March 29, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


Alice Springs can sleep peacefully. The answer to the town's law and order problems has been found.
It's a group of about 35 people in yellow vests, armed with little Alice Springs flags designed by Alderman Murray Stewart, strolling around the town at night, in the mall and through some of the more sinister crevasses, such as dark lanes and the base of Anzac Hill, where recently vicious assaults have been perpetrated.
It worked a treat last week.
In the three hours from 10pm on Saturday not a single gang could be spotted, no-one was bashed and the only contact between the very few Aboriginal youths in evidence, and the all-white strollers, were exchanges such as: "How ya doing, mate." "Not a bad night for it."
The stroll was the brainchild of Advance Alice, headed by Steve Brown, who with his brothers and their partners, all members of the pioneering Brown family, made up about a fifth of the participants.
There had been fears that this would be an exercise in vengeance against the hundreds of youths, mainly black, who've been terrorising the town.
The word "patrol" was attributed a sinister meaning, although there have been for years night, day, youth and probably a variety of other citizens' patrols, their members carrying torches and wearing t-shirts with the appropriate insignia.
In fact the strollers, aged mid-thirties upwards, looked more like Dad's Army than vicious vigilantes.
Or Mum's Army - about a third of them were women.
It was a co-ed reclaim the night.
The great majority were owners or managers of small businesses.
There was a jovial atmosphere, friendly wisecracks, a palpable satisfaction and sense of power in enjoying their town without fear, anywhere they liked, any time they liked.
But there was also the sense that they were the vanguard committed to dragging The Alice back from the brink: the long term locals weren't going to remain idle as their home town is sent down the gurgler by, as they see it, government neglect and incompetence in the face of a wholesale breakdown of law and order.
Ald Stewart, who lashed out at Family Services Minister Delia Lawrie for hinting he was seeking the company of vigilantes, set the tone with his inimitable gift of the gab: "We want to send the blame call out to Chief Minister Clare Martin."
Ms Martin, Police Minister Chris Burns and Ms Lawrie "are the guilty trinity" whose "inaction has resulted in our town, in some way, to be taken away from us".
Said Ald Stewart: "Well, Clare, you are spending $100m of our taxpayers' money on your big spa bath up there in Darwin, otherwise known as the Darwin harbour precinct, and you are robbing Alice Springs of what we need, extra police and extra resources."
There were paddy wagons near the group several times during the night, but, said Ald Murray, that was "a bit of a facade, a bit of a PR exercise". None of the protesters had visible weapons. Some had long-handled torches.
Mr Brown made participants sign an acceptance of conditions that no-one must incite violence.
One clause was: "I will report any unlawful act that I witness to the police and will not intervene unless it is deemed an emergency situation such as a person being attacked."
Two laps on foot of the CBD and a quick beer at the Firkin and Hound were serenely peaceful.
At one point strollers shone their torches on kids on the roof of the Youth Centre, which had just closed.
They scampered into the dark at the base of Anzac Hill.
There were signs of wanton vandalism in the town, some of the damage probably hours or days old, the sad hallmark of today's Alice: bricks knocked off a wall in the post office car park; broken glass; a smashed ATM in Gregory Terrace.
Stones and rocks were picked up from several streets, missiles for smashing windscreens in the hands of young offenders.
But there was no sign of the mobs of youths who had set upon other young people and adults in the recent past.
Janet Brown says driving around in her car on a previous night she'd seen up to 200 youths loitering around the Anzac Hill car park - whose lights had very recently been fixed.
Ms Brown says she called the police. When they came the youngsters scampered, only to regroup minutes later when the cops had gone.
But on Saturday night there was just no sign of any troublemakers.
Yet the group had two significant encounters.
One was with Lhere Artepe chairman Frank Ansell, who had been tailing the group for about an hour.
Pat Brown, Steve's brother, went over to Mr Ansell who was sitting in his car.
As it turned out, the two men had known each other for many years.
In much of their five minute encounter, about midnight last Saturday, they were singing from the same hymn sheet: the NT Government's failure to provide adequate resources.
Mr Ansell said there should be much greater efforts to make bush communities viable, with better education, housing and jobs, even wet canteens, reducing the urge to come into town. Control of abuse of alcohol needs to be much more effective.
Mr Brown said law enforcement should be better resourced and organised, and parents should look after their children.
Mr Ansell asserted the group was "intimidating" - they agreed to disagree on that.
But both agreed that "we should talk", clearly a manifestation that the town's leading Aborigines have as much a desire for peace and order as does Advance Alice.
"If we can get a relationship going with Lhere Artepe we certainly will," says Steve Brown.
The second encounter was with long-time local cop, Station Sergeant Gary Smith, injured recently in a house fire while trying to rescue a trapped woman.
He told Steve Brown that he had no problem with the group's activities.
He asked for recognition of the commitment by the young police officers on the sharp end, his "kids", attending to callout after callout all night, often finishing the shift bewildered.
Mr Smith made the point that the police had responsibility not just for the CBD, so quiet that evening.
And that he himself is in charge of the area between Boroloola and Kulgera.
He offered to acquaint Advance Alice with police operations.
He told Mr Brown that on that Saturday night, three paddy wagons were on duty, six officers, with himself and the shift sergeant on the road from time to time.
Some of the strollers said later that that isn't enough officers on one of the week's busiest nights, given that the town has more than 100 police officers, some two and a half times more than, for example, the Victorian average.
Where to from now?
Steve Brown says Advance Alice will be a meeting next Sunday.
Another night on the street is likely, maybe lots of them. "We're not giving up on this damn thing," he says.
"The situation is too drastic. We can't afford not to follow through.
"If the NT Government isn't doing it we have to do it ourselves.
"Maybe we should start withholding fees, duties and charges paid to the NT Government."


