April 5, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Dongas forever? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The seven year limit imposed on the two donga sites in the permit issued by Lands Minister Delia Lawrie may not be the final word on how long the controversial facilities will exist.
She says the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments “have agreed that if the project is considered successful and required beyond the initial seven years, then options for its extension will be looked at”.
The agreement about the temporary accommodation – supposed to respond to the needs of transient Aborigines but in fact open to anyone –  was disclosed to the Alice Springs News on Monday.
According to a spokesman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, the agreement was made on March 13, the same day Ms Lawrie signed the “Exceptional Development Permits” for the donga sites in Len Kittle Drive, adjacent to the show grounds, and in Dalgety Road.
Each document says: “The use of the land for the purpose of a hostel must cease within seven years of the date of approval.”
Neither document mentions an option for renewal of the permit.
Both documents say: “At the cessation of the use all demountable structures are to be decommissioned and removed.
“The site is to be rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the consent authority.”
However, it appears clear that Mr Brough’s intentions are to spend $20m for facilities with a life span of well over six years.
Construction hasn’t started yet and will probably take a year.
Apart from the dongas, drawings forming part of Ms Lawrie’s permit show substantial building including kitchens, ablution blocks, dining halls, laundries, caretaker’s and manager’s residences and sheltered playgrounds.
Meanwhile, allegations that Ms Lawrie gave the go-ahead for the Dalgety Road site despite unresolved sacred sites issues appear unfounded.
The go-ahead is conditional on the appropriate clearance.
The permit says: “The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority is in the process of issuing an Authority Certificate for Lot 7717.
“You are advised to ensure compliance with the terms of that Certificate at all times.”

Sweeper cover-up intensifies. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The coverup of the circumstances surrounding the town council’s purchase of a street sweeper under the exclusion of local suppliers is intensifying.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff is now mum on the latest disclosure, from a reliable source, that the council employees who travelled to Sydney to inspect the sweeper did so before the council had received a quotation for the machine.
In other words, it was unclear at the time of their trip whether the purchase of the equipment would be in line with the purchasing policy in place at that time.
That policy required the council to go to public tender for items costing $55,000 or more.
As its turned out, the machine was bought for $55,000.
Ms Kilgariff will not say whether there was further expenditure, such as for spares or a service contract, connected with the sweeper.
On March 22 we asked Ms Kilgariff the following questions:-
What was the cost of the visit to Sydney for the two council employees?
Why did two people have to go?
Who were they?
Did they see all manufacturers and dealers of sweepers in Sydney, and if not, what were they doing there?
We further asked about a $1700 spirit level, also bought interstate: “Please advise the brand and the model.
“We will make enquiries about its local availability.”
The Mayor has given us no answers on any of these matters. 

Tourist spot weed choked. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Emily Gap is overgrown with an incredibly thick couch grass infestation as well as buffel grass, greening up of course with the rains of the last couple of weeks, but obviously well-established.
The Alice News asked if there is any attempt by the Parksand Wildlife Service to control the grasses at the gap, especially given its importance as a cultural site (sacred to eastern Arrernte people and containing rock art) and as a tourist destination.
A spokesperson provided the following statement:–
NT Parks and Wildlife Service is aware of the couch and buffel in the area and is also aware of the cultural significance of the site.
We have been working closely with Traditional Owners to identify the important plants and trees that we are attempting to keep clear of couch and buffel.
We have been brush cutting and spraying.
Through the Flexible employment projects we have been employing local traditional owners to attempt to control weeds in the area.
This small reserve is surrounded by couch and buffel on adjacent land with a significant amount of re-infestation coming from outside the reserve, especially from Emily Creek.
It is well known that couch is very difficult to poison, as it is very tolerant to herbicides and once established is very difficult to control and virtually impossible to eliminate completely.
Growth of both buffel and couch is very eruptive and vigorous, particularly in response to good rainfall.
Our weed control efforts are prioritised throughout the east central Barkly district to ensure we direct our resources to those areas where the best outcomes can be achieved.

Crime figures don't tally. By KIERAN FINNANE.

