July 26, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Taskforce in top gear. Special report by KIERAN FINNANE.

“Better education, better infrastructure, better health – I can’t ask for any more.”
Indigenous MLA for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson, continues to put faith in the broad promises made by Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough.
Since he announced his intervention in the Territory’s Aboriginal communities a month ago Ms Anderson has been on the road in her vast 35,000 square kilometre electorate (population 6500), seeking to explain to her constituents what’s happening, paving the way for the Commonwealth’s personnel.
“Our job is to make it easier for the Commonwealth teams to do their job on the ground,” she says. 
“I want to take the fear factor out, tell people not to be frightened.”
But, like everyone, she is  “waiting to see what happens in two weeks’ time when the teams report back to the Prime Minister and Mal Brough.
“That will shed more light on what’s going to happen.” 
Meanwhile on Monday she was heading for Papunya, her home community, where a health team was due to arrive to carry out child health checks, and to Haasts Bluff where a health team was winding up.
At the community health centre, manager Theresa Bowman said they were ready: people in the community were “excited but nervous” ; staff at the clinic delighted at the prospect of having a doctor on hand for “at least a week” – “we can pick their brains”.
Sister Bowman spent two years at Papunya three years ago and is back now for just a few months.
She sees the key to better health in the community as “down to basics”:
“It’s basic hygiene – if you use the toilet, wash your hands – and basic nutrition – once babies stop breast feeding here, that’s the end of their milk and that’s a problem.
“It’s not rocket science, but we don’t have the staff.
“We’re treating people all the time in the clinic, we don’t have time to do the preventative stuff.”
Sister Bowman said big inroads could be made if there was a school nurse and an environmental health educator. 
She said people don’t see the connection between the way they are living – especially in winter, with everyone, including dogs, sleeping indoors – and getting scabies and skin sores and ultimately renal disease.
Originally from South Africa, she tells people: “I’m black too, I live here too, but I don’t get scabies, my ears aren’t running.”
She has been telling parents that the Commonwealth team’s  child health check (guided by a 12 page pro forma as opposed to two pages for the Health School Age Kids check that the clinic does)  “can only be good” – “it might pick up something about your child that we haven’t picked up”.
She was expecting some of the children to need referral to an ENT specialist.
Doesn’t the clinic do that?
“We treat ear infections on the ground but we don’t know how much damage the infection has done.”
The visiting paediatrician or District Medical Officer refers children to the specialist, but Sister Bowman said the waiting list can be three to six months long.
(By the way, Alice Springs does have its own ENT specialist, Dr Mary Kurien, contrary to what was reported in last week’s Alice News.)
Sister Bowman said Papunya has seen some positive changes since she was last there “with the petrol sniffing gone”. 
“The young men look up, they actually talk to you, and you are not scared.”
She has seen a former wheelchair-bound sniffer get his mobility back.
He’s now working – driving a truck, picking up rubbish – and a family man again.
“I call him Lazarus.”
On the vexed issue of child sexual abuse, she said: “I haven’t come across any myself and I have a strong bond with the women of Papunya.
“I was aware of one incident where the child was removed to another community.”
Outside the store grandmother Narlie Nakamarra was heading home for lunch, with granddaughter Cedrina Brown in tow. Narlie has full-time care of Cedrina.
Narlie was a teacher’s aide when Alison Anderson was at school in Papunya. She worked at the school for 15 years. These days she still does some relief work, with the “little ones”. 
She said she would be taking Cedrina for the child health check.
Narlie would be a significant example to other mothers and grandmothers, said Ms Anderson.
At the aged care centre, a number of women were on the porch, enjoying the winter sun.
The discussion turned to the quarantining of welfare payments, linked to children’s attendance at school.
Karen McDonald, who works in the aged care centre, cooking meals, washing blankets, and who also cares for children, was concerned about what would happen if people moved around. How would people still get their money?
