May 3, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Premium Opal? By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Federal Government is considering paying for the development of Premium Opal, a high-grade unsniffable petrol.
Canberra paid BP several million dollars for the already available standard Opal fuel, but it has little benefit in Alice Springs because sniffers have access to Premium Unleaded.
There have been reports of sniffers coming into the town from bush communities where only Opal or diesel - also unsniffable - are available (Alice News, April 26).
Meanwhile the independent motoring body, South Australia’s Royal Automobile Association, is set to advise its members that they cannot find any technical reason why Opal fuel is causing problems in their cars.
Mark Borlace, manager of the RAA’s technical department, says his organisation, which assists the Territory body AANT in technical matters, wants “get to the bottom of things.
“We want to be able to give advice to our members like we’d give to our mum.”
Mr Borlace visited Alice with his technical liaison manager about three weeks ago.
They had contacted some repairers in advance, asking them to keep any suspect parts and to think about the kind of problems cars might be experiencing that could be related to Opal fuel. 
Eleven out of the 15 they visited reported no change in the kind of fuel system problems they were seeing, before and after the introduction of Opal.
One had kept two pumps which had started to seep petrol.
Mr Borlace says the problem with these may well be related to age: the pumps were thought to be 16 years or older.
Some dismantling and inspection was done in conjunction with lecturers at CDU, and further material testing is underway in Brisbane.
But Mr Borlace says initial advice is that the problems with these pumps are in all likelihood to do with age.
He says aromatics (the sniffable part of fuel), which have been removed from Opal, can have the affect of keeping rubber components supple.
He says there is no research that he could discover on just how great such an affect is, but chemists from oil companies say that it is minimal and after the first month or so of use, negligible. 
Mr Borlace says RAA is considering whether to proceed with further research on this question, and may commission it from a professor of organic chemistry at Adelaide University.
In another incident investigated in Alice Springs, a car was experiencing a “slight surge” when it reached a speed of 70kph.
The repairer thought this could be due to Opal.
Mr Borlace says that, with the approval of the owner, the Opal was stripped out, replaced by premium unleaded and the fault was still there.
Cleaning out the fuel system then got rid of the problem. The vehicle was refuelled with Opal and a recent check showed that the problem had not returned.
Mr Borlace says he saw no cars under 10 years of age with fuel-related problems and likewise no vehicles with fuel injectors had problems.
Those cars with fuel pump problems, that is higher than normal leakage rates, had old fuel pumps.
“The thing is injectors can get dirty, pumps can leak, and in the current situation it is easy to blame the fuel.
“But I suspect it may be jumping at shadows.”
He says he contacted a parts supplier rumoured to have ordered in a whole palette load of fuel pumps to keep up with demand since the introduction of Opal.
He says the supplier had not had to order such a quantity; he usually kept eight in stock and had had one week where he ran out.
The increased demand may just have been coincidence.
After the initial round of visits to repairers, Mr Borlace and his colleague contacted them all again, giving feedback on what they had found and on what other repairers were saying.
“It was pretty well agreed that the fuel pump issues that they were seeing were probably related to the weather still being hot,” he says.
Mr Borlace again rang “about a dozen” Alice-based repairers last week, asking if they had had any more problems: “None had.”
Says Mr Borlace: “Half of the town’s drivers are currently scared enough about Opal to be paying a 6c per litre more for premium unleaded.
“We want to be in a position to say that technically we can’t find a reason why either fuel would cause a problem in their cars.
“We think we will be in that position shortly.”

The Mayor for whites? By KIERAN FINNANE.

The airing this week of a Today Tonight program labeling Alice Springs as the “Murder Capital of Australia” produced some heated local reactions. 
Mayor Fran Kilgariff, commenting on 8HA, angrily rejected the label, because “what we have is the situation of black people killing black people in the main”.
She said in part: “We need to solve our problems, we need to make sure something happens about them but not by using that sort of language [calling Alice a “murder capital”].
“It makes me very angry that all these people are going to be looking at this tonight [Monday] and deciding we won’t be going there for our holiday when it is not true. That is not the situation.  What we have is the situation of black people killing black people in the main. And that doesn’t make us the murder capital of the world.”
Meanwhile, tourism industry representatives have backed Advance Alice in its campaign for greater safety in the streets of Alice despite CATIA chairman Steve Rattray’s criticism of the group.
On Monday Mr Rattray circulated an email to the CATIA membership reacting against Advance Alice’s participation in the program.
It screened in full (15 minutes) in Adelaide on Monday night, and a shorter version was screened nationally on Wednesday night.
Mr Rattray said in his email: “The last month has seen a ground swell of opposition against the Martin Government’s apparent lack of action in tackling antisocial behaviour.
“This has had a positive impact on all the relevant agencies and we seem to now be heading in the right direction.
“The only negative that came out of the whole thing was the group grandstanding for the national press up and down the Mall at night ...
“This [the Today Tonight segment] will more than likely nullify the $2.3 million that Tourism NT has just spent and all those punters who were still undecided about where they will holiday this year, well now that decision is easy, anywhere but here ...
“While this group of people may have had good intentions to start with, they have now possibly done irreversible damage to our 2007 tourist season.”
A request by Steve Brown, representing Advance Alice, to speak to CATIA’s general meeting on Tuesday was granted. He said Advance Alice had participated reluctantly, but felt in the end that it was better to participate than to ignore the program.
He felt that they had been able to “put a positive spin” on the situation, although acknowledged that overall the impression given by the program was “pretty bad”.
But he reminded the crowd of 40 or so that the reason why Today Tonight came to town was because of government inaction and “almost a coverup” of law and order problems.
He said the only way to deal with the problems is “head on” and claimed success for Advance Alice in “getting the government to focus like never before”.
His position received a warm endorsement from the meeting, which invited members of Advance Alice to attend CATIA’s next executive meeting to discuss their future plans and ways of working together.
Michael Jones, from the Convention Centre, said everyone had to be prepared to take some pain to make long term gains.
For the Convention Centre this could mean losing conferences – and indeed Mr Jones had received a concerned phone call the day after Today Tonight went to air in Adelaide – but the important thing was to get action to change the situation for the better.
Similarly Mr Rattray had received an email from a caravanning couple who asked for advice on what time to go inside your cabin to avoid the bashing.
There was a lot of discussion about efforts needed to ensure the success of an imminent visit to Alice of 200 German, Austrian and Swiss travel professionals.
The meeting was told that extra police have been promised for the duration of their visit.
There was discussion about the quieter streets since the protest during the parliamentary sittings.
Mr Brown told the meeting that it was due to police being at establishment numbers, which had been down by 50% late last year.
“It’s had exactly the affect all of us said it would have,” he said.