There is a vast discrepancy between statistics from the hospital and from the police about assault, which would suggest that crime figures released by NT Government do not give an accurate picture of violence in our community.
In the last three months of 2006 there were 602 cases of people with injuries arising from assault coming to the emergency department of the Alice Springs Hospital.
Official crime statistics for the same period record only 258 assaults, less than half the hospital’s figures.
The current crime figure is up on the 2004 one for the same period, 199, but down on the 2005 figure of 316.
The Territory government and police claimed success for their Violent Crime Reduction Strategy on the basis of the crime statistics, but the far higher hospital figure would appear to suggest that not all assaults are being recorded by or reported to police.
The hospital has released its statistics to contribute to the assessment of alcohol restrictions which came into effect from October 1 last year.
The hospital’s report notes that assault is not wholly alcohol related.
(At least 66% of assaults are alcohol-related, according to police, with 58% attributable to domestic violence.)
Assault stands out among the hospital’s statistics as the indicator that is still rising despite the 11% drop in the consumption of pure alcohol in the quarter.
In the same three month period in 2005 there were 546 assault presentations.
The statistics show the monthly mean of a range of alcohol-related presentations over three different time periods compared to the restrictions period.
In October-December 2005 the monthly mean for assault was 182.0; in July to September 2006 (the three months preceding the introduction of the restrictions) it was 150.7; from January 2005 to September 2006 (the 21 months prior to restrictions) it was 162.4.
In the first three months of the restrictions it was significantly higher at 200.7.
This goes against the trend of the other alcohol-related conditions the hospital reports on, which on the whole show a drop in the restrictions period compared to the other time periods.
For example, the monthly mean for intoxication was 26.0 for the restrictions period, compared to 36.7 for the same period in 2005, 44.0 for the three months prior, and 36.8 for the 21 months prior.
The assault separations statistics, relating to cases where the patient was admitted to hospital, do show a downward movement for the restrictions period, with a monthly mean of 65.0, compared to 93.0 for the same period in 2005, 87.3 for the three months prior, and 88.0 for the 21 months prior. 
The hospital data comes with the warning that the first three months “is a short period upon which to base an assessment of possible changes” and that trend analysis is not yet possible.
The 11% drop in pure alcohol consumption is down to massive drops in the sales of restricted products, according to the the Licensing Commission’s Chris McIntyre.
Speaking to the town council at its last meeting, Mr McIntyre reported that cask wine sales are down by 85% and fortified wine, by 47%.
Sales of beer and mixed spirits had sky-rocketed but they are both “5% products”, said Mr McIntyre.
Beer sales were up by 70% and mixed spirits, by 50%.
Numbers of people taken into protective custody by police are down, as are occupancy figures for the sobering-up shelter.
Licensees are “generally happy”, he said, “except for Northside”, which has become the preferred liquor outlet of Hoppy’s Camp residents and visitors, and a law and order hot spot.
There has not been a negative response from CATIA “at this stage”, said Mr McIntyre, although he acknowledged that we are not yet in the tourist season.
The commission has distributed postcards to accommodation houses to educate tourists about Alice’s liquor supply situation.
“Litter is the biggest issue,” he said.
The commission is working with stakeholders on strategies to deal with it.
“Glass is not as much an issue as previously but cans still are.”
A tender is being let for an independent evaluation of the plan.
The evaluation will report on the first six months, which ended on March 31, and subsequently on the first 12 months. 
“It’s too early to say whether the plan is a success,” said Mr McIntyre.
For instance, there is fear that the switch to beer will not be sustained in winter and may be replaced by a switch to straight spirits.
He said a decision on making Alice a “dry town” is some time off, with the commission conducting further investigations.
The commission also wants to have to hand “hard evidence” from Port Augusta’s dry town experience and that has yet to be presented.
The Alice News asked Mr McIntyre if the commission’s decision on the “dry town” application could be over-ridden by the Minister.
Mr McIntyre says no.
There is provision for seeking a review of the commission’s decisions, but a review would be “highly unlikely” unless “overwhelming evidence had been ignored”.
If, for example, the town council were unhappy with the commission’s decision, the council could make a new application, said Mr McIntyre.
A discussion paper on an electronic permit system, to exclude problem drinkers from purchasing alcohol and to monitor the sales of restricted products, is being circulated to stakeholders at present in draft form, before being released to the public for comment.
Alderman Murray Stewart asked about a possible trade-off: accepting a permit system in return for lifting product restrictions.
Mr McIntyre said that perhaps the community would consider a reduction in alcohol-related problems as a trade-off for the permit system.
Ald Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke suggested that restrictions are punishing responsible drinkers and the problems haven’t changed.
Mr McIntyre says some exceptions to the restrictions are being made for tourism operators.
He welcomes people to contact him about accommodating their needs, which he will do “if I’m satisfied that it doesn’t lessen the effect of what we are trying to achieve”.  