"My goal is to get through Year 12, go to uni in Perth and do music," says Peter Andrews.
"I'm thinking of going to uni but I'll have a break next year, go overseas. Ultimately I'd like to get a job in sport and rec," says Athena Magoufakis.
"I decided I'd finish Year 12 a few years back, to get a good education and keep my options open - to go to uni or get a good job," says Jawoyn Cole-Manolis.
All three are Year 12 students at Centralian Senior Secondary College (CSSC), doing the college's Gateways program. At Year 12 level this is strongly linked to mainstream studies but Gateways provides extra support, whether it's tutoring or emotional or practical support.
"It's a down-to-earth program," says Peter.
"In mainstream you can get seven assignments all at once, it can be too much. In Gateways we do what we really need to do.
"And it teaches us basic skills for living, like time-keeping, organisation, cooking." Peter's learnt to do shepherd's pie, sausage rolls "by hand", spaghetti bolognese and says he cooks at home from time to time.
Athena did Year 11 in mainstream at CSSC, studying maths, English, two PEs and biology.
She returned to mainstream this year for the first two weeks but was finding it challenging and decided to come over to Gateways.
"You get heaps of support from the teachers. They're really friendly and treat you like an adult," she says.
Although her timetable finishes each day at lunchtime, she comes back in the afternoon to make the most of the support and get all her work done.
That leaves her free in the evening to train in her various sports - netball, basketball, touch. She plays in representative teams.
Jawoyn has only been in the program for two weeks, returning from school in Brisbane.
"There was not much support there. "I knew Trevor Read [one of the teachers] from ASHS - he helped me out a lot, so I thought I'd come back."
Being able to pick up his studies despite his late enrollment is "what is so good about Gateways", says Jawoyn.
Without coaxing the three students put their fingers on the key features of Gateways: extra support and flexibility focussed on them achieving their NT Certificate of Education alongside their peers in the mainstream programs.
The majority of students in Gateways are Indigenous but the program is open to any student who feels they need the extra support.
"Too many students from our feeder schools, ASHS and Anzac, were leaving at the end of Year 10," says program manager Chris Marcic.
"A lot of them were not ready for the traditional set up of Years 11 and 12 at Centralian."
So at the end of 2005 the college designed Gateways to cater for these students, aiming at an enrollment of 25.
In 2006 13 of the 25 were Indigenous.
As of last week, in just its second year of operation, enrollment stood at 87 students, of whom 68 are Indigenous.
They include for the first time a group of eight students from Yirara College, the Lutheran-run boarding school for Indigenous students.
"That's working beautifully, " says Ms Marcic, "they are all up to date." "Our students are doing the same NTCE as their peers," says Trevor Read, "and they can be as bright as any other student at the college, they are just getting more individual support."
This involves, obviously, having more staff per student. There are three full-time teachers and five full-time assistant teachers, with an extra assistant coming on this week.
That makes a staff to student ratio of one to 10. In the mainstream program the ratio is one to 16.
Some of the extra positions come through the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Technology (DEST) in a scheme targeting Indigenous education (each Indigenous student enrolled can attract funding for three hours of tutoring per week).
Other positions are provided by the NT Department of Education (DEET).
But numbers of staff are only part of the picture.
"This approach doesn't work unless you have good relationships with the students," says Ms Marcic.
Staff elect to do 30 hours a week contact teaching - no release time. There's flexibility if they have to leave for whatever reason, but the approach is one of all in together. For example, Ms Marcic is in charge of English but all of the staff are involved in teaching it.
"Our assistants are so experienced they are worth their weight in gold," says Mr Read.