All noise will go. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The noisy, exhaust-belching power station adjacent to the posh Golfcourse Estate is set to shut down, probably in less than 10 years.
Responding to sustained outrage about the screaming noise from two turbine generators, a 10.1MW Titan and a 3.9MW Taurus, the government recently announced that Power Water will move them to Brewer industrial estate, well to the south of the town.
Now the Power and Water Corporation has told the Alice News that the eight piston engines in the old generating hall of the Ron Goodin power station in Sadadeen Valley are approaching the end of their lives. 
Beginning in about 2012-13 they will be progressively replaced with turbine engines, also to be located at Brewer Estate.
Three more turbines are, for the time being, remaining in the Sadadeen Valley complex: the giant 12MW ABB turbine, mounted outdoors; and two smaller turbines, about 2MW each, in the original power station built in the 40s in the western end of the valley.
The turbines are currently using Palm Valley gas, which is also pumped to the Top End for power generation.
When the gas field in Central Australia is exhausted, expected to occur in 2011, the pipeline will be used to pump Timor Sea gas to Alice Springs.
The government recently announced a $40m expenditure on the Brewer Estate facility, where a smaller, privately owned generator is already established.
Part of the money will be used for a transmission line to Alice Springs, possibly to a transformer hub in the picturesque Sadadeen Valley.
That transformer, of course, doesn’t make a noise. 
It is understood the land Power and Water owns in the Sadadeen Valley has many sacred sites dotted throughout it, restricting the purposes for which it could otherwise be used, such as housing.
The eight piston engines in the Ron Goodin power stations are:
Two 1.8MW diesels; three 4.2MW dual-fuel gas sets and three 5.5MW dual-fuel gas sets.
Peak consumption of Alice Springs is around 50MW.

No mass exodus from Alice. By KIERAN FINNANE.

There is no evidence in the real estate industry of a “mass exodus” from Alice Springs, says local representative of the Real Estate Institute, David Forrest.
“We’ve certainly got sellers who are leaving town but they are not people who arrived two years ago.
“They are people looking to retire interstate or people who are looking for a change after spending quite some time in town.
“There are certainly people who are fed up with the state of law and order in Alice Springs, I’m not trying to diminish that.
“But our office [Framptons] could not give hard evidence of a sell-up.”
Mr Forrest says turnover in the market may be lower this year, but not dramatically so.
Average annual turnover he puts at around 800 sales, an average of 67 per month.
So far this year, not including vacant land sales, 38 sales were settled in January; 54 in February; 59 in March, an average of 50 a month.
“These figures certainly don’t say everyone is selling up,” says Mr Forrest.
He says Alice does not have a seasonal peak in real estate business, although January is usually a quieter month, with many residents out of town.
He also says property values are holding: houses are steady and units prices are increasing.
“In this we are not divorced from the rest of the country. Units are a popular choice for people who who don’t want to spend their weekends gardening.”
Despite the concern over social problems, Mr Forrest suggest the town has “probably never been more buoyant”, pointing to the office development on the North Stuart Highway, the new Central Land Council building, one development underway in the Western precinct with two more seeking planning approvals, the new Imparja building going up on South Terrace, the “massive extension” to the Yeperenye Centre, the renovation of the Alice Plaza on Todd Mall and the GHD building in Todd Street, the Quest apartments on South Terrace, and Stage One at the Desert Knowledge precinct nearing completion with Stage Two about to start.
“And that list doesn’t take into account the Federal Government’s $70m for the town camps and the temporary accommodation sites, the $12m for the Solar City, and the $6m for the new emergency department at the hospital.
Meanwhile, the Australian Valuation Office has just completed its revaluation of the Unimproved Capital Value of land throughout Alice Springs.
This is done every three years.
All residential areas show significant increases in value over the last three years, although it is worth noting that the most recent data used by the office was from July in 2006, preceding, for example, the introduction of the latest alcohol restrictions, the recent spike in lawlessness, and the decision to go ahead with the donga camps.
Valuer General for the NT, Graeme Addicott, says the increases in Alice reflect the shortage of development land.
“The demand for residential land is strong and the supply is fairly static.
“Whether the increased values are a good thing I’m not quite sure, it depends whether you are buying or selling.
“It would certainly be hard for first home buyers and low income earners to enter the market.”
Braitling experienced an increase in value of 73% over the last three years, up from $75,000 for a typical block in 2003, to $130,000 in 2006.
In Old Eastside values were up by 56% (from $138,000 to $215,000, though blocks in this area are larger).
In New Eastside the hike was 70% (from $80,000 to $136,000).
In the Golf Course Estate blocks are smaller (typically 850 square metres). Values increased by 61% (from $140,000 to $225,000).
In The Gap, coming off a low base of $46,000 in 2000, values were up by 81% over the last three years, from $69,000 to $125,000.
In Gillen the increase was 75%, from $80,000 to $140,000.
Larapinta West experienced an increase of 86% (from $64,500 to $120,000), and Larapinta East, with larger than average blocks, was up by 64% (from $110,000 to $180,000).
The Racecourse area values also increased by 64%, from $110,000 to $180,000.
Rural area increases were more modest, 38% in Rural South (from $160,000 to $220,000 for a two hectare block) and 40% in Ilparpa for the same size block (from $150,000 to $210,000).
The Unimproved Capital Value of land is the measure upon which the town council bases its rates.
Says Mr Addicott: “There’s no direct link between a movement in values and the rates that are struck.
“Council strike their rates in relation to their budget requirements.”