A weekend pad in town the latest in public housing. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

There are at least eight families in a Central Australian Aboriginal community, each of whom have received three public houses.
In each case one is in the community, one in a nearby outstation and one in Alice Springs, all provided with public money.
The houses in Alice Springs are generally regarded as weekend pads.
Some of the tenants are registered for the jobs for the dole program on the community but fail to return to work on Monday because they spent the weekend “in town”.
The houses generally cost $270,000 to build.
Some are new, have recently been refurbished or extended.
The Alice News has been given names of families currently enjoying the use of these houses, or who have done so in the recent past.
The information was provided by a person working on the community, whose job is partly to assist with applications for public housing, on the undertaking that we would not disclose the names of the informant, the families nor the community.
When asked for comment Minister for Housing Elliot McAdam said:  “Under the current structural arrangements, the Northern Territory’s social housing system is sectioned into public housing (urban), Indigenous community housing (remote) and housing at outstations.
“Territory Housing has robust and formal systems in place to manage and monitor the provision of public housing.
“Conventional leasing arrangements are not always in place for community housing dwellings, and housing at outstations is not always the responsibility of the Northern Territory Government.
“Territory Housing monitors the provision of social housing across tenures in collaboration with Indigenous Community Housing Organisations, and the Agency cannot substantiate claims that some households are concurrently leasing Northern Territory Government properties.
“In 2006, the Northern Territory Government announced that the provision of housing in remote communities will come under a public housing framework.
“The public housing framework will project clear policy and legislative guidelines across the Territory that will ensure certainty, opportunity and equity for clients of the social housing system. “
The Alice News asked for details of how the “robust and formal systems in place to manage and monitor the provision of public housing” are working, and whether instrumentalities (Territory and Federal) providing public funding for housing are ensuring applicants are not double and triple dipping, but received no further response.

Uranium fears and why should Alice be green? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The uranium rush in The Centre is largely bad news, says national anti-nuclear campaigner Jim Green who was in Alice Springs last week.
He says the deposits are small and may never be mined, but stock market players could still be having a field day.
“They don’t even have to dig a hole in the ground for these speculators to make a few million dollar for themselves.”
Dr Green says it seems if the “very small” Angela Pamela deposit 20 km south of Alice Springs goes ahead, and there would risks.
“They contaminate the aquifer as a routine aspect of their operation, with acids, heavy metals and radioactive particles.”
Dr Green says while companies claim that the contamination will clear itself over time, “the science of that is contested, to say the least” and it is “certain the aquifer couldn’t be used for any other purposes over a period of some decades”.
The proposed mine south of Alice is “very close to the town’s drinking water supply.
“But I sense there is a bit of a rush going on to dig this stuff up.”
A number of companies are interested in mining that deposit.
“The Mayor has expressed support for the Angela Pamela mine, in the broad context of growing political support for uranium mining, although she opposes the nuclear waste dumps.
“She had a meeting with one of these companies.” (Ms Kilgariff did not respond to an invitation to comment.)
Dr Green says the deposit near Alice is “just negligible” in comparison to Roxby Downs in South Australia and Ranger in the Top End.
Similarly, the total Honeymoon deposit in the north-east of South Australia is 3000 tonnes, less than what Roxby or Ranger produce in one year.
Dr Green is critical of the Northern Land Council’s dealings with the proposed nuclear dump on Muckaty Station north of Tennant Creek. He says: “The NLC is doing all it can to avoid independent input of information.”
He says the Friends of the Earth asked for public debate but the land council refused, disseminating essentially “misinformation” that the government is providing.
He says this is clear from the NLC web site and “correspondence with interested parties”.
He says the 400 traditional owners, living in a widely dispersed area, have been promised $9m every five years over 100 years.
“This is causing division,” says Dr Green.
“The NLC calls opponents ‘dissidents’ yet there is a healthy majority of solid opposition.”
NLC Chief Executive Norman Fry rejects the accusations as “incorrect and misleading”.
He says: “Mr Green’s claim that the NLC had refused a request for public debate from Friends of the Earth is incorrect.
“No such request has been made.
“In any event NLC consultations with traditional owners are private and confidential, and cannot be conducted in public.
“There is widespread interest from Aboriginal groups throughout the NLC’s region, including Muckaty Station, as to whether a radioactive waste facility may be safely located on their traditional country.
“These groups are also entitled to make their own decision regarding their country, notwithstanding that some individuals may disagree with a group’s position (whether it be for or against a development).
“The NLC will ensure, as required by law, that comprehensive consultations are confidentially conducted, and that land is only nominated for a waste facility with the consent of traditional owners.”
Despite all the hype uranium mining is a relatively small industry, although Roxby Downs has one third of the world’s known uranium.
“We could have sold the entire world’s requirement for uranium a couple of years ago and still made more from selling wines,” says Dr Green.
In the next 25 years an “absolute tops” of 60 reactors will be built around the world, but a similar number will be decommissioned because of age, and so the demand for uranium won’t change a lot.
“John Howard puts forward this nuclear furphy although he knows nuclear isn’t going to come in Australia for a long time, essentially to distract from his climate change policy, and his refusal to do anything about coal.
“So we have a false debate about nuclear power.
“Meanwhile new coal fired power plants are being built.
“Meanwhile renewables are withering on the vine and going backwards under Howard’s government,” says Dr Green.
The Alice News put to Dr Green that there may be a case for a “greenies free zone” in The Centre.
The savagely hot summers may drive away key players in the local economy, and members of the public service in essential and productive roles, unless they have generous and effective air conditioning, which these days means refrigerated models.
Given the small number people, the vast distances and the harsh local environment, should Central Australians not be exempt from hectoring to save energy?
Should the environment lobby not target, for example, the just re-elected NSW Government for its inability to make trains run on time, forcing hundreds of thousands of people into private transport?
Dr Green replied environmental campaigners frequently lacked the courage to have a go at political power and corporate power, and so “feel-good, trivial issues are put forward as an alternative to a comprehensive strategy”.
On the other hand, “even a city like Sydney is responsible for less than one per cent of the world’s greenhouse emissions”.
Should that city, on that ground, be able to claim exemption from having to save energy?
Or the US, which are “the world’s biggest polluters”, may say “we’re only 25% of the world’s pollution problem”. 