Lorraine King welcomed the move because “our people use their money to go buy grog and their children have no food, no clothes”.
Kids should come first, said Ms King, as “they’re the future”.
Ms Anderson raised the problem of gambling, which she says so far hasn’t been targeted by Mr Brough’s intervention.
She sees it as contributing significantly to the neglect of children, with many people subsisting on “poor man’s tucker” – flour mixed with hot water – for days at a time, once their money has run out.
Ms King agreed: “People don’t realise their money is supposed to last two weeks. They put it all on cards while their children are starving.” 
Ms Anderson was worried that the Howard Government’s extra child support payment coming through now would all go on gambling.
Martha McDonald, a great grandmother with two children in her care, had received $600. But she doesn’t gamble at all.
The other women all gambled a little bit, sometimes. What did they most want to see happen in their community?
“Get young people into work,” was Ms King’s answer.
“They’re just having babies, not worrying about working.”
She was looking forward to the arrival of a young couple with the Indigenous Community Volunteers program, one a carpenter, the other a hairdresser, who would spend time at Papunya, passing on skills.
Ms King said five young women had already enrolled in the hairdressing course.
Jobs for young people was a theme taken up in nearby Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji) by traditional owner and councillor Douglas Multa.
“Kids come back here from college and they do nothing,” he said.
He could see useful roles for them at the council office, for example, especially with their knowledge of computers.
He said Haasts Bluff was already seeing a positive impact from the taskforce, with the presence of federal agent Garry McMahon, stationed at the community as a special constable with the NT police: “Garry’s here now – it’s really made a difference.”
Mr Multa said drinkers are staying outside the community, then sneaking back in and going to bed – “no noise” and “the old people are getting a good sleep”.
But Mr Multa is concerned about what’s happening with the permit system.
Ms Anderson says that and the five year leases of the townships are the ‘biggest concerns” in the communities.
Mr Multa was somewhat reassured to hear that the changes only apply to the townships and access roads and airstrips, not to the surrounding areas of Aboriginal land. Sacred sites would still be protected.
But he wants more detail.
Ms Anderson said “if that’s clarified I don’t think there’ll be a problem”. 
“It just frightens people if there’s no detail. But if the lease is just of the town areas, people are not worried about that.”
Mr Multa said: “People who say [the intervention] is bad, don’t know what it’s like to live here.”
More housing to relieve overcrowding and upgrading of existing housing would be very welcome, according to both Mr Multa and long-time health worker Gillian Kantawarra.
Mr Multa said: “You can’t sleep at night with cockroaches crawling across you.”
They had quite a wish list, including a grassed oval “like at Santa Teresa”, but an upgrade to the community store should get priority.
The barn-like building was there when Alison Anderson was a child.
It floods when there’s a downpour and Ms Kantawarra is worried about people getting an electric shock.
Ms Kantawarra was very pleased with the work done by the health team who were to leave the community today. She said they had just about seen “the whole lot”. She said in some cases both parents had gone to the clinic with their children.
In the clinic remote area nurse Pam Moll, who’s been in the community for eight years, said the population list showed they hadn’t caught up with some 29 children. But some of them were “young men who’d been through business” and, even though they may only be 15 years old, the grandmothers had said it was not appropriate to include them.
“We were told we weren’t to chase them, it was to be purely voluntary,” said Sister Moll.
There was an upbeat atmosphere in the clinic. The community had welcomed the team and the team on the whole had found children in good shape.
“There are good systems in place, this is a good health centre,” said Dr Lynne King, who had taken leave from her general practice in Toowoomba, Queensland, to join the team.
Registered nurse Angela Parker, from Mudgee in NSW, with a long background in Aboriginal health in WA, said: “The kids here are well cared for.
“A community with a  child care centre, a health centre and an aged care program is well ahead of other places.”