"Shutists" are blown away: great Alice lives up to its reputation. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“Nevil Shute wrote a lot of books and all his books are about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  And that really is a metaphor for Alice Springs.
“The effort that has gone into opening up the Northern Territory, making Alice Springs into a go ahead place just demonstrates that ordinary people can make a difference.”
Alison Jenner, from Swansea in Wales, was in town last week, visiting for the first time, for a conference on the life and work of Nevil Shute, author of  “A Town Like Alice”, a novel that has undoubtedly contributed to Alice’s international fame.
The Alice News spoke to Ms Jenner and other “Shutists” about their encounter with the real town, as opposed to their impressions gained from the book.
Their response to the town, its environment and its people was overwhelmingly positive, expectations surpassed on all  fronts.
Said Ms Jenner: “Going for a walk in the mornings, seeing the dawn come up, and hearing all these fabulous birds, I can’t get over the birds, absolutely glorious – it’s a really lovely  place.”
As for the people: “I can’t fault anybody. They’ve been so helpful, so nice, perpetually cheerful, extraordinary.”
Laura Schneider, from New York, had been to Alice twice before. During her three visits here, she has never met a person who hasn’t been “nice and kind and polite”.
“Shute captured the spirit of the people in the place, their character, that hasn’t changed a bit,” she says.
“Fifty years is a long time between the book being written and visiting the place, but the people are as kind and wonderful as he spoke about, the physical beauty of this place is indescribable and that is something that resonates in the book. Being here, it’s right all around us.”
Ms Schneider was an organiser of the conference: “Any question I had, people have been falling all over themselves trying to find an answer.
“If they couldn’t help me, they would find somebody who would.
“If I was asking about places to go or things to see, everybody had their favourite places and everybody said, oh, you have to go here and you have to go there.
“Cheerful and happy, they couldn’t do enough for me. Everyone we’ve run into, everyone who has helped us, every tour person has been so hospitable and kind, we’ve wanted for nothing.”
This was echoed by Ms Jenner: “Everybody’s been inordinately helpful, what can I say, you don’t normally find that.
“Polite, nice, kind, helpful, interested, oh, what are you doing here?
“They’ve all heard of Nevil Shute, most of them have read the book, even the youngsters which is quite surprising. They can’t do too much for you, it’s extraordinary. “
What about the look of the built town, weren’t they expecting more of an Outback feel?
Said Ms Jenner: “I expected tin roofs, one or two little shops, but it’s got everything. It’s so much better than I expected it to be.
“It’s as modern and inviting a place as you would hope to go to, despite being in what you would think of at first as a very inhospitable background.
“You can see where there have been outback places.  We went out to dinner [at Ooraminna] and we saw structures that looked as though they might have been outback towns – thank goodness things move on!
“People develop – in only 200 short years, Australia has developed from what was an Indigenous locality to a first world cosmopolitan country. It’s brilliant.”
What impression had they gained of the Indigenous presence in town?
The conference program had included “a very interesting talk from the Indigenous studies librarian at the town library”.
“A very helpful lady called Sylvia [Neale] told us a little bit about the work she does with Indigenous people.
“She showed us a map of all the different nations, language groups, tribes in Australia, which blew my mind.
“We know so little about the Indigenous people but when I go home I’m going to try to find out some more about them.
“She was very generous in the way she spoke about the situation of Indigenous people, the developments that have taken place and the care that local people try to have for people from Indigenous backgrounds.
“It’s clear that whatever have been circumstances in the past, strides are being taken now to try to meet people half way, if you like, and show that the traditional custodians of places are being respected and valued. I’m impressed with that.”
Jim Wells, from Melbourne, was also visiting for the first time. He’d had a long sentimental attachment to Alice Springs because his parents had known one of the station owners in the area.
He especially remembered a front page photo from one of the Melbourne papers during the Queen’s visit in 1963.
“It showed the Queen, the station owner whom we knew and a great horde of cattle going past.
“I’ve always been fascinated to come here.
“I got a huge buzz coming through Heavitree Gap – it’s very narrow, you’ve got the rail on one side, you go through it and there’s the town! It’s a fantastic entrance.”
He found the town “impressive”, though suggested that Todd Mall’s days may be numbered.
“A lot of towns have had to open up their malls for transport for security reasons and I can see Alice Springs having to do that too.”
He had read the Alice Springs News account (April 19) of the protest rally at the Alice parliamentary sittings. 
“It had some very interesting material about some of the issues that affect the town.
“I don’t comment, but it’s great that there is comment and discussion and that the politicians, both federal and locally, are being put under notice to try and help.
“There is a problem and the more we can do to understand it and fix it, the better.”
He praised the standard of the tourist facilities, the Desert Park, the Connellan Museum, the Araluen Centre, the Museum of Central Australia:  “The museum blew me away. It really is world class and it’s a credit to all involved that Alice has those facilities.”
How did he find the social atmosphere?
“We went to the [Anzac Day] dawn service. I was blown away, I was expecting maybe 100, 200 people, I think there might have been well over 1000.
“It was beautifully done, very symbolic, it was an experience I will  never forget.
“The general atmosphere in town is very good and I really look forward to coming back again.”
Ms Schneider quoted a famous line from “A Town Like Alice”, when  Joe Harman is talking to Jean Paget while they are both prisoners of war.
“He said, ‘Everyone’s got their place, and my place is The Alice’.
“He wrote of Alice Springs as an ideal of what an outback town ought to be, what the people were like, the physical beauty.
“It’s evident he captured the spirit of this town.”

Donga Delia’s buckpass flawed. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Planning Minister Delia Lawrie is clearly trying to divert public wrath about her “dongas” decision to the Development Consent Authority (DCA) which, in fact, had urged her in no uncertain terms to say “no” to the proposal.
During the recent parliamentary sittings In Alice, Ms Lawrie spoke to a meeting of irate Northside residents, opposed to the camp planned for Dalgety Road, in immediate vicinity of a residential suburb.
According to Northside resident Jerry Fitzsimmons, Ms Lawrie claimed the DCA’s recommendation had “given her the opportunity to proceed with the donga sites” by providing the option of imposing certain conditions.
This week Ms Lawrie did not consent to an interview, but told the Alice News through a minder that the DCA’s recommendation “was unusual in that it indicated conditions should apply if Government was to approve the proposal.
“Clearly, this indicated even the DCA recognised the importance of the proposal separate to the proposal’s planning merit.”
But DCA chairman Peter McQueen, when asked to comment, said the authority, in a two part decision, recommended Ms Lawrie not give consent to the proposal from the NT and Federal governments.
The DCA cited in its decision, which Ms Lawrie released as a public document, the overwhelming public opposition (some 120 submission against, two in favor), and “the risk of harm to potential residents”.
In part two of the recommendation, referred to by Mr McQueen as a rider, he said the DCA “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.”
Why did the DCA not simply say, don’t do it, that’s the message, over to you Minister?
Why did they leave it open to the Minister, as she now claims, to give the green light to the dongas, shifting at least part of the blame to the DCA?
Mr McQueen says the intention of the rider was to “re-enforce the public’s concerns.
“It’s not anything more than that,” he says.
“At the end of the day the DCA performed the functions that are open to it, and it did so responsibly.”
Ms Lawrie is clearly having her cake and eating it.
On the one hand she says she is taking heed of what the DCA is saying.
On the other she is ignoring the DCA’s recommendations.
The DCA says “any approval [should] be for a limited period of two years during which time alternative sites and facilities would be explored with a view to establishing more acceptable permanent facilities, and with provision for a public review of the current proposed initiative at the end of the term.”
Not only did Ms Lawrie give approval for seven years, she did a secret deal with the Federal Government, the provider of the $20m to build the camps, about an extension beyond the seven years (Alice News, April 5).

CLP takes aim at NT Budget.

