May 31, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Fran’s blank on camps. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Tangentyere Council did not grant Mayor Fran Kilgariff’s request to personally meet with them on D-day, May 15, to present council’s position on Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough’s normalisation proposals.
But the Mayor was not available to answer questions, such as how insistent was she to be involved with the town’s biggest issue; how was her approach rejected and by whom; did she threaten to tear up the Memorandum of Understanding with Tangentyere?
There are 18 independent housing associations holding the town camp leases.
Did she approach each or any of them? If so, with what results?
Ms Kilgariff did not return our calls.
Likewise Tangentyere Council did not respond to a request for comment on why it had rebuffed the mayor.
Tangentyere’s rejection of Mr Brough’s offer had overtaken resolutions before Monday night’s Town Council meeting, which were to urge Tangentyere and individual camp leaders to accept it.
“Council considers that this funding should not be used as a political football and that the long term well being of Aboriginal people and the future of the Alice Springs community be placed over and above party politics,” said the resolution.
Alderman Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke told council that the “terrible situation” of the camps represents a “health risk and hazard to the whole community of Alice Springs”.
It was council’s duty to look after “safety and health” in the community, she said.
“Are we going to wait for things to get worse and worse?” asked Ald Baptiste-Rooke.
Deputy Mayor Robyn Lambley questioned the future of the Town Council’s relationship with Tangentyere.
“We have put so much time and energy into it”, she said, citing the MOU between the two and more recently council’s participation in the Town Camps Taskforce Implementation Committee.
“I don’t think any of us want to put more time and energy into it when it hasn’t been used to the benefit we had hoped,” said Ald Lambley.
Ald Meredith Campbell didn’t agree: “Operationally there are all sorts of ways Tangentyere employees work with our employees,” she said, mentioning the ranger operations and collaboration with Day Patrol.
She said the town camps “constituency” was “outside the purview of this council”.
“Tangentyere regard the Alice Springs Town Council as a non-player.”
Ald Campbell urged aldermen to look at the big picture of Tangentyere’s issues with Mr Brough: “It meant they were giving up their land – real rights”, she said, and council should “accept the bigger political picture”.
“I don’t buy the political argument,” said Ald Murray Stewart, describing Tangentyere’s decsion as a “preservation of empire at the expense of the some of the most vulnerable people in our community”.
“They haven’t rejected the $60m,” he said, “it wasn’t going to them, it was going to the people through the Northern Territory Government.”
Ald David Koch also rejected Ald Campbell’s suggestion of land rights being taken away: “They are not, they still have their land, they are leasing it to a body that can fix the housing.”
He said after “30 to 40 years of Tangentyere” town campers lived in “worse than third world conditions” and decried the fact that the Town Council has to get permission to go on to town camps to assist people in such conditions.
Ald Samih Habib hoped the Town Council would continue to fight “to get our way”, although he said council did not have the power or resources to do more than that.
Ald Melanie van Haaren said it would be timely for the Town Council “to flag to the Northern Territory Government that we want leadership shown on this issue”.
She said the next four weeks (a new window of opportunity granted by Mr Brough to negotiate for an unknown amount of assistance) are “really critical” and council must ask the NT Government to put in “as much time as they need to” – “even if we have to outline for them the implications for this town if the camps are not normalsied”.
Ald Jane Clark closed the debate, expressing doubt over whether the Territory Government would do a better job of managing housing, citing the “many [public] houses in a state of shocking repair and lack of action” with respect to them.
Aldermen will be discussing their future relationship with Tangentyere Council further during next month’s forum.
Another issue that won’t go away was brought to public question time by members of the Northside Action Group (NAG).
They succeeded in rattling Ms Kilgariff by asking what would be the process for bringing on a “no confidence” motion in relation to her leadership on the issue.
Council CEO Rex Mooney said disagreement with a council decision would not provide grounds for bringing on such a motion.
NAG members were also seeking guarantees that council would not support future donga sites in either the suburbs or rural areas of Alice Springs.
Ms Kilgariff said council supported the establishment of short-term accommodation facilities but had not yet discussed its position with regard to future sites now that the Dalgety Road site had fallen over.
NAG wanted to be assured that Northside residents would be consulted if a site were to be proposed again in their neighbourhood.
Ms Kilgariff said it was not council business, referring them to the Development Consent Authority. 

Statehood: Do we have your full attention? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