Law & Order: Send in the Feds?

Two aldermen want to bring in the Federal Police to “help restore Law and Order to the streets of Alice Springs”.
Ald Samih Habib gave notice of this motion, to be discussed at the next meeting of the Alice Town Council.
Ald David Koch seconded it.
This follows widespread concern that the Northern Territory police is not up to the task because it is under-resourced.
Meanwhile Alice Springs police say there were four separate violent attacks by groups of youths over the weekend.
At about 10.30 pm on Friday a 27-year-old man was assaulted as he and his friends walked down the Todd Mall. 
Police say the man was allegedly surrounded by “a large group of youths of Aboriginal appearance” before being punched to the head several times. 
“One youth stabbed the man in the side of the head with a broken bottle before fleeing the scene,” a police spokesperson says.
“The 27-year-old man was taken to Alice Springs Hospital for treatment.
“In a separate incident around the same time a 40-year-old man was walking down the Todd Mall when he was accosted by a large group of youths. 
“The man was struck from behind by one of the youths but he tried to continue on his way.
“He was allegedly stopped again by the same group a short distance later when they surrounded him. 
“The man was allegedly punched in the jaw from behind, the force of the blow breaking his teeth. 
“The man managed to run to the safety of a nearby establishment.
“In a separate incident at about 11 pm a 17-year-old youth was attacked by a large group of youths as he rode his bicycle home from work.
“The bicycle rider had stopped for traffic outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken store when one of the youths ran at him and punched him in the head, knocking him off his bicycle. 
“Several others punched him in the head and mouth and stole his bicycle. 
“He managed to seek assistance from security staff at a nearby establishment.
“At about 3.30am on Sunday a 27-year-old man was attacked as he walked to his accommodation from a nightclub. 
“As he walked along Gap Road two cars stopped next to him and about four youths of Aboriginal appearance jumped out of the vehicles and assaulted him. 
“The alleged victim managed to run to his accommodation and call police.”
“We have a number of leads in relation to the identity of the offenders involved in these cowardly attacks,” said Detective Acting Superintendent of the Regional Investigations Division, Michael Murphy.
“This type of behaviour is unacceptable and if you were involved in these assaults you will be caught.”
Inquiries are continuing and police are urging witnesses or anyone with any information to call 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Meanwhile police arrested two male youths recently for breaching their loitering notices.
Says the spokesman: “The two aged 17 and 13 were first issued with a loitering notice on March 27 which prevented them from entering the Alice Springs CBD for a period of 72 hours.
“They were apprehended for breaching this notice at 3 am [on March 28] night but were released pending consideration for juvenile diversion.
“At 7 pm [on March 29] they were again located in the CBD in breach of their respective loitering notices. 
“On this occasion they were not apprehended but were conveyed to their homes.
“A short time later at 11.50 pm they were again located in the CBD and were arrested and charged. 
“They will appear in the Alice Springs Youth Justice Court on April 16.”

Art dream comes true. By KIERAN FINNANE.

