May 24, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

No council for Yulara. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The NT government is gearing up to extend local government to all of the Territory, but the Ayers Rock Resort (Yulara) will miss out.
This is despite the ALP’s vehement protests, when it was still in Opposition, to the shutting down of the town council there by the CLP administration.
This has been disclosed in a confidential consultants’ report leaked the the Alice Springs News.
The only other centers not to get local government are Nhulunbuy and Alyangoola, both mining towns.
Also, if recommendations in the report are followed, cattle properties will be hit with substantial council rates – in essence a tax – when the Territory is carved up into nine shires.
While people with the same income will pay the same rates, wealthier people will pay more.
And some will pay nothing because “the ability of the taxpayer to pay the tax must be taken into account”.
The report, considered by the Local Government Advisory Board at its May meeting, calls for three principles in the rating system:-
• Equity – taxpayers with the same income pay the same tax (horizontal equity), and wealthier taxpayers pay more (vertical equity).
• A tax will [need to be] be fair to the taxpayer and that each taxpayer will be fairly taxed relative to other taxpayers.
• Benefit – taxpayers should receive benefits from paying tax, but not necessarily to the extent of the tax paid.
• Ability to pay – in levying taxes the ability of the taxpayer to pay the tax must be taken into account.
The report pointedly refers to a speech in 1991 by former Lands Minister Max Ortmann (CLP), making comparisons between levies on cattle stations in the largely unincorporated (outside local government) Territory, and some in neighboring states.
Mr Ortmann referred in the Assembly to Lake Nash Station, in the Territory and on the Queensland border.
“It has an area of 8487 sqkm and a carrying capacity of 30,500 beasts.
“The pastoral rent is $7918 and the shire rates are nil.
“The total rent payable is $7918.
“In Queensland, Headingly Station has an area of 5959 sqkm and a  carrying capacity of 29,700 beasts.
“The pastoral rent is $19,600  and the shire rates are $55,314 making a total of $74,914” – nearly 10 times the Territory counterpart’s outlay.
“Mr Speaker you will observe that there are no shire rates in the  Northern Territory.
“In the example I have just given, the Territory lessee pays $66,996 less in charges than his comparable Queensland neighbor.
“To put it another way, the Territory station pays just over 10% of the charges that the adjoining Queensland station has to meet.
“Another example is in the Northern Territory and Western Australian border.
“Legune Station in the Northern Territory has an area of 3084 sqkm with a carrying capacity of 16,000 beasts.
“Pastoral rent is $4166, council rates and vermin rates are nil, making a total of $4166.
“Carlton Hill Station in Western Australia is 3812 sqkm and a carrying capacity of 22,195.
“Its pastoral rent is $7208 and council rates are $5459 and vermin rate is $3462 making a total of $16,129.”
That is nearly four times as much.
Another yardstick for local government rating of pastoral properties could be Potential Carrying Capacity (PCC).
The report says the WA Department of Agriculture defines PCC as the “estimated long term carrying capacity for an area if all pastures or pasture types are in good range condition and the area is fully developed (particularly with respect to water point distribution) and available to the grazing stock.”
At the moment, says the report, pastoral leases are subject to an annual rental which is calculated as a percentage of the unimproved value of the leased land.
Rents are currently set at two per cent of the unimproved value. 
It is proposed that rates for exploration and mining leases will be linked to their current annual rental.

Delia’s dongas debacle (continued). By KIERAN FINNANE.

A botched process from the start, the donga camp plans, at least for the Dalgety Road site, collapsed into fiasco last week with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) decision to not issue a certificate for the site.
Development of the site depended on compliance with an AAPA certificate.
Lands and Planning Minister Delia Lawrie’s Exceptional Development Permit for the Dalgety Road donga camp stated: The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority is in the process of issuing an Authority Certificate for Lot 7717.”
The Alice News asked the Minister what made her so sure that a certificate would be issued.
Through a spokesperson she replied that AAPA’s original advice was that there was no indication of a sacred site on the lot.
This advice has changed and the camp will not now be developed on the site.
The spokesperson said the NT Government will work with the Federal Government “if they wish to apply for a potential new site”.
The News asked how the Territory Government will work differently this time to avoid the controversy that has dogged the selection of the sites.
Said the spokesperson: “If the Commonwealth Government makes an application for another site there will be a public process. 
“Whether there is any controversy will be largely dependent on the site the Commonwealth selects.”
Hang on, it was the NT Government that hired consultants to select the sites last time round, wasn’t it?
Said the spokesperson: “No it wasn’t – the Commonwealth made the application.”
News: The Commonwealth made the application; the NTG tasked [consultants] Qantec McWilliam (QM) to find the sites.
Spokesperson: “Qantec made recommendations directly to the Commonwealth Government.  The Commonwealth then made the applications.”
But the Commonwealth say otherwise.
They say that during the implementation committee process (a process established under the authority of Territory Minister for Local Government and Housing Elliot McAdam) the NTG took on the responsibility of site selection and tasked QM to review possible sites. QM came up with a short list, the committee looked at it, visited the sites and then endorsed in principle two of them – Dalgety Road and Len Kittle Drive.
After that the Commonwealth tasked Indigenous Business Australia to proceed with the process, making the application.  IBA contracted QM to do the design and proposal.
The News asked the spokesperson if she was contesting this version of events.
If so, on what factual basis? We haven’t had a reply.
The News also asked Mr McAdam whether the government will work differently this time round.
Through a spokesperson he said: “The Northern Territory Government will work the Federal Government, Tangentyere, AAPA and custodians to identify another suitable short-term managed accommodation site.
“Due process will be followed once again.”
The News asked Mayor Fran Kilgariff whether the Town Council will take responsibility to find a site that is acceptable to the public.
Said Ms Kilgariff: “It’s my understanding that the money from Mal Brough is a package consisting of Town Camps money and two short-term accommodation facilities.
“If Tangentyere persists with knocking back the funding for town camps on Wednesday [after the Alice News goes to press] then it is likely that the short-term funding money will also be withdrawn.
“I’ll wait until Wednesday to see if there is still some funding for dongas.”