OK. Concentrate, please. This is important.
The Territory is a territory and not a state.
This is no good: we need statehood.
Got it? No?? OK, let’s try that again ...
Go to the website, and be instantly gripped by its thrilling prose: “The Statehood Steering Committee, since its members first met in April 2005, has developed and commenced an extensive education ... WAKE UP ... to develop a draft Constitution in consultation with Territorians and facilitate a constitutional convention to finalise that Constitution; and the third aspect which should occur concurrently with the first and second is the Northern Territory Government taking the lead in discussions with the Commonwealth Government concerning the future terms and conditions of Northern Territory Statehood.”
That didn’t work either.
Don’t know why.
The next option of getting a handle on statehood is having a bite to eat with the steering committee members.
Regrettably, as most are Darwin based, this not a frequent opportunity, but when it arises, it’s very pleasant.
They were in Alice last week and will be back for the Show.
The chairwoman (I should be saying chair but I won’t) is former ABC reporter and current Member for Arnhem, Babara McCarthy (Labor).
The Aboriginal leader recently crossed the floor in her government’s passing of an urgency Ammendment Act to the approval of the McArthur River mine.
Sue Bradley is the co-chairwoman, a community activist for many years, in the NT since 1970.
The flamboyant Jamie Robertson represents Unions NT.
Yuendumu elder and Central Australian identity Harry Nelson and Central Land Council deputy chairman Maurie Ryan add to the substantial Aboriginal contingent.
Mr Ryan spoke about being on the statehood committee at last Friday’s rally, commemorating the 1967 referendum.
He said he was going to push for a treaty between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, recognising  prior occupation of the country and “past atrocities”, such as children of mixed race like himself being taken away from their families.
Brian Martin is a member, a long time Alice resident before moving to Darwin, recently retired as the Chief Justice of the NT.
Another legal eagle is Kathleen Chong Fong, a lawyer from Darwin and descendant of a Chinese dynasty which came to the Territory more than 100 years ago.
I spoke with Ms McCarthy and Ms Bradley.
NEWS: Statehood – what’s in it for the people of Central Australia?
McCARTHY: Statehood for us is looking at the political equality of all Territorians.
Political equality does have an impact on the social well-being of the community and organisations.
NEWS: If that is equality between us and Australians outside the Territory, then what is it that they’re getting and we are not?
McCARTHY: Decisions made by Members of the Legislative Assembly can quite easily be overturned the Commonwealth.
NEWS: But it only happened once.
BRADLEY: The Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was overturned.
(That, of course, isn’t a matter affecting us on a daily basis: former NT Chief Minister Marshall Perron, traumatised by his father’s suffering, succeeded in getting an Act passed in the Territory permitting voluntary euthanasia.
The Federal Parliament, after a campaign by Kevin Andrews, the current Minister for Immigration, disallowed the Act.
That was in 1997.)
BRADLEY: I think it does lead to a sense that you’re still growing up, with Big Brother able to overturn your decisions.
More importantly, the Territory still has no constitutional rights to be represented in the Federation at all.
That’s something a lot of people do not understand.
NEWS: What does it mean in practical terms?
BRADLEY: It means that we have no constitutional rights to have House of Representative nor Senate representation in the Federal Parliament. We are granted two reps in each house by courtesy of the Commonwealth Parliament. There is potential that we could lose that. The states are guaranteed representation. All the states have 12 senators. We have two. That gives us a very marginal political voice.
NEWS: Would we ever get 12 senators with a population of 200,000?
BRADLEY: I don’t believe the Commonwealth at the moment would be very happy to allow 12 senators.
NEWS: How many would they allow?
BRADLEY: We don’t know that. The Statehood Committee is putting out a discussion paper next year. [Maybe] we could have staged added senators in the future. We would then have some guaranteed equality.
NEWS: We’re now getting five times as much money from Canberra, by head of population, when compared with the states. So we’re not doing too badly.
BRADLEY: That won’t change under statehood, because it’s worked on a needs formula used by the Grants Commission. While the Commonwealth has to treat the states equally, it could treat us as a Territory in a privileged way. It is not doing that. Since 1988 we’ve been funded exactly as the states.
NEWS: Having Big Brother watching over us may be an unsettling thought, but it could also be a comfort. Our young governments are customarily not particularly smart, and having someone with a lot experience watching over us may guarantee our rights to proper administration.
BRADLEY: We have no rights under the constitution. In fact it’s a Big Brother two times removed. You don’t have an input with just two Senators and two in the House of Reps.
NEWS: Are there occasions when Big Brother ought to have intervened? What comes to mind is, for example, that Territory governments of either persuasion routinely spend only a fraction of what Canberra allocates for families on that purpose, and the rest on, I guess, things like a wave pool in Darwin.
BRADLEY: We’re talking about constitutional reforms. So I won’t buy into that one.
McCARTHY: Let me turn the question around, if we had [states-like representation] what impact would we have had on ATSIC, on CDEP and its abolishment, on the marine rangers and the coastline immigration debate. How do we take part in the greater picture of this country?
NEWS: There was a notion 30 years ago, under Gough Whitlam and Al Grassby, to abolish states, have a Federal Government and councils of regional development.
This still resonates well in Central Australia which feels as neglected by Darwin as it used to feel by Canberra, prior to self-government.
Is the work of your group not flawed by being prevented from seeking the public’s view on the abolition of states?
BRADLEY: Our terms of reference are to advise the Parliament on the best steps towards statehood. Abolition of states is not part of our terms of reference. It certainly is a debate still around in Australia about whether the states are still relevant. We hear about it quite regularly. If there is to be a change in the structure of the Federation, we believe the NT should be sitting down as equal partners in that debate. To be an equal partner we would need to be a state. At the moment we don’t have a voice at all in that.
NEWS: What do people in Alice Springs say to you about that?
McCARTHY: Naturally the Berrimah Line always comes up, but we’ve gone beyond that. The comments we get now are, let’s have a look at our voting system, do we have one that does reflect where we want to be in the future? How can we shape the way to better representation of Central Australia?
NEWS: How can we?
McCARTHY: It’s not a question of right or wrong. It’s about how are we going to walk together in this. We have the fastest growing population in our remote regions here. Is it the case of us starting to grow up?
NEWS: Our perennial question seems to be, how can we get equality with Darwin? Are you formulating some answers to that?
BRADLEY: In the last Territory election 38% of the primary vote was for the CLP and they are represented in Parliament with 16% of the seats. The questions is, are there different electoral systems that better reflect the will of the people.
Some of these systems are in our discussion paper. Tasmania has Hare-Clark, the United States has first past the post, we’ve got preferential voting systems.
NEWS: So Alice Springs should make a big noise?
BRADLEY: They should look at the systems and see if there is a fairer way their votes can be counted.
McCARTHY: This issue has grabbed the interest of many people in Alice Springs and we’ve encouraged them to do their own research and bring it back to the committee.
NEWS: But a fairer electoral system could happen right now, without statehood, couldn’t it?
NEWS: What would bring about statehood?
Ms Bradley says a new referendum would have to have a vote much better than a slim majority for the Federal Government to grant us statehood, “a 70% to 80% vote”. In 1998 the vote was just 51.3% against statehood, with most Aborigines voting against it.
McCARTHY: People didn’t feel included by the process. They didn’t think they were in a position to make an informed decision.
NEWS: Not much has changed, as the camps situation has shown.
We spoke to camp leaders who were very vague on detail.
For example, they thought they had to give subleases over their entire leases, not just the parts where housing is.
McCARTHY: There has to be political maturity by all people in the NT.
BRADLEY: Some people are ashamed they don’t know enough about statehood to know what questions to ask us.
NEWS: Count me in. The statehood question just doesn’t seem to affect us. Do you feel the steering committee is out of sight and out of mind sometimes?
BRADLEY: Sometimes you feel very frustrated. It is a question of time. We are an advisory committee appointed by the Parliament. We are not an elected constitutional convention.
NEWS: If the referendum were tomorrow, how would the votes go?
BRADLEY: I believe it would be an almost universal “no”. Nobody in the Territory knows what terms and conditions the Commonwealth would impose on us as a new state.
Meanwhile the House of Representatives Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee this week released its report on the federal implications of statehood for the NT.
Chairman Peter Slipper said that the establishment of the first new state in the constitutional history of Australia is no simple matter.
“Issues include the future treatment of Aboriginal land rights, representation and legislative arrangements, mining and uranium resource issues and national parks and marine protected areas.” 
The report’s only recommendation is “that the federal government update and refine its position on Northern Territory statehood and re-commence work on unresolved federal issues”.
Labor Senator Trish Crossin says Territory MHR Dave Tollner failed to stand up for the NT, doing no more than to recommend his government “refine” its position.
“That is an appalling piece of representation.
“If that is the best Dave Tollner can do for Territorians he may as well pack up and go back to selling super.”
In response, Mr Tollner decries Ms Crossin for being prepared to accept less than a full complement of senators for the Territory.
He says that the Territory, in becoming a state, must have the same rights and responsibilities as other states, including having no fewer than 12 senators and a minimum of five MHRs.
He takes credit for having initiated the federal inquiry into statehood for the Territory.
He says the biggest stumbling block is Aboriginal people’s fears over who would administer the Land Rights Act, at present federal legislation governing “half the land mass of the Territory”.
He says it is up to the Territory Government to allay Aboriginal people’s concerns. 

Rally supports Tangentyere. By KIERAN FINNANE.

If there are any town camp residents who disagree with Tangentyere Council’s rejection of Mal Brough’s $60m, they did not make their voices heard at last Friday’s rally commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum.
There was one song sheet at the rally, lead by native title holders and the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of Alice Springs, and that was total support of Tangentyere Council.
“We are here to support Tangentyere,” said MC Rosalie Kunoth-Monks at the outset. “The structure of Tangentyere is very important to the people of this town.”
She said the Federal Government must “stop holding Aboriginal people to ransom”, describing the “current practice of withholding funds” as “unethical and immoral”, “seeking submission and compliance”.
This was a human rights issue, she said, and petitions would be sent to the Human Rights Commission, and Amnesty International should be alerted to ‘the pressure we have been put under”.
Tangentyere’s Walter Shaw, son of president Geoffrey Shaw, said the “only way” Tangentyere would take the $60m “is if we have control”.
At the same time, Mr Shaw said: “We want to be the same as any other person living in Alice Springs, in the municipality of Alice Springs.”
A number of housing association presidents and town camp residents also addressed the rally.
Mervyn Rubuntja (pictured) from Larapinta Valley camp, whose father, the late W. Rubuntja, was a key person in the campaign to acquire the special purpose leases for the camps, said “We can still fight like our old fellas, we can still fight the government till the end”.
Vanessa Davis, president of Trucking Yards camp, remembered the early struggle: “When we fought for the town camps, there were no millions of dollars, only a vision to live in the camps in proper housing.”
She accused Mr Brough of “trying to buy our soul, like a devil”.
Barbara Shaw, a resident of Mt Nancy camp, and a daughter of Geoffrey Shaw, pleased the crowd when she said,  “We are as normal as we are going to get!”
She also appeared to dismiss concerns over conditions in the camps, saying, “I live in a comfortable house with our family.
“Our people have roofs over their heads.
“We can go without food for days but we are not starving.”
Mrs Kunoth-Monks hailed Ms Shaw’s fiery speech: “Our future leaders, we do breed them strong, with quality.”
Long time Aboriginal activist Vince Forrester reminded the crowd that federal elections are coming up and urged Tangentyere and other Aboriginal organisations and communities not to sign “one piece of paper”.
He summarised Mr Brough’s proposal: “You give us your land for free, we’ll sell it back to you for a cost.”
He said Aboriginal people are “the victims of dispossession, of racism” and suggested they should go on “a  tax strike”.
Mrs Kunoth-Monks said, “I agree with my brother, Vincent. Mal Brough, take this, no deal” and raised crossed arms in a gesture of defiance.
Congress director Stephanie Bell, putting differences between Congress and Tangentyere aside, said, “Tangentyere is right to stand up and say no deal.”
Faith White, now a town resident but who grew up at Little Sisters camp from the age of seven, remembered Tangentyere with gratitude. “There was no housing then, people like Bob Durnan and Harold Furber from Tangentyere gave us tents.”
But she also took the opportunity to urge town campers from elsewhere, like her family, to “respect Arrernte people” and urged parents to “make sure your kids go to school”.
While her solidarity with Tangentyere is not in doubt, Ms White was the only speaker at the rally to emphasise the things that people can do themselves for a better life.
After the rally she spoke to the Alice News about people taking responsibility for themselves:
“I think that’s what missing. With our elders they didn’t have any education, they couldn’t read and write. With Mum and Dad I taught them to read and write.
“But they knew things. They taught us how to look after ourselves, how to look after our home, even though we had nothing. We’d be raking up dirt just to keep things clean.
“People nowadays have had more education but I think it’s probably the alcohol.
“I think the elders should take control of their families, get them to respect themselves and respect other people.
“That’s what we were taught when we were kids.”
Has she found that the town has given her opportunities? Has it been a struggle?
Said Ms White: “It’s only a struggle if you want it to be. If you want to achieve something ... everyone can control their own destiny, I think.
“I don’t blame anyone for how I grew up. I’ve gone on, I’ve gone to school.
“I only finished year 11 but we were lucky, we had people here at the time, they used to go to schools and talk to all the kids and they’d put us into jobs.
“Like two days out of school we were working, Rachel [Ellis, her friend] and I.”
And young people growing up now – are they still getting that kind of support?
“If they want it, I think. There’s a lot of support for Aboriginal people now, I think they’ve probably got to stand on their own two feet.”
Ms White is studying for a bachelor degree in Social Work.
“It’s hard,” she said. “So I think while the kids are at home with the support of their family they should try and get a good education.”
The Alice News put to Walter Shaw that there had been a lot of discussion at the rally about rights but not about people taking responsibility for their own lives? What was the potential for that?
Said Mr Shaw: “We’ve always taken responsibility for our people. We always talk about the inadequate funding and about Aboriginal people having a voice within Australia and the bureaucrats in Canberra and other governments not listening to what we have to say.”
What about the potential for Aboriginal peopel to undertake enterprise and develop an economic base so that they don’t have to ask governments for money?
Mr Shaw: “The potential is there. One thing about Aboriginal people we have always been socially and economically disadvantaged within Australia, nation-wide.
“Economic development is happening within small pockets of the Aboriginal community. For it to be delivered on a holistic scale it needs to be developed and envisioned by the government and the government needs to listen to our terms and agreement.”
Would he see a role for himself, as a well educated and articulate person, to lead in that direction, not focussed on what the government can do but on what people themselves can do?
“I’m always interested in what people can do for their own community. But the government [shouldn’t] coerce people to make that step forward.”
People in public housing around Australia don’t have control over those assets. Why should people in town camps be different?
Mr Shaw: “It’s acquired land under a special purpose lease for Aboriginal communal living.
“There are housing models around Australia that have an entity that controls what happens with their living area. That’s what we want, we want some sort of control.
“There’s a housing model in Brisbane that has a board of management and they have some sort of control in how the houses are run and who is allocated the houses.
“The ironic thing about it is that it’s a non-Aboriginal model, white people run it, not Aboriginal people.
“For the government to reject that, to throw it back into the bin is totally absurd.”
With a model like that Tangentyere would have been prepared to go down the path of sub-leasing?
Mr Shaw: “There are a lot of legal implications in moving that way but once all of that was nutted out we may have headed down some sort of model that is similar to the one in Brisbane.”
Mr Shaw also stressed that the only acceptable model would be one in which
Tangentyere and the housing associations were equal partners with government.
Mrs Kunoth-Monks told the News Aboriginal people are beginning to take more control of their own lives.
“I think the Aboriginal people have been the most compliant people. I’m not one of them, for being compliant.
“I believe if governments of the day or individual ministers, such as Mal Brough at the moment, take the time to have dialogue and it’s a two way dialogue, then we might begin to understand what it is Indigenous people are not saying but are wanting.
“By that I mean, I’ve sat around tables, I’ve listened to people, I’ve also sat with Aboriginal people and they take a long time to think through, to inwardly digest the message that is coming.
“This is not afforded in a foreign board room, our people are used to sitting in the dirt for discussing issues of importance.”
She held up the Shaw family as a model, people with “access to schools, access to outside knowledge and [who] are able to have that pride and dignity”.
“A lot of our people haven’t got that yet.
“My daughter has got her two children at school every day of the week and she realises that is her responsibility if our children are going to be citizens of the world tomorrow.”
She said bringing the town camps into the Alice Springs community “is going to take a bit of doing” and that Tangentyere is the right structure to work with on that.
The News put to her that a lot of people, seeing the worst aspects of town camp living, would not agree.
“I am convinced otherwise,” said Mrs Kunoth-Monks.
“The whole thing is when an organisation or a structure is drip fed by a pittance from an affluent country, it’s wrong.
“They have not been empowered or enabled to carry out their duties under whatever charter they have.
“And this is not only in Tangentyere. I know out at Utopia, we’ve lived on absolutely minimum funds.
“This is the first year since I’ve been home on Utopia that any amount of money has come in to enable us to go on with our plans.
“We wanted the art centre to be built, we’ve just finished that off under the shared responsibility agreement, and that’s going to work, it really is, but you must have the funds to do it.
“I also have a study centre from Batchelor out there but there’s no accommodation for lecturers to enable people to access some of the education that could be given. It’s always halfway, it’s always so small it’s a pittance.”