Sacred children: Life after Mal.

As Mal Brough’s taskforce deploys across the booze killing fields of the Northern Territory, one question  is on everyone’s lips: What will hapen if the Libs lose the Federal election later this year?
ERWIN CHLANDA put that question to MHR for Lingiari Warren Snowdon who is currently advising Federal Labor about how deal with expectations about fixing “Aboriginal problems” raised to a level unprecedented in 30 years.
NEWS: What would happen with the taskforce if Labor came to power in the election later this year? What of the Federal initiative would stay and what would go?
SNOWDON: It’s a very hard question to answer because we haven’t seen any legislation the Government is proposing.
But I think there will be a general agreement to continue with the work the taskforce is undertaking, certainly with regard to addressing the issues of children in remote communities. I’m not sure you need a taskforce to do that, frankly, but I do think we need to make sure that the focus the taskforce has brought to the issues continues.
NEWS: The commitment of the present government seems to be extremely strong, and not restricted by a time limit. In summary, what they are saying, we’ll do whatever it takes. Would there be a similar commitment from Labor?
SNOWDON: As you’ve heard, Kevin Rudd is giving cross party support in principle. I’ve got to make these observations, though. Firstly, there is no detail on what the Government is proposing, there is no budget, and the Government is unable to answer the most basic questions put to it and its taskforce by communities.
NEWS: Judging by what occurred at Amoonguna, Hermannsburg, Haasts Bluff and communities to the north-east of Alice, there is some hesitation at the beginning, but by the second day there seems to be a broad acceptance of the taskforce.
SNOWDON: I don’t think that’s an issue. Despite what you hear there are still broad concerns. The Government did not properly inform people. But they are generally accepting that if they augment the health services and provide extra care for the kids that’s a very good thing to do. The important element is what the follow-up is going to be, including specialist health services, as well as environmental health issues such as housing.
NEWS: It seems that the people whom Alison Anderson calls “the little people on the ground”, which is becoming a bit of a catch phrase, seem to be happy with what’s happening.
SNOWDON: [What the taskforce is doing] are the things they have been asking for for a long time. And, frankly, that’s the problem. There has been a lack of acknowledgment by the government of what’s needed.
NEWS: Now they are doing it.
SNOWDON: They are but they haven’t told the communities, they haven’t told taskforce, what in fact they are going to do.
NEWS: They are pretty clear about the permit system and five year acquisition of leases over the centers of prescribed communities.
SNOWDON: My information is when they put those issues to the communities they’ll reject them entirely. They are making it up as they go along. The Parliament hasn’t been recalled, you’ll notice. We can’t hold them to account because we don’t know, except in general terms, what they are going to do.
NEWS: The observation we’re making is they say to the communities, you’ve got problems, what are they?
SNOWDON: They go out and do an assessment. They will no doubt be referring back to NT and Commonwealth agencies to talk about infrastructure shortfalls. A lot of this information is on Government databases already.
NEWS: How would Labor handle this if it came to power?
SNOWDON: That depends on where we are when we get to power. Clearly there is strong bipartisan support for addressing the safety of children and families. But we are not the government so we are not privy to information they have received so far.
NEWS: You do have the information because you yourself have been out there, in one function or another, mainly as a politician, for the best part of 30 years.
SNOWDON: I’ve been highlighting these issues for a decade.
NEWS: So, how much money, if you get in, will you be putting into this?
SNOWDON: That’s a question I can’t answer at this point because that needs to be discussed in the context of concrete proposals which we have to consider. At the moment we don’t have any concrete proposals.
NEWS: This is interesting because you’ve been aware of the problems for decades, and you haven’t got a concrete proposal?
SNOWDON: There is a difference between me having an understanding of what the issues are, and of me highlighting the issues, and the formulation of a very concrete and detailed response which goes to the whole question of costing.
NEWS: We know the problem and we’ve known it for a long time. So, how much money would Labor be putting into it?
SNOWDON: As we get to the election you’ll find out.
NEWS: You will announce it before the election?
SNOWDON: I’m sure there will be adequate information for people to make an informed judgment prior to the election.
NEWS: The Alice Springs News is exhaustively putting the Howard Government on the record that they have made a firm commitment to this process.
SNOWDON: They have yet to show us the color of their money, and what they intend to do in the long term. We’re hoping they will commit the resources so that there is a  long term, sustainable approach and investment in these communities which will address all the underlying issues.
NEWS: Can we understand that the Labor commitment would be equally comprehensive, equally firm and equally prolonged?
SNOWDON: Well, I’m sure that would be the case.
NEWS: Quite irrespective of what the current Government is or is not doing, what would Labor be doing about the problems of which you yourself are so comprehensively aware?
SNOWDON: I’m advising the Labor Party as we speak and when we’ve formally decided something you’ll hear about it. The policy will be made clear well before the election.
NEWS: In just six months Pat Anderson and Rex Wild came up with with evidence shocking enough to spark a national emergency. Yet over 30 years a string of Territory and Federal Parliamentarians, mostly Labor, including you, have had unhindered and frequent access to bush communities.
SNOWDON: This is true to the extent that people are involved in child sexual abuse and family violence. In terms of the extent of that issue, that was unknown, certainly unknown to me. I had suspicions about it. But until these people inform you, you can’t make those assumptions. But in relation to the 97 recommendations, which are in the Wild-Anderson report, many of them that go to the issues of housing and health, education, have been raised previously, and have been well known.
NEWS: But it was the sexual assault on children that created the trigger for the Federal intervention.
SNOWDON: That is true. But you can’t as a politician assume that people would divulge this information to you, especially if it would otherwise be a police matter, or be the subject to mandatory reporting.
Historically these issues have been addressed through the justice system but clearly, reporting remains a real issue. The health issues which are pertinent, the STD rates in Aboriginal communities, all of those things are widely known, and have been widely known for a generation.
NEWS: Would it be fair to say that they were widely known, but nowhere near adequately responded to?
SNOWDON: Absolutely.

Where is Clare?

Three months after hundreds of Alice residents booed the Chief Minister Clare Martin at the opening of the Alice parliamentary sittings, what has changed? FIONA CROFT follows up with some of the key figures at the protest. (See the Alice News, April 19 for a detailed report on the unprecedented hostile reaction to the Chief Minister.)