Most of the assistants have come into the program from ASHS and Anzac.
In Year 11 all Gateways students do the same core program - English, maths, PE and cooking, with two more subjects chosen from the mainstream program.
In Year 12 they are encouraged to take on as many mainstream subjects as they can.
Mr Read says all Year 12s are now doing more mainstream subjects than not.
"Some are doing four mainstream subjects and one with us but they're spending 20 hours a week with us, getting support."
Many of the Indigenous students are choosing Aboriginal Studies which is offered in the mainstream program.
Staff from Gateways attend the Aboriginal Studies classes with them and the students work on their assignments with Gateways support.
Peter was working on an assignment about Aboriginal identity - "where it comes from and how we use it today".
A majority of students have a 90% plus attendance rate. There are some incentive schemes in place that contribute to this, such as a subsidy from DEST and the Sydney Myer Foundation to attend leadership camps. Such a camp took them last year to Melbourne and Mount Buller.
The camps are integrated with their studies, as are work experience hours through the adopt-a-school program. Charles Darwin University has adopted three Gateways students so far: one is working in the horticultural section and two are working in administration.
Both Ms Marcic and Mr Read have been involved in secondary education in Alice for many years.
The Alice News asked them whether they are seeing significant change on the Indigenous education front.
Says Ms Marcic: "Eleven years ago we would celebrate if one or two students got through to Year 12. This year Gateways alone will see 20 Indigenous students graduate from Year 12. "
The really significant thing, says Ms Marcic, is that the students themselves are seeing going through to Year 12 as normal.
CHANGE The News asked whether circumstances for the students had changed.
Of course they vary from person to person, but Ms Marcic says there continue to be some very difficult circumstances that students are facing, including, for a number of students, the death of their parents.
"Many of our students are not living with their parents," says Mr Read.
The three students the News spoke to have varied family backgrounds.
Only Athena is living with both parents and has spent all her life in Alice.
Both Peter and Jawoyn had lived for considerable periods of time elsewhere and have parents and siblings in other parts of Australia.
All three however reported support from their family for them to finish their high school education.
Peter lives with his mother and little brother and "I'm here for my Nanna too".
He says he started to think about going to uni when he was in Year 10, "when I got into my music".
"My family have supported me every step of the way. "
A brother and sister have also achieved Year 12, with his brother now working as a ranger in Kakadu.
His father has always urged him to "go into a trade".
Peter's not sure what his father thinks about a career in music but he says "he always spins out when he hears my band play - spins out in a good way".
Jawoyn has a brother who finished Year 12, having won a rugby union scholarship to a Brisbane college.
His brother is now working for the Queensland Government.
And Jawoyn's older sister in Broome has likewise finished Year 12.
"My parents want me to finish, they're pleased I'm doing it," says Jawoyn.
"I'm thinking of doing uni in a couple of years, I'll have a break next year and then maybe do teaching."
Athena's father is Greek, from Crete, and he's hoping to take his family to his native village for a year, once Athena's finished school.
She likes the village life, the people there are very friendly, but she's deeply attached to Alice Springs.
"I love this town, I'm born and bred here, half the town are my relatives, I've got heaps of first cousins.
"I like being around family.
"My parents wanted me to go through to Year 12 and I wanted to too. I was thinking about it from Grade Six on, so that I could get a job in sport and rec - be a physio or a PE teacher."
Gateways' achievement was recently acknowledged by a national award for leadership in Indigenous education.
It shared the top spot in the Dare to Lead awards with three other schools from around Australia and brought home a cheque for the school of $6000.