Alice housing market slows, units nosedive. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The real estate market in Alice has had a slow start to the year.
House sales dropped by 25.6% and unit sales by 31.1% in the first three months.
The Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory (REINT)describes the decreases as “significant” and “stunning”, respectively.
This language is in contrast to recent comments by David Forrest, the Alice REINT representative, that turnover has been lower this year but not dramatically so (see Alice News, May 3).
While houses sales over the 12 months were up slightly, by 2.1%, the unit sales slump has been prolonged: sales dropped by 33.3% over the last 12 months. 
In the Alice News of May 3 Mr Forrest suggested, on the basis of unit price increases, that, as in the rest of Australia, units in Alice “are a popular choice for people who don’t want to spend their weekends gardening”.
The REINT quarterly statistics show the median price for units at $230,000 increasing by 8.2% over the quarter, and 16.8% over the last 12 months.
The median price for houses at $297,500 was up 5.9% for the quarter and 5.5% over the year. 
The slump in sales in Alice is in line with an overall “major slowdown” in the Northern Territory.
The drop in house sales was worse in Palmerston, Darwin Rural and Tennant Creek; not nearly as bad in Katherine (down 8.3%); while Darwin was doing a little better, with an overall drop of 19.5%.
Sales in the Northern Suburbs of Darwin were down by 16.7%.
Only inner Darwin was up, by 4.7%. This area experienced a massive increase of 104.5% over the 12 months, but stock is now “very scarce”.
There were no vacant land sales in the quarter in Alice Springs, and only 18 in the last 12 months.
Meanwhile, rents are going up. The median price for two bedrooms is $270, up 8% in the quarter, 0.9% over 12 months; for three bedrooms it’s $330, up 3.1% in the quarter and 13.8% over 12 months; for four bedrooms it’s $405, up 2.5% in the quarter and 2.5% over the year.
Rents in Darwin and Palmerston increased by considerably more than these figures. 

Security guards: Touchy feely or big and burly. By FIONA CROFT.