It’s been a few years in the making but the dream of some of Amoonguna’s artists, supported by their community council, has come true.
The council have converted the former store into a gallery and art centre, which opened its doors late last year.
Says artist Roseanne Ellis, who also paints for Irrkerlantye Arts: “We talked about it at council meetings – I’m on the council – that we wanted to start an art centre.
“We’ve got tourists coming here. They’ll be able to visit the art centre.”
Ms Ellis says there are seven to eight ladies regularly painting, a couple of them on CDEP wages, all of them receiving commission for any work they sell.
Some men are also painting from time to time.
Coordinator John Syme, employed by the council, says he’s working on encouraging more participation by men, creating a separate area for them to work.
Ms Ellis says they also want to organise activities for the kids – “get the kids coming over from school, learning to paint, as part of their school work”.
Mr Syme says they are looking for niche products, with painted clockfaces being one idea that the artists are keenly pursuing.
Papier mache bowls that they make themselves are another surface to paint on, apart from small linens and boards.
Ms Ellis, daughter of renowned artist Michael Nelson Jakamarra, is an accomplished painter and, between painting clockfaces, is working on a multi-panel work for the Telstra National Aboriginal Art Award.
Several of the other women are also established painters, says Mr Syme. Janet Turner, for example, is one of the artists who painted the rubbish bins in Todd Mall.
“We are using existing skills to gain income for individuals and also as the basis for the art centre to expand,” says Mr Syme. 
“At the moment Amoonguna council is funding it as an employment program, but ultimately the aim is to make it an artists’ art centre.”
It’s early days and the centre hasn’t yet got any funding for materials nor basic items like a telephone connection.
But some money is coming in: an existing tour group makes regular visits and the vision is to have more groups. Whether that will be by appointment or with more open access has not yet been decided.
And on Wednesday this week, the art centre made its first public outing, at DesArt in the Park, the second event of its kind held at the Desert Park, offering work for sale under $200 from a range of art centres in the region.

Sellout show still finding its feet. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.

A triumph of production and a testament to the local audience’s hunger for events reflecting local culture, The Magic Coolamon has yet some way to go theatrically.
The Territory’s first Indigenous musical, written by Warren H Williams and beautifully staged by Red Dust Theatre at the Desert Park, sold out its three shows.
On the night I went, Saturday, there were lots of young children in the audience, proving that the marketing of the show as family entertainment had hit the spot. 
The children seemed generally delighted by the show’s pantomine elements, and who could not have been engaged by the music – the talent of the band, under the direction of Vincent Lamberti, and Warren H’s sweet melodies.
Weaknesses were in aspects of the script, the singing voices and confidence of the actors, some of the direction and some of the costuming.
It was a simple good versus evil story with some magic thrown in, but it needed to be able to reach all of the audience. Most adults are willing to revisit the enchantments of childhood but this has to be worked with good story-telling.
We needed to know more about the magic coolamon, what its powers were, what it had been able to do in the past, so that we believed more that it was worth stealing and worth getting back.
We needed to know a little more about Kaya and her grandmother, about their attachment to one another, so that we felt more emotionally involved in Kaya’s quest to find Grandma after she’d been kidnapped by the Evil One.
We needed to know why the Evil One had fallen out with his brother, the Great Spirit; what the Evil One wanted, or thought he did, and why in the end he was happy to renounce his ways and be reconciled with the Great Spirit, what he risked if he didn’t.
We needed a little more of the aura of the ancient Indigenous culture from whence this story sprang, a little more suggestion of the spiritual aliveness of the country, the echo of ancient chants and rhythms. 
The attempt to universalise a story does not need to sacrifice the story’s cultural roots.
All these elements would have given the actors more to work with, would have lent depth to their performance.
Williams said he didn’t want the actors to be great singers, he was happy for them to sing just as they would at home. But it is difficult to do a musical without strong singing voices.
Donald Mallard and Steve Hodder acquitted themselves quite well: their greater confidence on the stage allowed them to project their voices with something of the strength required.
Anyupa Butcher, who as the central character Kaya had several solos, has a sweet voice but struggled in the lower registers and on Saturday was also visibly suffering from  a sore throat. This undermined her confidence and she did very well to keep tackling her solos to the end. She has a beautiful, expressive face and moves with natural grace – more experience and more training, dramatic as well as voice, will serve her well.
The revelation of the show was Ella Dann as Mash, the Evil One’s sidekick. She’d found a persona for her character, a mischievous sprite, and maintained it with the right amount of humour and verve, without upstaging the rest of the cast. Nonetheless the show’s energy lifted a notch or two whenever she was on stage. 
Mash and the Evil One were well kitted out in fantasy costumes with a contemporary feel.
Not so the Great Spirit, played well by Nick Raymond who also made his puppet costume.  It was hard to work out where the imagery for the puppet came from. The head with its long droopy nose was Leunig-esque, the large clumsy hands served no purpose, the gown was little more than a sheet. None of it suggested greatness or spirit.
The first appearance of the Great Spirit, perched on a rock way up on the flanks of the range, used all the power of the magnificent natural setting afforded by the amphitheatre at the Desert Park.
The transition from this appearance to the stage, however, needed to be very subtly managed, to preserve the enchantment of the moment. A disembodied voice might have been the way to go, especially as Raymond has a good speaking voice.
The missed opportunity of the production was to not foreground the charismatic presence and singing talent of Warren H Williams.
Ideally the five-piece band would have been on stage and we would have heard a lot more from the acclaimed singer. 
Much of what I’ve said here goes to direction, which was in the hands of Danielle Loy and Stuart Orr. From the program notes it is not clear what experience Orr brought to the job. Loy has acquitted herself outstandingly in her production role – it was no small feat to bring together so smoothly all the elements of the first theatre production at the Desert Park.  But she is still finding her way as a director.
That would seem to be about learning to impose a coherent artistic vision on the production and about working with cast and crew so that every word, gesture, movement and object on stage becomes indispensable to moving the story forward and enhancing the audience’s engagement with it.
This first staging of The Magic Coolamon reveals loads of potential and on the whole reflects well on the ambitions of Red Dust Theatre. The whole troupe would now benefit from and deserve the support of further professional and creative development opportunities.