Delia ... oh Delia. Comment by KIERAN FINNANE, with apologies to Johnny Cash.

If the donga fiasco illustrates anything it's a town not in control of its fate.
Some might say Alice had it coming, having turned a blind eye to the problems of the town camps and the accommodation needs of visitors from the bush for way too long.
But blind eye is the way we do things in Alice Springs.
Every important issue and decision is squirrelled away into consultancies, committees and reports and it's don't call us, we'll call you.
Reassuring noises are made - public meetings, calls for submissions - but it's all too late when processes have been initiated that take decision-making away from the community where the decision is required.
With respect to the dongas it was clear that the rot had set in when the NT Government gave itself the role of deciding where the accommodation facilities would go and then farmed that job out to an engineering firm, Qantec McWilliam.
And the locally-based representatives on the Town Camps Taskforce steering committee didn't say boo. In fact, they seemed perfectly happy to be rubber stamping.
This course had already been set when the town council failed to follow through on the initiative of some of its staff responding to the influx of people from the bush in the summer of 2005-06. (See Alice News, Feb 23, 2006.)
This was well before Mal Brough, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, seized the initiative with his offer of ex-Woomera dongas.
Had the town council owned the problem at the start of 2006 we would probably be in quite a different position today.
Instead it was a rap on the knuckles for the then-outspoken council chief ranger, and we didn't hear from the council on the issues again until their limp objection to the Dalgety Road site, after lobbying by ratepayers.
In fact, had the town council owned up earlier to the failures of its Memorandum of Understanding with Tangentyere Council, in terms of equitable delivery of municipal services to ALL of its citizenry, we would probably be in quite a different position today.
The Alice News put this failure on the agenda of the local government election of 2004 but were repeatedly told everything was just fine.
So what is it about our decision-making processes that is missing the mark so badly?
Can I suggest that we rarely get the best person or people for the job.
We give the job to the same tried and true bureaucrats and representatives, who inevitably come up with the same tried and true approach, usually involving giving the job to an external consultant.
Take a look at the membership of the Town Camps Taskforce Steering Committee.
Two of the key local representatives, the mayor and the chairman of Tangentyere Council, have been enmeshed for years in the very situation they are supposed to be bringing fresh thinking to.
Why did we ever think that was going to work?
Last year the Desert Knowledge Symposium held in Alice considered some interesting research about what makes rural communities thrive (see Alice News, Nov 9, 2006).
The research made some points that are relevant to the donga debate.
One was the importance of decentralisation of decision-making.
The research noted that the "concentration of decision-making authority prevents innovative solutions, while the dispersion of power is necessary for innovation".
It also emphasised the importance of community participation - "Participatory environments facilitate innovation by increasing community members'Ê awareness, commitment and involvement".
With the donga debacle we have seen the opposite, both centralised decision-making and rebuffed community participation.
Mr Brough was always determined that his dongas would stick and used the threat of taking his money elsewhere to ensure that they did.
NT Minister Delia Lawrie, whose government is solely responsible for the selection of the sites for the dongas, has danced to his tune, arrogantly ignoring community concerns and the recommendations of the Development Consent Authority.
This easily matches the worst of what the CLP came up with in a quarter of a century.
And the town council's 11 elected members, the "government closest to the people", have massively lost credibility, in not taking charge of the need for accommodation of bush visitors in a way the public would support.


There are "80 million reasons" for getting on with the donga camps, says Mayor Fran Kilgariff, and they are all Mal Brough's dollars, which she says will be good for the town.
At Monday night's council meeting Ms Kilgariff was responding to questions from the gallery on council's role in the approval of the Dalgety Road site for one of the camps.
About 20 residents from Northside packed the gallery.
Ms Kilgariff told them that the process was not council's but rather the Development Consent Authority's.
"We had no input into the decision."
Alderman Koch, a member of the DCA though required to act as an individual and not as council's representative, tried to reassure residents that their views - "every letter, every speech" - had been put "very strongly" to the Minister.
"She [Delia Lawrie, Minister for Planning and Lands] did not choose to go with the recommendations of the DCA."
Ald Koch also said that "in general the Minister does listen to the DCA".
Jason O'Keefe, a "disgruntled" resident of Cliffside Court, asked the mayor if residents could count on her assistance in their fight to have the decision rescinded.
Ms Kilgariff said no.
Jerry Fitzsimmons, who had organised the group, asked if all of the aldermen would be accepting Ms Lawrie's "non-democratic decision" to go ahead with the camps, "given that the majority of residents have said Ôno'".
Ms Kilgariff said she couldn't speak for the other aldermen but "I have put my position and I will be staying with that position".
Marlene Dewar, a "disturbed and disgusted" Dixon Road resident, told the mayor, "with all due respect", that the $80m "will send this town broke", it will "chase away the people who are working hard for a peaceful family life".
"Please reconsider and think about what you are doing to the people of your town."
The residents took some comfort from the more supportive statements of aldermen.
Aldermen later resolved to write to Ms Lawrie about her failure "to adhere to a fair and transparent process, showing good will and respect to the many people of Alice Springs who came out in record numbers to formally reject the two proposed sites at Dalgety Road and Tyeweretye Club".