The ALP Government has again failed to deliver anything new for the people of Alice Springs and Central Australia, says Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney.
“The Government’s budget has been long on re-announcements and short on new money especially in the critical areas of law and order.
“In spite of this bonanza the services that Alice Springs residents receive continue to be poor. 
“The telephone system at the Police Station still doesn’t work properly and won’t work properly for the next two months at least. Our streets are not safe and our hospital is struggling to cope with growing elective surgery lists, let alone other patient volumes.
Police are faring particularly badly.  The CCTV back flip has turned out to be a disappointing promise on the part of the Chief Minister as she will not guarantee same time monitoring of the CCTV system, there is no money for mounted police and there will be no increase in the establishment of officers at the Alice Springs police station.
   The GST continues to pour money into the Territory at rates that stagger the imagination. 
“In 2001 when the ALP came to power the Territory’s income was $2.2 billion dollars.
“Now five years later the income will be $3.3 billion dollars. 
“In five years the Government’s tax take has gone up by over $1.1 billion dollars per year.
“The government can find $529.87 million dollars to cover its commitment to the waterfront in Darwin (Auditor General’s Report Feb 07 page 125) but can’t find enough money to ensure our safety in Alice Springs.
“We know where Clare’s priorities are.”
Meanwhile the Member for Solomon, David Tollner MP says the government has delivered “dud” Budget which was in deficit and with no indication it would move into surplus any time soon in the future.
“The Territory Government’s Budget provides no long term plans for the growth, development and lifestyle of the Territory. It is a good indication too of what we can come to expect if the Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd wins office at the next Federal Election,”
“Labor State governments across the nation have already demonstrated how they have run deficit budgets at a huge cost to the community in terms of a decline in infrastructure and essential services like health, education, roads and transport.”
“They have shown how unfit Labor is at managing economies anywhere,” Mr Tollner said.
“Contrast Clare Martin’s mismanagement with the Howard Government’s sound economic management demonstrated by the paying off of the nation’s $96 billion debt run up by the ALP, the reduction in unemployment levels and the maintenance of low interest rates. This has allowed us to put record levels of money into essential services like health, education and roads.”

Intensive care boosts school attendance. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Dramatic improvements in attendance have been achieved for a group of Indigenous students at Braitling Primary School, by rigorous follow-up of any unnotified absences.
Parents are responding to the message that “we care if their kids are not at school”, says Braitling principal Sue Crowe.
This has led to improvements from attendance rates in some cases lower than 30% to the class average now of 81%.
The school average attendance for its 400 students, more than a quarter of whom are Indigenous, is over 85%, with peaks of over 90%.
The school celebrated its 30th anniversary on Monday.
An attendance rate of at least 80% is generally recognised as what’s required for a child to be making progress.
“It isn’t rocket science,” says Mrs Crowe, “but intensive follow-up of absences does require additional resources.”
A full-time assistant teacher is allocated to the class of 18 students in the Atyeke Unit. (Atyeke is an Arrernte word meaning “belonging to little brothers and sisters”.) 
Mainstream classes at the school have a maximum of  27 students and one teacher, with part-time additional resources.
The children in the Atyeke Unit are aged five to seven. They all live permanently in Alice Springs, either in the town camps or in the suburbs. Most of them are bilingual, to varying degrees fluent (for their age) in their Aboriginal language and English.
The assistant teacher, Sharon Davies, spends a good part of each morning following up on absences.
Most of the children’s families have a mobile phone, says Mrs Crowe: “Mobile phones have made a big difference for schools over the last three to four years.”
If, for whatever reason, phone contact isn’t made, the assistant will visit the family to check that everything is all right and to encourage the child’s return to school as soon as possible.
A big effort has also been made to establish who is the primary care giver for the child, often an aunty or uncle or grandparent.
Can this approach to improving attendance be replicated throughout the Territory?
Says Mrs Crowe: “I think the basic message can – from four to 18 years of age, the more children are encouraged to attend school, the greater the chance they have of developing independent learning skills.
“But replication of our intensive follow-up approach depends on resources.”
The approach is also working off a high enrollment base. If enrollments had been low to start with, then resources may have had to be focussed differently: “There’s no one size fits all,” says Mrs Crowe.
Would a “stick” approach work just as well, for instance the much-discussed linking of Centrelink parenting benefits to children’s attendance?
“Monitoring could be problematic,” says Mrs Crowe, “it too would take resources.  I think it’s better to look at alternative means.”
The follow-up approach has the advantage of building a relationship with the children’s families. Mrs Crowe says most parents are now comfortable about coming into the classroom.
Care was also taken to use a classroom that could be accessed directly from the grounds: “There’s no need for the families to walk right through the school.”
Most of the children in the Atyeke Unit have not been to pre-school. The focus of the program, apart from regular attendance, is on cooperative behaviour.
“Turn-taking can be pretty challenging for them. This is a social skill that a lot of other children learn at pre-school,” says Mrs Crowe.
During the visit by the Alice News, some children were making lunch with Uncle Norman (Norman Iles, the school’s Aboriginal resource officer). Toasted sandwiches were on the menu – with wholemeal bread and vegetables like tomato, avocado and alfalfa sprouts, as well as ham or tuna and cheese.
Other children were variously reading together, listening to a story, making things from connecting shapes (zoobs), drawing. There was a lot of chat and laughter and movement around the room, with a few quiet but firm guiding remarks from teacher Lynette Lodding along the way.
After a while the whole group came together for a song and game, the familiar “Doggy, doggy, where’s your bone? Somebody stole it from your home.”
They enjoyed this and behaved just like any transition group, sitting on the mat, putting up their hands for a turn.
The small class allows for a relaxed atmosphere.
“There’s a tolerance of  a range of behaviours that would be difficult to sustain in a class of 27 children,” says Mrs Crowe.
The small class also gives the opportunity for some explicit teaching of literacy and numeracy skills that will give them the confidence to move into mainstream classes.
All of the children, in groups of two and three, attend early childhood mainstream classes each afternoon. They are also fully integrated in the playground and in sports activities.
One student from the group is almost ready to move into mainstream full time.
“We are setting him up for success, he’ll be able to operate at peer level,” says Mrs Crowe.
Braitling recently won a Dare to Lead award, made by the Australian Principals Association’s Professional Development Council, in recognition of the work done in the Atyeke Unit “to improve targeted outcomes for Indigenous students through strong leadership and collaboration with their local Indigenous community”.
Mrs Crowe acknowledged the support for the unit from “the Braitling community” and particularly from the Braitling ASSPA (Aboriginal parent group).
Mrs Crowe has taught in schools in Alice Springs for the last 20 years. Has there been a change in emphasis on Aboriginal children’s attendance at school over that time?
“The vision of all children being at school, whether they’re Indigenous or non-Indigenous, has certainly been more explicitly and publicly stated over the last 10 years or so.
“The Dare to Lead initiative has been an important part of that process, both in publicising the goals and successes and in providing professional development resources.”