Organiser Tony Filmer, a resident and business owner of 27 years, says the protest showed there is “a great community spirit” in Alice.
“A lot of people had never been to a rally before – let alone protested.”
The protest caused the NT Government to “wake up” but it’s still “wait and see” on changes.
Alice is the “poor cousin” of Darwin: “I’d thought [the government] would do their utmost to show a precedent and regain some lost confidence,” says Mr Filmer (pictured at right).  
“I’d like to be revisiting this interview in 12 months’ time.”
Since the protest “the anti-social behaviour has dropped off and with Operation City Safe there was a stronger police presence, especially at Bojangles and Melankas”. 
“It’s visibly safer on the streets,” he says, “but at the end of the day you can’t stop people drinking.”
He’ll be interested to see how the dry town and other alcohol measures go.  He welcomes the Federal intervention in Aboriginal communities as “a blessing”.
“It increased momentum on the whole issue.  It’s all good for Alice and the NT.”
Mr Filmer can see the attitude in Alice improving but the town needs to attract more practical business and trades people to get work done on the ground and increase the population.
“Our sporting facilities are second to none.  And it’s a great town.”
Mr Filmer along with Steven Brown of Advance Alice meet with the police monthly. 
Until recently Mr Brown has been pleased with the increased number of police on the streets:  
“Last week there was an escalation in violence – maybe we’re losing police from here to make up the numbers for the Feds’ taskforce.
“With the Feds stepping in it complicates things, there’s too much happening, lots of decisions, lots of wait and see.
“Maybe it’s just co-incidental, the couple of incidents – the gang violence in Coles car park and the Todd St end of the Mall and the car slashings and bashings.”
Resident for 18 years, John Dawkins asks,  “Where are all the cameras in the mall that Clare promised? Who will maintain and monitor them? Is there enough police? And where is the control room?”
The $150,000 grant for CCTV in Todd Mall has been pledged to council, but it’s still a fair way off, says Dale McIver, an events organiser who attended the rally. 
Nothing has gone out to tender and the proposed installation time is after Christmas, she says.
Despite the cold weather Ms McIver says she still sees “kids out at all hours”.
While the tourism season hasn’t been affected by Alice’s reputation for anti-social behaviour, Ms McIver says tourists aren’t dining in restaurants in the evenings as much.
Local business owner Sam Gardiner says, “No-one has any time or respect for Clare. They live over the Berrimah Line and the Opposition is questioning the budget on building a wave pool. That 17 million could go into schools and hospitals – health and education.”
And where is Clare, they want to know. 
Ms McIver heard she was at the Alice Springs Show, but “she flew in and out in half a day”. 
She didn’t open the Show and, although invited, she didn’t attend the Camel Cup. 
“With the by-election you’d expect her to be out waving the flag, especially in a CLP seat,” says Mr Filmer.
“You’d think the Minister for Central Australia would be there. She didn’t even send an administrator to officially open it.”
Ms McIver, who was involved in organising the Camel Cup, says the Chief Minister’s no-show was a disappointment: “Not one member of the NT Government was there for the day.”
But she points out that CLP Leader Jodeen Carney and CLP candidate for Greatorex Matthew Conlan were both in attendance.
Ms Martin is often seen dining in the mall in Darwin. 
“I’d like to see her here in the mall, we’d bombard her,” says Ms McIver.
“If she had more of a presence here she might see how the town ticks and operates, rather than just flitting in and out.”
Mr Gardiner says he’s still waiting on the CCTV cameras and the reaction to the protest was superficial. 
“I think Clare’s been sidelined by Mal Brough.  The NT Government has done bugger all.
“Anything Clare is saying is falling on deaf ears, in Alice we’re listening to and agreeing with Brough.  
“As a resident since the 1970s the first thing I noticed was the grog and the neglect of Aboriginal people. I’d call Mal Brough’s initiative a crusade. I see things happening a lot quicker.”
As for the streets of Alice: “There is still drinking and fighting going on in the Coles car park.
“There should be more done regarding dry out facilities for Aboriginals.
“It’s the fault of whites for having too many liquor outlets.  [The NT Government] should be buying more liquor licences back.”
Mr Dawkins doesn’t think the NT Government has made any changes since the protest. He finds the alcohol restrictions hard to fathom.
“Clare’s been missing in action. She’s had a knee jerk reaction without sitting down with people to find out. Her answer is to reduce liquor hours.  Problem drinkers would still buy it if it was open one hour a day,” says Mr Dawkins.
A shift worker at the space base, Mr Dawkins finds planning ahead for his liquor purchases difficult.
“I was in Flynn Drive IGA topping up my bar, buying rum, whiskey, vodka and gin and a slab of beer, but I can’t buy a bottle of wine because it’s not 6pm. My wife wasn’t allowed to buy a bottle of cooking sherry to make a trifle.” 
He says the onus should be on bottle shops “that are shown to be selling to drunks”.
Stricter fines should be brought in. 
“They are making huge profits.  They should be responsible for the people.”
Some protestors said they’d be leaving Alice, but Mr Dawkins says, “I’d rather see the home I live in fixed up”.
He is pleased with the changes foreshadowed by Mal Brough’s taskforce.
Mr Brown and Mr Filmer had a meeting to discuss Alice Springs issues with Minister for Police Chris Burns on Show Day. Further discussions are planned in six weeks.
Mr Brown says he is happy with the discussions, and that the NT Government is listening, but he’s waiting to see what the outcomes will be.
Mr Brown says the protest and statements through the media is the way Advance Alice communicate with the NT Government.  Further follow up letters are required to gain concrete meetings. 
Mr Brown says the town needs rehabilitation services for habitual drunks: “CAAAPU have already developed a voluntary dry out system but we want rules and regulations for people that misbehave that are problem drinkers.”
He’s also pushing for a youth camp to be run by Graham Ross (see Alice News, June 28). 
He’s disappointed that CCTV won’t be in the mall till after Christmas and “there’s arguing over who’ll be monitoring”.

