September 27, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Still no Labor policy on our intervention billion. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The answer to the $1.3 billion question is still under wraps: What will happen to the Commonwealth “intervention” in response to the Little Children are Sacred report if Labor wins the Federal election?
What parts of the Mal Brough revolution in Aboriginal Affairs would Kevin Rudd retain, and what would he discard?
He’s been dodging an interview on the subject with the Alice Springs News for three weeks now.
And Territory Labor president Warren Snowdon, the Member for Lingiari (that’s all of the NT except Darwin), says the policy isn’t ready yet.
“We’ll formulate a policy in the next few weeks,” he said on the weekend.
But Mr Snowdon has foreshadowed in a pamphlet circulated in the bush that CDEP, which he helped develop three decades ago, would stay or be brought back.
This has prompted CLP candidate for Lingiari Adam Giles to point out that Mr Snowdon is at odds with his leader, Mr Rudd, who wants CDEP to go.
Little of this argy bargy is affecting the task force’s work on the ground.
There are plenty of problems but Mr Brough’s single mindedness (and lots of Federal cash) are ensuring that the initiatives are rolling out, with adjustments being made where necessary.
Most significantly, two Labor Members in the NT Parliament, Alison Anderson (MacDonnell) and Karl Hampton (Stuart; see interview this edition), are out bush almost full time explaining the changes to “the people on the ground” and, increasingly, giving advice to the taskforce.
Between them Ms Anderson and Mr Hampton cover all of the rural southern half of the Territory, more than a million square kilometers, the size of Central Europe.
Territory Labor as well as the NT Government are making a big deal of compulsory acquisition of administrative centers, and the waiver of entry permits to them.
While activists, whose mandate and motive is questionable, are beating this up into a land grab (and this allegation is being reported around the world), the area actually involved is only about two tenths of one per cent of Aboriginal land.
The titles are resumed by the Commonwealth for just five years.
On 99.8% of Aboriginal land won under landrights, indigenous ownership continues and access permits remain in force.
While the stated commitment by the Federal government to the betterment of conditions for Aborigines is at an unprecedented high, self-appointed critics of the initiative want it to be axed.
It is described as “a cynical attempt to subject our people to further genocide” by the National Aboriginal Alliance formed in Alice Springs last week, by some 100 activists from around Australia.
Its local spokesperson, Pat Turner, has not responded to two requests for an interview.
But the alliance’s web site calls for donations to a fighting fund and says: “We call upon all Aboriginal people to walk in the footsteps of our Elders whose legacies are now at stake and whose victories are being wound back.
“We must stand united to seize back the power to shape our own destinies.”
With national Labor in a prolonged state of indecision, the NT Government is having two bob each way: It is glad about the mountains of extra cash from Canberra (making up for Darwin’s neglect) while pretending to be finding fault with Mr Brough’s initiative.
This is confined to attacking the discontinuation of the permit system and the acquisition of administrative centers – both affecting a tiny amount of land, limited in time and without practical consequences.
The NT Government is careful not to appear too excited about the $1.3b announced last week.
Acting Chief Minister Syd Stirling called it “a good first installment”.
According to CLP Senator Nigel Scullion, the recent Federal announcements are for new measures costing $740m, including $540m to repair and build housing in remote communities over the next four years; $100m for more doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and specialist services; $78.2m over three years to convert CDEP positions to “real jobs”; and up to $30 million - to be matched dollar for dollar by the NT government -  to assist them converting CDEP positions to real jobs.
A further $18.5m will be spent over two years for 66 additional Australian Federal Police.
By contrast the Martin government’s $286m and 223 additional positions created over five years, to implement the first stage of its 20 year Indigenous Generational Plan Closing the Gap, compares poorly with the Federal Government’s $1.3b over four years.
Much of this effort is for education of the public about substance abuse and violence, strategies of dubious value (Alice News, August 30).
There are now two distinct levels to the intervention.
One is at the lofty heights of national politics as an election is imminent, with the shrill National Aboriginal Alliance as a bizarre sideshow. The other is the world of “the little people on the ground” where Ms Anderson, Mr Hampton and the Federal taskforce press ahead with an historic effort.
“Well of course there are a variety of views being expressed to us,” says taskforce chief Major General Dave Chalmers.
“There are naysayers, there are people who have vested interests in maintaining the status quo, in maintaining communities that are depressed in poverty and subject to the violence that results from social dysfunction.
“But when I go into communities and I talk to the women in communities, to families in communities, people who are suffering the effects of alcohol, of drug abuse, and of violence, then they are extremely supportive of the intervention.
“They understand that a radical change has to be made in communities in order to produce an outcome where people have safe and happy lives.”

If you haven’t heard a rumor by 10am, start one.

