May 17, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Mal Brough: Crunch time for town camps tomorrow. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The 18 independent leaseholders of town camps in Alice Springs will have till 5pm tomorrow to either accept or reject an offer from Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough, for up to $70m in housing funding.
Mr Brough met with the lease holders and Tangentyere Council as their representative, on Tuesday.
He said after the meeting that the requirement for the housing to be managed by the NT Government was “non-negotiable”, along with a 99 year lease to the NT Government over those areas in the camps to be used for new housing.
Mr Brough said: “That’s on the table and no-one has asked for any change from that.”
Asked why a decision had to be made by Friday Mr Brough said: “It’s now been 14, 15 months since we’ve first been asked to assist here.
“In Hope Vale, Queensland, we went from zero to a complete agreement to make fundamental reforms in welfare, housing and land tenure in three weeks.”
Mr Brough says the Tiwi Islands are “ready to move”.
Wadeye had reached an agreement “in a much shorter time” and has people owning their own homes.
“There is a lot of need in this country.
“We are now going to inject over the next four years $1.6 billion into remote housing. This is a phenomenal sum of money, much larger than has ever been put into remote housing.
“There are a lot of communities in desperate need. I can’t in good faith sit for another six months, 12 months, however long, on such a large sum of money, knowing that it could be helping somewhere else.” 
Tangentyere chairman Geoff Shaw says the council will have another meeting with the lease holders of the camps, and announce a decision on Friday.
The Housing Associations will increase rents to a “public housing” level of 25% of income; will allow private home ownership; agreed to rates, although not legally required; agreed to easements and transfers to the NT Government for essential services.
Tangentyere does not hold the leases. It operates as an advisory body.

Indigenous education: Bush results in decline. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Achievements of primary school children in remote Central Australia, after some improvement, are again declining despite a major overhaul since the Collins Review in 1999 described the “long-term systemic failure” to address the crisis in Indigenous education.
And, while Indigenous students in town are doing much better, the gap between them and non-Indigenous pupils is widening.
Attendance remains a critical factor in under-achievement.
Indigenous students are now in the majority in the region’s student body, with  55% of all enrolments in Central Australia, government and non-government, being Indigenous, up from 39% in 1986.
In government schools in the Centre, there are now 1728 more Indigenous than non-Indigenous students enrolled: 3905 compared with 2177. This is not the case in Alice Springs government schools, but Indigenous enrolment is climbing slowly while non-Indigenous enrolment is declining.
In 2001 there were 2428 non-Indigenous students, dropping this year to 1762 (a drop of 666).  Indigenous enrolments increased from 1083 to 1241(an increase of 158).
In remote areas Indigenous enrolments declined over this period from 2969 to 2664 (a drop of 305).
Attendance at school by Indigenous students in urban centres students is described as “reasonable” by the general manager of schools in Central Australia, Paul Newman. 
“It’s much better than in remote areas,” he says.
In Alice Springs it was 76% in 2001, and at 77% this year showing little improvement by.
This compares to non-Indigenous attendance of 90% and 89% for the same years.
In 2001 Indigenous attendance in remote areas stood at 63%, up to 69% this year.
A minimum attendance rate of 80% is linked to students reaching literacy and numeracy benchmarks.
A system-wide program focussing on improved attendance is being redesigned by Student Services in Darwin, but meanwhile schools like Braitling Primary (see Alice News, May 3) are coming up with their own initiatives.
All of the town primary schools now have transition units, which operate as “stepping stones” for those Indigenous students who are uncomfortable about going into the mainstream.
And all now need to identify which Aboriginal children are living in their feeder area.  Those children don’t have to attend the school in their feeder area, but there is a new obligation on schools to identify them.
Ross Park Primary has achieved an average attendance by Indigenous students of 87%, close to its whole school average of 90%. 
“The school has not done it on their own, we have to acknowledge the parents’ contribution,” says Mr Newman.
“But also the kids are enjoying coming to school.”
One measure of progress in literacy and numeracy for all students is the Multi-level Assessment Program (MAP), conducted in Years 3, 5 and 7.
There was some improvement in Indigenous achievement during the period but there was a greater improvement amongst non-Indigenous students.
These are global results. Some schools are apparently doing better but “others have work to do”, says Mr Newman.
Why the variation?
“We have had a full turnover of primary school principals.
“We’ve got a good crop at the moment, and believe that in two years’ time the gap will be significantly reduced.”
The statistics in remote areas are going backwards: MAP results show numeracy declining from 33.5% achieving the benchmarks in 2002 to 23.1% in 2006.
Reading went from 24.1% to 16.55% over the same period; and writing, from 7.4% to 6.1%.
Again these are global results; there is a “marked improvement” in some schools, according to Mr Newman.
One structural change that should lead to gains in remote areas is relieving the remote school principals of administrative tasks.
The remote schools in the Centre are now in four group school arrangements, Tanami, Sandover, Lasseter and Barkly.
Three of them have their administrations housed at Alice Springs High School.
This frees up the principals to concentrate on teaching practice, “to sharpen their focus on learning, become pedagogical leaders”, says Mr Newman.
He also says the department is becoming “very strategic” in their recruitment for remote schools, for instance by recruiting teachers trained in the “accelerated literacy” approach.
On the secondary education front, 23 Indigenous students out of a total of 104 students in Central Australia received their NTCE (Year 12) last year, two more than in 2003.
The government system has yet to produce a remote student in the Centre with an NTCE.
This should change next year with some students at Yuendumu graduating. Yuendumu is the only “collaborative trial site” in the Centre for “face to face” senior secondary education. 
The others are at Borolloola (now managed out of Darwin), Ramingining and Ngukurr.
“Central Australia has had to fight for that,” says Mr Newman.
The Yuendumu Community Education Centre has been offering Years 7-9 for 20 odd years, and at present has close to 30 students in their secondary cohort.
There are eight Stage 1 (Year 11) students enrolled this year; the expectation is that three to five of them will graduate in 2008.
Other remote government schools in the Centre – for instance at Laramba, Ti Tree, Ntaria –  have secondary programs supported through the NT Open Education Centre.
And numbers of students from remote communities are attending boarding school. For example, some 20 students from Ali Curung are boarding in Adelaide.
“There are many pathways,” says Mr Newman.