Sacred trees: Alice in one can only Wonderland. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Once upon a time there were two sacred trees in the middle of a town.
They became sick which distressed people in the town holding dear sacred sites, which can include trees.
These particular trees were on grounds where all the people of the town frolic with balls propelled by boot or bat, or watch this being done.
The grounds are owned by the Council representing all the people of the town, including those who consider some sites as sacred.
One could say the grounds are owned by the people of the town.
In the ordinary course of events, in an ordinary sort of town, the people upset about the trees would gather one fine afternoon, having obtained permission from the Council to perform an act of respect towards the sick sacred trees.
They would be bearing shovels, picks and fencing materials, erect a sign noting the significance of the trees, mourning their imminent demise, and putting up a barrier lest someone came along and chopped the trees up for firewood.
But these trees were not in any ordinary town.
They were in Wonderland. In fact it was in its capital, Alice in Wonderland.
In Alice the people concerned with things sacred, including trees, had a special authority formed for them, called the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, AAPA in short.
This is paid for by the government and controlled by some of the people having an attachment to sacred sites, trees included.
But rather than doing the job to protect their sacred trees themselves, they told the Council it had to do it.
But this is not the end of the story.
Because the Council was now obliged to put a fence around the trees, which was a task associated with a sacred site, over which the AAPA has control, on behalf of the people to whom sacred sites are dear, the Council now had to make an application to the AAPA for an Authority Certificate to be allowed to do the work.
In fact the AAPA declared it a “non standard” application – no kidding! 
This is not the end of the story either: there is a fee involved.
Now, being Alice, not an ordinary town, this is not a fee paid by the people to whom sacred trees are dear, to remunerate someone who’s putting up a fence.
Here this is another cost the Council has to pay.
In fact it is a fee that the people of the town, through their Council, must pay to the AAPA for permission to put up a fence, at Council expense, to protect the sacred trees dear to the people some of whom control the AAPA.
It’s that simple.
And how much would that fee be?
Have a guess.
No, don’t.
You’d never guess.
It will be $5080 – but that’s just an estimate “depending on the circumstances encountered during fieldwork,” the AAPA tells the Council.
Just to get it clear: fieldwork in this context isn’t putting up the fence.
It’s apparently deciding whether someone else should be allowed to put up the fence, and then watching him doing it.
And that is the end of the story.
It surely wouldn’t be in any town other than Alice: ordinarily a Council would send a friendly note to the AAPA saying (words to the effect): “Go jump in a lake” or something more robust.
Not in Alice: its people, and that includes those to whom sacred trees are dear, through their Council, will also be paying $5400 for “an Authority Certificate for path replacement in the vicinity of the western end of the Stott Terrace footbridge” and $3300 for “an Authority Certificate for removal of concrete slab and two large rocks at the Wills Terrace causeway.”
That’s $13,780 – or more, of course, as you know, because the field work may just become every so hard.
[Footnote: The AAPA told us the charges are strictly in accordance with the regulations.]

By-election moment of truth for CLP?

Nerves are fraying as the short Greatorex campaign enters its final phase.
Independent Paul Herrick, widely regarded as the front runner although a newcomer to politics, says rumors he has received money from the ALP “are absolutely, categorically, denied: “The money for my campaign comes from what’s left of the Herrick bank account.”
Mr Herrick, who is getting the preferences from all three other candidates, says he’s never been a member of any political party.
He doesn’t agree with widespread tipping that he’s got it in the bag.
He says “It is a CLP held seat. It’s going to be hard.”
Meanwhile ALP candidate Jo Nixon, according to a spokesman, wonders if the photograph of the Radio 8HA building in a campaign pamphlet distibuted by her CLP opponent Matt Conlan is being used without permission from the radio station.
Ms Nixon has called for equal time on air for all candidates.
8HA chairman Ren Kelly has said at the start of the campaign that the station is completely impartial.
However, there is an ongoing controversy about what Mr Conlan, a former announcer at the station, told whom at the time of his nomination.
Meanwhile the Greens’ Jane Clark says she has contacts in high places and that will make up for not being attached to a major party.
After profiles of Ms Nixon and Mr Conlan last week (see our website) editor ERWIN CHLANDA speaks with Ms Clark and Mr Herrick.