In the storm over the $60m town camp housing offer from Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, Kevin Wirri’s resolve is unshaken. 
He is president of Abbott’s Camp, the one with the tall green fence, in South Terrace, across the Todd from the casino.
An established painter, and father of Elton, an emerging star in The Centre’s crowded firmament of artists, in 2005 Mr Wirri succeeded in a six year battle to make Abbott’s the first dry camp.
It’s small, with 35 people (according to the Town Camps Task Force Review report) living in five houses, and it is by and large tidy.
Some of the residents are involved in Ngapartji Ngapartji, a community development project with an arts focus, and have taken part in the hit theatre production of the same name, which has had sellout seasons at Melbourne and Perth international arts festivals.
All residents, including Mr Wirri, rake up the rubbish, put it in piles and into drums, and Tangentyere collects it weekly or more often.
But only one resident is employed for wages, with Tangentyere, picking up rubbish in the camps around the town.
Mr Wirri is an ardent supporter of Tangentyere, serves on its executive and says the rebuff of Mr Brough was unhesitating and unanimous: last Friday the camps rejected the offer if it meant surrendering the leases over the camps to the Territory Government.
“We were one group. No-one said yes,” is how Mr Wirri put it.
He links the Brough proposals to a threat of losing land for which the “old people” had fought and which has traditional significance to the lessees.
He says all presidents of the 19 housing associations took part in the week-long decision-making process coordinated by Tangentyere.
Like all housing associations, the lease held by the Mpwetyerre Housing Association presided over by Mr Wirri was entirely free to negotiate direct with Mr Brough or with Chief Minister Clare Martin or the Alice Town Council for that matter.
Although the council will ultimately be a key player  in the “normalisation” of the camps, it has not sought to get actively involved in the current negotiations.
In fact Mayor Fran Kilgariff said on Monday, in response to a question about the donga camps, that she expected that a negative decision from Tangentyere would cause the donga camp funding to also fall over.
She said she was “waiting to see”.
For the larger housing associations the general commercial opportunities for the Aboriginal lease holders are spectacular, quite apart from the lifestyle and economic bonanza offered by Mr Brough’s $60m.
If that money were all to be spent on housing, divided by 19 camps that’s $3m per camp at $200,000 per house equals 15 houses per camp, 300 houses in all.  
Add to that the potential for real estate deals in a town starving for Lebensraum!
The Yarrenyty-Arltere camp in Larapinta Valley, for example, has 21 dwellings and 148 residents. Its landholding is roughly the size of the suburb of Sadadeen which has 700 dwellings, housing 6000 people.
After three decades of town camps, where are the market gardens, the cultural tours, the kinds of enterprises for which there is a huge demand?
And why are young men and women idle in the camps, boozing, unemployed, in a town that has to resort to employing backpackers and importing workers from Asia?
Hidden Valley (22 houses and 160 people) has the prettiest scenery in town. Sadly it’s also one of the filthiest and crime ridden of the town camps.
Mr Wirri says no government or town council officials have approached him direct over Mr Brough’s offer.
“I wouldn’t want them to.
“We’re frightened.”
Mr Wirri doesn’t want to entertain the notion that in many cases, only a fraction of the land – those parts on which dwellings are built – would need to be subleased back to the NT Government.
The conditions for public housing on the camps would be no different to those applying to any other underprivileged person in Australia.
The purpose of the proposal is not to evict people. The associations would retain control over the remaining land (the head lease).
But in Mr Wirri’s mind, the Brough offer is a threat to traditional attachments to the land, and to the advancements made by “the old people”.
Tangentyere appears to have had a clear mandate from its members to call the shots at last Friday’s meeting.
They had the housing associations on side. This is confirmed by Mr Wirri.
How that consensus was achieved – what kind of information and arguments were presented to the associations –  is not clear because it was done in closed meetings.
But, after nearly a generation of misery in many of the camps, Tangentyere also appears to be giving priority to maintaining its power and its budget, behind a well-worn rights agenda which, in any case, doesn’t seem to be at risk. 
“Land is very important,” said Tangentyere director William Tilmouth last Friday.
“Self determination and rights are very important, and people are very reluctant to relinquish these rights.”