Will the real leaders please stand up? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

“I’m leaving town” is widely replaced with “I’m staying. This is my town.”
The pressing question is now, who is going to lead this new resolve to put The Alice back on the rails?
Opposition Whip Richard Lim and MLA for Greatorex is rumored to be quitting politics at the next election.
He’s neither confirming nor denying this, saying he’ll make up his mind closer to the poll, more than two years away.
And Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney says: “Have we issued a precise policy to specifically fix the problems in Alice Springs? No.
“Do we intend to? Yes.”
Ms Carney says the government should fix the problems because it has the resources to do so.
“As we get close to the election we will provide our alternative,” she says.
There will certainly be a new Member in the conservative seat of Braitling, furious over the Government’s handling of the dongas issue and experiencing unexpected fallout from the alcohol restrictions.
Sitting independent Loraine Braham won’t stand again.
And then there is the wild card, Advance Alice, headed up Steve Brown, a member of a big pioneering family, and in nobody’s pocket.
Chief Minister Clare Martin and her government clearly got the shock of their lives when they popped into town for sittings of Parliament here last month.
They were relentlessly booed by hundreds of locals running small businesses – the people who make Alice tick.
Advance Alice inspired this protest and, unashamedly, put the need to fix the town’s woes into the national spotlight on the Seven TV network.
Now the group is eying off seats on the town council and in Parliament, and is even talking about forming a new party.
During the sittings and again on televison, Ms Martin put her hand on her heart and said she’s the Minister for Major Projects, and Alice is one of them – presumably just behind the wave pool in Darwin, as one wit at the protest observed.
But an extra 15 police officers suddenly materialized, and so did government funding for security cameras in the mall, previously denied.
Now that Ms Martin and her Cabinet are again safely behind the Berrimah Line, it’s anybody’s guess how long this generosity will last.
So who will lead the rehabilitation of Alice?
The town council, the driving force in most communities, is for all intents and purposes dysfunctional: It fumbled the dongas issue, is doing nothing practical in the areas of litter, public drinking, safety of public places and care for children at risk, although under the Local Government Act the council can pass bylaws on all these issues and enforce them.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff’s response to the public outcry over violence was as predictable as it was useless: she called a secret meeting,held in the same week as the protest and while the Chief Minister was still in town, kept out the public and the media, and came up with nothing original nor constructive.
Although the Opposition has half its Parliamentary members in Alice Springs, including its Leader, the CLP is going through the motions rather than coming up with that knockout strategy to fix the “problems” – urban drift and its fallout, in particular misconduct by Aborigines, some of it extreme, and much of it fueled by alcohol and other substances.
On the one hand that’s not a surprise because the CLP, for a quarter of a century, has been unwilling or unable to come up with solutions (see, for example, the Letter to the Editor by Alex Nelson in this issue).
On the other hand the CLP’s inaction is surprising, because the resolute handling by Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough of indigenous issues may have encouraged conservatives in The Centre to help with the fine tuning of the Canberra’s initiatives worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ms Carney says the Opposition she’s leading has put out a raft of policies, probably more than any Opposition every before in the NT.
But they deal with detail, not an all-encompassing initiative:-
• Drunks picked up three times should be taken before a court which can make a range of orders. (The Government has started an alcohol court).
• Support for CCTV cameras, including urging the council to instal them in the Mall. (This came about when a noisy group of business people made itself heard during a council meeting.)
• Mounted police to come back to Alice Springs.
• A police substation at Larapinta.
• The level of police establishment numbers has to be increased: “We have in the NT a high number of police per head of population because we need them, and we need more in Alice Springs.”
But four people in a 25 seat Legislative Assembly have limited clout, especially when in our system it’s routine to oppose most things the Opposition puts forward.
So it was no surprise that the trigger for government support of the CCTV cameras wasn’t the Opposition’s long term campaign for them, but a two hour demonstration by people in small business last month.
In January, says Ms Carney, the Police Minister claimed anti social behavior in the Mall is “sporadic in nature, which was just rubbish, of course.
“There was no doubt he was completely opposed to CCTVs.” 
So what made the government flip?
Ms Carney: “They respond to public pressure and it doesn’t really matter who it comes from.
“The Opposition does what it can. Individuals in Alice Springs do what they can.
“Had the Parliament not been sitting in Alice Springs I don’t think we would have seen a backflip on security cameras.
“They were desperate to be seen to be doing something.”
And that brings us to Advance Alice, and its plans for yet more clout.
Mr Brown says contesting council seats is a “natural extension” to what the group is doing now, and Assembly seats may also be targeted.
“The council not showing leadership.
“We’re planning to put our tick alongside candidates, or put up our own, good quality candidates coming from the community.
“In the last few months people have been standing up who have not before.
“People are putting up their hands.” 
Mr Brown says he’s likely to contest a council seat.
Tyre dealer Dave Douglas “is hedging his bets and may stand for the NT”.
Sitting alderman Murray Stuart is an Advance Alice member.
Forming a new party would “make it interesting,” says Mr Brown.
“But I’d better not go there right now.
“We’re looking at everything that could move Alice ahead.
“We’ll do what it takes.”
Mr Brown says cameras in the mall and more police in the streets are early successes but “the focus on Alice has not yet been achieved”.
He says he spoke with Ms Martin for first time last week.
He gained the impression she is “a nice enough person, but she gave no concrete undertakings.
“She told me they’re working on lots of things without saying what they are.
“There was no what and where and when.
“She doesn’t really say anything.”
Mr Brown says she gave no commitments for “tough love” centres for youths, nor a prison farm.
The notion of a recreation dam is “too contentious”, Mr Brown quotes Ms Matin as saying.
“She’s doing what they’ve always done, governing for minorities, for noisy little minority groups.
“She doesn’t want to tackle the hard stuff.
“No vision, just a bureaucrat.”
About Ms Carney Mr Brown says: “She works damn hard.”
What are her main objectives? 
Mr Brown: “She probably has a list of bits and pieces but I don’t know what they are.”
Does Ms Carney have a vision?
Mr Brown: “I’ve never actually sat down with her and talked to her about issues.”
Ms Carney says she facilitated a group called Alice In Five.
When Advance Alice started she suggested the two groups should merge, which they did.
Says Ms Carney: “I deliberately stepped away then because I did not want to see the group as being political in any way, nor did I want to influence it.”
So far the directness of Mr Brown’s language has a lot of traction in this troubled community.
So do his “born and bred” knowledge of the place and – especially – his non-racist but merit based stance on indigenous issues.
He was here when “visionaries” like Eddie Connellan, the aviation pioneer, pastoralist and pilot Damien Miller and decorated World War II flying ace Sam Calder formed the Country Liberal Party, over rum or two around Mr Connellan’s pool at Araluen, as the story goes. History might repeat itself.