Her Worship the Mayor is not amused about our report (Alice News, March 22) on the fiasco surrounding the purchase by her council of a $50,000 street sweeper interstate, rather than shopping locally.
In fact she is hopping mad: On March 21 (we'd given her a copy of the story ahead of publication) she professed to be "disgusted".
We replied the following day, asking further questions and requesting an interview.
Late on Monday this week she emailed again, saying little more than in her first email, answering none of the questions, making no time for an interview but turning up the invective: "I regard the article as at best mischievous and at worst malicious."
In her second email Ms Kilgariff stated: "I received next day [after an offer from a local trader was made] an emailed response from [council CEO Rex] Mooney to the effect that he had been advised by a senior staff member that enquiries had been made and that a local supplier was unable to provide a suitable sweeper at anywhere near a competitive price.
"Having full confidence in Mr Mooney, I had no reason to seek further confirmation."
Ms Kilgariff seems to indicate that Mr Mooney was misled by a council officer, but does not accept any responsibility for that.
Ms Kilgariff's claims are in stark conflict with what the local trader told us.
In our March 8 edition we reported, with the firm's owner, Steve O'Burtill, as the source: "The Alice Town Council failed to get quotes from local traders for a $50,000 street sweeping machine although at least one Alice-based dealer, Principal Products, could have supplied the same machine possibly for less."
Mr O'Burtill, who delivered brochures to Ms Kilgariff and three aldermen two days before the order was placed, says no-one from the council had subsequently been in touch with him.

March 21:
Dear Erwin,
I have just read a copy of your story regarding the purchase of the street sweeper and am disgusted with the whole bias of your story.
I am also very annoyed that I was not given a chance to correct your obvious desire to present one side of the story and not a factual account of how it actually happened.Ê For instance by saying that I knew the day before Council ordered the street sweeper that a local company "was pitching for the deal" you very clearly intimate that I did nothing to prevent that, when in fact I passed that information on that day despite being at a meeting all afternoon AND not knowing that staff were ready to sign off on the order the following day.
I did not say that Steve O'Burtill dropped off his letter to Council on the 7th - YOU claimed that.
What I said was it first appeared on my screen, having been scanned into Council's system,Êat 1.30 pm on 8th and was dated the 7th.
You asked me if I had followed up my email to the CEO with a phone call and my reply was that I had full confidence in his efficiency - well placed, as heÊmade enquiriesÊimmediately next morning.
You clear intention in writing, "The Alice News asked Ms Kilgariff whether in the wake of the scandal over the civic centre furniture tender, from which local traders were also excluded, she had followed up the sweeper matter. She said no ... " was to insinuate that IN YOUR OPINION an email to the CEO was not sufficient to get the information to staff, when clearly it was.
My comments about a "witch hunt" were not directed at staff as would appear by the way you have positioned quotes, but at your derogatory comments about Eric Peterson and his possible responsibility for the matter.
This is a very disappointing effort from you and I look forward to seeing what headline you have used to go with this story.
Fran Kilgariff

March 22:
Dear Fran,
I take your email as an invitation to continue, on the record, our dialogue about the sweeper, and I'm happy to accept it.
I reject your allegation of bias.
What exactly are the errors of fact?
No-one gets to censor our reports. But most of our contacts get the privilege of a draft [ahead of publication], as did the council on this occasion, for the purpose of pointing out any errors.
The council placed the sweeper order on the 9th, and you knew on the 8th about Mr Burtill's pitch made on the 7th (see our edition of March 8).
Rex Mooney made no challenge to that chronology when I emailed him a draft of the report on Tuesday morning [March 20], ahead of publication, and neither are you in your [email]. So I don't know what you're on about.
Do I believe you should have followed up with a contact with Mr Peterson? You bet I do. And so would most other reasonable people, given the civic centre furniture debacle.
Any competent manager of public money, in touch with public opinion, would have been on the phone to Mr Peterson to ensure that local business was being given every opportunity to quote.
We have now had a civic centre which many perceive as excessive and unnecessarily expensive (and which continues to suck up scarce council funds in loan repayments); then we had the civic centre furniture fiasco; the still unexplained mishandling of the maintenance contract; closure of the popular mulch facility and poor management of the toxic dump.
And on this occasion, all you could do was to flick an email, without any follow-up, to someone who, for whatever reason, failed to bring about the proper results.
Your process obviously was not "sufficient to get the information to staff". So my reporting on that point is absolutely reasonable.
The buck for that stops with you. But as you would have it, it seems no-one gets any blame for this.
What is derogatory about my reporting on Mr Peterson? His department was in charge of the procurement.
The headline says "Sweeper - Fran knew" and I could well have added to it "but didn't do anything clever about it".
Please ring me today to make a time for a further interview. My questions will include:
What was the cost of the visit to Sydney for the two council employees? Why did two have to go? Who were they?
Did they see all manufacturers and dealers of sweepers in Sydney, and if not, what were they doing?
The $1700 spirit level [also purchased interstate]: please advise the brand and the model. I will make enquiries about its local availability.
Kind regards,
Erwin Chlanda
Stand by for more!