It’s a cold Friday evening at Northside shopping centre.  A middle-aged white woman in tired tracky dacks and moccasins makes a quick dash into the supermarket for milk.  Teenagers run by laughing and the Cellarbration bottle shop is doing a steady trade.
A Chubb security guard asks an old Aboriginal woman if she is waiting for anyone. She says she is waiting for friends in the shop.
His uniform has an armed forces look, with epaulettes on the shoulders, and he carries a solid torch. 
Supermarket manager Dion Stower says that the security guard presence has improved business:  “There’s no problems in the shop and they’re employed to stop humbugging outside and at the entry. 
“People weren’t coming in, they just didn’t feel safe.”
A security supervisor and the police arrive for a progress report. They check in with the bottle shop proprietor and the security guard, then drive off with dogs in pursuit. 
The security guard directs someone to the phone box in the carpark to contact Tangentyere Night Patrol for a ride home. 
Says Dion: “Personally I think [the violence] was worse 10 years ago.  There’s just more media coverage [now].” 
He says there have been problems near the phone box “with bottles smashed on people’s heads”.
An older Aboriginal man, swaying and counting his change, asks a young Aboriginal girl for money.  She resists at first, but eventually gives in and hands over some money. 
It’s 8.30pm the same night at the Yeperenye Shopping Centre and a Peppered Black security guard (we’ll call him Barry) thinks after four weeks on the job he’s near seen it all.
He’s done his training in defensive techniques including basic arm locks and arm holds. The First Aid training is essential for Barry’s shifts at the Alice Springs Hospital, including in the mental health ward.
 “I was sitting in the office in Emergency and I turn around and this guy’s standing there in a huge pool of blood.
“We use gloves and goggles when we have to restrain people in Emergency.” 
Barry says security work is easier and pays better than working as a packer in a butcher shop or for CDEP. 
Des Rogers runs Peppered Black Security which so far employs 13 “security ambassadors”. 
“Commonsense has the potential to pacify a situation before it gets out of hand,” says Des.  
Primarily set up for Indigenous employment, Peppered Black is multicultural, with 10 indigenous staff.
“We are applying a business model to a social issue,” says Des.
 The staff wear a fashionable all black uniform, with the Peppered Black logo emblazoned on their shirts.
“We spend 70 percent of our time mentoring our staff, it’s important to be professional, visible and effective,” says Des, who formerly ran the fruit and veg wholesale business, Red Centre Produce.  He was also formerly an alderman and the regional chair of ATSIC.
Socialising teenagers are moved on after a while in the shopping centre. 
Says Barry: “With intoxicated people we move them out of the store and onto the street away from the entry to the centre.  Sometimes they are carrying knives and you have to break up fights.” 
Barry feels confident in his abilities and isn’t fazed by his daily encounters with violence.
A middle-aged white man alerts Barry to an Aboriginal woman collapsed on the floor around the corner. Barry assesses the situation.  The woman says her husband had hit her and now she is worried about her foot.  The bandage from a recent hospital visit has been removed. 
“You should be home resting it,” says Barry, kindly checking to see if he can make her more comfortable before ringing the ambulance.  A half an hour wait is expected. 
An off duty security guard (we’ll call him Peter) comes over to see if he can assist.  He  saw another woman hit by her husband with “her broken arm just hanging”.
Peter’s been licensed as a security guard for eight months and prefers this work to the “constant confrontation” of being a bouncer in Darwin. 
He has worked in the past for Tangentyere Night Patrol and enjoys security work more than another previous job as a sheet metal worker. 
At 9.20pm the woman with the leg injury is sick of waiting for the ambulance so she just gets up and limps off. 
It is 11.30am on Tuesday at the Alice Springs Hospital.  There are patients in hospital gowns quietly sitting on the front lawns with their visitors, enjoying the sun.
Natasha Craigie-Braun is one of Peppered Black’s “security ambassadors”.
She says she has found her dream job. 
A self-confessed girly girl, her red lipstick and nails set off her uniform.
She never thought she would end up in security. She has worked as a perfume consultant, at Congress, at KFC, McDonalds, and Northside checkout.  It’s a good work ethic that she wants to pass on to her children, by example. 
“I think it [Peppered Black] is the best thing that has happened for Alice Springs,” says Natasha. 
“It’s the first time I’ve felt really proud of the work that I do”.
She says a new woman is finishing her security training. 
“It’s empowering, you get treated differently.”
Natasha has seen a lot in a short time working at the hospital.
One night she was charged by a mental health patient with a log – the police arrived within 10 minutes of her calling them.
She’s met people dying of cancer, seen the sadness that surrounds mental health, and welfare removing a baby from a mother’s arms. 
But Natasha takes all this in her stride. She was nervous at first but says she can always talk to Des if she needs to.
She says being a local helps: “A lot of the country men know me.”
 Des says Natasha is “sending out a strong message that this is a new genre.”
“We’re not about being tough, our approach is talking politely,” says Natasha.
A woman is often needed in the hospital:  “Female for female is culturally appropriate too.”
Des says Aboriginal staff out in mainstream employment will “maybe change the public’s perception and break down barriers”. 
At 8am on Monday Chubb security guard Tony Brown is policing the carpark and students arriving for class at CDU and Centralian Senior Secondary College.
Students are rushing to get to class on time and cars are circling with people trying to find a park.
There is a marked difference in ages between the two schools.
Sometimes kids can get out of hand. It can happen “without warning” says Tony, who thinks that hormones play a big part.  There are fights over a girl, or sometimes it’s just because the students are tired and crabby.
CDU Facilities Manager Hans Schaeffer says there haven’t been any physical safety  issues over the last couple of years due to the uniformed guard presence.
Tony also works at Northside where he says one of the guards had beer cans thrown at his personal car outside of work hours. 
“The town’s not like it used to be.  I don’t reckon Clare Martin has an interest for this place anymore.
“You don’t ring the police anymore. When you ring 000, 80 percent of the time they don’t answer. 
“They’re too busy, too short staffed or attending to something else.
“I handle problems the best way I can now.” 
His duties also take him to football matches and on break and enter prevention at units in Bloomfield Street which have 24 hour security.
Why are the units targeted?
“Aboriginal people want to find somewhere warm,”  Tony says.
“I get on well with the Aboriginal people. Eastside, they’re good there, and Flynn Drive is a little better than Northside. 
“You read people’s minds, you don’t manhandle, you don’t hit anyone.”
Another Tony, Tony O’Brien, runs his own company and Chubb.  He also trains security guard inductees. 
“We have a core team that stays and 60 percent last three to four months and 20 percent last a year.”
An ex-policeman, he’s been in the security business for 14 years. He’s seen it all: “Guys with axes, star pickets and eyeballs hanging out.” 
He says being visible helps prevent crime and the recent increase (return to establishment) in police numbers has made a difference.
“Our need to attend to crime and misdemeanours is less and kids are not running amok.” 
Presence is what it is all about: “Get the horses out in the mall.” 
He says that if the new police recruits knew what life here was really like they wouldn’t come to the Territory. 
“They think it’s all CSI and don’t want to get their hands dirty.
“The Territory has a different clientele and they need to be heavily involved in social welfare.” 
His security firm has a different role from the police, but Tony feels that the staff are more involved in conflict than they should be. He says he would prefer his staff to be working in pairs.
“We have a good balance in our security guards of touchy feely and big and burly.
“We do have women guards, but we are careful where we put them – anti-social and petrol sniffers, they don’t care, you can’t reason with them.”
The days of locking up drunks are gone.
“All the communities are good places.  Now [community people] are out of their country, misfits annoying the locals, their relatives. 
“The locals have issues to fix and there is a long haul, this won’t happen over night.” 
He doesn’t agree with the ID card for alcohol purchase: “Once a day purchase where people are penalised for something they haven’t done”.
He feels the Government is out of touch: “Heads of government and the public service need to be here.  Their hands are tied in Darwin.”
Tony O’Brien has worked in cities as well. “Alice is still a beautiful place, we don’t have the different issues of the cities, strongholds of innate racism.”

LETTERS:  Town camper’s taunt ‘we don’t need money’.

Sir,– I write regarding comments on The 7.30 Report (ABC TV, May 23).
During this program, about the Federal Government pulling the pin on town camps funding, Daniel Forrester, president of Larapinta Valley camp stated, “They can cut our funding.
“We Aboriginal people we can live without money. We poor all the time. It doesn’t make any difference to us.”
I for one am happy for this proposal to go ahead.
If my taxes were not being indiscriminately thrown at people who are not working or earning it, I would have more money in my back pocket and I’d be happier.
I would not be harassed in the main street by people who are drunk at all hours of the day or night.
They would have to work like me to get the money to spend on alcohol.
So this would solve the alcohol situation as well.
Richard Kinsel
Alice Springs

Sir,– About a decade ago I visited Peppimenarti community west of Darwin.
At the time it was run by a benevolent dictator called Harold (since deceased). It was a clean, tidy community with a club that sold alcohol between fixed hours each day.
No take-aways were permitted.
Locals could call into the club and have a few drinks each evening and usually leave well before they had consumed sufficient to get into trouble. Occasional trouble-makers were either punished by being banned from the club for a given period or put on light beer.
 Although I was only there for a week, it seemed to me that the practice of allowing a limited daily intake of alcohol was far superior in training people to drink responsibly and sensibly than banning alcohol completely.
 Nowhere in the world where prohibition of alcohol or other drugs has been imposed has it been a deterrent.
This applies even in countries with a death penalty!  
We know from experience that it’s not a deterrent in NT Aboriginal communities (thus the trafficking of grog for sale at community boundaries at greatly inflated prices).
 Wouldn’t it make sense to encourage Aboriginal people to drink responsibly by implementing the Peppimenarti example?
Wouldn’t this be helpful in getting them to stay in their communities with their families, friends and the land from which they say they are inseparable?
Why doesn’t the NT Government try to establish some trials in several communities to see if it’s worth adopting?
Robin Henry
Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Dirty Harry tactics

Sir,– It is with some trepidation that I put finger to keyboard to join battle with the second biggest media mogul in this town after Rupert Murdoch.
But I feel I should reassure your readers that – contrary to your assertion (May 24) - the National Indigenous Times felt in no way “compelled” to support Tangentyere Council’s principled decision to allow the town-campers to maintain some control over their lives.
We just call ‘em as we see ‘em.
We trust that this is in keeping with your publication’s progressive view about freedom of the press – which is lauded above the masthead in every edition of the Alice Springs News. 
Compulsion, it seems to us, has become the province of a bullying Minister Brough.
His contrived linkage of the two entirely unrelated issues of provision of basic services to Australian citizens, and land tenure arrangements, was a disservice to all concerned.
His Dirty Harry negotiating techniques of ultimatums and deadlines also proved to be a spectacular failure.
For the record, NIT believes that Minister Brough should release the $60 million dollars he has earmarked for assistance to the town camps immediately.
It is our understanding that Tangentyere Council remains prepared to have discussions with the minister about the distinctly separate issue of land tenure arrangements.
Graham Ring
National Indigenous Times
Alice Springs

Useless restrictions

Sir,– More bloody restrictions. Now we can’t buy long necks at all or even Stones Green Ginger Wine before 6pm.
Can’t the bloody idiots see that these restrictions make no difference at all?
Despite their “statistics” even mouthwash is off the shelves.
Taken to the extreme I guess if cornflakes were taken in conjunction with mouthwash they would be banned also.
I know of one older man in town who, because of health problems, is allowed a glass of wine a day.
All he can afford is caskwine that he (and the rest of us) used to be able to buy for about $16 a four litre cask. Now he pays about $14 for a two litre cask.
And he doesn’t have a car, so he makes his way to the bottle shop after 6pm on foot and hopes he gets home without being bashed or having his two litre cask pinched off him.
I wish there were people in the Territory and local government that had a slight bit of plain old common sense.
John Sheridan
Alice Springs