Black college sinking ship? By KIERAN FINNANE.

The hapless Aboriginal secondary school based at Yulara, the resort town at The Rock, has lost its acting principal after little more than one term.
Nyangatjatjara College, established in 1997 by the Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation, had an administrator appointed last year by the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations (ORAC). The administration is being contested in court. 
An ORAC spokesperson says the acting principal, Bob Vincent, resigned.
Mr Vincent was the ninth person in the principal’s job in the past 10 years (problems besetting the college certainly predate the administration). 
The Alice News had heard that five out of six teachers had also resigned and asked, “Can the college still function?”
The spokesperson says “there has been some teacher turnover for various reasons”.
“There are now three teachers employed, one for each campus.”
In late April 57 students were enrolled.
Says the spokesperson: “The college is continuing to work to further boost student numbers over the next few months.”
According to the spokesperson, “DEST, the Commonwealth funding body, continues its support of the college and funding is being allocated for the academic year.
“It also supports community consultation regarding the directions of the college over the rest of this year.”
The Alice News reported on March 1 that the boarding facility at Yulara, costing $2.5m and opened to fanfare some 18 months ago, was closed, apparently due to non-compliance with fire regulations.
The spokesperson now says: “The fire engineer will produce his final report about the situation with the dormatories shortly, which should enable a decision about how the fire standards required for the boarding facility can be met asap.”
The spokesperson did not answer a question about the college’s chain of command.
The Alice News has sighted a resignation letter from a former teacher expressing concern on this subject.
The News asked: If teachers or other staff are unhappy with the handling of affairs by the acting principal, to whom do they turn within the current structure? I believe the administrator only deals with finances, so who deals with other management and educational matters?
No answer.
The News also asked:
• Have boarding staff been kept on full time despite the boarding facility being closed?
• What duties have they been engaged in?
• Are the out-station campuses [at Imampa and Docker River] adequately equipped, that is, with fax, email, internet,  phone, photocopier, printer?
• Have they got fully functioning air-conditioning?
• Are cars adequately equipped with safety gear, including communications systems in all vehicles?
No answer. And repeated contacts by the Alice News were stone-walled

Spending money. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Despite yet another Territory Budget allocation for the Mereenie Loop Road to King’s Canyon, now called the Red Centre Way, it is still not clear when the major part of the work will be able to proceed.
Some three years after negotiations began, there is still no agreement between the government and the Central Land Council about access to gravel pits and water along the route.
Frustrated tourism industry sources say this dispute over native title issues is yet another indication of the Territory government’s indifference towards the interests of Alice Springs.
The government took on in court, successfully, claimants of the Ayers Rock Resort and Darwin.
And the government is now resolutely fighting a native title claim over the tidal zone in the Top End.
But, say the sources, the government is hesitating to compulsorily acquire the small amounts of land needed for the crucial tourist road, and fight the matter in court if necessary.
Meanwhile Alice Springs’ two major lobbies, CATIA and the Chamber of Commerce, are pleased with the Territory Budget handed down on May 3.
CATIA’s Craig Catchlove says extra money for Tourism NT, the former Tourist Commission, seems to have become a permanent fixture, boosting its budget from around $27m to $38.3m.
He says this will mean more marketing dollars for The Centre, such as the $2.3m just spent.
However, says Mr Catchlove, “we shot ourselves in the foot with that Today Tonight stuff, and from being quietly optimistic I’m now now quitely pessimistic about the season”.
He says the current affairs show labeling Alice as the murder capital of Australia will affect “Australian traffic, and have quite a bit of traction throughout New Zealand as well”.
Beth Mildred, manager for Central Australia of the Chamber of Commerce, says the NT Budget “looks quite good as a whole”.
The emphasis on health and community services means additional infrastructure for the hospital, and a good boost for education resulting in more skills and jobs.
Business incentives for employers include cash to take on apprentices.
“That’s positive for business,” says Ms Mildred.
Craig O’Halloran, general manager of the Territory Construction Association, says the tax free payment of $1000 and $500 vouchers for first and second year apprentices will help young apprentices through the critical early years of the apprenticeship.
“The announced tax cuts and family friendly measures will provide relief in particular to low and middle income families who are still trying to cope with last year’s interest rate hikes as well as rising rents and child care costs.
“It should help to shore up confidence in the housing market.”
There are “two very good pieces of news” in the Federal Budget, according to Mr Catchlove.
One is $15m to complete the sunrise viewing area at Ayers Rock, of which $5m has already been spent.
The other is the continuation of the Australia Tourism Development Program Fund, earlier tipped to be axed.
He says in Alice, for example, the Reptile Centre had received a grant from the fund, Desert Knowledge had applied for about $500,000, and CATIA for $493,000 for signs on the Outback Way, the east west highway that is making little progress.
When completed the Way will link Longreach in Queensland with Kalgoorlie in WA and be a major tourist and trade route.
CLP Senator Nigel Scullion says the Way will get $10m to upgrade priority sections.
He says other NT projects in the Budget, in addition to major funding for indigenous projects, mainly housing (Alice News, May 10), will be:-
• $4m to widen and rehabilitate old and narrow sections of the Stuart, Victoria and Barkly highways (total package $20 million).
• $4m to help maintain and upgrade “unincorporated” roads – these are roads outside local government areas.
• $12.6m in untied local road grants.
The GST revenue for the NT will be $2.124 billion.
Across the nation there are major allocations to combat indigenous problems, including “$815.7m in new and extended funding over five years as part of its $3.5 billion total spend in 2007-08 on indigenous specific programs”.
Some items:-
• Australian Remote Indigenous Accommodation Program ($293.6m).
• A major reform strategy aimed at reducing overcrowding in remote Indigenous communities.
• Training for adults in remote communities ($21.4m).
• Support for existing Indigenous primary health cares services ($38.2m).
• Addressing misuse of alcohol and other drugs including Indigenous specific treatment guidelines ($38.2m).
• New funds for Indigenous education and training mobility program ($218m).
• $97.2m to create 825 jobs through the conversion of CDEP positions into real jobs in government services delivery.
• $50.7m to provide additional places in the CDEP program that provide activities to prevent family violence and substance misue problems in Indigenous communities. 
Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon says the Budget is a “disappointment for the Territory ... an election budget pure and simple.
“There’s a lot of money in welcome tax cuts and one-off payments to carers and aged pensioners.
“There are moves in education and child care – particularly Indigenous education – but nothing that sets us up for the future.
“But there’s not a lot of joy for the Territory as a whole.
“And we can’t glean anything specific that will benefit Central Australia,” says Mr Snowdon.
“There’s no investment in Broadband, no grand initiatives for climate change.
“Clearly the $748 million announced for Indigenous health, education and housing programs is welcome and very long overdue.
“But how and where it will be spent is unclear, so what it means for Central Australia is also unclear.”
Mr Snowdon says the “grand announcement about turning 800 CDEP positions into so-called real jobs is disappointing, given that there are 35,000 people around Australia on CDEP, and again we don’t know where the jobs will be and who will benefit.
“It’s very disappointing that there’s no money for employment-based training.” 
NT Treasurer  Syd  Stirling  has  welcomed the tax cuts and one off support for families in this years’ Federal Budget but believes that it fails to address the short and long term development needs of the Territory.
“There should have been more support for vital infrastructure, better targeted programs that respond to our particular needs, especially in education and health, and investment in our long term future.
“While I welcome the overall investment in child care, the Territory needs additional places particularly for 0-2 year olds.
“This Budget does not provide for those places, leaving waiting lists as long as ever.
“The additional investment in higher education is also welcomed, though no real details  are available for what this will mean for the Charles Darwin University and  institutions such as the Batchelor  Institute. These smaller regional institutions do have higher costs and this has not been recognised in this Budget.
“The $5 billion endowment will provide some long term growth funding for capital works and research.
“Indigenous education could benefit from programs to support the establishment of hostels and boarding facilities but once again detail is scant and I am hopeful that this will not be tied up in the red tape of other proposals.”
Shadow Treasurer Terry Mills says the NT Opposition has welcomed the tax cuts, increased support for child care and education spending initiatives contained in the Federal Budget.
He says between the 2001-02 budget and this year’s, GST revenue and Specific Purpose Payments have increased by more than a billion dollars.