Palm Sunday: what a bore. By DARCY DAVIS.

Palm Sunday, never heard of it? Me either, but it sounded kind of exotic – drinks at ‘The Oasis’ perhaps?
Nah, it was a bunch of peaceful and anti-nuke flicks up on the StoryWall in the Todd Mall.
Pretty unremarkable really – nobody I know could be bothered going to some bash on a winterish Sunday night, not even me! But I was summoned by both my employers, Alice News and WelcomeTV and I had to take snaps and run the projector.
But it wasn’t all bad, there was quite an amusing film about trying to define the word itinerant by a funny bearded bloke named Truce – no kidding, he has no last name.
If sketchy type characters with beards and no last names were making the films, what would the audience be like? Probably would have been a pretty interesting crowd if there had been a tad more publicity.
So I sat there with two of my mates and ate Lane pizza (very resourceful bunch, even when they’re not holding the event!). We were approached at one stage by a few kids for some pizza – we parted with a few slices but had to refuse when they came back for seconds.
The crowd of 19 (I counted) slowly decreased in number as the films kept rolling until the point where all that was left were the organizers. At one stage, towards the end of the night, some bloke came down from his apartment in the Red Centre Resort and went off at everyone left (the organisers).
“I’m trying to watch the television up there, see there, second storey, that’s where I live, I’ve lived there for over two years!” He looked like he was going to throw a sharp object, or a rock or something at us.
“Go back to your bloody church and watch it! Look, there’s no one here, nobody wants to watch it!” and as aggressive as he was, he kind of had a point.
Why were we still watching this power point presentation from some bloke from CSIRO in the middle of the Todd Mall at 10pm when everyone had gone home?
I don’t think there should be a StoryWall event for the sake of having a StoryWall event. If there is something of quality to show, show it, if not… take it into the church?
It was probably the first event that I have reported on (except maybe the ‘Fiddle Fest’) where I haven’t totally enjoyed myself. But it could be worse, like if I had to report on a cock fight, or a 60th birthday, or a lawn sale.
Once everything was packed up and finished, I walked down the Todd Mall. I see the white man trying to sell Aboriginal dot paintings, I hear the drunken laughter and ramble coming from the old Scotties, I see the children playing on the church lawns, I see the policeman munching a ‘Maccas’ burger as he patrols the streets in his blue Commadore, I see late night love on a bench, and I think to myself… ‘What a wonderful town’. 

Home grown youth drama.

Becoming pregnant at 15, being bullied, having parents divorce, dropping out of school, these are the concerns of a play, Journey, written by Suruli Rajan Kandasamy for his drama students at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College.
Year Eight students are performing and Year Seven are crewing for the production which will be presented on April 19 as a Youth Week event.
The challenging themes of the play “open up issues around which the students will be having to make decisions,” says Mr Rajan.
“I had to convince my principal that these issues shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. Such things happen and it’s not the end of the world.
“If young people in need of help can’t go to family and friends, there are other places to turn to.”
Local youth organisations will be present at the event, open to all local high school students, and Phil Walcott, a counsellor with St Philip’s College, will facilitate discussion after the play. 
Mr Rajan is delighted with the commitment of his young actors, who are giving up their lunchtimes to learn their long dialogues. 
“I want them to get famous, that’s my main aim!” he laughs. 