Stories and sound bring the past to life. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“I’ve never heard such a lovely lot of stories since I’ve been here,” said Old Timers resident Peg Garner at the launch last Saturday of the Traeger Museum audio tour.
She was responding in particular to a story of Bernie Kilgariff’s that goes with the juice extractor (pictured right) used by “Harry” (Fan Kum Sing) in his tailor’s shop, to make lemon and orange squash.
The audio tour does not re-explain the story on the label.
It gives the listener quite another story, associated with “the Chinaman’s shop” during wartime Alice Springs.
I won’t spoil it but it has young Bernie Kilgariff being bailed up by the military police after curfew.
What? There was a military curfew in Alice? a listener might ask.
That’s exactly the response historian Megg Kelham wants to stimulate. She hopes listeners will be curious to go on and find out more about the Centre and its colourful, often surprising past.
Each of the tracks on the hour-long tour lasts three and a half to four minutes and relates to an exhibit in the museum, which is chock-a-block with things of interest, and an artifact in itself, unspoiled by a sophisticated makeover. 
The audio tour leaves its character intact but amplifies the visitor’s experience.
The story of a certain type of iron becomes a story too of how children were raised.
In some instances the stories come from the people who used the objects, people like Myrtle Noske and Ruby Hamlyn.
In others, Kelham has had recourse to researchers like  Dick Kimber and Anna Kenny.
And as a long time lover of radio and sound recording, she has also made an attempt to bring the past to life through sound.
Thus she recorded the sound of a steam train blowing its whistle as she says everyone who recalls the early days of rail in Alice mentions that sound.
“When they heard that toot the whole town would down tools and go down to the station to welcome visitors and help unload,” says Kelham.
Take the heritage experience past one week of the year and visit the Traeger Museum, open seven days, 2-4pm, in return for a gold coin donation.

Where have all the flowers gone? By DARCY DAVIS.

Moxie, Zenith, Sweet Surrender, Nights Plague, bands with attention. And the closest thing to a woman being The Moxie’s Declan Furber-Gillick wearing a woman’s singlet last Saturday night at the Small Day In.
This got me thinking. What are the other side of the demographic doing? Where are all the ladies? Aside from Tashka Urban and Jacinta Castle, where are the local female ‘musos’ and what are they doing? I caught up with Tara Stewart, Julie Christiansen and Michelle Murphy to find out.
“I don’t tend to hang out with many female musicians, simply because there aren’t many around,” said Tara Stewart. Tara has been playing weekly at Sean’s Bar for quite a few years and is no stranger to public performing.
She plays a mix of covers and originals and gives cheerful banter in between.
“It keeps the crowd happy,” said Tara.
She has just been down to Limestone Studios in Sydney and recorded her first four track EP, titled ‘Stuck in an Elevator’.
“The songs are all different so I can’t say the album is a particular genre,” said Tara.
“I am very happy with the album. Louis and Steve (Limestone Studios) have given it a nice chunky sound.” 
Watch this space for more details about the EP’s availability.
Michelle Murphy is a local country singer, songwriter, guitarist, and this year performed at Tamworth as part of Telstra’s Road to Tamworth competition after winning the heat at the Royal Darwin Show. 
In our current blend of local male musicians, the genres covered have been rock, alternative, punk/metal, thrash metal, punk, roots and blues. But already the ladies have covered two much less mainstream genres – country and general unclassifiable.
“I have grown up with country music around me my whole life,” said Michelle.
“My parents, siblings and friends also really like it and I have been interested in it for years.”
Michelle frequently plays gigs at the Bloomin’ Deserts Nursery and Sean’s Bar and she used to be a regular contributor at The Promised land with her good friend, Julie Christiansen.
Julie is on a one year Rotary Exchange from Denmark. She plays guitar and sings a mix of traditional Danish folk songs, contemporary folk and roots covers as well as her own original material.
“I hadn’t planned to come to Alice Springs and impose myself on the music scene,” said Julie.
“It started off just playing the odd song at assembly with Michelle, and then we gradually started getting gigs around the place.
“In Denmark, most girls don’t have any qualms about getting up on stage and performing so it surprised me to see such a lack of girls when I came to Alice.
“I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved but I leave in a couple of months, so I don’t think I’ll manage anything major.”
It seems it’s not trendy for girls to be out there in the music scene, not yet part of girls’ culture in this town. But with the quality of local female performers around currently, more flowers are sure to bloom.

Beckett an Australian hit. By KIERAN FINNANE.

As Alice Springs sees next week a joint production of the play Not Like Beckett by the Darwin Theatre Company and Red Dust Theatre, there are two other professional productions of the same play underway, one in Lismore, NSW and the other in Fremantle, WA.
They follow on from the play’s premiere in Melbourne last year, in a production by Malthouse Theatre.
That’s an enviable record by anyone’s measure.
The Alice News asked local playwright Michael Watts (notably author of  Train Dancing produced in Alice in 2001 and at the Adelaide Festival in 2002) why he thinks his latest creation has had such appeal.
Its production success come in the wake of considerable acknowledgment of the script’s merit: in 2005 Watts was offered sought after script development opportunities at Banff in Canada, and at Varuna and the Australian National Playwrights’ Conference in NSW.
Watts says his character, Walter Walloon Beckett, is “the quintessential Australian dickhead”.
What does he mean by that?
“It’s something about loving in the wrong way or loving the wrong things or loving them for the wrong reasons.
“I’m not saying Australian men don’t have the capacity to love but they come from an emotionally fragile place.  There’s an immaturity that Beckett touches on.
“At the same time you can’t help but like Beckett even though he does some abysmal things.”
Beckett is a rabbit, a descendent from the first family of rabbits to come into the Northern Territory.
The metaphor for white colonisation is clear.
He doesn’t want to be like his conservative establishment family and gets into show biz, “nothing cutting edge, old school vaudeville”.
But as he is dying, caught in a rabbit trap on a hill in the Central Australian desert, he invents his last great routine.
It involves a lot of sex and fart jokes, but it’s also about country.
“I wanted to write about black and white relations,” says Watts, “without being didactic and without having black and white characters on stage.
“I had more freedom with a rabbit to say certain things.”
There’s a political subtext but Watts doesn’t hit audiences over the head with it. Indeed in the Melbourne production he says they played the vaudeville comedy of the play “to the nth degree”.
“It became a very city-style production. I was horrified when I first saw it but I got to like it. It was a pure theatrical space they entered into.
“It’s a privilege to see your work being interpreted by different people, but you’ve got to let them have their head.”
The production we’ll see has been directed by Darwin-based Nicola Fearn and stars one of Darwin’s most popular actors, Damien A. Pree.

Claypans launch for 21 art day: From one desert country to another.

International artist Daphna Yalon from Israel is among artists creating work for Shifting Ground, a 21 day program of art and performance in Alice Springs, being launched this Saturday at the Ilparpa Claypans.
Yalon, with photographer Elad Rabinovich, is creating a performance / installation which explores connection to place through actual engagement with the earth.
Yalon  has worked on art projects and exhibitions throughout Israel and North America.
In Alice, she is working with local traditional owners,  focussing on exchange of understandings between the cultures. A performative act created from this exchange will take place at the launch.
The work responds to the central concerns of Shifting Ground, which producer Kieren Sanderson hopes “will affect people’s perceptions of art, nature and culture in Alice Springs and focus on invigorating public spaces using art as a tool”.
In all the program brings together work by 40 local, interstate and international artists in public spaces all over town.
Artworks that link people to nature, art and ideas and that tell stories of places and explore the concept of sustainability will be on display.
Most importantly the works respond to the unique arid lands environment on a physical, social and cultural level.
Among the interstate participants will be artist and producer Richard Thomas, who recently selected 12 of Australia’s most exciting and respected emerging and established artists to travel to Shanghai to participate in the independent art project Satellite.
This project was one of the largest and most significant representations of Australian contemporary art in China to date.
Alexandra Gillespie, a lecturer in video art and a PhD Candidate in the School of Art at the Australian National University, will collaborate with local artist Dani Powell, who has been making performances in response to the land, climate and socio-cultural disposition of Alice Springs since 1999.
Together Gillespie and Powell are producing a site specific performance installation that will focus on the stories of one street in Alice Springs.