NEWS: PAUL HERRICK, it’s the old question for independent candidates: How can you, as a single voice, influence the Government?
HERRICK: I’ve been involved with governments, at ministerial level, since 1995 and I’ve had a good working relationship with both political parties. The biggest advantage for independents is that we are not tied to any party politics at all. We can negotiate and support any issue advantageous to the electorate and Alice Springs, without fear or favor, and without having to justify our stand to a party executive.
NEWS: How does that help when the Government has such a crushing majority in Parliament?
HERRICK: I give you an example. The Opposition proposed a housing policy. Whether it was right or wrong, straight away, without even looking at it, the Government said no, because it had come from the Opposition. I’m pretty sure I can get a much fairer hearing because I am not designated “Opposition”. It’s an advantage for the Government to negotiate with an independent. 
NEWS: On which issues are you in agreement with that Government, and on which not?
HERRICK: My main issue is the intimidating behavior by a minority. I am differentiating between law and order and intimidating or anti-social behavior. With law and order it’s cut and dried: it’s a crime. Police and the courts have the power to deal with that.
However, some sentences are too lenient.
Our kids should be able to go into town without being intimidated by gangs. There is a bit of a lull now. It will be interesting to see what happens when the weather warms up. I’ll be monitoring any change in behavior in the streets.
NEWS: So how do you fight anti-social behavior?
HERRICK: More money for youth centers and groups, coupled with well funded school programs for children in years 10, 11 and 12. If they are struggling they need to be supported to finish schooling, so they can get jobs, become worth-while citizens of the town and remain here.
They will be a role model for younger kids.
There is a difficulty of attracting and maintaining a skilled workforce. Over the past few years some of the public servants have been removed from town. Sections of the Department of Communication and Information Services have been moved to Darwin.
We’re a major regional town and we need the support of public servants, as well as private enterprise who seem to have difficulties to attract managers and a skilled workforce. At the moment we’re struggling to maintain that.
The apprenticeship system seems to be working OK but that middle level of managers and other experienced people is hard to recruit.
The cost of rental accommodation is a major factor in this.
We have to create more opportunities for people to buy housing at a reasonable price.
We have to look at long-term housing.
The Government owns sections of Owen Springs station. Maybe we should be looking at a satellite city there, and we should start planning for that now.
Anything that might get this town buzzing, a bit like Darwin is, should be looked at.
NEWS: How can that be done?
HERRICK: I’m concerned about the promotion of the town. This town has so many good things going for it. We raised our two children here.
It is such a wonderful place to live. They’ve had opportunities they wouldn’t get anywhere else.
It’s really important that we promote the benefits of this town rather than the negatives. That’s something I’m passionate about.
In the last two or three years we’ve dropped the ball.
Tourism is one of our major industries and we don’t seem to get past the violence in the streets headlines. Alice Springs people are sick to death of the negativity.
We can do it by being helpful and enthusiastic about the beautiful place we live in.
NEWS: Give me an example, please.
HERRICK: A caravan park owner I know spends at least 10 minutes with every one of his guests pointing out the highlights, the West and East MacDonnell Ranges, and so on.
He says quite often people come for a day and stay a week.
You see people in the street looking at a map. Just stop and ask them, are you OK?
It’s not rocket science. As firemen we’re often asked for directions. We’ve changed caravan tires out the front of the fire station.
We’re involved in many of the road crash rescues, and many of these are tourists. Our crews are more than willing to help beyond their call of duty.
NEWS: Give me you thoughts on leadership, on issues like alcohol control.
HERRICK: I haven’t got all the answers. Better brains than me are attempting to deal with that problem. A group of dedicated public servants and community groups have been working on this for years.
NEWS: That’s right. For around 30 years.
HERRICK: The Alice in Ten group, of which I was a member, the Co-Ord group, really dedicated public servants, have been involved. 
NEWS: How would you describe their rate of success?
HERRICK: I can see the benefits in the town infrastructure and the Todd River development, which I was part of, but until we deal with the grog problem, nothing is solved.
Financial infrastructure support for well planned programs and initiatives to combat alcohol abuse is essential and should be ongoing.
The dry town legislation may go some of the way. In the meantime a small minority is making it difficult for the majority, including tourists.
At the moment I haven’t got the full insight of where we’re going to go with this. I don’t know what the solution is. I’m willing to listen to our electorate.
NEWS: What about leadership by the town council? Is it as assertive vis-a-vis the government as it might be?
HERRICK: It’s every community member’s role to promote the town.
Because of my late inclusion in this by-election I haven’t looked into the council’s role, but I do wonder about the difference in the beautification that’s going on in Darwin, and ours.
I think we’re a bit cash strapped. I think there could be a lot more done.
Litter is a council issue, I know they spend a fortune on that.
NEWS: Is the town being neglected?
HERRICK: We have some fantastic sporting facilities but we’ve got a soccer field with very little parking, no grandstands, basic toilets and change rooms. It’s nothing like the new soccer ground in Darwin with a brand new stadium.
We will host the 12th Masters Games in Alice Springs next year, yet we have no synthetic running track and athletics field, whereas Darwin has a world class facility for the Arafura Games which in comparison is a much smaller event, with fewer athletes and visitors, and funded substantially more than our Masters Games.
The infrastructure differences between Alice and Darwin are quite noticeable.
I’m determined the Traeger Park grandstand should be completed before it is handed over to the council.