Kevin "Bloody" Rudd: Leader with class, observes DAVE PRIOR.

Born and bred Alice country singer, David ‘The Bear’ Prior, is wondering if Australia’s ready for the alternative Prime Minister.

He listens to Mozart,
drinks chardy from a glass,
it’s a long time since Labor
had a leader with a class.

Who cares if he parts his hair like that?
It keeps his eyebrows down,
he’s neatly dressed and punctual 
and never wears a frown.

He was the perfect prefect
at his chosen school,
a friend of the librarian,
upholder of the rule.

The champion of the chess board, 
the master of debate,
he never rushed the tuck shop,
he just stood in line to wait.

So what do you reckon Australia?
Are you with me here?
Let me yell it out and let me make it clear.
It’s the talk of all the barbies,
it’s the talk down at the pub,
Is Australia ready for Kevin Bloody Rudd?

He got rid of Beazly easily,
put Gillard by his side,
then neatly pressed his trousers 
and bought a brand new tie.

And polished up his glasses
and cleaned and clipped his nails,
he shined his shoes and went to work
to see what the job entails.

He’s the hero of the jet set,
a man of wine and cheese,
even speaks in Mandarin,
takeaway Chinese.

He can entertain a crowd,
without using F or C,
will Kevin Bloody Rudd
go on to victory?

So what do you reckon Australia?
Are you with me here?
Let me yell it out and let me make it clear.
He might walk like Elle McPherson,
and look like Elma Fudd.
But is Australia ready
for Kevin Bloody Rudd?

ADAM CONNELLY: That unpleasant smell in the room.

I have a secret shame. In fact I am one of the lowest of the low.
One of the hidden, the unclean. I am the pork in the Matzo ball. I am the dog food in the pensioner’s stew. I am the pee in the pool.
I am a nerd.
“How could this be?” I hear you collectively say.
I know it may come as a shock to you to discover this scandal. It’s a tough pill to swallow for you, I know. But it is true.
I am not a geek. Let’s not confuse the two. A geek has a certain currency in today’s ever forward technological world.
A geek can fix your computer. A geek can retrieve the inappropriate email you mistakenly sent to the boss before the boss gets to read it. A geek can program your DVD player. I can not.
A geek has devices like external hard drives full of movies and music. Some of which you might like and a geek might burn you an illegal copy. A geek can sex up your web page while doing your income tax. Geeks are cool like that.
We nerds have no such currency. On first inspection we nerds seem fine.
But sooner or later you will end up being entangled in a conversation about the contributing factors for the civil unrest in Burkina Faso.
It could be worse. No really it could. We could start banging on and quote Marlowe or Lefever or, even worse, Monty Python. 
Nerds. We are the unpleasant smell in the room no one can put their finger on. The reason being is that we appear interesting and engaging on first meeting. I can indeed carry a conversation about pretty much any topic.
From the Tigers’ chances this season to Desperate Housewives.
Nerds aren’t outwardly socially awkward like our geek cousins.
But socially awkward we are and this is why we are so maligned.
We are like the ninjas of conversation. We sneak up on conversation unnoticed and suddenly, BLAM, there lies the conversation bleeding from its ears, twitching and no one sees it coming.  
I was on a date once with an incredibly attractive woman. How on earth such a beauty had agreed to dine with me alludes me to this day.
But there I am in a nicely lit Italian restaurant in the heart of Sydney.
Harbour views, mood music and Helen of Troy at my table.
Things are very good. Then I notice her eyes wandering around the room and I realise that I am two thirds of the way through explaining the Serbo-Croatian conflict.
Oh yes, Adam! Well done. Not even if she were Serbian or Croatian would this stunning aerobics instructor give two hoots about what you’re saying.
Why do I raise such a shameful point about myself?
People say that the geek shall inherit.
That the Bill Gates types will rule the world as we drive headlong down the information super highway.
I think this is true enough.
While our geek cousins will reap the fruits of their toil, it will be on the nerds’ terms. You see, every law ever made was made by a nerd.
Think of the law makers in this country. Howard, Rudd, Martin and Carney, all nerds. In fact I bet you London to a brick that you have never, ever voted for a politician who isn’t a nerd.
Nerds and politicians have the same relationship as squares and rectangles. Not all nerds are politicians but all politicians are nerds. 
In a world and more importantly a town where the law makers and the budget setters can have such an influence, it is important that the next generation of them grows up with an understanding of what makes this place good.
Alice Springs is looking at its future and doesn’t like all that it sees.
And whether you like it or not, it will be the nerds that will have the charge to do something about it.
So, nurture the nerd. Sure geeks are sexier, and regular blokes are more fun to have a beer with.
But the nerd might just be passing the laws that makes that beer all the more enjoyable.