Predictably Tangentyere soaked up all the limelight when the town’s media were informed last Friday that Mr Brough’s $60m offer had been rejected.
Town campers were present, didn’t speak but applauded the Tangentyere speakers, mainly Walter Shaw, son of Tangentyere president Geoff Shaw.
Mr Tilmouth said Tangentyere had tried to amend the Memorandum of Understanding proposed by Mr Brough.
The amendments provided for “involvement in every [aspect of] the housing and management, and also to maintain our right to self determine, knowing that the Territory Housing policies would not allow that”.
At Chief Minister Clare Martin’s request Mr Brough’s deadline for acceptance of the offer was extended from Friday to yesterday (after the deadline for this edition of the Alice News).
Walter Shaw did not deny that most of the town camps are strewn with rubbish, are havens for alcohol fueled violence and many houses are heavily vandalized, some beyond repair.
He said: “Town camps have been neglected over the last 30 odd years simply because of inadequate funding given to Tangentyere Council in order to provide services.”
Asked what is the annual budget of Tangentyere, and what portion of it is used for maintenance of the camps, Walter Shaw said: “That question I can’t answer because it’s business in confidence.”
Geoff Shaw: “I refer you to the annual report.”
Alice News: “Is it on the net?”
Walter Shaw: “No, it’s not a public document.”
The News understands the Tangentyere budget is $23m a year in public funding, mainly from the Federal Government.
Mr Brough says the contribution from his department is “nowhere near that”, but Tangentyere also receives contributions from the NT Government.
Not in the least, they have enterprises of their own, created with public funds, philanthropic gifts, or privileges bestowed by the Federal Parliament, such as mining royalties: a firm of architects, a construction company, a store complete with a liquor department and a one fifth share of Centrecorp, reported to be now one of Australia’s Top 100 companies.
The Alice News asked Mr Brough: “If the $60m deal fails to proceed, will Canberra cut funding to Tangentyere, or make it subject to more stringent controls?” 
Mr Brough said: “I am taking a keen interest in this issue and the conditions within the town camps and whether residents and taxpayers are getting value for the money being provided for services.”
The media treat Tangetyere with kid gloves, at best, or with blushing adulation, at worst: CAAMA and the National Indigenous Times felt compelled to congratulate Tangentyere for its decision.
And the news made even in the London Times.
That prestigious paper, using a feed from the French Press Agency, misreported the issues thus: “Poor but defiant. Alice Springs. Aborigines living in poverty on the edges of Alice Springs have refused to give the Government their land in exchange for $70 million (£29.2 million). They are demanding a say in how their housing is handled.”
Between 1700 to 2000 people live in the camps, and visitors at times swell the population to 3000.
Meanwhile Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney says NT Minister for the Environment, Marion Scrymgour, must publicly indicate whether or not she supports the Martin Government’s policy relating to 99 year leases on traditional land and the expansion of the McArthur River Mine.
“Westminster conventions are quite clear on the fate of dissenting Ministers  – they cannot maintain their position in the Cabinet.
Ms Carney pointed to Ms Scrymgour’s publicly expression of her concerns about the 99 year leases on traditional land, saying: “This has divided our people as no other issue has divided our people”.
On the town camps Shadow Minister for Central Australia Richard Lim said: “It beggars belief that a genuine offer to upgrade the homes and municipal services of people living in third world conditions has been rejected.
“This is about offering a solution to the extreme violence that plagues the camps.
“This is about children who live in endangered situations every day, akin to child abuse.
“The Minister [of Central Australia] must put in whatever effort it takes to ensure that the ‘normalisation’ of Alice Springs town camps occurs as soon as possible.
“Aboriginal town camp dwellers do not have the time to wait any longer. The people of Alice Springs do not have the time to wait any longer.
“No one can reasonably deny the need for the wholesale renovation of the camps; such conditions have no place in contemporary Australia.”
But Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon says “there simply hadn’t been enough time to resolve the outstanding issues of concern to the town camper associations.
“Tangentyere, like the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments, wants to see $60 million invested in town camp housing and infrastructure.
“But it’s also clear they were not prepared to agree simply to suit the desire of government.”