Abandoned public housing flat ignored by authorites. By KIERAN FINNANE.

On Monday morning the Alice News visited a flat owned by Territory Housing in the Larapinta area.
We were told by a neighbour that the flat had been apparently abandoned two to three weeks ago and was still unlocked and filthy.
We found the glass of the front door smashed, the door unlatched, and the security grille unlocked.
There was a note on the security grille from Territory Housing’s maintenance contractor left on May 8, asking for access.
The neighbour says he had advised Territory Housing that the front door had been smashed well before that date (Tuesday last week): he says he made the call on a Monday two to three weeks ago, after the door was smashed in the early hours of the preceding Saturday.
Wayne Hoban, acting regional director of the Department of Local Government, Housing and Sport, says normally such circumstances are dealt with quickly.
But in this instance, Territory Housing was waiting for information from the tenant.
The tenancy is still current, according to Mr Hoban.
This does not necessarily imply that rent has been fully paid.
He would not comment on matters relating to the specific tenancy.
He acknowledges that Territory Housing should have acted more quickly and says immediate action was taken on Monday, subsequent to our inquiries, to secure the flat.
Mr Hoban says “procedures will be revisited” to avoid “a repeat situation”.
He says action is routinely taken to recover unpaid rent, with an emphasis on people being able to maintain their tenancy. Agreements can be made to repay a debt in increments.
He says if a tenancy ceases and a person subsequently reapplies for housing, their previous tenancy is assessed, including payment of rent, state of the property when it was left, and any complaints received about the tenant’s behaviour.
If a new tenancy is refused, the person is not eligible to apply for Territory Housing for another two years.
The waiting list for a similar flat for a pensioner or senior at present is 10 months; for younger singles or those not on a pension it is 37 months.

Local tunes on CD and myspace. By DARCY DAVIS.