Better cycling paths

Sir,– It is most gratifying to finally see much needed improvements to some paths in Alice Springs, for example, the overdue completion of the path from Kramer St to Flynn’s Grave linking to Simpsons Gap cycle path.
The path on Larapinta Drive from Milner Road to Van Senden Avenue is also very much improved now, but whoever is in charge of rubbish collection on the Northside, will need to advise residents to place wheelie bins right out to the edge of Larapinta Drive to prevent the very large rubbish trucks from driving on the new work and destroying the path.
These above mentioned two paths are now very suitable for pedestrian activities, wheel chairs, prams, and cycling.
The NT Government and the Town Council are to be congratulated for such upgrading.
There are still many more safety items on paths that need urgent attention, as mentioned in my letter of March 2.
Noel Harris
Alice Springs

Council not bumbling

Sir,– I write in appreciation of Alderman Melanie van Haaren’s well expressed defense of the Alice Springs Town Council. 
The points she raised in a Letter to the Editor last week were valid and true.
In addition to her points, one special concern of mine is the way Mayor Fran Kilgariff seems to continually cop unwarranted criticism. 
Members of the public all too often rattle off a cheap shot during public question time and then scamper for the door. 
If they stayed for the entire meeting, they might see that no other alderman is so fully across the process and procedure that is necessary for a properly conducted council meeting.
She is also an admirably gracious public ambassador for Alice Springs.
Another special concern is the unreasonable expectations placed on the council. 
Without planning authority, which is held by the NT Government’s Development Consent Authority, the council can only be one voice among many on any given development issue.  This has been painfully obvious during our donga debacle.
The town’s policing, or sometimes lack of, is also entirely down to Darwin.
Could the council do more?  Of course it could.  But it is not the bumbling incompetent it is so often made out to be.  We pay the aldermen a pittance, expect them to put in long hours on top of their day job, and then merrily bag the lot of them from pillar to post.
It’s good sport and I do it myself.  But our Territory and especially our Federal pollies make for a much better game.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

New party?

Sir,– It was most interesting to read the article “Real leaders please stand up / New political party made in The Alice?” (Alice News, May 17).
If a new political party does commence in the Alice, it certainly won’t be repeating history as described by the highly inaccurate account about the formation of the Country Liberal Party.
The first attempt at the creation of a political party in Alice Springs was by George Smith and Colonel Lionel Rose, the Member for Alice Springs, in July 1965 – it was called the North Australia Party.
The NAP was intended to fight for the interests of north Queensland and the Kimberley region in WA as well as the NT but failed in its bid to win seats in the NT Legislative Council elections (except for Stuart) in October 1965 – Rose lost his seat to the ALP’s Charlie Orr, the only time that Labor has won a seat in the Alice itself.
The NAP subsequently folded.
However, in 1966 the federal member, Labor’s Jock Nelson, retired from politics; it was this event that Eddie Connellan sought to exploit by creating a base for the Country Party in the NT, affiliated with the NSW Country Party.
Sam Calder was chosen as the Country Party’s candidate for the NT in the federal elections of 1966, which he won.
In 1968 the Country Party took four seats in the Legislative Council elections, one of which was Alice Springs retaken from Labor by Bernie Kilgariff.
The Liberal Party had formed a branch in Darwin at this time but failed to win any seats.
The Country Party disaffiliated from its NSW counterpart in 1971 to become the Northern Territory Country Party.
Also in 1971 Dr Goff Letts was elected as the Country Party member for Victoria River, and became its leader.
In 1973 the Liberal Party attempted to restart its presence in Darwin, and it was Goff Letts who led the negotiations for a merger of the two conservative groups.
This occurred at a meeting in Alice Springs in 1974, formally commencing the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party.
In the first elections for the Legislative Assembly shortly thereafter, the CLP swept into office taking 17 out of 19 seats – it was not to lose office until August 2001.
The CLP was born out of years of frustration with the perceived “remote control” of Canberra’s bureaucratic rule of the NT; however, over time this criticism was in turn directed against the CLP itself as it became firmly entrenched with its power base in Darwin.
Despite this, Alice Springs has consistently returned CLP or conservative independent members to this day.
There is nothing new to the current murmurings of creating a new political party in Alice Springs.
The hint from Advance Alice chairman Steve Brown of a new party, plus running candidates for the next town council elections, is ironic – 10 years ago it was his cousin, Mayor Fran Kilgariff (then an alderman), who was advocating the formation of a new Central Australian party.
This was prompted by widespread anger against the CLP’s high-handedness in seeking to demolish the old gaol in late 1997, despite most locals supporting its preservation – interestingly, a certain politician from Darwin who urged the CLP to listen to its constituents was one Clare Martin.
Dissatisfaction with CLP rule intensified over time, and in 2001 there was a large number of independent candidates seeking to win seats in Alice Springs but only one succeeded – Loraine Braham, who had been dropped by the CLP.
Labor, of course, won office but by winning more seats in Darwin.
In June 2005 Labor retained office with a massive majority but again failed to take any urban Alice seats.
On this occasion Fran Kilgariff ran as a Labor candidate, happy to support a party whose power base is in Darwin.
An immediate upshot was – you guessed it – a proposal for a new Alice Springs party (“It’s time … for a Central Australian political party”, Alice News, June 22, 2005), touted by aldermen Murray Stewart and Melanie van Haaren.
The proposal was short-lived but Alderman Stewart is now a member of Advance Alice, from which the latest suggestion of a new party has apparently emerged.
So what are the prospects of success for a new Central Australian political party?
It’s time to take a cold shower outdoors early on a frosty morning!
There are five electorates in Central Australia based around Alice Springs, of which the two bush seats are firmly entrenched within Labor’s control.
This leaves the possibility of three urban seats that might be taken by candidates of a new party in a best-case scenario. 
That’s three seats out of 25 in the Territory, of which more than half are in Darwin.
While the economy of Central Australia is languishing (or lagging behind), the Top End – especially Darwin – is booming; Labor is unlikely to be losing office any time soon.
What’s more, because of an increasing population imbalance between the south and the north, the Central Australian region will lose an electorate in favour of a new one in the Top End before the next NT elections.
The upshot of all this is that a Central Australian political party will be in no better position to influence the government in Darwin than the CLP is currently able to achieve.
The irony of ironies is that candidates of a new Alice Springs-based political party risk splitting the vote in support of the CLP, providing an opportunity for Labor to make inroads (perhaps even win a seat) in the last bastion that is the CLP’s birthplace.
It was exactly this fear (of splitting the conservative vote) that prompted Dr Goff Letts to commence negotiations for uniting the Country Party with the Liberals in 1973-74.
History may not be repeating itself but it will have gone full circle.
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs
ED -  We didn’t aspire to present a full account of the CLP history in last week’s story but we’re grateful to Mr Nelson for supplying a broader account of it.

Fuel price gouging

Sir,– A recent visit to Perth (noted to be the most isolated city in the world) indicated to me that the price of fuel in the NT and in Alice Springs in particular is an out and out rip off by all concerned from oil companies, distributors, retailers and government.
Diesel is cheaper to produce than unleaded and used to be priced that way until recently.
I recently paid in Perth $1.26 per litre and noticed the unleaded price at $1.35 per litre.  Here we pay $1.45, a difference $0.19 per litre.
A weak government that cowtows to the corporate sector and the spin from both the corporate sector and the government will not allow the truth to be revealed about why we have to put up with the most obvious price gouging.
Why can’t the government stick up for the people that vote for them, instead of pandering to lobby groups intent on pushing their own barrow. 
Robert Jeffries
Alice Springs      

Clean up Alice

Sir,– I have been staying in your delightful city for several days.
Could I bring something to your attention?  What a shame as I arrived by the Ghan [to see on] the approach to outskirts, the amount of rubbish and litter, especially squashed beer cans, beer cans, drink bottles and beer cartons.
There have been these islands of rubbish at some roadside sights during the bus trips I have undertaken.
I know this is a nation-wide problem, but again I say what a shame as your local authorities have done a splendid job of presenting Alice Springs to tourists world wide.
Maybe your community could adopt “Clean up Alice” and let the rest worry about their corner of Australia.
Patricia Johnson
Penshurst, NSW