TOWN CAMPS: Self determination: what benefit? By KIERAN FINNANE.

While Tangentyere’s buzzword is still “self determination” its legacy in the town camps is horrendous.
All levels of government, as well as Tangentyere and the people themselves, can take some responsibility for this.
The mostly bleak picture was painted by the report of the Alice Springs Town Camps Review Task Force Report published in June last year.
• Alice Springs has a massively higher rate of homicide than other parts of Australia, having earned it the sobriquet of the murder capital of the nation: 45 per 100,000 population, compared to the national figure of between 1.5 to 2, over 1992-2004.
That gives Alice 25 times the national rate. 
According to a legal source, one town camp, population less than 100, has had a homicide every year for the past six years.
Rates of homicide in the remainder of the Central Australian region have decreased, dropping below the average for the rest of the Territory in 2005, as Alice Springs’ rates have increased.
The report does not give homicide statistics specifically for the town camps. Police media releases over the last 12 months (May 2006-May 2007) show three homicides to have occurred in the camps: one each in Little Sisters, Old Timers and Kunoth Camps.
It is not possible to determine from the releases whether other homicides which took place outside the camps involved camp residents or visitors as either victim or perpetrator.
• The most common assault incident in Alice Springs township and in the town camps was assault on a female victim that involved alcohol.
In 2005 more than 60% of assaults in Alice Springs and 74% of assaults in town camps involved alcohol.
Some town camps have very low rates of violent crimes. One experienced only six incidents of crime against the person in five years, from 2001 to 2005.
In contrast another camp experienced a 129% increase in assault and sexual assault over the same five years, with an increase of 62% from 2004 to 2005.
Rates of assault increased greatly in 2005, with 231 reported incidents compared to 184 the previous year. Possibly increased policing leading to increased reporting plays a part in these figures; possibly also increased visitation. It is impossible to know whether the incidents involved mainly visitors or permanent residents.
• A 2003 survey of town camp residents found that the majority were concerned about alcohol misuse and supported the restrictions then in place.
Most drinkers admitted to the sobering up shelter between 2001-2005 were from communities outside Alice Springs and not from town camps. Of those from town camps, the greatest number of admissions were from Charles Creek and Hidden Valley, followed by Abbotts Camp.
• The permanent resident population of the camps is between 1700 and 2000. Visitors can swell numbers to 3000.
There is considerable diversity amongst residents: some are highly urbanised, hold down jobs, pay rent, send their children to school.
Others lack the skills, capacity, resources and / or experience to understand the social rules and expectations of town life.
• Tangentyere Council, made up of 18 representatives of the housing associations plus office-bearers, has established a one stop shop for services, including Centrelink, bank agency, financial management and counselling, a food voucher system, rent collection and postal service.
Staff provide assistance with translation and explanation of correspondence and with a range of personal and family business.
They have also developed a range of youth and family services programs.
Nonetheless their core business is housing and infrastructure.
• Tangentyere’s housing office has eight staff, four of whom are on CDEP, to provide tenancy and property management services to 191 households. 80 of the houses are more than 30 years old.
Tangentyere receives a grant of $428,000 per year for repairs and maintenance,  to supplement rent income. This comes to approximately $1700 per house and compares with $2500 per dwelling to be granted to Indigenous Community Housing Organisations.
Tangentyere had received a supplementary one-off grant of $761,676 to undertake essential repairs that were expected to be completed by November 2006.
• In 2004-05 Tangentyere collected $512,184 in rent, significantly above their target of $360,620 set by IHANT.
As a condition of their government funds for housing, Tangentyere pays $159,280 in insurance, which the report describes as “dead money”, which could be better spent on upgrades or new constructions.
• Power, water and sewerage are connected to Power and Water Corporation services at the boundary gate of the camps, but the essential services infrastructure is not owned by the NT Government or its authorities. This is changing with the Connecting Neighbours Program, under which the NT Government is to take responsibility for the provision of services.
The infrastructure does not meet current service standards and is at the end of its serviceable life. It contributes to very high excess water bills incurred by the housing associations.
• Namatjira’s and White Gate Camps do not have secure land tenure. There is no formal housing or infrastructure in these two camps.
• Since 1983 Tangentyre has met power costs for street lighting, which is now to be managed as elsewhere in Alice Springs. The cost of bringing the street lighting to Australian standards is estimated at $900,000.
• Public telephones are available in only six camps.
• Tangentyere considers the health of town camp residents to be poorer than that of other Aboriginal residents of Alice Springs. There is a disagreement with Congress about this. 
• There is no employment data for town camp residents. They represent 16% of Tangentyere’s own workforce, most of them in CDEP funded positions.
A quarter (25.4%) of the Aboriginal population of Alice Springs is employed, compared to 70% of the non-Aboriginal population. (ABS Census 2001.)

TOWN CAMPS: Haves and have nots.

The town camps have their own haves and have nots.
Mt Nancy, home of Geoffrey Shaw, president of Tangentyere Council, has 13 houses for a population of 32 residents, a ratio of 2.4 residents to a house.
We asked Mr Shaw, a former director of Tangentyere: “Would you pass an income and assets test for being eligible for public housing under the rules of Territory Housing?”
Mr Shaw is a vocal opponent to the taking over of camp homes by Territory Housing under the scheme proposed by Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough last week.
We received no reply from Mr Shaw.
Abbots’ Camp has five houses for a similar sized population of  35. That’s a ratio of seven per house.
Truckies Camp has 16 houses for a population of 152.
At a ratio of 9.5 residents to a house it is one of the more crowded caps.
Warlpiri Camp, with seven houses for 80 people, is the most crowded with 11.4 residents to a house.
Source for figures: Alice Springs Town Camps Task Force Report, June, 2006. 

TOWN CAMPS: Old timers say life is easier in Truckies town camp. By FIONA CROFT.