Local bands always seem to have an EP or demo on sale at gigs. But it can be pretty risky forking out anywhere between $10 and $30 just to be supportive of local music.
So I’m here to give you a brief round-up of what’s available from who, and if it’s any good.
• Alphabetically first up is ‘B’ for Ben Slip,  who “was a bush kid, a Territory kid …”.
“Today with melodies and lyrics, Ben Slip holds the Centre in his heart and in his songs, living for the Territory big sky, drawing from his roots”.
He has got a new six track EP, Temptation, following his first EP, Time Tix On.
The heavy power chords which open the first track, “Oceans Blue”, might lead you to think that Ben Slip is a heavier, grungier act, but it quickly becomes clear he is your regular emotional pop rock act.
With the light tinkle of piano and the occasional moan, Ben Slip clearly draws a lot of inspiration from melodramatic pop rockers U2.
The rest of the album follows relatively the same formula but the song which stands out most is title track “Temptation”.
It’s hard to call Ben Slip “rock” when your average rock is quite coarse and heavy.
This music is soft around the edges. You can buy the EP from Chatterbox, MusicWorld and online at
• Local rock prodigy, The Moxie are the only band (as far as I know) to have their own DVD.
The DVD was recorded on the night of their gig at the Hilltop Hoods concert last year in a three camera shoot and was professionally edited at WelcomeTV. It’s a got all The Moxie ‘hits’ and the boys put on a great show.
However, I would have liked to have seen some subtitles so I could sing along at home if I wanted to.
The boys are off to Darwin for BASSINTHEGRASS on May 26, alongside the likes of Tzu, Behind Crimson Eyes, Lowrider, Jet and Eskimo Joe.
When they get back in the dust, The Moxie are heading into RedaZZ Studio to record a five track EP. The video of their song “Chasing Shadows’ from the DVD is currently on their myspace ( to view, along with four live audio tracks of songs from the same concert.
The DVD is available through Murray Neck Music World and Chatterbox. 
• Nights Plague, formed in 2004, are a five piece Alice Springs metalcore band. Last year they released their six track debut EP, Sine Die.
The album opens with the gentle, classical sounding, minor progressional finger-picking of lead guitarist Adrian Rooke, in the introductory track “Idiot Dog in Reign”.
The stark contrast of “Inferno” follows, teeming with fury and intense power chords and pure double kick drum energy.
The band have clearly spent a lot of time on the arrangement of the songs.
No riff is ever let to stagnate and any one song can be made up of as many as eight different sections (as opposed to straight verse, chorus, verse).
The roaring, scream-like verses are broken up with melodic choruses and flat-out guitar solos.
What can I say, if you like thrash metal you will love this, and even if you don’t, you will certainly appreciate it.
The line-up has changed since the album was recorded, but from what I’ve heard, they are harder, faster and louder than before and have begun writing new material.
Sine Die is available from Chatterbox and MusicWorld and will soon be available on their myspace: “”
• Local Punk Rockers Sweet Surrender also have a six track demo which they were handing out at the Small Day In.
From what I know, this is a taster, with a mix of tracks from their first demo and various songs they have recorded since.
Sweet Surrender have developed quite a strong fan base in the couple of years that they have been together, and this demo should keep them happy until they have finished writing and recording their new album, To Kill a Sunrise.
The stand out tracks are “Before Long”, a heart felt, bittersweet acoustic punk song, and “The Pirate Song”, a fast-paced joke track about pirates: “What did the pirate pay for his peg-leg and hook? An arm and a leg!”
Four tracks are available for free download on their myspace “” or for a copy of the demo, contact David Drummond on 0408526017.

Walter Walloon on a circular journey. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

The trouble with Walter Walloon Beckett as a character – the only character in the one and a half hour long play, Not Like Beckett – is that he utterly self-absorbed.
In his predicament, imminent death, that is quite understandable, but it creates big challenges for his writer, actor, and director.
How is his looking into the mirror going to engage his audience?
Alice-based playwright Michael Watts has all sorts of strategies – jokes, from the corny to the crass, vaudeville, pathos, violence and metaphorical weight.
Walter Walloon is a descendant of a pre-eminent rabbit family, the first to make its way in the Territory: the allusion to colonial depredation in virgin lands is clear, even before Walter recounts his serial abuse of the bilby, Booboo.
The matters are grave and their treatment imaginative, but Watts doesn’t seem to take them anywhere.
Walter wrestles with his sense of himself (not wanting to be like Beckett) to the end, but it’s a circular journey.
His guilt effaces Booboo; we have no sense of her other than through the lenses of his fantasies and his guilt, so there’s no contrasting “other” to give dynamism to the story.
As I write this I’m conscious of the notable success of the play elsewhere, both on the page, and as a production by Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne. 
It is possible that the flatness I experienced, and that I felt amongst a large part of the audience, was down in part to qualities of the production, a joint effort by Darwin Theatre Company and the local Red Dust Theatre.
Actor Damien A. Pree (pictured)  gave a sustained, professional performance – moved well, delivered his lines well – but he didn’t reach into me.
The direction, in the hands of Nicola Fearn, took a less is more approach, one that   I generally appreciate, but it didn’t have much register.
In particular, it failed to make use of the space of the stage. The action all took place forward on the stage with the black velvet curtain immediately behind the set (a rocky outcrop), cutting off what must have been two thirds of the space available.
Yet, as the script makes clear, Walter, trapped on top of a hill in the Central Australian desert, has a view across a vast landscape.
I felt the need for a physical sense of this, and also of relief from the harsh, flat lighting, which, in contrast with absorbed light of the black velvet curtain, was very taxing on the eyes.
But these matters aside, I think an Alice Springs audience was always going to be more resistant to Watts’ play.
The local audience has a more complex experience of the fallout of colonisation than a Melbourne audience, asking different questions, needing different answers and above all needing to dynamically engage, however difficult that may prove to be,  with Indigenous people.
Watts’ play is strongly conscious of Indigenous people, but – quite deliberately and pointedly – does not engage with them.