Class clowns can be smart alec little pains. A tasteful smart ass can often pull a few laughs. But a sweet little smart ass funny man can be very funnyÉ man.
Last Friday morning anybody at high school aged 14 to 17 had the opportunity to compete in the national secondary school comedy competition, ÔClass Clowns'.
They could present stand-up, group sketch, musical parody, or anything else that might pull a laugh.
The winner of the Alice Springs heat will be sent to Melbourne for the national grand final in the Melbourne Town Hall as a part of the 2007 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The national winner takes home $1500 for his/her school and $1500 for him/herself. Only three people from high schools around Central Australia entered the Alice Springs heat. That's right; each had a one in three chance of a free trip to Melbourne! Surely you'd be more of a smart ass not to enter than to enter.
The three contestants were Trevor Motau from Tennant Creek, Sean Bailey and Sheldon Daye, both from Alice Springs. The three contenders all received a comedy workshop on Thursday with the winner of Triple J's 2003 Raw Comedy Competition, Nelly Thomas. Nelly also hosted Friday's proceedings and was indeed very funny.
"Hi everyone, my name's Nelly and I'm pregnant, yes, you might not realise it because I'm pretty fat normally anyway." The first act was Sean Bailey. He performed a stand-up about his family in America, including his grandma who insists on giving him a complete tour of the whole house whenever he comes around.
"What's there to show me? It's a bunch of empty rooms!"
There's also the funny uncle whose jokes always seem to get him into strife.
Like when he's in the awkward situation of clogging up someone's toilet and trying to explain why he needs a plunger.
"Do you like my new plunger? I just bought it. Look at the features, it's got a wooden handle and a bright coloured suction thing! Anyway, I've just gotta quickly use the toilet!" Second up was Sheldon Daye , pointing out the oddities of children's imagination.
"You ever wonder what they're thinking about when they're sitting there bashing their toy truck against their Barbie doll?"
Sheldon's humour was slap-stick style, prancing around the stage, falling over and at one point making-out elaborately with his mic stand.
My favourite little Ôsmart alec' was ÔBig' Trevor Motau, his stand-up based around the central theme of Ôidiots'.
ÔBig' Trev stood a mere four foot something and the act started with a gag that Nelly had played on him by adjusting the mic stand as high as it would go - Trev struggled to reach the microphone as he jumped up and down, eventually taking it down with a gallant spear tackle.
"Idiots should have a big stamp on their forehead that says ÔIdiot' so you wouldn't have to bother starting a conversation with them."
Big Trev then elaborated on situations he and his family had gotten into with idiots, such as when the family were moving out of their house and the next-door neighbour asked, "You moving out?"
To which Big Trev replied, "Nah mate, we just pack up our house every weekend to see how many boxes it takes."
Or when his uncle, a delivery driver, had managed to crash his truck and get it stuck underneath the walkway and a bystander asked him, "Truck got stuck, mate?"
To which his uncle replied, "Nah mate, just delivered the bridge." So who out of these three was the funniest kid in Central Oz?
There was great tension amongst the eight or so spectators who had come along to watch. Sean Bailey was chosen and will head off to Melbourne for the grand final on April 20. One thing was clear about Class Clowns, Funny is not a subject, but it is subjective.
• • •
It was a raging Friday in The Alice. Not one, but two events! On the same day!
Remotefest was held Friday night, screened on the Story Wall alongside the church lawns in Todd Mall.
The film festival was the outcome of several events that had taken place in Aboriginal communities following the Opal Fuel roll out. Young people in the communities were given access to video cameras and all of the facilities necessary to produce a short film. There were some cute films, such as "Trying to Get Lucky" about a man trying to catch and saddle up a wild horse, and "One Sad Girl" about a girl who was sad, so she sniffed petrol, but her friends told her it was bad for her and that she should stop. Well that just about says it all, doesn't it!
There was clearly plenty of effort and involvement from the people who created these films, not just streams of handicam footage.
Opal Fuel has been a real response to sniffing, not just a token gesture, and a real response from the communities has been in telling the human story on film. Clearly there was enough positive energy to put effort and passion into the project, not the sort of boredom and apathy that might lead people to sniff petrol in the first place. The movies were not, by any means, masterpieces but enjoyable flicks. Unlike most movies, the moral wasn't in the movie, but was the fact that there was a movie.

LETTERS: The Martin Government has lost control of the streets: Send in the Army?