Truckies Camp is on the outskirts of Alice’s industrial area, on a dead end road.
A little further along the road there’s a wreckers and landfill being dumped near a sign that says “No dumping Crown Land”.
It’s early Saturday morning and there are children of all ages playing in their yards and the wide open spaces around the football oval.
Some residents have left early to give visitors from down south a taste of bush tucker treats like honey ants.
The main person concerned, we’ll call her Maxie because she wants to remain anonymous, is seeking employment.  She has a vast knowledge of bush tucker and bush medicines. 
She has knowledge learnt on the job, but then the grants run out and it’s back to looking for work.
She also spends a lot of time lobbying the government against the proposed nuclear waste dumps in the Territory.  
Teenagers ‘hang out’ and wander into town.
For a few other older residents hangovers persist after drinking the night before.
But from all accounts it was a quiet night. Then there’s a blast at top volume from a stereo.
A tiler, a non-Aboriginal tradesman, puts his finishing touches on a new duplex.
Residents are eager to move in and make it their new home.
The other houses are painted in a mix of colours, many in disrepair, and most of the grounds are littered with plastic and beer cans. Vegetable gardens have been started, raided and now couch grass invades.
The residents are cautious about talking to the media. Most people say they know nothing about the “normalisation” proposal for putting town camp housing under the control of the Northern Territory Government’s public housing authority.
But one resident, who didn’t want to be named, says of Mr Brough’s 99-year lease proposal: “He’s blackmailing us, the government should have done this from the start.”
“It’s like going backwards, taking our rights away by taking our leases away,” says Maxie, identifying herself as one of “the stolen generation”.
Former stockmen, like retired 71-year-old Kevin Pepperill and his five house mates, remember working on cattle stations from 6am to 6pm daily, on a diet of damper, beef jerky and bush tucker when they could get it.
Kevin sits peeling an orange, looking out from his well swept porch over his front lawn shaded by gumtrees.
He smiles and recounts the good old days. He can remember when Truckies Camp was made up of old army tents.
“No houses, just humpies with a wind break,” he says. “We were living a harder life, now it’s easier.”
Kevin says he has worked hard all his life. His childhood years were spent in the children’s home, The Bungalow, at the Telegraph Station. 
He has been living with his kidney transplant for the last nine years. He said the cement dust “buggered my kidney when I was working on the council, building footpaths”.
One of his housemates is very elderly and sick, lying out on a daybed warming in the sun, his blankets tucked around him.
The television is on and there’s the smell of roast beef being cooked up for lunch. Meals on wheels service these retirees on weekdays.
Kevin likes being closer to health and community facilities. He also likes the shorter hours for sale of take-away alcohol.
“Shorter time to drink and less alcohol,” he says.
The Federal Government’s proposed agreement for home buying requires a clean two year rental history and children going to school.
Do Truckies Camp kids go to school?
“All the children go to school,” says ex-stockman Albert George, over 60 years of age though doesn’t have a formal record of his birthday. Albert and Kevin say they see the children get on the bus in the mornings.
“How are we going to keep up with the payments when we can’t even afford a loaf of bread, let alone a house? Half the Aboriginal population doesn’t have ID and you can’t vote with no ID,” says Maxie.
“CDEP don’t have enough money for a rake. They are meant to come and collect the rubbish and clean up.”
She has raked up some of the rubbish, but it seems to be one person cleaning up the mess left by everyone else.

Concrete camels cause curiosity. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Design details are being finalised and a preferred tenderer has been chosen for the Discovery Walkway leading from the railway station to the intersection between Larapinta Drive and the Stuart Highway.
The walkway, as the name implies, will interpret local landscape and history for visitors arriving off The Ghan.
Works are being paid for the NT Government, at a cost of $330,000, and the project, including the design, is being managed by Great Southern Railways (GSR), at their cost.
GSR commissioned Brisbane-based Atomiq Design Group to do the design work.
Draft schematics being considered last year included life-sized sculptures of camels and a cameleer in concrete, “simplified and stylised ... minimal detail”.
Another feature being proposed was a cluster of simple mirrored periscopes (without optics) to focus attention on particular aspects of the view from the walkway and to “elevate the view to allow a clearer and less obstructed vista”.
Meanwhile, a great obstructing brick wall (the side wall of a commercial showroom) has been erected on the site of the proposed walkway, blocking the vista of sky and ranges to the west.
This looks destined to become, or to disappear behind, the “story wall” identified in the schematics.
It is unclear how much, if any, input into the design has come from local designers and artists.
GSR CEO Tony Braxton-Smith says there have been some adjustments following consultation, but the final design follows “pretty much” the original plan.
We’ll know more once the tender is let.
A briefing on the walkway design from Atomiq was given to the Alice in 10 built environment committee last August 30.
Minutes of the September 29 meeting show the committee was then looking to liaise with “the Arts people to ensure local artists could have input / involvement in the pathway project”.
From a recent flurry of enquiries within the local arts community, more concerned than ever with art in public places and responding to the erection of the brick wall, it would seem that this liaison has not taken place.
Happily, design of a fence separating the Stuart Highway from railway land has gone to local talent, architect Susan Dugdale.
Final drawings for the fence were with the Alice in 10 committee last August.
Alice in 10 has since been dissolved and the project has yet to go to tender.
It is “expected to be advertised in the near future”, according to John Baskerville, executive director Southern Region, Department of the Chief Minister, who heads up the body replacing Alice in 10.
It’s called Moving Alice Ahead.
Both the Discovery Walkway and the fence project were announced by the Chief Minister in June 2005.
Through a spokesperson, Mr Baskerville says Moving Alice Ahead “builds on the strengths of the Alice in 10 project, revitalises work that was being undertaken and develops new concepts to guide the development of Alice Springs into the future”.
The written statement continues: “While the building of the railway fence and the Discovery Walkway aren’t the direct responsibility of Moving Alice Ahead or one of the project teams, one of the aims of the Lifestyle project is to ensure that Alice Springs’ identity is reflected in aspects of the town’s development.”

Selling The Centre to Europe. By FIONA CROFT.