JANE CLARK, candidate for the Greens who got 10% of the Greatorex vote last time ‘round, is a self confessed political junkie.
She says it’s a “family thing”.
“Our house was just hot with political discussions.”
She handed out how to vote cards for SA Liberal and later an Australian Democrats founding member, Robin Millhouse, when she was nine.
“Today is a very similar situation,” she says.
“The old parties are just not functioning as they should be.”
Ms Clark says proportional representation should be introduced, and the CLP should push for it, too: “Election outcomes don’t reflect the electorates.
“The Greens are questioning how decisions are made, and the top-down process.
“It’s about people getting excited about politics again.”
As an alderman, currently on leave to contest the by-election, she says she’s is the only candidate in the Greatorex poll who has experience as an elected representative.
NEWS: Were the Greens a second choice for you because the ALP knocked you back?
CLARK: I was a bit disillusioned about the ALP’s lack of process. They never interviewed me. All they asked for was a CV at the last minute. I don’t think I was seriously considered. A group of Greens came to me. We talked. I discovered that all I’m standing for are actually Green policies. I discovered I’m not really a Labor person after all although I supported the Labor Party all my [adult] life. Labor isn’t traditional Labor any more, they’ve gone so far centre that they don’t know any more what they think. They weren’t prepared to talk issues with me and I found that a bit worrying.
NEWS: And that discovery came only in the past few days ...
CLARK: Yes. With that I’m not the only one in this election.
NEWS: What chance do you have of blocking the development of a uranium industry in The Centre when the two major parties are pretty well on the same wavelength, namely in favor?
CLARK: Well, we’ll keep fighting. The effect it will have on our water supply is going to be devastating. Even if they don’t pollute the water supply, the amount they use is going to make it impossible for us to function as a town. I can’t see this passing any environmental impact studies, yet exploration is being permitted.
NEWS: What are people saying to you about uranium mining? Alice is right in the middle of some of the world’s best uranium prospects and it could become a major local industry.
CLARK: They are either completely for our completely against. There is no middle ground.
NEWS: What’s the ratio?
CLARK: People know I’m anti-uranium so perhaps they are more inclined to say they are, too.
NEWS: On your blog you say governments should move away from projects relying heavily on fossil fuels. How does that relate to this area?
CLARK: [Uranium mining] is heavy, heavy, heavy on fossil fuels. They say uranium is a clean industry, but the actual mining of it is filthy.
NEWS: You’re critical of what you describe as the top-down approach of the Federal initiative rolling out across Central Australia to combat problems including sexual assaults on children. Yet it seems that the “little people on the ground,” as MacDonnell MLA Alison Anderson describes them, are welcoming the initiative.
CLARK: The “Little Children are Sacred” report recommends a grassroots, ground-level, individualized way of dealing with this. Some communities are saying, yes, this works for us, but what are they going to do when another community says, no, we don’t want this?
NEWS: The evidence so far is that they are listening to the communities.
CLARK: It started as a top-down approach but now they are talking to the communities. It flipped a little. They have modified the original attitude which was stomp on the communities.
NEWS: Given that flip, what’s your view now?
CLARK: It is still that they have to return to the 97 recommendations in the “Little Children are Sacred” report which deal with the long term.
The taskforce is not revealing its whole plan. It’s great to see them out there and taking the problem seriously for once, but we really don’t know which way they are going to jump next.
NEWS: You’re calling for sustainable urban planning. You’re a long way removed from any kind of power in that area. If you’re elected you will be the only Green Member. You’d be behind the CLP Opposition, which would be down to three Members, and they are hardly in a position to call the shots, either. Why should people vote for you?
CLARK: Ah, but I know who to talk to, and that’s the difference. I know who I have to convince. I have data, some of it new. I think I can have the ear of most Ministers, and actually present each of them workable plans that would be very popular, and they will grab hold of these plans. I can make a lot of difference not by making speeches in the Assembly, but by using the connections I have.
NEWS: How did you get these?
CLARK: By being involved in local government and, particularly, the Local Government Association, for two and a half years. I’ve made a point of meeting with Ministers and others, talking to them about Alice Springs. If you give people the idea and it is well thought-out and sensible, they will move through with it and it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. I consult with experts and come up with something that works.
NEWS: You’re standing for the Greens, yet on council you voted for charging people money who take to the dump green waste which council later sells as mulch. Why?
CLARK: It’s a very, very small charge. We do have to make the dump pay. It’s costing us a fortune. If the community actually comes out and has a bit of a say about it, I’m sure it’s something the council can back down on.
NEWS: You would change your vote on it?
CLARK: If there was enough community pressure. It’s being re-discussed, like the fees for the disabled parking permits.
NEWS: What are the five major issues people talk to you about?
CLARK: Options for cleaning up the town including container deposit legislation; youth boredom; employment and trade opportunities for young people.
NEWS: Did law and order get a mention?
CLARK: It is a major subject but what people have talked to me about is the lack of major, intelligent and well resourced social services.
NEWS: Intelligent? Does that mean effective?
CLARK: In this context it means this flows to this flows to this flows to that. Things being followed through.
It’s really hard to do that in Alice Springs. Because I work with counsellors and therapists a lot I come up with that sort of frustration a lot. We can help this person with this part of their issues but what happens next?
In council Ms Clark:
• opposed a youth curfew;
• wanted a nuclear free Alice – her motion was lost;
• sought the right of Bowerbird tip shop to maintain scavenging rights on the dump (unresolved);
• sought kerbside recycling (knocked back as too expensive);
• wanted computer hardware “which is full of toxic chemicals such as mercury” to have its own section at the dump, and glass to be put in a single section, for future recycling. Both suggestions were dismissed.
• buffel grass management in the Todd. This grass burns at a much higher temperature than spinifex causing damage, and eventually death, to the huge trees (rejected); and
• regeneration of Anzac Hill. Says Ms Clark: “Finally the last budget included $10,000 for this to go ahead.”