A special way of seeing. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

Photographer Mike Gillam has made a triumphant return to exhibiting with his part in the Shifting Ground show at Araluen.
Curated by by Shifting Ground producer Kieren Sanderson and artist Dan Murphy, this show brings together work by local Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists “looking at their place”.
Gillam looks with exceptional acuity; “eyes peeled” makes more than usual sense when considering his approach to his work. For some of his subjects are ones that have probably come within our field of vision and we simply haven’t stopped to take notice.
In “High Tide” we see common native birds of Alice riding a wave of rubbish at the dump; one of them appears to be in distress, screeching and wings raised without taking flight.  Part of Gillam’s brilliance is to capture these fleeting moments, not only a matter of seeing, but of watching and waiting and finding the perspective that will communicate to maximum effect.
In an entirely different mood is “Cicada Peak Near Spencer Hill (Nov 2005)”: here there is fascination with light, colour, design, coming together with the kind of perfection only nature can achieve, from the transparency of the cicada wings to the subtle pattern and colouring of the bark heightened by the warmth of the light.
This photo, like “Native Landscape”, featuring in particular a field of ptilotus flowers, green and pink, is also a homage to using the camera as a way of seeing.
It fixes, for our contemplation, an infinity of marks that we simply wouldn’t be able to absorb in situ. This is particularly the case for “Native Landscape”: there are so many beautifully articulated visual points in this photograph.
The photograph titled “Shifting Ground” is an aerial view; the “being there” quality of many of the works is exchanged for a vast sweeping of country.
The shadows are long and colours, particularly of the earth, deep in the late light, and all seem to unite in an easterly flow.
Yet here and there fascinating details assert themselves: a cluster of bright spinifex clumps, then scatterings of them and here and there a single clump, pricking the burnt orange surface with green; and here and there again, the whispy white flowerings of the bare branches.
A magnificent meditation on the sublime qualities of the desert.
Although his work stands quite on its own, Gillam’s captions deserves some attention.
The full title of “Native Landscape”, for instance, is “Native Landscape Scheduled for ‘Improvement’ with Buffel Grass (Africa), Couch Grass (Africa) and Rosy Dock (Afghanistan)”.
He writes: “Our continual reliance on introduced plant species threatens vast de facto wilderness areas, national parks and pastoral leases and governments sit on the fence.”
In “Backyard of Alice Springs” he shows a group of euros on the slopes of one of the hills around town.
He writes of what he is showing: “Wildlife refuge, sacred site, resting place of caterpillar and dingo ancestors.
“Native title land, land-use zoning 03, un-managed crown land, weed-infested, tree-less outcrop of the future.”
In appreciating Gillam’s work, viewers should also heed his call to arms. Before it’s too late.

All that talk about booze is putting us off our beer. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The seemingly endless debate about alcohol in Alice Springs appears to be having an impact on drinking and on attitudes to drinking.
In a survey released last week of the urban centres of the Territory, conducted by consultants SOCOM on behalf of the Department of Justice, Alice drinkers report different results to the Territory as a whole.
Fewer drinkers in Alice were drinking at risk levels for chronic harm.
This was mainly due to fewer females in the risky and high risk category for long term harm.
In Alice 8.2% of women fell into this category, compared to the Territory figure of 18.1%.
That 18.1% put Territory women ahead of Territory men by 3.2 percentage points.
Of Aboriginal drinkers (male and female) 22% fell into the risky and high risk categories.
For total drinkers the figure was 15.6%.
In terms of short term harms, one third of Alice drinkers as a whole fell into the risky and high risk categories, a figure similar to the Territory as a whole.
But again, there were substantially fewer Alice women in these categories when compared to the Territory as a whole.
In Alice the figure was 50.7% compared to the Territory figure of 64.9%, a difference of 14.2 percentage points.
For Alice men, the figure was also lower, 52.6 compared to 62.9, a difference of 10.3 percentage points.
In Alice average weekly consumption was also reported as lower, 18.75 standard drinks, compared to the Territory’s average of 24.5 standard drinks.
The type of drink Alice drinkers consume is also different (the survey was done before the latest alcohol restrictions).
Alice men drink more beer than their Territory brothers (75.89% of local men drink beer compared to 69.56%); Alice women drink much less beer than their Territory sisters (21.96% compared to 48.24%) but drink far more spirits (45.47% compared to 21.47%).
Perhaps more important differences, in terms of the future development of the town’s local alcohol plan, are the differences in attitudes of Alice drinkers.
Nearly half (48.5%) of those surveyed said there were too many liquor outlets in the NT, compared to 34.7% for the Territory as a whole.
Of these, 84.2% wanted fewer outlets at corner stores (compared to 74.3%).
Far fewer than their Territory counterparts identified hotels / bars and restaurants as a problem.
More Alice respondents than their Territory counterparts identify Aboriginal drinking the bigger part of the NT’s alcohol problems: 63.3% compared to 47%.
On the other hand, more Alice respondents thought that factors other than driving needed to be considered when drinking: 51.6% compared to 40%.
And more agree with the closure of take-away liquor outlets one day a week: 45.8% compared to 40%.
The survey did not go into town camps or remote areas.
One reason, according to  Dr Ian Crundall, the government’s principal advisor on alcohol, was cost “due to the cultural and access considerations”, as well as the “need for different methodologies”.
A separate survey for the camps and remote areas is intended. The tender for this work has been advertised.
The Aboriginal sample for Alice Springs, at 8.3% seemed very low.
The Alice News asked whether the low sample skewed the results.
Said Dr Crundall: “From what I know, the last figures that are available from the Census for Alice Springs town (2001) showed Aboriginal people to be about 17% of the population.
“Estimates put the number in the suburbs (not town camps) at about 60% although there is considerable debate due to transition between both and visitors from outside etc. 
“On this basis, one might expect about 10% of the population to have been Aboriginal and this is not wildly different from what was obtained.
“In this context, the results may be accepted as indicative.”

LETTERS: The problem with crime is the endless failure to stop it.

