switching mechanism that lights up the screen-printed image of a plant as you breathe out.
As you breathe in the ribs come together again and switch the light off.
"It's so close to you, you can't ignore it, you engage," says its creator, Alice-based designer Elliat Rich.
"Every breath we take is processed by the leaves of plants, but we're mostly divorced from that connection [although] it is intimate, critical to our existence."
Rich was introduced to the technology behind the top at a three-week residential workshop called reSkin, run by the Australian Network for Art and Technology in conjunction with Craft Australia and the Australian National University.
It introduced designers to the brave new world of wearable technology: wire that shrinks when you run a charge through it; thread that responds to body heat; conductive fabric and thread with textures like lycra and organza.
The materials have been used in military and medical applications, but also by artists, to create, for instance, a dress adorned with flowers that open and close, or with a hemline that goes up and down (the creations of Jo Berzowska, from XS Lab in Montreal, one of the workshop facilitators).
"She plays with poetic ideas: you fighting with your clothing, it having a mind of its own," says Rich.
"It's clear that would change behaviour patterns as our clothes are usually a protective shield."
It's not surprising that these ideas appeal to Rich: her work strongly engages with the way people live.
A recent creation, Urban Billy, is, as the name suggests, a receptacle for boiling water, and sitting neatly inside it are a spirit stove and two cups, all made from glass and contained in a leather case.
"People usually want to meet over a drink. Urban Billy allows people to sustain that without having to go into a privately owned space.
"It also offers aesthetic pleasure. Its transparent materials allow you to see the beauty of water boiling, of tea infusing and these elements interact with the environment Ð with light and colour."
Rich is not afraid of using buzzwords like Ôsustainability' but she is careful to articulate what she means: "The use of the object defines what is and is not sustainable. We have to ask ourselves what do we value highly enough to sustain it? What objects do we need to sustain it? When we answer these questions we realise that a lot of objects become unnecessary to sustain."
Returning to the breath-reactive top, Rich feels the work is not fully resolved.
"I've made a working protoype, which hadn't been successfuly done to date. My mechanism is Ôsimple and effective' Ð that was a big accolade I got from Jo." Philosophically it links with Urban Billy: "If people feel connected to the environment [by their awareness of the link between their very breathing and plants] they will want to live more sustainably, there'll be a reason for it, rather than a theoretical commitment to a principle."
Now she has to make a top she's happy with and is also working on a public presentation of what she learnt at reSkin. So, watch this space...


The first Indigenous musical to ever come out of Central AustraliaÉ
On my way to the Red Hot Arts building, where I was to sit in on a rehearsal for The Magic Coolamon, I was trying to imagine what a Central Australian Indigenous musical would be like: Would the ranges be alive with the sound of Warren H? Would Warren be singing in the drought? Or, the drain? I sat befuddled in my car.
I walked through to the rehearsal room to find what looked like a campfire scene.
"Ah, I'm here from the Alice News," I said. "I'm doing a story about The Magic Coolibah."
I copped a roomful of dirty looks.
"Geez, I'm such a bloody amateur!" I thought. So I sat down quietly next to director Danielle Loy and tried to hold my notebook insightfully.
The plot involves, yes, a magic coolamon that has the power to give you anything you ask for. One night, a pair of quirky evil spirits played by Ella Dann and Steve Gumerungi Hodder (think Joker and Penguin from Batman) come and trick grandma (Sylvia Neale) into following them to their cave and stealing the magic coolamon.
Kaya (Anyupa Butcher) is forced on a journey to find her grandma and rescue the magic coolamon.
"It's a mix of bedtime stories I used to get told as a kid," said Warren H, "but one night, they all just came to me as one big story. "
And there are plenty of catchy Warren H. Williams tunes written especially for the play. The theme tune, "Desert Child", has already been recently covered by Warren's mate, John Williamson.
"Desert child lay down your head / And listen to what's being said / Stars are out in their majesty / Out here everyone is free."
The Magic Coolamon is intended to be a real family cultural experience.
"It can work for a four year old, and it can work for a ninety year old," said director Danielle Loy.
What creates a true family feel is the range of ages of the characters: three generations, grandma, father and daughter.
Anyupa Butcher, niece of legendary Warrumpi Band member Sammy Butcher, has got music in her genes and if her performance matches the dulcet tones that have floated over the back fence to my backyard for many years, then we're all in for a treat.
Ella Dann also proved her abilities in last year's St Philip's Musical, Fiddler on The Roof. I'm sure she'll do a Dann fine job.
The play is going to be held at the Desert Park Nature Theatre, outside, around a real fire, the way all good stories should be told.
"I'd like locals to come and see it, you know?" said Warren H., "cos it's a local play, it's from here, and it's about this place"
So this year, don't think The Boy From Oz, think "The Boy From Central Oz" and get down to the Desert Park on March 29-31.