ADAM CONNELLY: It’s what you say, not how you say it.

Sometimes the strangest things run through my head. Don’t panic.
This isn’t a confession of a sociopath or anything like that.
It’s not a “menace to the public” sort of strange. There are no voices telling me things.
It’s just that sometimes I ruminate upon things that really don’t need rumination.
Things like, if someone is ruthless, does that mean that someone else can be ruthful? And if so, what exactly is ruth in the first place?
If there is such a thing as a continental breakfast, is the opposite an incontinental breakfast? Could I order one from a hotel bistro? I’d rather not all the same. Might be a bit soggy for my liking.
Hairy people are described as hirsute, cows as bovine, goats as hircine. So does that mean that the hirsute amongst us are being compared to goats? No wonder men are now taking to beauty therapies once the sole domain of women.
As you might have gathered from the sometimes random musings of this column, my mind isn’t the most linear of machines.
In fact it would be fair to say that I would make a really poor accountant or librarian. I don’t have the mental discipline to think in the ordered way needed for such a job.
I think it is because of this that I have developed a real love of words and language.
The English language is brilliant. A bastard child of so many other more rigid methods of communication. German, French, Spanish, even Arabic and Indian, the language you speak comes from so many other traditions.
The creators of the English language would not have made great accountants either. It is a melting pot of so many other cultures’ ideas. 
I love knowing about the roots of words. For example, a late night lamb sandwich with garlic sauce is known as a Yiros.
Yiros comes from the same Greek word that gives us Gyroscope. It’s all about the spinning rather than the meat. 
Assassin, is the English way of pronouncing the French way of pronouncing the Arabic term “Hashish een” which was a group of crazy cultists back in the day, fueled on marijuana, who slaughtered whole villages of people .
The Vandals were an amazingly interesting group of people whose armies were seen by those they vanquished as savage. Vandalism doesn’t really do the Vandals justice.
When the language we speak is full of such rich history, I find it distressing to so often see political and business language entering everyday communication.
We are so mindful of not offending people that we are turning the language that has served us so well into a bland and banal Orwellian shell.
In the novel 1984, Big Brother wishes to control the population. One method is to restrict the number of words in the official language.
Without a vast repertoire of words to choose from, people’s thoughts become restricted. 
Businesses no longer have aims or goals, but mission statements. We no longer seek results, but outcomes.
Vague terms designed to be the language equivalent of looking through cheesecloth.
Alice Springs has not vaccinated itself from this disease. There are so many accurate words for the actions of some people that I find it ridiculous that we still use the term anti-social behaviour.
You see to me, anti-social behaviour is not saying please and thank you. Anti-social behaviour is playing computer games during a dinner party. Anti-social behaviour is talking too loud on the mobile phone at a restaurant. To me that’s anti-social behaviour.
Defecating on my driveway or smashing windows or attacking people on the street is not anti-social behaviour. There’s no need to use this term for those actions. 
We have more than enough words to accurately describe them. A criminal act is a term that comes to mind. A low dog deed is another. Why do we want to lessen the verbal impact of such actions?
A couple of years ago we were all worried about global warming. Now we are being asked to manage climate change. This subtle difference has changed the same issue from a harsh and potentially disastrous situation into something politically manageable. “Climate change” as a term is a lot less threatening than “global warming”. 
I can’t help but wonder if “anti-social behaviour” is another such term designed to make us feel more comfortable with the situation. A blanding down of the issue meant to make the situation seem less dire.
The pollies use this strategy all the time. In fact you could say they are double plus good at it.

LETTERS: "Dongas will forever be associated with human misery and hardship."

Sir,– On April 18, the Northside Action Group organised a meeting with Delia Lawrie, the Planning Minister, at the Alice Springs Convention Centre. 
She was asked to explain the reasons why she overturned the decison of the Development Consent Authority and continue with the donga developments in Alice Springs. 
In front of a gathering of well-mannered individuals, Delia Lawrie attempted to justify her existence. 
During her ramblings, she managed to blame the Development Consent Authority as well as Mal Brough, for what was ultimately her own ill-conceived decision. 
If this was not bad enough in one of the most cynical, cruel and heartless efforts at attempting to explain herself, Delia Lawrie claimed that the dongas would in some way prevent young girls from being raped. 
Her explanation was outrageous to every one present. 
Wake up Delia, it will take a lot more than your miserable dongas to prevent such heinous crimes from occurring. 
Delia Phoebe Lawrie has once again made a hash of her portfolio. 
By approving the site for “Delia’s Dongas” on Dalgety Road, she has not only upset the majority of residents in Braitling, she has also managed to anger the Indigenous custodians of the area. 
It must be noted that the dongas will be from Woomera. 
Refugees have died in those dongas. 
Refugees have suffered in those dongas. 
Refugees have committed self-mutilation in those dongas. 
The dongas will forever be associated with human misery and hardship.  To construct the dongas on a sacred site would be an enormous humiliation for the custodians. 
Even Delia Lawrie must now realise that the majority of people in Alice Springs do not want the dongas. 
Delia should take her wretched dongas back to Karama and leave us alone.  Perhaps Clare Martin can use the dongas to “beautify” Darwin’s water front.
Graeme Farquharson
Alice Springs

Waste of public housing funds indefensible

Sir,–  I am amazed at Territory Housing Minister Elliot McAdam’s attempts to defend the indefensible on funding of public housing.
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough last week released figures which showed that despite the Federal Government contributing $9.6 billion to the states and territories over 11 years, the actual numbers of available houses had fallen.
It was disappointing that Mr McAdam could not explain why the number of available houses in the Territory had fallen by around 10 per cent under the current Territory Government, from 6184 in 2001 to 5657 in 2005.
Instead Mr McAdam once again reverted to the tired Martin Government script of blaming the CLP and the Federal Government.
Mr McAdam and his government have had six years at the helm, and housing, like so many other core functions including literacy and numeracy, has gone backwards at an alarming rate.
In the current five-year agreement, the Federal Government will invest $180 million in the Territory – while the Northern Territory Government will contribute a little over $32 million.
The Territory government and its relevant department must be held accountable for their management of public and community housing.
If welfare agencies want to complain about housing availability / affordability, perhaps they should be demanding an explanation from the Territory Government and Mr McAdam.
Nigel Scullion 
CLP Senator for the Northern Territory