Sir,– In light of the recent controversy concerning alcohol abuse, anti-social behaviour and youth crime in Alice Springs, the following select quotes may help to put the current debate in perspective:
“In recent months my government has been concerned about increasing levels of crime and violence in Alice Springs. Much of this criminal and anti-social behaviour is alcohol-related.
“The law and order issue came to a head in recent months with an upsurge in the numbers of Aboriginals camping in the Todd River … in a short space of time, windows were kicked in in mindless acts of vandalism in the mall, the incidence of general harassment of passers-by by drunken people increased, and so did crimes of violence such as assault, robbery and sexual offences. Among the victims were three police officers injured in the line of duty.
“Some say if the government cuts back on liquor licences and trading hours, this will put a stop to the anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol. It won’t …
“Some say that saturation policing and hard line confrontation on the streets and in the courts will solve the problem. It won’t …
“In recent years, approximately 11,000 people per year are taken into protective custody in Alice Springs alone …
The numbers suggest that half of Alice Springs’ population is found drunk on the streets at least once per year.
“The fact is that figures from the Alice Springs sobering up shelter show that 97% of those admitted … were Aboriginals: three quarters were male with an average age of 32 years … 129 people were each admitted 10 times or more during the course of the year: and one individual spent 123 nights in protective custody during the same year.
“Those figures sound pretty horrifying, but they increased 35% in the first four months of this calendar year … with 5,438 protective custody cases logged up to the end of April.
“I stress at this point that those being taken into protective custody are not, in the great majority of cases, the same offenders indulging in vandalism, violence and general criminal behaviour, although alcohol often fuels the pattern of behaviour in both cases.
“… I am led to believe much of the vandalism and violence can be sheeted home to Alice Springs residents, often wandering in loose gangs around late night drinking spots …
“Whilst the mall area has been targeted in recent times … it would be wrong to concentrate on the mall at the expense of law and order in Alice Springs generally … government initiatives either now in place or on the drawing board include:
• Extra police … from time-to-time from an as-required basis as with the recent April 10 contingent of 10 extra police ex-Darwin.
• Additional and more intense lighting in the Todd Mall and identified related areas.
• The Northern Territory Government is considering reducing the trading hours of existing take-away liquor outlets in Alice Springs …
•  Consideration of tighter legislation/ enforcement of the two kilometre drinking law …
• The [NT Government] should initiate pressure on the federal government to bring in more work programs in both the Alice Springs town area and on bush communities. Tighter conditions regarding persons opting out of such work programs should exist …
• The Commonwealth is to be approached with a proposal that recipients of social security payments be compelled to collect their cheques on their home communities …
• A fight crime committee has been established in Alice Springs to consider and offer suggestions on the current problem.
Many prominent Alice Springs identities are represented on this committee …
• The government has moved to crack down on liquor related offences …
• The Alice Springs Town Council has been asked to enforce camping by-laws on council or crown land and to remove personal effects which are abandoned in similar places.
“… there is disagreement on what should be done to alleviate the problems in Alice Springs …”
These quotes are from a ministerial statement on law and order issues in Alice Springs made by Chief Minister Marshall Perron in the Legislative Assembly on May 8, 1990 – exactly 17 years ago.
In those times the current Chief Minister, Clare Martin, was reporting on such issues for the ABC.
It was later that year I was a victim of an unprovoked assault on the Wills Terrace footbridge, a type of incident so common-place at the time that nobody thought it was unusual.
For those who claim the present situation is the worst it has ever been in Alice Springs, the facts show that it is not; nothing has changed except the accuracy of people’s memories.
The current situation is not the main issue – it is that nothing has changed in over 30 years which is the real scandal.
 Alex Nelson
Alice Springs  


Sir,– Ho hum. So a new housing program called ARIA (Alice News, May 10) replaces the CHIP program and here we go again. How will the ARIA program, Senator Scullion, be any better than the CHIP program? Will it mean that more reasonably priced housing will be provided and that the habitual and invariable vandalism that has afflicted CHIP and other public funded housing be stopped?
Will it mean that instead of building houses like mainstream Australians live in, government will give the politically correct ideology the flick and build more culturally appropriate housing that provides an open, shaded area with a not-so-culturally appropriate toilet (if the people want it) and water supply? Or is there some other strategy that will simply knock the socks off the indigenous housing challenge?
The idea that more and more taxpayers’ money will resolve these issues is a delusion.
The two issues that need to be addressed first are how to stop the wanton destruction of anything built on communities and how to provide a sufficient degree of shelter and comfort to Indigenous people without trying to force upon them a Western, Caucasian style of living.
When you visit communities and see people lying around on steel bed frames in the open spaces outside their houses, one has to ask whether houses are really the best option.
 Robin Henry
Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

Poem digs deep

Sir,– I was a recent visitor to The Alice for four days, working. I bought your newspaper and I read the poem, ‘I can’t stop drinking’  by Ali Cobby Eckermann.
I thought the poem to be very thought provoking and very relevant to today’s society, not only in Alice Springs, but also to the wider community Australia wide.
It’s a poem that digs deep into one’s conscience as to the way we tend to view and / or judge a person. Well done, Ali. 
Peter Jewett 
South Australia 


Sir,– Local members of the Bahá’í Faith are distressed by fresh reports that Bahá’í school children in Iran are being harassed, vilified and held up to abuse.
During a 30-day period from mid-January to mid-February, some 150 incidents of insults, mistreatment and even physical violence against Bahá’í children were reported in schools in at least 10 cities across Iran.
Worst of all, the abuse is being committed by school teachers and administrators, in whom children should be able to place their trust.
For example, in the city of Kermanshah, children were called to the front of the classroom and required to listen to insults against their Faith, causing them to break down in tears before their classmates.
How could any adult treat a young child that way?
Other children have been insulted, threatened with expulsion or summarily dismissed from school, and even blindfolded and beaten.
The extent and nature of the attacks have led Bahá’ís to conclude that it is an organised effort.  It brings to mind some of the horrors experienced by local Bahá’ís in the early years of the Iranian revolution, some 25 years ago.
This kind of harassment and abuse is not new in Iran and has been part of the systematic persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran there.
I came to Australia as a refugee in 1985 after both my parents were taken to prison purely because of their adherence to the Bahá’í Faith.
I can clearly remember being picked on at school and told that I was unclean and later I was told I could not go to school any more because I was a Bahá’í.
My two daughters go to school and preschool here and it is such a joy for me to see them thrive and develop in a tolerant and modern system.
It is very sad that the next generation would have to endure the same appalling treatment that we experienced.
The Bahá’í Faith is Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority.  Since the revolution in 1979, the Iranian Bahá’í community has been subject to ongoing and systematic persecution.  In the early 1980s more than 200 Bahá’ís were killed, hundreds were imprisoned, and thousands were deprived of jobs and education, solely because of their religious belief.
It is time for the rest of the world to bear witness to what is happening in Iran, and to raise our voices to put an end to the persecution.
Otherwise this poison will continue to spread from generation to generation.
Dr Armán Yazdani
Alice Springs

Put carpark back!