German speaking tour operators – nine from Switzerland, 13 from Austria and 176 from Germany – were in Alice Springs over the last week learning first hand what’s on offer in and around the town. 
PICTURED clockwise from top left are:
German tour operators Sabine Schittko, Simone Stiener and Kathrin Klokenbusch with Amanda Dobson, Business Development Executive of Crown Plaza Intercontinental Hotels Group NT.
Doris Deutsches found the plant “superstore” of bush medicine and bush tucker at the Desert Park fascinating. 
She would recommend Alice to tourists who love a long walk. Doris and all of the tour operators the News spoke to said they felt safe.  She said the safety issues weren’t like New York or Cape Town and as all the tour operators say – travel in crowds, or take a taxi. 
Mechelle Collins, Director of Alice Springs Helicopters, showed pictures of Alice from a different perspective to German tour operators Melanie-Anka Eggers, Anja Gartner and Ina Ehlers.
Jackie Shaughnessy, Events Manager Alice Springs Desert Park, Eva Seller, Marketing Manager Continental Europe – Tourism Australia, Richard Schoonraad, International Markets Toursim NT, and Garry Fry, General Manager of the Desert Park. Eva said the “information hungry” German tourism operators were especially interested in “niche products”. 
The outdoor settings for the tour got everyone outside to see and smell what the Outback is all about.
Jurgen Becker, BCD Travel Dusseldorf, Germany said he’d recommend Alice as a one night stopover.  “Bojangles was fun, The Desert Park sculptures were amusing and the Milkyway Café was my great highlight.”
Ex-Sydney resident and third time Alice visitor, Ines Hoenle, Reisen Am Tor from Bavaria, said that after recent media coverage in Sydney people thought “Alice wasn’t that good”. 
Ines recommends Alice to tourists who are interested in Aboriginal culture. 
Although Australian national operators recommend climbing Uluru (Ayers Rock), she and other German tour operators said they respect the wishes of Indigenous people that visitors don’t climb the Rock, as they would expect vsitors to respect Koelner Dom, their most famous church in Germany.
Chris Chambers, Alice Springs Holidays-Centre Highlights, and Michelle Davidson, General Manager of Darwin Central Hotel, swapped campfire stories.

LETTERS: Good on you, Doris!

Sir,– Congratulations to Sacred Sites Custodian, Doris Stewart, for not backing down in the face of bullying tactics from the Martin government and Planning Minister, Delia “Donga” Lawrie.
Everyone living in Braitling should be grateful for the courageous stance that Doris took, even though she was, without doubt, under considerable pressure to relent. 
Thanks should also go to the following people and organisations:-
• Gerry Fitzsimmons and the members of the Northside Action Group (NAG), who with a selfless attitude tirelessly wrote letters, conducted leaflet drops and negotiated with politicians to overturn Delia Lawrie’s ill-conceived decision.
• Loraine Braham, who was from the very beginning outspoken in her objections to the location of the two donga sites.
• Jodeen Carney, who battled for the residents of Alice Springs and had a number of heated exchanges with Delia Lawrie. She, quite rightly, referred to the actions of the government as “bastardry”.
• Erwin Chlanda and Kieran Finnane, of the Alice Springs News, who with their thorough research and accurate reporting of the facts, insured that the subject of “Delia’s Dongas” was not easily forgotten.
The behaviour of Clare Martin, Delia Lawrie, Fran Kilgariff, Richard Lim and the faceless executives of Qantec McWilliam, has been nothing short of disgraceful. 
Clare Martin, whose government has often been described as a circus – a description which is an insult to all circuses, which are, in fact, extremely well organised.
Delia Lawrie, who managed to ignore 130 letters rejecting the two donga sites and passed them off as “insignificant”. The same Delia Lawrie who rejected the findings of the Development Consent Authority and steam-rolled ahead with her Exceptional Development Permits for Dalgety Road and Len Kittle Drive.
Mayor Kilgariff and her aldermen, who have been throughout this whole fiasco about as useful as a collection of muppets.
Richard Lim, who supported the donga scheme and kept referring to Port Augusta as some sort of “shining light” that Alice Springs should copy. When Mr Lim retires, which is not soon enough, he should go and live in Port Augusta.
Qantec McWilliam are a company that, throughout this matter, have displayed extraordinary arrogance. This same company had the gall to peg out the two donga sites days before the public meeting with the DCA.
Qantec McWillaim even managed to advertise for building contractors before the Sacred Site issue on Dalgety Road had been resolved.
This can only beg the obvious question, “Was this a done deal even before the DCA meeting?”
Before anyone in Braitling cracks open the champagne to celebrate, Housing Minister Elliot McAdam has already announced that he will be looking for another temporary accommodation site in – yes, you guessed it – NORTHSIDE!!!
What have the residents of Braitling done to deserve this? Anyone with the intelligence of a gnat would have now realised that the Braitling residents have rejected the dongas. What location will you choose now, Minister McAdam  – Braitling Oval?
It is long overdue for Mayor Kilgariff and her aldermen to get their collective heads out of the Todd River sand and, at least, pretend to represent all of Alice Springs – even Braitling residents.
Yes, there are still 80 million reasons to get rid of Mayor Kilgariff.
Graeme Farquharson
Alice Springs

Brainless fixes

Sir,– Hats off to the magnificent demonstration of the power of one by Mrs Doris Stewart, who stood alone against Local, Territory and Federal Governments, and won. 
The fantastic show of solidarity by the Aboriginals in refusing to accept “conditional” money, in exchange for what in any case should be normal repairs, refurbishment and replacement, should be food for thought, for the 10 people to whom ratepayers pay $100,000 a year to run Alice Springs.  Perhaps if they had practised solidarity / teamwork, instead of gang supremacy, the question of dongas, or any other brainless fix by any passing Canberra cowboy, would never have arisen. 
Gerry Baddock 
Alice Springs