ADAM CONNELLY: Pollies are people too, or so they say.

Popular culture has given the world many wonderful and inspiring scenes and phrases.
The Godfather trilogy taught me the difference between business and personal emotions.
The Star Wars trilogy taught me that anger leads to hate which leads to the dark side.
It also taught me that one should always make sure the girl you fancy isn't your sister.
Indeed television plays its part in my social education as well. One of my favourite programs at the moment is The West Wing. It has taught me that Americans think far too highly of their politicians.
Our political leaders don't get anywhere near that level of respect. And I'm glad.
Living so close to our local representatives here in the Territory makes you realise that they are just regular people.
They have their strengths and their weaknesses, their good ideas and their bad. They are just as prone to social faux pas as the rest of us. Running for office doesn't change any of that.
Popular culture also has its social gaffs. In fact because pop culture is so large and all pervading, these gaffs have names.
The first is known as "jumping the shark".
The amazingly successful show Happy Days enjoyed great success in its first couple of seasons. But ratings started to flag as the viewing public's tastes changed. Unsure of what to do, the writers decided to get Fonzie to jump over a pool containing a shark. Heeey! That's got to get the fans back, doesn't it? Well no, it didn't. In fact the preposterous nature of the stunt was a turn-off. Thus "jumping the shark" has come to describe any shallow idea which it is hoped will fix a deeper situation.
Another trick pop culture employs from time to time is the "silver bullet". This comes from the old Monster movies, where the writers created a monster so evil and so indestructible that, no matter what the members of the village try, nothing can stop it. That is, until someone loads the last bullet into the gun. It happens to be made out of silver. Wow! It works! Therefore the "silver bullet" is said to describe an idea that is hoped to fix a problem much bigger than the solution.
Why am I telling you this? Sure, it's interesting trivia but why on earth are you meant to care? Well, I've noticed that there has been a lot of talk around town about certain issues. There's been town hall meetings.(Not literally "Town Hall" meetings, we don't have one. Civic Centre meetings sounds a bit wrong don't you think?)
Public gatherings focussed on finding solutions to the town's problems. Some of these town meetings have been constructive while others have been a place for people to simply vent their frustrations. These are quite valid frustrations for the most part.
Whether it be noise from the power generator causing months of interrupted sleep or drunks making a foul mess on the driveway, there are some legitimate grievances.
However some of the suggestions at these meetings have not been thought through. They are the silver bullets for the town's ills.
Rather than a well reasoned idea backed by good research, the ideas brought to the table are more from the "well, we've got to do something" school of thought.
While those affected by the problems get angrier and more flabbergasted, the ideas they propose could reasonably do little to help the situation.
Politicians have not been immune to poor judgement. They are in a particularly tricky situation. Any proposal designed to help the town and the situation it finds itself in, must not only appeal to the populace but also be financially prudent and fit into the overall plan of the party they represent.
These ideas must be the roundest peg in the roundest of holes. This makes their ideas and plans of the shark jumping variety.
I don't know what the solution is. I don't pretend to know. But I do know that alcohol restriction alone and security cameras alone and more police alone won't fix things.
Level headedness and expert thinking is needed rather than plans made in haste. Remember as Andrew Clark says in the movie The Breakfast Club, "If you lose your temper, you're totaled Ð totally."

LETTERS: What Territory lifestyle?