Question speed limit

Sir,– An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report into road accidents amongst Indigenous Australians highlights that the imposition of the open road speed limit will do very little to reduce the Territory’s road toll.
The report notes that Indigenous Australians die at more than twice the rate of other Australians and that 80 per cent of fatal road accidents involving Indigenous people happen in rural and remote areas.
In other words, the Territory’s high road toll is in large part the result of people driving on unsealed roads and, as a consequence, more dangerous roads.
Slapping a speed limit on the sealed and engineered Stuart Highway does nothing to address the high rate of deaths of drivers on unsealed roads.
An investigation of those Indigenous deaths in rural and remote areas will also show alcohol is a significant factor and that many of the victims weren’t wearing seat belts.
Alcohol, no seat belts and unsealed roads are a very dangerous road safety cocktail.
Imposing an open road speed limit was always an attempt at road safety on the cheap that wasn’t addressing the root causes of road fatalities in the Territory.
The fact the Martin Government has scaled back the number of random breath tests it will conduct next financial year highlights revenue, not results, are driving the Government’s policy.
This year’s budget papers show that the number of drivers to be random breath tested next financial year will be just 60,000.
In 2005/2006 almost 80,000 Territory motorists were asked to blow in the bag. This year the target was 85,000 but only 60,000 breath tests will actually be performed.
The fact that the road toll shows no sign of improvement indicates the Government needs to go back to the drawing board.”
Fay Miller,
Opposition transport spokesperson

Ignorant Mal

Sir,– Comments by the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough, on forcing Indigenous children to learn English showed a profound ignorance of schooling.
The Minister’s remarks, which relied on equating attendance – forced or otherwise – and schooling outcomes, introduced another red herring.
The Minister is adept at using weapons of mass distraction and one of them is blaming Indigenous people for whatever takes his fancy.
I’d like to know what the pedagogical basis is of blackmailing Indigenous parents into sending their kids to school and what he thinks the outcomes will be.
Anyone who wants to venture into comment on Indigenous education had better acknowledge there is a bigger picture than the headline-grabbing statements would have us believe.
They also have to show that they understand how important it is to properly resource education systems, to build schools where they are needed, staff them with appropriately trained teachers – particularly those with special training in literacy and numeracy teaching – and support them with both special student services and improved conditions for teachers.
As it is we’ve had diminished capital funding and an inappropriate staffing formula, which all comes down to reduced funding.
You’re never going to make a dent on the educational outcomes until you get the systemic support right and all the blaming and scapegoating of parents for the system’s failings isn’t going to move us along one iota.
Labor recognises this and is committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous education outcomes by setting realistic goals and resourcing schools and systems to do the job.
Warren Snowdon
Member for Lingiari

Silver bacon!

Sir,– I was just simply overwhelmed with the support from your readership regarding my Arafura Games campaign.  Well, thanks to you all, we bought home the bacon.
In two events, the 800m and 1500m, I claimed silver and in doing so I was easily the fastest vision impaired athlete during the meet. 
I thank my training partners Rob Manning and Andrew Foster and my primary guide runner in Darwin, Richard Bryson. 
I will never forget the foundational training and guide running support of local champion Tim Pearson.
Alice, this is only the beginning.  I promise very soon gold is going to be the predominant colour in future games, for our town is the greatest.
Murray Stewart
Alice Springs

Searching for Bains

Sir,– We have been trying for over five years to track down our relative(s) in Australia.  We know there is at least one second cousin somewhere and have tried many other avenues of searching, all to no avail.
We are seeking children and/or grandchildren of William (Billy) Bain, born 1908 in Glasgow, Scotland, who arrived in an unknown place in Australia around 1922/1923.
William’s father was David Bain, born c.1889 in Glasgow and died in 1917 at Arras, France. 
His mother was Thomasina (Ina) Brown, born c1891 in Glasgow and died March 25, 1922.
William’s siblings were John (Ian), Janet (Jean) and Martha (Matty).  We have further ancestry details for William.
Any information would be gratefully welcomed by close family in Canada, Scotland and England. 
Contact me at 1020 Shewell Court, Kingston Ontario Canada, K7P 2R8  or e-mail:
Andrena (Trena) Heater


It would be fair to say that in the last couple of weeks we have had a fair few topics to discuss around the bars in Alice Springs.
I always find the best place to discuss issues is at a pub. If you are after honest and genuine opinion, the pub’s the place.
Tangentyere Council’s game with the Federal Government of “The Money or The Box” was a big talking point this week.
Plenty of opinion and not a lot of love in the town for all parties concerned.
In fact the Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough has had his name mentioned more times in the pubs and cafés of Alice Springs than in Parliament.  
Mr Brough has done enough to ensure that he keeps the top spot on the pub chat-o-meter this week too, with the announcement that Indigenous kids in remote communities will have to learn English.
As a kid from the city, it’s this sort of announcement that makes me realise just how much I have to learn about life in remote Australia.
Until recently it hadn’t even crossed my mind that there would be kids in Australia that didn’t know how to speak English.
I guess the big sticking point is the Minister’s request that the learning of English be a condition of welfare.
Now I’m not here to convert you to one political opinion or another. But what I would like to mention is that I know a fair few city kids and a fair few adults who might just fail the English test asked for in these remote communities.
Have you noticed that the English language has become more of an optional extra when communicating?
The baby boomers were raised by parents who went through the Depression. This seems to have instilled a certain adherence to the grammatical conventions that make the English language understandable.
Even if you are one of those boomers who loved and smoked their way through the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies, chances are you have a reasonable grasp on how a sentence works. We Generation Xers have a more liberal approach to the language. We abbreviate on occasion and we probably won’t correct you if you write jail instead of gaol. Bloody Americans.
But it’s the Gen-Y that confuses things. Those born in the 1980s and 90s.
You’ll notice their free and easy relationship with English by their moniker. While I am a Generation X they are simply Gen Y.
No apostrophe either.
They are the generation about to assume the mantle and sometimes I wonder if they can spell mantle.
As technology becomes more everyday, communication becomes more instant. It seems as though it might be a bit too instant in some cases. Grammar, spelling, intelligibility all go out the window in the pursuit of the swift reply. 
“I ryt kwik 4 u! lol!”
 What in the name of Queen’s English is that?
And it’s not just written communication.
Have you heard these kids talk? A hybrid of English, American slang and some derivation of Kilngon from what I can gather.
I swear on all that is holy, this is an exact replica of a sentence I have heard out of the mouth of a 20 year old man.
“Yeah, so like I was at this party and there was this full fly bitch.
She’s like a full biscuit and she says, ‘You’re way trashed, you’re so owned’ and y’know any she says like, ‘You wanna spit’, yeah. Sweet.”
Are you kidding? That was English? I really hope that the kids out in the communities get to learn English. It makes life a lot easier. It increases the prospects of employment and it will make their lives longer no doubt.
But if the same test is ever levied on non-Indigenous kids, let’s hope their parents aren’t on welfare. 