Reward effort

Sir,– Recently, it was reported that the Town Council could not find it in their hearts or coffers to dismiss the $10,000 overspend on the Braitling Childcare Centre renovation.
It almost seemed that the community-run, volunteer-managed centre had set out to diddle the council of those funds. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I worked at the centre at the time and am fully aware that any overspend on the original tender was not caused by the centre or its management committee.
On-going changes in childcare legislation and strict application of accreditation standards (not fully factored in by planners) were major causes. There were no frills, extras or excesses demanded by the centre.
In fact, volunteer labour spent a huge number of hours getting the centre ready for opening and laying the underground watering system (under the guidance of Geoff Miers).
These efforts were exercised on the council property, thus enhancing the value to the council and beautifying the neighbourhood.
Such a contribution, one might think, would be enough to soften the attitude of council who, mainly, seem to be worried by a flood of similar dispensation requests.
Perhaps the council could establish a fund to reward such commitment by community groups and organisations.
Council found money to fix the security of its sprinkler system after a series of flooded cricket games.
Was it $50,000 that was found for a machine to pick up the glass from careless residents?
But when caring, committed volunteer residents seek some consideration, the piggy bank is closed. Shame!
Patricia Kearns
Alice Springs

Council not limp

Sir,- I would like to comment on a statement you made about the “limp council and leadership” in general.  
I am sure you did not intend your judgment to go unnoticed and I have swallowed the bait. 
Alice Springs Town Council is not dysfunctional. 
Can I point out the following big ticket items that I can recall, in a rushed few minutes, without prompting, to support my view?
• We spend more on litter reduction than any council has ever done.
• We bit the bullet and went for Dry Town legislation in an attempt to get the message across that enough is enough.
• We invested in and helped win the Solar City bid, bound to bring fame and fortune to the town.
• We defied the odds and put our weight behind Opal fuel, which will prove to be the singularly most effective strategy ever to enable Aboriginal youth to reach their full potential.
• We called for change in the quality of life for town campers – leading to a process which attracted federal funding of a magnitude never seen before.
• We stood up to the Federal government and joined forces with traditional owners to say NO to a nuclear waste dump in our backyard.
• We fixed a historical problem with the town pool, and got $8m (and still counting) for another one.
• We joined forces with community members in order to get CCTV cameras in the CBD.
• We warned the NTG that the youth curfew issue will not go away unless the problem does and will exhaust all avenues to achieve the outcome we want.
• We saved money by handing back to the NTG functions they are legally mandated to perform, so ratepayers do not wear the cost.
• We showed unprecedented faith in the economic stability of this town by deciding to build a state of the art new civic centre; and finally
• We swapped sides, embarrassed, criticised, wept, shouted, became political, then apolitical, traveled faster than a speeding bullet and leapt tall buildings to be a thorn in the side of a government whose jurisdiction apparently finishes at Berrimah.
Whilst I would have loved to see other initiatives on this list, as would other aldermen who have stood up for issues dear to their heart but could not get them across the line; sometimes do not agree with what we decide to do; always wish we were doing more; and often wish we did things better; I still think the above illustrates that far from being “dysfunctional” this council has stepped up to the plate.  
Alderman Melanie van Haaren
Alice Springs

Weasel words

Sir,– I write regarding Adam Giles’ letter on the nuke dump (May 10).
The logical place to store radio-active waste, despite Mr Giles’ weasel words, is at its source of production.  It is already being stored there now: why not continue to do so?
Let’s try and get a bit of truth in the propaganda.  If Australia is determined to continue to sell uranium to various parts of the world, it will at some point be obliged to take the waste.  The most likely customer for our nuclear waste facility will be the USA. 
We shouldn’t be too naïve about why Halliburton put so much money into financing the Alice Springs-Darwin railway.
If Adam Giles really cares about Lingiari he will stand up for the majority of constituents who don’t want this nuclear waste dump anywhere in the NT. 
But it looks like he is joining his CLP mates in using the nuclear medical argument to support the NT taking the world’s nuclear waste instead of seeing the broader picture and fighting to keep the Territory safe from this poisonous material.
Marlene Hodder
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: It's a mug's game.

Ouch! I write this week’s missive in the foetal position.
Ow! I have had the computer placed on the floor. Oh, my sweet Jesus!
I am typing using a pen held in my teeth.
That is so I won’t scream every time I move. You see every single square centimetre of my body aches like it has never before. I have a bruise on my head, a lump too. Scratches on my torso and an excellent gash on my shin.
My muscles feel as though they belong to a man a whole foot smaller than me and ache from the stretching. Quads, calves, pecs and, yes, even glutes.
No, no I didn’t walk down the Todd Mall at three in the morning. No, I didn’t point and laugh at the cowboy hats worn by blokes at Bojangles. I didn’t get into any trouble whatsoever.
This agony is purely the product of my own hand, my own delusional fantasy.
You see for the most part I think I have a fairly decent and pretty accurate image of myself. I am on the whole aware of the areas in life in which I flourish and those areas in which I falter.
Physical exertion is one such area where Adam tends to fall down. Sometimes literally. Prolonged physical exertion and a large pasty bloke don’t make great bed fellows. It’s nothing personal, just a clash of personalities.
But my mind was made up. Some rogue synapses somewhere in the recesses of my mind fired off an electrical impulse that all men understand. It’s called the “gawonyamug”. That impulse that makes men do things that they are incapable of doing.
In evolutionary terms it is a two-edged sword. On the one hand this electrical firing of the brain is the one that makes men run into the burning building to save the family.
On the other it is the impulse that makes 31 year old, unfit, overweight radio announcers believe they can play a game of Rugby League.
Ah, Rugby League. Not graceful like Aussie Rules, not dignified like Rugby Union, not noble like Cricket, not even popular like Soccer, or precise like Golf.
No, Rugby League is wonderfully and gloriously brutal.
Big blokes running into other big blokes as hard as they can. The rules of Rugby League say that the goal of the game is for a team to place the ball inside the goal line and thereby score a try.
The unofficial rulebook states that the goal of the game is to make the other team ache as much as possible the next day. This last sentence might go some way to explaining the foetal position and the pen in the teeth.  So I am now a member of the mighty, mighty Memo Bulls Rugby League team. A team of men far fitter, stronger and more talented than I.
First game had some issues. We were down several men. During the game our fullback bruised his sternum and our key playmaker did his knee. This meant that I, a man who drives to the mailbox, had to play 80 minutes of football. Let’s be honest, there aren’t many things that I do for 80 minutes at a time, and running, especially running into big fit blokes hasn’t been one of those things for quite sometime.
Did anyone feel a little light headed at about five o’clock on Saturday? My fault. It was me who was sucking the town’s oxygen supply. There’s no more amusing sight than a fat bloke running and giving it the big breath.
At the end of the game we’d been flogged. I wasn’t sure my heart, lungs and muscles would ever be the same again. I was cut, bruised and the team lost. I hadn’t felt this bad since a small case of pneumonia a decade ago.
But as I drag my sorry behind into the sheds, another rogue synapse fires in my bruised head.
“Let’s do this again” it whispers. So next Saturday I’ll be back, ready to run into more big blokes. That’s the great thing about the game. Until then, I might just lay here. Very still. Please don’t touch me. Ouch.