Sir,– Having been away recently for medical treatment, upon my return I was amazed to find the disabled parking bay outside Anangu House had been abolished.
I am disabled and find it very difficult when on my own to use my wheelchair, so sometimes I have to use crutches.
The relocated disabled parking is some 75 metres up Gregory Terrace.
Now I find that I have to cross a laneway and two entrances to the Kmart car park to access the services in Anangu House. This is very dangerous with so many cars driving in and out.
The committee that made this decision has not taken into account residents such as myself who are unable to walk more that few steps at a time without much difficulty. I would have thought that the disability services people on this committee would be considerate of people suffering with disabilities.
Having been a resident of the town for some 40 years, to the best of my knowledge no one has been involved in an accident at the old disabled car park.
Is it any wonder that the town is in the mess it’s in?
Every time the Town Council has “improved” the car parking in the town it has resulted in less spaces and is a total stuff up!
How about the Town Council looks after its residents for a change and puts the disabled car park back where it was.
Ian Wilson
Alice Springs

End welfare ‘rule’

Sir,- “No More Sit Down Money” is my campaign slogan for the Federal election.
The welfare state that has been supported by Labor in the Northern Territory has gone on for long enough.
I have spoken to many Aboriginal people living on communities and in town and they tell me that they are tired of not having real jobs and living an un-healthy, un-wealthy lifestyle.
Every Territorian wants a real job and a future for their kids.
Labor’s welfare rule has prohibited this.  Instead people have been paid their dole money and allowed or encouraged to do nothing for years.
Have a look around and tell me if I am wrong.
The removal of responsibility for a person’s health, housing and income has brought about a life of misery and despair for many Territorians.
We need to turn this welfare cycle on its head and start transitioning responsibility back to the family or individual. 
Above all we have to give these people a purpose in life and a sense of hope and direction.
We have to assist people to transition off the dole and move into volunteering, training, CDEP, and ultimately to real employment.
Everybody should be participating in the economy.
Where there are no industries we must create the environment and encourage investment and industry development.
I know it is not going to be an easy road but the Labor member for Lingiari has had 18 years and look where we are today.
Adam Giles
CLP candidate for Lingiari

Proud of old school

Sir,– I am Alice Springs born, and proud of that fact.
I commenced my education years at Hartley Street School, and proud of that too.
I now live interstate, but have returned several times in the last few years and have enjoyed visiting the old school and its museum.
I browse diligently through the old photos and roll books looking for me, my brother and my sister. Yes, I have found some entries but sadly there are some roll books “missing”.
The one or two volunteers at the school do a magnificent job in trying to keep the museum’s displays in pristine condition and trying to collect extra information, photos and memorabilia.
I have contributed a few photos, including one of us marching down Hartley Street to Anzac Oval for sports day, all school students of the day forming the Coronation Crown (for our present Queen) on Anzac Oval at the time of her coronation.
There were also a couple of photos of the youth centre’s performance of “Alice in Wonderland and down the rabbit hole”’!!!
The majority of visitors to the school are past pupils living interstate, who come back to Alice for short holidays. The number of locals who make an effort to visit the school are few and far between. This is very sad. There must be many, many past pupils of this great school still living in the Heart.
Come on locals, make an effort and drag out those old school photos, put pen to paper and write down some events that you can remember!
This museum also needs financial support to expand and return parts of the school buildings back to their former glory days.
June Blaschek (nee Hudson)
Christie Downs, SA

ADAM CONNELLY: Distance makes the heart grow fonder!

It hits you every now and then, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t take a whole lot of prompting.
A loved one back home who’s under the weather. Or the mail taking 15 years to get to a major capital. The sense of isolation in a place like Alice Springs can get to even the biggest Alice fan and it creeps up on an unsuspecting victim like a cold.
Every now and then I pine for a place that isn’t a day away from other places. I long for the opportunity to drive to another town for dinner. I miss my mates from home and I wish was closer to things. Nothing specific, just things.
But like a cold this feeling soon passes. A vaccination consisting of a combination of the undying positivity this town produces and the people who carry that positivity with them.
I guess the positivity that one feels in the town is an essential part of the town’s survival. When the sense of isolation hits it’s important to be around those not feeling it. 
I’ve noticed that the town has gone through a postitivity surge in the last couple of weeks. After the success of the parliamentary protests it seems the town feels that the cries and screams previously unheard by the powers that be are finally being heeded.
That’s all we asked for really, wasn’t it? We didn’t expect the problems plaguing the town to instantly vanish. We just needed to let someone who can do something know that we were suffering.
That sounds a bit “Dr Phil” I know but the change in the town post-protest has been noticeable. The dark cavern into which Alice Springs was hurtling headlong is still pretty dark but at least there’s a torch now to provide some visibility.
The isolation one feels from time to time presents itself in several different ways. Some can be quite comical.
If I were to ever run for office here in Central Australia, one of my policies would be to pay for a return flight anywhere in Australia for every citizen in town.
I reckon the way to best appreciate Alice Springs is to leave it for a spell. Get out of the house so to speak.
I was enjoying an evening with friends at one of the watering holes in town and two metres from me, enjoying the same watering hole was Australian cricketing legend, Darren Lehman.
Now it is my humble opinion that the afore mentioned Mr Lehman is one of the finest spectacles to ever grace a cricket ground. I love watching “Boof” bat. He has all the shots and on occasion, when merited, some sensational brutish dominance of any bowling attack.
So there I am, laughing with my friends and there’s Darren Lehman laughing with his and a bevy of young lasses enters the establishment. Old enough to get into a licensed bar and therefore old enough to fully appreciate the celebrity of one of the finest middle order batsmen ever to wear the baggy green. They even looked as though they were cricket fans, if you can look like that.
Yet as they pass the area I hear them whisper to each other in giggly treble, “Oh my God…that’s Adam from SunFm!”
That’s not right.
 I host a little radio show in a small remote town. I’m quite happy with my standing as the host of a little radio show in a small remote town. As I mentioned last week, I love my job.
But these girls should have been asking Darren Lehman for his autograph not giggling about seeing a bloke they’ve probably seen in tracky dacks down the Yeperenye. I felt a bit embarrassed.
Had these girls been given the opportunity to head out of town, to a major city for a couple of weeks, the natural order of things would have been redressed and I wouldn’t have felt like such a pillock.
We live on an island surrounded by sand. Sometimes this becomes all too apparent. But there’s two ways to fight it.
Either soak up the sun and throw yourself in to island living. Or take a cruise once and a while and remember what the real world is like.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.