Indigenous housing falls in a hole

Sir,– The Martin Government has failed indigenous Territorians on housing and failed itself in the process.
The latest ABS figures show that since 2001 the number of permanent dwellings managed by Indigenous Housing Organisations in the Northern Territory fell by 267 from 6715 in 2001, to 6448 in 2006.
It is scandalous that with the population of Indigenous Territorians increasing at an exponential rate, the number of homes for Indigenous people in remote areas has fallen during the term of the Martin Government.
This government was elected on a platform of improving the living conditions of Indigenous Territorians.
Yet the exact opposite has occurred, with more people now living in less houses in Indigenous settlements.
That this should occur during a time when the Territory Government has never had more money compounds the government’s abject failure.
Last year the Chief Minister released a plan to increase the amount of remote Indigenous housing, in an attempt to hide that the number of Indigenous houses had fallen over the life of the government.
The Chief Minister said at the time: “Better housing leads to better health and better education outcomes for kids – and the removal of many of the stresses that lead to domestic violence.”
The Martin Government has effectively contributed to worsening health and education outcomes for Indigenous people.
Richard Lim,
Shadow Minister for Housing

Negotiation, not ultimatum

Sir,– Labor calls on the Howard Government to sit down and negotiate with Indigenous people in Alice Springs over the delivery of much-needed services and improved housing.
The government is holding Indigenous people to ransom by giving them only one month to decide whether they will sign 99-year leases.
Funding for housing, schools and basic municipal services is conditional on this unreasonable deadline.
All Australians, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, should have access to basic services without coercion.
A number of communities are currently considering 99-year town lease proposals from the Federal Government.
It’s possible to find a compromise that benefits both local Indigenous people and government.
The NT Government and Tangentyere Council had already been negotiating an alternative sub-leasing proposal before the Federal Government issued this ultimatum.
Labor believes that any changes to land ownership must have the free, prior and informed agreement of land owners and perpetual lease holders.
We’d get a better outcome if we just sat down and negotiated with Indigenous people.
Jenny Macklin
Federal Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation
Warren Snowdon
Federal Member for Lingiari 

Uranium will help NT: CLP candidate

Sir,- I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of a new strategy for future development of  uranium mining and nuclear power in Australia.
The Northern Territory is well positioned to respond to this strategy and achieve economic growth through increased uranium mining, nuclear waste storage, and research and development.
More importantly, the NT should be taking the lead to ensure this strategy delivers jobs to regional and remote areas of the Territory.
The Prime Minister’s announcement occurred on the day when the ALP overturned the No New Uranium Mines policy.
The Chief Minister’s back flip last week supporting the overturning of this policy is opposed to her pre-election promise of 2005.
This has now surely also put her at odds with the NT Labor President Warren Snowdon.
We should be supporting the financial investment that would come to the Territory, the jobs that would be created for the Territory and the leadership we would be taking to assist the reduction of the impacts of climate change.
The Northern Territory needs fundamental economic welfare reform to get people into work.
People want real jobs and this strategy could provide real jobs, [getting] people off sit down money and into work.
Adam Giles
CLP Candidate for Lingiari

Labor dumps the NT dump

Sir,– The Arid Lands Environment Centre-Beyond Nuclear Initiative (ALEC-BNI) welcomes the motion passed at the ALP National Conference that would commit a Federal Labor government to repeal Commonwealth legislation forcing a radioactive dump on the Territory.
The ALP motion, ironically passed the same day the ‘no new uranium mines’ policy was overturned by a narrow margin, states that a Federal Labor government would:
• Not proceed with the development of any of the current sites identified by the Howard Government in the Northern Territory, if no contracts have been entered into for those sites.
• Repeal the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005.
• Establish a process for identifying suitable sites that is scientific, transparent, accountable, fair and allows access to appeal mechanisms.
• Identify a suitable site for a radioactive waste dump in accordance with the new process.
• Ensure full community consultation in radioactive waste decision-making processes.
• Commit to international best practice scientific processes to underpin Australia’s radioactive waste management, including transportation and storage.
This policy acknowledges the lack of community consultation and ad hoc process being used by the Federal Government to fast track the NT dump plan.
It is essential that any Federal Government commits to international best practice of radioactive materials, which involves thorough community consultation and acceptance of dump siting and minimal transport of materials. Obviously the current Federal plan is deficient
in all of these areas.
Responsible waste management planning must also include the waste produced from mining – especially if this is to expand in the coming decades.
Uranium mines produce vast quantities of long lived radioactive material, and a large proportion of this remains on site as tailings. Any industry expansion would need a
comprehensive plan to manage increased volumes of waste, so it is hoped that the ALP commitments in regard to the proposed Federal waste dump would carry over to considerations of U-mine waste management.
Natalie Wasley,
Beyond Nuclear Initiative
Alice Springs

"Counsellors" exploit

Sir,– I have read about federal funding for religous groups to help counsel women who’ve found themselves with child. I don’t really have an issue with that, being a Christan myself, so long as some standards are kept.
I’ve also read about cases of concerned fathers of girls who have been assaulted and impregnated, who’ve called these pregnancy helplines for advice only to be called murderers for suggesting perhaps a termination might be in order for their traumatised daughters. 
I might be slightly biased having lost one of my friends in childbirth. She was 13 when she died and, yes, she was too young for that type of thing and yes, she shouldn’t have been pregnant in the first place and yes, there are a myriad of problems on communities, but an abortion might have saved her young life.
But back to a these so-called “counsellors”: as long as they don’t charge a fee they can claim whatever they like in posters that they put up in hospitals and clinics. Whatever they like!
I think that is singularly repulsive, to take advantage of, to possibly verbally abuse, to attempt to indoctrinate women who are in an amazingly vulnerable place.
Hannah Stanley
Alice Springs

As leaky as a bottomless billycan

Sir,– R.Magnay (Alice News, April 12) has offered the only criticism of a letter of mine published on April 5. 
He has misunderstood the concept entirely.  His letter holds as much water as a bottomless billycan battered by bullets. 
I suggest that he read my letter again, slowly, with a mind free from bias, and the point may come across.  A humanitarian point. 
I had not forgotten that past conquerers had used the conquered as slaves. Is this to be admired? 
I stated that it is a mistake to try to live in the past. 
Hitler and his Nazis, in particular the SS, declared the Russians to be inferior beings, to be conquered and enslaved.  That was an ambition for past glory. 
Marshall Zhukov and the Russian army proved their superiority. 
The Japanese empire considered all other races inferior. 
They had “occupation money” printed for use in Australia. 
“Inferior” races prevailed over Japan. 
The saddest case was poor old Benito Mussolini who wanted to revive the Roman empire.
No, living in the past is assuredly “out”.  Oppression is “out”. 
Aggression is “out”, compassion is “in”. 
This has nothing whatever to do with being do-gooders, it has to do with putting effort into supporting fellow human beings. 
Do you really think that those unfortunates who ”are sitting around drinking and having a whale of a time” actually wish to act that way? 
They are performing a psychological defence mechanism.
 They need help!  They need encouragement to help themselves. 
R.  Magnay  writes, “All though the animal kingdom force and / or aggression is used to educate the young.”  What a terribly sad statement. 
There are my friend, some of us human species who have raised families of well adjusted and successful offspring without resorting to force and aggression. 
Finally, R. Magnay advises “dream on!”
This is splendid advice. 
The world has benefited much from dreamers.  Dreamers like Isaac Newton , Florence Nightingale and the Wright brothers. 
Closer to home, we had a great dreamer, whose legacy I personally experienced – John Flynn. 
Perhaps one of the most influential dreamers, at least in his own country, was Martin Luther King Junior who stood in front of a large gathering and proclaimed, “I have a dream!”
Des Nelson
Alice Springs