Borrowing from the future. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

A work in the packed Shifting Ground program, running at various venues around Alice since May 4, that integrates place, art, and ideas beautifully is Sue Richter’s “from the New White Settler Series”.
This is still able to be seen at The Desert Park until tomorrow (May 25).
The work (detail above) consists of several delightfully modelled plaster of paris figurines disposed at the foot and in the branches of a bloodwood tree. The tree is on a rise and you look up through its branches to the ranges. Although your eye is drawn primarily to the tiny figures, the whole vast scene is integral to the meaning of the work.
The figures have a slightly old-fashioned air that makes me think of The Borrowers and, reading Richter’s artist statement, this is a pertinent association.
Her concern is with the “inevitable consumption” – that borrowing from the future that we are all increasingly aware of being involved in – of even the “altruistic enthusiasms to know, conserve, protect and belong”.
In this consumption she sees her cultural aspirations  “as not so different from those of previous desert settlers”.
I don’t know if I would have got to quite these thoughts without the statement but there’s certainly a sense of the landscape under assault from her Borrowers, even though some of their activity is at the benign end of the spectrum – bushwalking, artistic expression, “green” commitments.
The plaster of paris will not last and in any case some of the figures will have to be broken to remove them from the tree. Of course, this is part of the point – we Borrowers will not endure, but how much will we take with us?
This is a very accessible work that puts out serious ideas in a pleasurable way.  It would be good to see further incarnations of these little New White Settlers. 

Drive-bys meet dry lives. REVIEW by DARCY DAVIS.

McDee & Dan the Underdog present … two different creative forces at work.
Dan, from American suburbia, the land you might hear gangster rappers extolling down the airways.
It’s all about drive-bys and drug deals (you know the drill).
Dee, raised in the Centre of Australia, vibrating on the broad desert spectrum – with issues of its own.
An unlikely combination for a hip hop album, you might think.
A clash of cultures? But look closely and you’ll find that Alice Springs is a vibrant and unpredictable mish-mash of cultures; not simply black and white, but a point of confluence.
Listening to their brand new CD “Dan N Dee”, no culture clash is apparent, just parallel opinions on the same subject.
It is refreshing to get two perspectives on a topic in a particular song, especially when the experiences and stories of both people are so different. If one view is more familiar to you, you’ll make more sense of the other.
The CD was recorded while the two, Dan McAleer (at right in the photo) and Ashlie (Dee) McDonell, were running hip-hop workshops out in several communities.
“We were recording eight hours a day and we really got inspired to record ourselves,” says Dee, “so when we’d finish at eight at night, we would sit down and write and create songs while we were still running on the energy we had put into the kids who were recording that day”.
Due to a lack of professional facilities, the two had to make do with what they had around them.
“All we had to record in was a tin shed!” exclaims Dee.
“So we spotted some of those blue, foam puzzle squares that you find in gyms and kindergartens and put them together with a projector screen to hold up the frame and guitar strings to tie it all together.”
The boys have clearly made use of what they had on offer, bringing in Sammy Butcher (Warumpi Band) to provide some of the bass lines, along with Jay Jay from Papunya singing with his three sisters on one of the tracks, and Leslie Pearce playing keyboard on another.
The last time we heard from McDee was when he released his first album, “B4 Tha Beginning”.
“The last album was a bit of an experiment” he says.
“We only sold about 100 copies, but this one we knew what we wanted to achieve, and didn’t stop until we were entirely happy with it.”
The tracks are polished and professional and are each as varied in style as the cultures that collaborated for this project.
“Some of them will make you wanna throw your hands in the air and jump, others are good just to sit down and chill to,” says Dee.
Dan and Dee will be joining forces with Jacinta Castle, Task, Mackie and brother Panda B on the night of their record release party. There has been a lot of effort to promote the album launch, with the boys giving out flyers and putting up posters all over the place.
The boys genuinely believe in this album and want people to hear it, and they have good reason to. I have put the tunes into my music library and the CD will be on steady rotation, not just because they are local.
So get down to the Todd Tavern on this Saturday, May 26. CDs are $30 and will be available on the night – these guys don’t just run on encouragement and kind words, they need the fuel at the bottom of your pocket.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.