Violent Alice Springs. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Justice Minister Syd Stirling is putting a positive spin on fresh crime statistics for Alice Springs but when compared to Darwin, in particular in relation to offences against the person, Alice still looks like a basket case.
He is comparing figures from April 06 to end of March 07 to those from the same period six years ago.
Offences against the person dropped by 7% (up by 7% in Darwin); sexual assaults dropped by 30%; assaults are down by 5%.
Property offences are down by 13% (down by 38% in Darwin).
However, commercial break-ins were up 16% (down by 34% in Darwin), a stat not reported in the Minister’s press release, although he acknowledged “an increase”.
Opposition leader Jodeen Carney, of course, had a negative spin on the latest release of crime statistics but has a point, at least in relation to the two most talked about categories (assault and commercial break-ins), when she says the level of criminal behaviour is still well above the long-term average.
For assaults over the six years the average is 956 per annum. The last 12 month period saw 999 assaults. (In Darwin, with more than three times the population of Alice, the average over six years is 1036. The last 12 month period saw 1111 assaults.)
For commercial break-ins over the six years the average is 242 per annum. The last 12 month period saw 320. (In Darwin the average over six years is 752; the last 12 month period saw 716.)
As the 05-06 stats were particularly bad for Alice, the comparison of the latest stats with the previous 12 month period looks good. But Ms Carney points out that the latest stats are still well above those for the same period in 04-05: 
In the 12 months to the end of March 2005, there were 801 reported assaults in Alice Springs, in the 12 months to the end of March 2006 there were 1156 and in the 12 months to the end of 2007, that figure was 999.
In the 12 months to the end of March 2005, there were 30 reported sexual assaults, in 2006 the figure was 60 and in 2007 the figure was 40.
In the 12 months to the end of March 2005, there were 204 reported house break-ins, in 2006 the figure was 277 and in 2007 that figure was 240.
In the 12 months to the end of March 2005, there were 156 reported commercial break-ins, in 2006 the figure was 273 and in March 2007 that figure was 320.
In the 12 months to the end of March 2005, there were 241 motor vehicle thefts, in 2006 there were 266 and in March 2007 that figure was 263.
“These figures confirm it has been a particularly difficult period of the  people of Alice Springs,” says Ms Carney.
The Office of Crime Prevention reports on the underlying average of offences over the last nine quarters.
In Alice Springs assaults have ranged between 65 and 102 offences per month.  Its current level of 96 per month is at the higher end of the range.
The Office of Crime Prevention notes “a statistically significant upward trend”.
Similarly commercial break-ins have ranged between 11 and 26 offences per month. Its current level of 25 per month is at the higher end of the range.
Mr Stirling welcomes “no increase in the number of murders, attempted murders and manslaughters over the six year period”.
The last 12 month period recorded one murder (compared to nine in the previous 12 months and an average over six years of 3.8 per annum); one attempted murder (zero in the previous 12 months and an average over six years of  0.5 pa); and one manslaughter (four in the previous 12 months and an average over six years of 2.6 pa).
Darwin’s averages over six years in these three categories are 2.8, 0.6 and 2.3 respectively.
Mr Stirling says alcohol remains the major cause of crime in Alice Springs and across the Territory, with 66% of assaults in Alice Springs in the year to March being alcohol related.

LETTERS: Broadcaster part of the campaign?

Sir,- I am surprised that Alice Broadcasters have not responded to the comments of Matt Conlan in the Alice Springs News (Issue 24, 19 July 2007).
The stations’ credibility as an independent, impartial broadcaster has been compromised by his statement that station manager was well aware of “what was about to unfold”, i.e. his announcement of his candidacy.
If I were a member of the Board, I would be appalled at his dismissive attitude of Mr Kelly, and of Mr Conlan’s lack of consultation with the Board.
I call on the station manager to confirm or deny if 8HA (Alice Broadcasters) is endorsing the CLP Candidate, particularly as a photo of their station is featured clearly in his flyer.
Loraine Braham
Alice Springs

Sir,- Kieran Finnane writes that “there is a “100% guarantee” from Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough” in the latest Alice Springs News and that speakers did not “point out this fact” at a recent rally.
A 100% guarantee from a government politician is a fact?
I don’t think so. Remember the GST?
Perhaps it could be a promise.
But then, it might be a non-core promise.
Geoff Eagar
Toowoon Bay

Sir,- The by-election for the seat of Greatorex on July 28 is turning into a fascinating little contest. The outcome will directly affect the future of the CLP as a political party.
A couple of weeks ago on local ABC radio the CLP hopeful Matt Conlan was introduced as “well known”.  At the time I wondered what does well known mean as I would not have been able to recognise the man concerned, in the street.
To me, well known means a Richard Lim, a Fran Kilgariff or even a Mark “Chopper” Read.
Shortly after Conlan received the CLP’s blessing, Alice Springs fire chief, Paul Herrick announced his running as an independent.  This surprise move from a truly well known community man of over 30 years living in the NT will present a threat to the CLP’s chances.
The gender balance was rightfully restored with Labor’s Jo Nixon and the Green’s Jane Clark being declared. 
I then circulated 10 x 15 cm photocopies of candidate’s photos in my workplace.  The intent was to find out who was really well known amongst the local people.
I asked 100 sober adults if they recognized the person in the picture.  Herrick received a stand out response of 22 followed by Nixon with 5, Conlan 3 and Clark 1.
The people of Greatorex have an excellent choice with candidates representing a broad range of political views.  Greatorex is probably the cleanest, greenest, whitest and most law abiding electorate south of Darwin but it is not prosaic.
The contest is wide open at this stage and each candidate will directly affect the outcome. I wish to thank every candidate for their efforts so far.  I am confident that the electors with a little soul searching will produce the best woman or man for the job.
D R Chewings
Alice Springs

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