Sir,– I think everyone would have heard about Tracker Tilmouth’s linking  the lack of secondary education of Aboriginal youth to genocide.
I later heard Mr Tilmouth’s comments during an ABC radio news broadcast in relation to meetings, committees, and discussions on the plight of and the violence in the Aboriginal community. 
Mr Tilmouth commented that we don’t need more meetings or a committee to solve the problem;  what is needed is more money to be spent on this, that and the other.
Mr Tilmouth is right in saying that we do not need any more meetings,  discussion etc on the issue relating to the Aboriginal community.
It is time now for someone or some group not to be afraid of possibly  upsetting people or appearing politically incorrect and racist.
What should be said now is “enough is enough, this is what we are going to do” and do it then, not after trials or consultations.
More money is not  the answer, money does nothing, it is what people do with the money that is the issue.
What has been done with the money that has been  given by the bucket load to various agencies over the last three to five  years to net so few results?
What is also a concern to me is where is the voice of Mr Tilmouth, and  others of his stature, condemning violence within and spilling out from  the Aboriginal community.
For example, where are the howls of condemnation in relation to doctors and nurses being assaulted on  emote communities for doing nothing but administering medical aid, or teachers being bashed and abused after chastising a misbehaving  student? I have chosen these two examples as these are always the favourite subjects to criticise.
I somewhat agree with the usage of the word genocide. However, this  genocide is occurring from within.
How you might ask? This is how: ridiculous levels of alcohol consumption; propensity for violence (both family and anti-social for whatever reason – anger, boredom, hooliganism, thuggery or payback); disassociation and disregard for society, self, authority and  community.
These are the most overt factors powering the genocide from within.
I would also like to suggest other problems that are intensified from within, that of the “stolen generation” and “racism”. 
Generations are being stolen away from all society and community by  many of the above mentioned factors.
The concept of racism would be better labelled as “retrospective racism” that is racism that is self-imposed by the actions, behaviours and values displayed by the apparent victim. 
The solutions for these issues may not be comfortable for the whole  population, nor will they appear progressively civilised or politically and racially correct, three ideologies which can named as root causes for  our present reality.
Community leadership is also at issue here.
I do hope that this letter causes argument, causes people to think and then to action.
Finally, to our community leaders and elders: research your history.  There are many examples of what a general population is capable of if  it feels abandoned, abused or disregarded by those in authority.
Winston Smith
Alice Springs

Couch, a government plant!

Sir,– I write in response to the item “Tourist spot is full of weeds” (Alice News, April 5). 
There is one aspect to the story which was not revealed, namely that it was the former Conservation Commission of the NT that planted the couch grass at Emily Gap about 25 years ago. 
This was a common practice at the time, as couch grass was considered to be an ideal means of reducing soil erosion on the banks of creeks and rivers at sites that were under pressure from too many visitors.  
The Todd River through town was also sown with couch grass, as (I think) was Jesse Gap, and probably several other locations. 
This was complementary to the long-running program by the Land Conservation section of the CCNT sowing buffel grass right throughout Central Australia (including pastoral properties and on Aboriginal land, and over the border, especially in WA). 
I have had success in using herbicides, usually Roundup or related glyphosate-based chemical sprays, but regrowth needs carefull monitoring.
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs

Robbing Paul to pay Baz?

Sir,– As speculation continues to mount over the level of assistance provided by the Northern Territory Government to the Baz Luhrmann film ‘Australia’, the local film and television industry continues to suffer from a lack of commitment and support.
The chronically under resourced Northern Territory Film Office has been further stripped of its capacity to function by losing funding for its project officer’s position.
Paul Henness has performed the role of the project officer for the past couple of years and has been a starring light in an otherwise bleak period of under-development for our industry.
It is our understanding that the project officer’s position will not be renewed beyond August.
That the NTFO might actually be regressing in terms of its resources, while interstate productions continue to receive significant assistance, is particularly worrying to our membership.
Is this robbing Peter to pay Paul or robbing Paul to pay Baz?
FATANT (Film & Television Association of the Northern Territory) calls on the NT Government to immediately reactivate the position of project officer as a step towards securing its commitment to the local industry.
FATANT also calls for immediate clarification on the levels of funding and support being offered to the Luhrmann production by the NT Government.
Andrew Hyde,
President,  FATANT

‘Brave and wonderful’ Magic Coolamon

Sir,– I disagree with some of the comments made in the review about The Magic Coolamon recently (April 5). 
I had the priviledge of being asked to help backstage in the last week of The Magic Coolamon. I had a great hidey hole in the bushes where I was able to watch the audience. I was amazed how spellbound they were.
I found it very brave and wonderful to see a local theatre company tackle a NEW musical production of that dimension without “beautifully trained voices and polished actors”.
The singing may not have been great a lot of the time – but really that was not what it was about.
The ambience of the setting, the wonderful musicians, the young and old actors, the lighting effects, the simple story with a local appeal (children do not need more complicated stories like Kieran Finnane alluded to in her critique of the show) all made for a great show.
I’ve been talking to my little friends aged three to 10 who are still raving about it.
They particularly loved the Great Spirit, Evil One and Mash. Puppets such as the Great Spirit (whose costume I happened to think was wonderful – as did many of my friends) are always a success – Disney learnt that a long time ago.
Most people enjoyed the show – if you can believe the banter that occurs after the show. The audience was also very multicultural – that also is a rare thing!
There are a lot of dissappointed people who missed seeing the show so maybe Red Dust could put it on again. 
Maybe someone could sponsor some town camp kids to view it. It would be a shame to see it disappear into the red dust so soon!
Margi Craig
Alice Springs

Thanks Wish

Sir,– On behalf of the volunteers of Make-A-Wish Foundation Alice Springs Branch, I would like to thank you very much for the wonderful coverage of our “Wish Day”.
I would also like to thank the sponsors for their generous support.
The mission of our foundation is to create magic and joy for children with life threatening illness, by granting their most cherished wishes. 
All of our volunteers in Alice Springs are long serving volunteers who gain much satisfaction in assisting these children, and your advertising feature has certainly supported us in our mission.
Alice Frost,
President, Alice Srings Branch of
Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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