Sir,Ð Many politicians refer to "preserving our Territory lifestyle" and I wonder what it really means.Ê
My Territory lifestyle is vastly different to most other people's.Ê
I'm a single parent with two businesses, one is anÊIT business and the other a therapeutic health business.Ê
I work long hours, am learning to play the djembe, and dabble in politics.Ê
What I value most is the ability to live my life my own way and to be known for the things I do.Ê
The Alice is small and diverse and a person can certainly make their mark if they so desire.Ê It's not always easy living here: the weather conditions are harsh, the gossip factor is high, gardens become overrun with couch grass andÊwe see first hand the unhappy lives of many around us.Ê
I am very unhappy with the way the NT Government seems to have starved us in the Centre of social services, police and health care.Ê It feels like the town is under seige, waiting for the stranglehold to be loosened.Ê
But maybe we can look at this as a gift.Ê The townspeople need to work together, as they did during past hard times, and make this town better.Ê I have been inspired by a group of parents wanting to build a BMX track in a local park.Ê They have offered to supply the heavy equipment, do the labour and work with the kids to create a park for the neighbourhood.Ê
They are investing their time, their parental guidance and ingenuity into making their neighbourhood better.Ê
I also commend the volunteers who have offered to fix some of the problems with our basketball stadium.Ê
And the swimming centre users group deserves a medal (or maybe just a heated pool!).
ÊAs a town, we may be missing out on our fair share of the Territory and Australian Government services but I think the tables are turning and we are claiming our town back, doing what needs to be done and investing in the humanity of Alice.
ÊI don't agree with ramping up CCTV or neglecting our parks in favour of tourism promotion projects.Ê
Before heading down that road, we need more social support services and lots of free events for the young. We need the politicians to be promoting our "Territory attitude", rather than sitting back and enjoying the "Territory lifestyle".
Jane Clark
Alice Springs
ED Ð Jane Clark is an alderman on the Alice Springs Town Council.

Bring me back my pet

Sir,Ð I am writing out of frustration due to events that have occurred over the past couple of weeks.
I had my pedigree dog (pictured above) disappear three weeks ago, and despite extensive advertising and searching, have been unable to locate her.
She has been seen four times after which she disappeared. On more than one occasion it has been asked, "How much money will you give me if I get your dog back for you?"
This indicates that people know her whereabouts, but are unwilling at this point in time to share the information.
From my advertising I have heard from people who, like me, have had a dog disappear. These dogs have been difficult to locate, or never seen again. How can this happen in such a small town?
One lady stated when her dog disappeared she was unable to locate it for years. When she finally found her dog she realised that she knew people who had known of her dog's location all along. This apathetic attitude is so disheartening when such a strong community exists here. I have had amazing support and help from many people. My local veterinary surgery has done a remarkable job in helping me search for my dog. Others have been wonderfully generous with their time and effort Ð some complete strangers.
Why do people hold onto lost animals? I know that many misconceptions exist about what the RSPCA and pound do with our lost animals. I wish to clarify this process to help break down these stereotypes.
All lost animals must be handed into the pound. It is illegal to hold onto a lost animal. In essence, this is holding onto stolen property.
The RSPCA do their utmost to locate the owners of all lost animals. I strongly recommend that all pets be micro-chipped as this allows for immediate identification.
In the event that the RSPCA are unable to locate the owner of a lost animal, that animal is re-housed, when possible. This is the time you can claim a lost animal to keep.
Only after all these avenues are exhausted is an animal put down. The process to this point takes at least four weeks, by which time any responsible pet owner would have contacted the RSCPA to report their pet lost.
I request all residents of Alice Springs to act responsibly in relation to finding a lost pet. Being the owner of a lost pet, I would feel relieved to know that the RSPCA had my dog, as they would care for her until I was able to go and claim her. I also request that if anyone has any information on my, or other lost animals, they contact the RSPCA.
MISSY: Female black and tan miniature dachshund (sausage dog), approx 18cm tall and 40cm long. She has a fine structure, and is a very timid dog. She does require regular medication and could become very sick.
Any information on her location would be greatly appreciated. A reward will be offered if any information leads to her recovery. Call me on 0422376866 or the RSPCA on 89534430.
Paula Melville
Alice Springs

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