Finke: The hardest ever. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Tattersall Finke from June 9 to 11 will be a battle royal, as the track has never been more difficult in the 32 year history of the Desert Race.
And the challenge will be greatest for the record 470 bikes, with the bulldust in some places so deep it is “just going to swallow people, literally,” according to race director, Jol Fleming.
He says, gearing up for his 12th year in the top job: “The new bit south of Deep Well is going to be bulldust heaven, if we don’t get any rain, any moisture in there.
“The cars will go through but the bikes are just going to disappear.
“If someone falls over you’re not going to find them.
“They are going to drown in bulldust.”
The expected 12,000 spectators – half of Alice Springs – will be getting a ringside view: for the first time ever there is an access road paralleling the track all the way to Finke, for officials and spectators.
Damien Ryan, who was a spectator at the first Finke and became involved in its running the year after, says the cars can still be improved, mostly by spending big.
But the bikes have reached what seems the ultimate state of sophistication.
“The 450cc machines are now more powerful than the bigger bikes, because of their better power to weight ratio.
“They are now the weapons of choice,” says Mr Ryan. 
“It’s all about the rider, rider preparation, rider fitness.
“With bikes, if you can find a mechanical edge it’s probably half a percent.
“And it comes down to their pit crews also.
“If you get mucked up by a pit crew when you’re fueling up you could throw away a 20 or 30 second advantage.
“Two years ago first, second and third were 27 seconds apart,” says Mr Ryan.
“Running off the track costs you time.
“You have to have intense concentration all the way.
“It’s tunnel vision you’ve got to have.
“It’s two hours each way.
“Not many sports in the world today demand that sort of concentration.
“There is no way in that two hour period where you can say, I’ll have a rest now.
“It would be incredible to put a heart monitor on these guys.”
Mr Ryan says the preparation for this year by Ryan Branford, last year’s winner, is “excellent”.
“He cleaned up on Ebenezer Four Hour motocross a month ago.
“The same weekend last year’s number two in the Finke, Brad Williscroft, raced in the Darwin Kampfari.
“It’s a mud race, not a great preparation for a desert race, but he’ll be up there this year.
“He’s been in the Finke a few times.
“And last year’s third, Ben Grabham, is looking good as well.”
Michael Vroom is injured and out of the race for the first time in 15 years, but Rick Hall is back again, also a previous winner.
The 31 year history of the race shows winners, and especially, multiple winners, have an advantage, says Mr Ryan: “When you have a breakthrough your confidence is at such a peak, it’s very hard to beat you.”
There’s a changing of the guard: for example, Phil Lovett, who’s raced the Finke 22 times, is not here.
Four times winner Stephen Greenfield, who raced in the Baja 1000 in the USA, is now helping the “kids” to prepare their bikes.
It’s one of the special things of the race: The Finke is the best off road race in the country and its winners are breeding new winners.
Simple as that. You don’t need to go anywhere else.
International greats have come to acccept this as a fact: Steve Hengeveld, six times Baja winner, came to race in Finke last year and ran tenth.
“He’s back this year, a sign of respect for The Finke,” says Mr Ryan.
“It’s a long way to come from California.”
For Mr Ryan the four-wheelers and the two-wheelers are in strictly different events.
There are two Kings of the Desert.
Both get exactly the same prize money.
The debate of a few years ago – will the buggies beat the bikes? – has run its course.
Says Mr Ryan: “If you’re coming back on your bike from Finke in first place, what’s the point of racing a car that’s not in the same race?
“Speed would be the last thing on your mind.
“The thing on my mind would be that the guy who’s behind me stays behind me.
“There is no more incentive for me to win by an hour than to win by a minute.”
The car vs bike debate was useful 20 years ago when the cars were “at very low level, to bring them up.
“That was achieved because the best drivers in Australia come here now,” says Mr Ryan.
In the cars, Shannon and Ian Renz, the Australian Number One, are going for a hat trick.
But they’ll have a few aces on their tail.
Five times winner Mark Burrows (NSW) is back.
Hayden Bentley was third two years ago and second last year. 
“Local Dave Fellows will be in the Peter Kittle vehicle,” says Mr Ryan.
“He won a couple of times. He’ll be highly competitive.
“Local Andrew Pinto, whose dad Tony used to race with Fellows, rolled in the prologue last year.
“He started at the rear of the field.
“When the dust settled on Monday he was 5th outright, the highest placed local.
“He is an unknown quantity! 
“Bikes have probably reached their pinnacle five or six years ago in what you can spend.
“These guys have been on the best for some years.
“But cars are a bit like yacht racing.
“You can just keep putting money into them.” 
Mr Fleming, who raced cars in the Finkes of 1980 and 1982, says there was a lot of experimentation.
Some years the cars started at 8am and the bikes at midday.
Then they swapped.
Says Mr Fleming: “In those days, if you had a Datsun 1200, you’d put two shocks on each corner, two mufflers and a roll cage, and you were racing.
“If you had eight or 10 inches suspension you were doing really well.”
Until Burrows in a buggy won the Finke it was the “big joke that cars could win.
“Then 1600cc buggies were winning, people like Greg Schlein and Gary Nicolle, with Volkswagen gearboxes.”
This was followed by an explosion of off-road racing technology, led by huge Albion gearboxes, made in Australia, hooked up to alloy engines with 500 to 600 horsepower.
“Buggies in the States have 800 horsepower.
“Your house isn’t worth as much as some of these cars.”
Mr Fleming announced having passed his use-by date as a meet director five years ago but is being “resurrected” every year, he says.
Tony Phillips may take over next year, allowing Mr Fleming to escape his three by three meter demountable race headquarters and actually see the race.
He’s worried about the track: “The road got really rough.
“It takes it away from the little guy” as only very expensive cars still have a chance.
“I used to scoot down there in a Holden.
“No more.
“Woops are so big, there’s so much fatigue, especially on bikes.
“It means more helicopters, more people getting hurt.
“Plus there are too many competitors.
“It’s too hard to keep tabs on them.
“Nobody wants to go sweeping any more. Too bloody rough.”
Mr Ryan is full of praise for support from Tattersalls, more than $40,000 this year, in a 10 year sponsorship to extend to next year; for the NT Governments (past and present) via their Major Events organisation; and for Finke president Anthony Yoffa, involved for 10 years, and the committee of seven which has a combined experience of five decades in the Finke.
“Without those three the Finke wouldn’t be where it is now,” says Mr Ryan.
As for himself it’s just a passion: “The Melbourne Cup stops the nation for two minutes.
“The Finke stops Alice Springs for three days.
“The other day we were looking up some sub regs.
“In the first bike Finke you had to carry a front and back tube, two litres of oil, two litres of water.
“There was a Le Mans start of, I think, 52 bikes, the start signal was a shotgun blast.
“There was a guy from an Adelaide bike shop and he got to Finke at seven o’clock in the evening.
“God knows where he went. But he got there.
“Geoff Curtis went down and back in six hours.
“The next year I sponsored Phil Stoker, a stockman from Mt Ebenezer.
“He used to chase horses.
“He took five hours and 30 seconds.
“He chopped 59 and a half minutes from year one to year two.
“The race had already gone from an out and back enduro to an out and out sprint.
“Today you miss a gear shift and you could lose the race.”
Meanwhile a team of seven motorcycle riders will be leaving from Port Moresby to compete in the Finke.
This is the first time in the history of Papuya New Guinea that a team of this size has gone overseas to attend and complete in a motor sports event, says a spokesman.
“We also believe that we will be the biggest overseas team to enter the event in its 32 year history.
“Let me tell you, it’s hard to train for a desert race in and around the Kokoda Track.”

Dialogue with dailiness. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

The night was cool after a damp grey day and the thunder storms the night before.
There was a crowd, in the first beanies and scarfs of the season, huddled on the footpath outside Casa Nostra. We’d come to experience, as part of the packed Shifting Ground program running at various venues since May 4, a  “site-specific performance installation” titled “under today”, and subtitled “the poetic excavation of storied sites” – a work in progress.
Photos of old Alice Springs  – the river in flood, early houses, tiny, box-like – were being projected onto the wall of the restaurant.
A recording of an Italian-accented voice was telling the story of the building – how, back in the ‘seventies, the hard-nosed owner put the rent up once the council had paved the footpath, and agreed to paint the interior but only with black paint.
The speaker, restaurateur Sebastiano (Sam) Giardino, was a natural story-teller, the anecdotes humorous.
The recording ran again, and again. Patience was wearing a little thin but then staff from the restaurant came out with trays of pizza, fresh from the oven and offered them around. And they came again, and again, and most people enjoyed a warming slice.
My expectations of this “poetic excavation” lifted.
This was going to be a work where people of the neighbourhood, artists and audience would experience something together. This would be a work taking art into the places of everyday life, in dialogue with dailiness (many artists have made it their concern).
We were instructed to follow a performer and moved en masse towards the entrance of Goyder Lane, the first laneway of Alice Springs.
There were a couple of other moments of dailiness, so casually realised as to make me wonder whether they were intentionally part of the performance, a blurring of distinction that is interesting to work with: a man with his plastic bags of groceries pushing through the crowd, it felt impatiently; another man on a bicycle, saxophone on his back, getting tangled in the tape that cordoned off the lane, cheerfully untangling himself and riding off.
A little later we could hear music from that saxophone, drifting towards us through the darkness. Again, a lift, the sort I get with the classic establishment shots of a narrative film, the street, the house, the lighted window: we were going to enter, if only for a moment, other peoples’ lives.
From then, however, the “site-specific performance installation” became much more self-conscious. People of the neighbourhood disappeared; the audience and artists separated out and we watched what they were doing.
And that for the most part was stamped with the rather worn language of performance installations: gestures that suggest ceremony; young women in slow dance that often has them moving around on the ground; statements about history and memory that are so general in their scope as to have little meaning; fragmented readings of texts of different orders; more disembodied voices (some of these commentaries and anecdotes were interesting, but they were offered in a slab that deprived them of particularity).
Out of all this there were again a few high points.
Twice we were invited to enter people’s backyards, an intimate space that raised expectation of encounter and revelation, though in neither instance was this expectation realised.
A more developed sequence was one which combined live dance, projection of the same dance in a bush landscape silhouetted against a dawning sky, some historic information regarding early residents Bill and Dawn Prior, and the use of an old wall as the projection surface. The wall had an interesting crack that suggested landscape (a rounded hill) and mirrored the dancer’s rounded back. 
There was a nice connection between the different elements of this sequence though I’m not really sure what it was telling me.
Of a different order altogether came the grand finale, a crowd-pleasing break dance performance by three boys, Selesi Taumalolo, Billy McKenzie and Max Dualah. This had flair and humour and helped end the piece on a high note.
I would have preferred, though, to have had a sense of happening upon this, rather than having it staged, to feel as though this really was a part of the life of Goyder Lane (it may well be, but it didn’t feel like it).
Director Dani Powell has a consistent commitment to working out-of-doors and often in unexpected places, opening our eyes to the qualities of a place that we may take for granted, even devalue. She also takes the risk of presenting work in progress, a risk worthy of respect.
This work, made in collaboration with Canberra-based artist Alexandra Gillespie, is rich in  potential.
It will gain by losing the clutter of “performance-installation” signposts and building, in fresh artistic language, on its engagement with people of the neighbourhood and the matter of their daily lives, past and present.