Sir,- Like so many Alice Springs residents, I recently had an uninvited night time visitor.
Drunk to the bellowing and stumbling stage, he banged on the locked doors and brick walls but somehow missed the windows while wrecking an early night's sleep.
I called the police and twice listened to the phone ring out before it was finally answered.
I then explained the situation as best I could, what was happening and where, but had to ring off as a fresh tattoo of blows was starting just outside my kitchen window.
Later I called the Tangentyere Night Patrol only to get a recording telling me that they were on their break and could I leave a message. So I left a message. Then I noticed my visitor had sort of slid down an outside wall and had passed out.
It's not that hard to break a window if vandalism is the object, so I reckon he had probably just gotten flogged by his mates and was looking for an escape.
Neither the police nor the night patrol ever did show up, and whoever my visitor was, he must have wandered off in the early hours of the morning.
Meanwhile I had spent a couple hours thinking about a recent newspaper article that named Alice as one of the 10 most violent towns in the world.
And then I started thinking that maybe the Martin Government really has lost control of the street. If that is true, could it be time they ask for help?
Our current Federal Government has time and again shown itself willing to intervene in situations where a breakdown in law and order has made, or is threatening to make, life untenable.
Perhaps Ms Martin and her ministers could make the trek to Canberra, admit their inability to provide safe streets and ask for help.
Of course that won't happen. Can anyone imagine the Northern Territory Government asking the Commonwealth Government to help them patrol the streets of Alice Springs?
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

'Yes Minister', says the Mayor

Sir,- I believe there is an understanding that in a democracy the majority decision is accepted. Yet Minister Delia Lawrie recently made a decision about the demountables in Alice Springs, which will go down as one of the most shameful and abhorrent political decisions, simply because she decided that the process of democracy, in this case, did not favour her desired outcome.
Residential and business ratepayers set aside their time to participate in the proper process of feedback on the demountables and many attended the meeting of the government appointed DCA.
As the overwhelming majority of people at the meeting put forward objections, the expectation was that the appointed DCA panel would recommend the demountables be rejected. Reports in the local press would suggest they did, but did they?
The DCA summary report states:
"Notwithstanding the recognised need for temporary short term accommodation in Alice Springs the Authority does not support either application É "
But, more significantly, it then goes on to say: "The Authority expressed a view that if the Minister should wish to approve one or both of the applications, the Authority would strongly recommend that appropriate conditions are imposed É "
So the DCA, which, incidentally, included another member of the Alice Springs Town Council, Melanie Van Haaren, left the door open for the Minister to approve both applications, albeit with conditions!
The Mayor of Alice Springs (who stood for the same party as Minister Lawrie during the last elections) tells us to now accept the decision of her mate, the Minister, and "let's get on with it."
Well, one would be forgiven for thinking that this call from the Mayor to accept the Minister's decision is a way of securing a further pre-selection ticket to stand again for the Labor Party, and if it is, then I would ask everyone who is reading this to consider this attempted fait accompli when our next local and Territory elections are held.
It would now be interesting to know whether or not the locally elected council members are so accepting of the Minister who has wilfully shown a shameful disregard for democracy in The Alice?
I was a participant at the DCA meeting and would like to emphasise that I was prepared to accept the outcome should the majority of interested parties have come out in favour of the demountables, and I believe most of those who participated would have respectfully accepted such an outcome. That is true democracy, that is why I and others, I believe, went along with the complete process.
I then emailed the Minister seeking a copy of the DCA report. I am still waiting on a reply from the Minister's office.
Forming a rate-payers group could validate an apolitical voice on this matter or the formation of a Northside Action Group ( NAG ) would suffice to maintain our democratic rights.
Jerry Fitzsimmons
Alice Springs

Rates warning

Sir,- I wanted to write and express my dissatisfaction with the Alice Springs Town Council service and practices.
Having moved from Alice back to Melbourne last year my rates notice was lost in the move and I was waiting on a reminder notice for the 3rd quarter rates that never arrived.
I knew they were due but assumed a reminder was sent, as I am new to the joys of home ownership/body corporate/rates etc.
I soon discovered that it is normal practise to not send a reminder but to charge interest instead after a Ôgrace period' of seven days. I did call to organise a replacement rates notice last year when I realised I'd lost it and was told that it wasn't possible. I asked when the next rates were due which is 6 April (Good Friday). I then asked out of interest when that Ôgrace period' finishes and it is on 13 April.
I expressed surprise, given the 6th and 9th are both public holidays. Rate payers will actually only have four business days to pay up before they are charged interest.
The response I got when expressing dissatisfaction was, "That's just the way it is".
I thought this a surprising and inflexible attitude but then reading your story about the council importing expensive machinery without putting out tenders or consulting local business, I realise it isn't very surprising. I thought I would write to warn other rate payers. Matt Connell,
Melbourne (ex-Alice)