LETTERS: Fellow Central Australians, cheer up!

Sir,– Centuries ago, the highly civilised and aggressive Romans conquered and colonised many lands among which was Britain, where they encounted a primitive people. 
The Roman Empire endured for hundreds of years but eventually collapsed. 
Other highly civilised and aggressive European nations had their turns at colonsing less sophisticated parts of the world. They imposed their values on people unable, usually due to inferior weapon technology, to resist. 
The Portugese, Spanish, Dutch, French, Germans and British had their turns, and passed into history. 
Today’s dominant power of a similar type is the USA.  
Modern Australia came into being during the height of the British Empire, a vast, greedy, highly aggressive enterprise which proudly boasted of its conquests. 
In the late nineteenth century it was to be described by the inflential Sydney “Bulletin”, as the “British Vampire”.
 The perception was that colonies were being sucked dry of their potential to support the needs of the “Mother” country. 
The American colonists had rebelled against injustices imposed on them and achieved freedom. 
Australia was chosen to replacce America. 
It became a familiar historical exercise. People from a dominant society descended on ancient Australia, occupied for thousands of years by people to become known by various terms – Aborigines, Blackfellows, Indigenous etc. 
The founders of modern Australia did marvellous things is developing the place into a productive nation in the driest of inhabited contients.  I am proud to belong to a pioneering family of many gernerations which took part in this development. 
But – what about those people who had the misfortune to be subjected to the takeover by the British Vampire? 
Today we see groups of them in Alice Springs having come in from artifical communities in the bush.  They’re a modern version of those whom the Romans encounted in Britain. 
They are a fractured society among whom the main tradition today is football. 
Letters to the editor constantly complain about the behaviour of these visitors. 
Alice Springs was established with the opening of the Telegraph Station in 1872.  Just 135 years ago. 
Some of the NT Aboriginal people have had less than two generations of contact with white fellers. 
When you look at these people, what do you see?  Bloody blackfellers?  Perhaps so, but what you really are seeing are fellow human beings! With personal problems, ills, happy times and immortal souls. 
They continue to struggle to adapt to co-exist with the dominant culture.
What’s to be done? Firstly, don’t put the onus on to the police to provide solutions to social problems.  They have enough to do with their appointed duties which they do very well. 
It is distressing when offensive behavior of all types occurs. Indeed, when these misdemeanors are committed by Aborigines, many of their people are offended and humiliated. 
Does anyone write to the editor when young black people are seen putting rubbish into bins?  No.  But it happens. 
To fellow Central Australians my advice is cheer up – be optimistic.  Don’t try to live in the past.  It is irrevocably gone. 
Wanting to return to how things were will stifle your progress. 
Concentrate on where we are now – today.  Bury animosity.  Be sympathetic towards the disadvantaged and try to understand their problems. 
Adverse feelings are sometimes engendered by simply not knowing what to do about a situation. 
Those who experience this condition can take measures.  Wheather by the use of prayer, meditation or exercise of will, a deliberate change in attitude is the first step.  Practicalities will follow. 
Des Nelson,
Alice Springs

‘Big bang’ invasion

Sir,– It’s obvious that we are going through an era of social change with much unrest, both locally and globally. At the seat of it, you could say opression and power play major roles.
We see the Iraq situation where a nation has decided to step in with a heavy hand.  Whilst the underlying ideology is not the same, another nation stepped into Australia over 200 years ago with a heavy hand. 
Our generation will now witness the transition of Iraq as it goes through a war and then in years to come they will have to walk through changes, healing, anger and loss.
It’s easy to distance ourselves from the invasion of Australia, to celebrate Australia Day on one dimension as the victors, but the fact is that we have to deal with the fact that social unrest in our town goes back to that day. 
We are living with the echo of that ‘big  bang’.
 There is no way to control the next transitional phase of development, however the attitude of the individual can offer support as ideas and emotions come to the fore. 
Nobody in Alice is responsible for what happened in the past but we must look at today with understanding and resolve to move forward.
It all came together for me recently at the Art~Land~Culture ideas incubator when Elaine Peckham, an Indigenous elder, said simply ‘we need to walk together’.
So there you go, someone has the answer to the stage we are now at. It’s time for the next stage, a shift of paradigm and a resolve to simply walk through our issues side by side, sharing where we are all at now.
The concept is so simple but the journey incredibly complex and challenging.
Jane Clark
Alice Springs

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.