Are we merely pawns in someone else’s plot? PREVIEW by DARCY DAVIS.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – you might recognize these names as the minor fictional characters from William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet.
But Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead isn’t just another high school Shakespeare production; it’s an absurdist, existentialist, thought provoking and tragically humorous play from the senior drama team at St Philip’s College.
It was written by the Czech-born, Academy Award winning and knighted British playwright, Tom Stoppard. With the exception of a few short scenes in which the dramatic events of both Shakespeare’s and Stoppard’s plays coincide, the play follows what could be a lifetime, or just a couple of hours with the characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, while off-stage in Shakespeare’s play.
“Don’t be absurd!” you might shout at the television as John Howard announces he wants to introduce a grading system for transition students. The word ‘absurd’ is often used to describe something that is stupid or ridiculous, but in the world of drama, it’s quite the opposite.
Theatre of the Absurd is very deliberate; it gives the audience exactly what they didn’t expect to make them question why they expected it. By drawing attention to what isn’t in the picture, we see more clearly what is. Absurdism breaks down the genres and stereotypes we’ve become accustomed to; in many ways, society has become accustomed to custom.
Absurdism is an anti-genre. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is the inverse of Hamlet – the title characters are the leads, not minor players, and Hamlet himself has only a small part.
“Stoppard is really having fun with these characters,” says director Steve Kidd.
“He must’ve thought, ‘Well, what are these characters doing when they’re not actually on the page of Hamlet?’
“Stoppard is clearly fooling around with the idea of how they could be contemplating life and the meaning of the universe.”
In their mindless rambles, which a lot of the play consists of, the two lead characters continually encounter great universal questions, such as: Why are we here?
Why should we do anything unless somebody asks us? Free will versus determinism – is it our choice to perform actions, or are they fated by a greater purpose, are we merely pawns in someone else’s plotline? What is important? What isn’t?
Does anything matter? If we are all going to die, why do we continue to live? Is there impossibility in certainty?
“It’s a bit daunting to be confronted with such heavy themes – you can understand why Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are so bewildered by everything,” says actress Michelle Murphy.
“In fact, you start to understand where Hamlet is coming from with the whole ‘To be or not to be’ spiel, to live or die, to exist or fade into history.”
But the characters depart from their epiphanies as quickly as they come to them, leaving only the audience to still ponder.
“It’ll make you question your role in this universe,” says lead actress Lisa Marie-Ryan, “but you’ll also have fun!”
Despite only having six members in the cast, director Steve Kidd has used this to his advantage and kept it consistent with the absurdist theme; large groups of people are played by only one person, women are men, men are women and people in power don’t follow any image stereotypes.
“When you’re dealing with the absurdist genre, you’re looking from the reverse perspective,” said Steve.
“So in terms of staging and direction, you’ve got to adapt what you have to make that clear for your audience.”
I don’t want to give away too much about the play, but the way the St Philip’s drama crew have adapted the play is unique. For instance, their marketing method is quite absurd; all advertising for the event is sketchy and hand written, there’s been quite an absurdist take on the sound effects, and let’s just say the set designers have had some fun making the performance hall a little more intimate and Elizabethan.
“The reason a play like this survives is because there are so many levels and layers to it,” says Steve.
“The way you interpret it is going to be different to the way I do.”
Yes, the reason I know a lot about the details of this play is because I am a part of the production.
Being assistant director demands a comprehensive grasp on all levels of the performance’s execution.
I would tell you to come and ‘support’ local drama, but ‘support’ doesn’t cut it, the word  implies that you are doing them a favour, but you’ll be doing yourself a favour by going. Take the absurdist mentality for a change: do the opposite of what you are predisposed to, turn your back to the norm to prove that the norm exists.
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is on next week for three nights June 4, 5 and 6 at St Philip’s Minnamurra Hall.
Tickets are on sale through Dymocks – try walking through the door backwards.

ALICE SPRINGS NEWS STORY & POETRY COMPETITION: Double prize shows ‘how good the writer is’.

Jennifer Mills has won both 1st and 2nd prizes in the Alice Springs News Short Story Competition, for her stories, “Reason” and “Crow Season”.
Mills will take home a cheque for $1000 from the Alice Springs News and a $350 voucher from The Lane (which can be spent in increments).
All entries were judged anonymously.
Judge Russell Goldflam said Mills’ stories were “the two clear standouts for me, and I formed that view without having realised that they appear to be from the same hand”.
“On reflection there are evident similarities of tone, style, situation, theme and structure.”
Fellow judge Sue Woolfe said she only suspected it was the same writer “by the voice”.
“However I’m in favour of giving the author both top and second prizes as this shows how our judgment isn’t random. And how good the writer is!”
Mills writes from a shed in Alice Springs and is currently finishing off a novel with the assistance of a mentorship through the NT Writers’ Centre.
She contributed two stories, including the title story, and a poem to last year’s Ptilotus Press anthology, The milk in the sky.
You can read more of her writing on  her website:
Of her winning story, “Reason”, Ms Woolfe says: “I enjoyed the persona and voice of the sophisticated, aware, resigned narrator and the voice.
“The language was original and without a single cliche, and the images arose organically out of the context.
“The writer knows how to give weight to small details.
“The writer displayed knowledge of this region, its people, its issues, its landscape [the competition set a Central Australian theme] and, most importantly, how to tell a story.
“I suspect the writer is deeply familiar with the contemporary short story, and that knowledge is revealed by the excellence of the story’s structure, voice and form, perhaps the ending its only weak point.”
Mr Goldflam on the other hand liked the ending as well as “interesting and effective sudden switches of scene, emphasising parallels, correspondences and tensions”.
But he had misgivings about the story being “a bit oogieboogie” and wanted the narrator’s identity to be more clearly established.
Of the second placed story, “Crow Season” (which some readers will have heard Mills read at the Shifting Ground event at the Desert Park), Ms Woolfe says it was “nicely handled, perhaps a little light but not over-written.
“It’s a well told situation with a nice twist at the end.
“The writer understands how to create and maintain suspense and how to make an image that resonates.”
Mr Goldflam found its opening “intriguing, amusing”, but the storyline  a little “thin”.
“It economically and immediately establishes a strong sense of character and scene. Funny, tight, terse prose, strong images.”
But while it had “a strong sense of the outback in general” he wondered how much connection the story had with Central Australia.
Ms Woolfe on the other hand felt it had connection: “In fact I set it on the Sandover.”
Third prize goes to Ali Cobby Eckermann for her story, “Mamus on the Munda” (Ghosts on the Ground).
An Indigenous writer, Cobby Eckermann says her life has been shaped by her journey to reconnect with her Yankunytjatjara family.
Her writing has been attracting increasing attention: she was a finalist in the 2005 and 2006 NT Literary Awards; in 2006 she won the NSW Writers’ Centre ‘Survival’ competition for Indigenous writers and was selected to participate in the Australian Society of Authors’ national mentorship program.
This year she has been granted two poetry mentorships, through the NT Writers’ Centre and Varuna. 
She currently works as the art centre and gallery coordinator at Titjikala on the edge of the Simpson Desert.
A poem and short story by Cobby Eckermann appear in The milk in the sky, and her poem, “I can’t stop drinking”, was published in the Alice News of May 10. 
Mr Goldflam found the cross-cultural encounter in “Mamus on the Munda” “amusing, and nicely resolved” but had reservations about the characters being stereotyped.

Ms Woolfe found the writing “very immediate and authentic”.

“The story works as a metaphor for finding a culturally appropriate way around problems.
“However the writer needs to learn to make the most of a big moment.The climax should be expanded.
“I also longed for a scene in which the old woman works out her solution – was she alone or did she do it with the help of family?”
Ms Woolfe said “the humour and quirkiness” of the story reminded her a little of Elizabeth Jolley’s The Newspaper of Claremont Street. 
Cobby Eckermann will receive a cheque for $250 from Asprint.
The winning poem is “In search of mint” by Leni Shilton, who also won the poetry prize last year.
Shilton grew up in Rabaul, PNG and in Melbourne, but has lived in the Centre for more than two decades.
She has worked as a nurse and a health educator, and is currently teaching writing and literacy at the Alice Springs gaol.
Like our other winners, Shilton is a contributor to The milk in the sky (two poems and a story) and her writing has been published in national journals and anthologies.
Of “In search of mint” Ms Woolfe says it was the judges’ “agreed favourite – beautiful, lyrical and apparently simple, but profound”.
“A wonderful last line but all the poem leads to it.”
Shiton’s prize is a $30 book voucher each month for 12 months, from Dymocks Booksellers.

By way of general comment on competition entries Ms Woolfe stresses that “the most successful were written by people who read contemporary writing”.
“Reading shows in writing.
“Stories and poems from non-readers are like buildings designed by an architect who hasn’t looked at anyone’s buildings for decades.”
The Alice News congratulates the winners and thanks all entrants to the competition – keep on writing and reading!
We are also very grateful to the judges for their time and expertise, and to our sponsors for their support of our competition – heartfelt thanks.
Watch for publication of the winning entries in the Alice News over the coming weeks.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.