Hand back College

Sir,- The Federal Government should set a date for the return of Nyangatjatjara College to its Aboriginal owners. The period the college had been under administration had been an unmitigated disaster.
Despite its professed commitment to improving Aboriginal education outcomes, this Government has presided over a steady decline in student numbers.
As the central campus has not been open for six months, the student numbers have collapsed, the funding has dried up and the college is headed for bankruptcy. The mismanagement of the college under the Administrator has led to a 100% turnover in staff, with staff either quitting or taking stress leave. This is intolerable, given the crying need for secondary education for students from bush communities.
It's a reflection on this government that the only secondary school run by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs is a basket case. In the 10 months he's been in charge, the Minister has practically destroyed it.
He should come clean and tell us when he's going to hand it back to its Aboriginal owners.
You won't get a job if you haven't got the necessary skills - how can the students of this college get the skills if it has all but ceased to function. The responsibility for this rests squarely at the feet of the Government.
Warren Snowdon
Member for Lingiari

Riding for Dad

Sir,- My name is Ronnie Donnellan and I live in Alice Springs.
Sadly, middle of last year my dad (Ron Snr)Êpassed away very suddenly from an extremely rare and fatal neurological disease called CJD, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Ron Snr was only 60 years old. In honour of my dad and to raise vital funds for research and support, I am cycling from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock and back from April 30 to May 7, that's a round trip of approximately 1000 kms!
Local businesses in Alice Springs - such as Ray White Real Estate, Imparja Television, TJ Signs, Ultimate Ride Bike Shop, Alice 24-hour Store and Centralian Sports - are sponsoring my fundraiser ÔRiding for Dad'. But of course more support is needed to make myÊjourney and fundraising successful.
ÊMy partner Lauren Jones and I have opened a special account at Westpac for ÔRiding for Dad': Account name: CJD Support Group Fundraising Account BSB:Ê035 303
A/C No:Ê249241
All donations over $2 are tax deductible.
Ronnie Donnellan and Lauren Jones
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: She'll be right or Viva La Revolucion.

At this very moment across the globe, in pockets of the planet that many of us haven't even considered, there are some very angry people. Very angry indeed.
People feel dispossessed, oppressed, and persecuted and they are taking it personally. From the racial dictatorship in Zimbabwe to the increased presence of groups such as Hamas in Palestine.
From military unrest in Timor through to the overthrow of the government in Kyrgystan, the world is an angry place and what's more it's a violent place. Across the globe people have been taking up arms and rising up against those they feel have pushed them down.
Australia has thankfully by and large been immune to such violent methods of protest and change.
The closest event to revolution we have encountered in modern times was the Whitlam dismissal. History will see this event as significant but on a global scale not that impressive an attempt to get violent.
The Governor General, using the slightly dodgy part of the constitution which said that he could sack the Prime Minister, did just that.
Having said that, if Gough had been on his game the constitution also says that he can sack the Governor General. He just wasn't quick enough.
I was less than two months old when the dismissal happened so my memories are a little scratchy on the whole thing. I do remember my mother saying some time after, that she didn't see the big deal. A very Australian approach to an issue.
Why were the unionists so angry?
The parliament was dissolved and an election was called which Whitlam lost heavily.
According to my mum everything ironed itself out. "Everything always irons itself out," she says. And here in Australia she's right.
We have a system of government and a way of life that shield us from the incredibly heinous events other nations are experiencing.
In Australia, a revolution is nothing more than something an engine does a few thousand times a minute and a coup (pronounced Ôcoo') is the noise a pigeon makes.
But what happens when an Aussie cannot take it any more? What happens when the injustice becomes so overwhelming that this man cannot sit idly by and allow it to happen any longer?
French farmers block major roads with their trucks and shut down Paris. Italians take to football stadia and beat the tar out of each other and the Irish blow up buildings.
We here in Australia, when anger, outrage and injustice reach boiling point, we, we write a letter!
It is the most Australian form of protest. A letter with such inflammatory language such as "Why oh whyÉ" is about as militant as we get. And boy, aren't we good at a vehement letter.
The pen may not be as mighty as the sword but it is far more civil and doesn't leave nearly as much mess.
I have a friend who was so incensed about an issue that with rage in his eyes he looked at me and said, "Adam. I have a mind to write a letter of complaint!"
"Steady on, Tiger. Not a letter of complaint!" was my reply.
If you look through this paper you will see that the citizenry of Alice Springs excel in such methods of protest. Pages of newspapers across the land are devoted to the complaints of the reader.
The beauty of a letter is that no one issue is given more import than another. People are given as much empathy for their annoyance at litter as they are for their annoyance at social injustice.
Every single one of the community's maladies are equal in the eye of the letter to the editor.
Because when you break it down we only know the world in which we live.
Therefore a bunch of rubbish for one person is just as valid a concern as inequality is for another.
It is my opinion that writing a heated letter is the perfect reflection of the Australian way of thinking. It does my heart the world of good to read a letter complaining of the most inane issue.
Because I'd hate to think what could happen if we chose other methods of protest.
So write away people. Get it off your chest. It will make you feel better.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.