As the intervention is rolling out across The Centre, the rumor mill is also getting into top gear, or there is simply an information overload.
Mario Guiseppe, a spokesman for the Mutitjulu community at Ayers Rock, wrote to the Alice News with a string of concerns. We asked Major General Dave Chalmers for replies:
Guiseppe: Its got to the stage out here, where you have three WfD (Work for the Dole) providers wanting 22 WfD clients’ signatures and who are giving them uniforms, work boots, etc. and telling the clients this is part of the new WfD rules. Problem is there are no supervisors, no work plans, no vehicle for clients to carry out any work. Who’s putting in their timesheets, who’s supervising them, are the clients to be familiarized with operational health and safety (OH&S) issues?
Chalmers: There are two Work for Dole (WfD) providers.
There is one WfD activity operating in Mutitjulu (the provider is ITEC and they are sub-contracted to CEA to be the sponsor organisation).  There is a supervisor and he is employed by CEA.
There are work plans, and vehicles for clients to carry out work (where required) and the supervisor puts in the timesheets.
The Work for the Dole project is community clean-up removing rubbish, cleaning and painting community facilities.
Another provider, Job Futures Anangu Jobs, is about to start up a WfD activity doing laundry, cooking program and an opportunity shop.
The clients are familiarised with OH&S issues.
Guiseppe: The Mutitjulu Community was left with not one red cent when the Administrator handed back over $300,000 to the Federal Government for the 06/07 financial year after losing in the Federal Court of NSW.
The Administrator also failed the children the old and frail by not applying for funding for 07/08 financial year when he was in Administration of Mutitjulu, but he paid himself right up to his Departure $ 25,000 per month on time every time.
The Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation is continually even up to this day fixing up the Administrator’s cock ups.
Chalmers: The Commonwealth funds a range of services for the Mutitjulu community.  These are provided by a number of service providers with some services formerly delivered by Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation now delivered by other providers.
The Mutitjulu community continues to receive aged care, outside school hours and vacation care and youth services.  
Essential Services such as electricity, sewerage and water supplies for the Mutitjulu community are provided by National Parks Australia.
The Mutitjulu Community Health Service and the Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation continue to provide health and education services respectively to the community.
The Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation along with other funded organisations has a requirement to repay unspent monies to government agencies each year and to seek new funding as appropriate. 
The Administer fulfilled his requirements to do so and left a balance of funds for the MCAC to continue to operate until the organisation’s committee could determine its future.
To assist the community a Government Business Manager is in place in Mutitjulu managing the provision of Australian Government services to the community.
Other rumors: It seems there are some people earning substantial amounts of money yet are receiving Centrelink benefits.
Apparently one artist got $200,000 for painting a Qantas jet, bought five troop carriers and still gets the pension or dole.
Maraku Arts, Anangu Tours and even the National Parks Service are apparently paying cash and the people get benefits.
Centrelink: Our customers have an obligation to tell Centrelink about any income earned from employment.  
Centrelink conducts regular data-matching exercises with other government organisations, such as the Taxation Office, to ensure customers are receiving their correct entitlements.  
Centrelink also has Fraud Investigation Teams. The Fraud Tip-off Line is 13 1524.
 Other rumours: The following is small beer in the grand scheme of things ... but does the govt pay $1500 a night per room at Titjikala for putting up Centrelink staff in the five-star tent resort? Word is that the tourism industry is hugely pleased about the high occupancy rate with the taskforce in town. What’s the weekly rent bill?
Chalmers: The Government has not paid $1500 a night per room at Titjikala. Titjikala community offered up the accommodation and we agreed on a rate.

Will Arltunga be a ghost town, again? By FIONA CROFT.

The NT Government seems to be scaling back its ranger staff at the historic Arltunga Reserve, the gold field predating Alice Springs.
The two rangers have left and although a spokesman for the Minister for Parks, Delia Lawrie, says they will be replaced, no advertisements have been published yet.
The historic village, 120 km east of Alice Springs, is now in the hands of a part-time caretaker, four hours a day, who has a three months contract.
And the Publican at Arltunga, Guy Bossard, says: “People complain to me about not being able to find rangers.
“They always had one ranger manning the office from nine to five on weekdays.”
CATIA executive member Ren Kelly says: “It is regrettable that the internal staff movements of rangers between Parks has left the historic Arltunga without a resident ranger.
“NT Parks has advised that they are actively pursuing a replacement and the position is soon to be advertised.
“However we understand that in the interim a long term resident has been contracted to provide the caretaker, safety and interpretative services.”
Says Mr Bossard: “What I really believe is that [the reserve] will be run by Aboriginal rangers under joint management in the future.
“I’ve written letters to Clare Martin and when Reno Grollo [the Melbourne property magnate who now owns nearby Ross River] moved in she went to visit him and drove past my place and didn’t even call in.”
Mr Bossard is selling up.
“I’m a proud Territorian originally from Katherine and fell in love with this region.
“But when a multi-millionaire arrives the NT Government is falling over themselves to get money from them.”
When Mr Bossard first arrived he said there was a “wonderful ranger from Katherine, a born and bred Territorian. 
“He removed six acres of buffel grass, now there is eight acres growing out of control.
“The good rain last year washed the fences down on Loves Creek Station and there are horses in the Park.
“Mexican Poppy, which produces up to 10,000 seeds per plant, is spreading.
“Since 1998 the park counted up to 16,000 people visiting a year.
“There there were just under 5,000 last year.”
Mr Bossard says the NT Government isn’t promoting the East MacDonnells, just the West. 
“The reason being bed taxes.
“With only 31 rooms at Ross River Resort, the government makes much more out of Kings Canyon and Alice Springs than out of this region.”
Mr Bossard says he originally had a budget for advertising of $15,000.
Now he spends $2,000 per annum.
He has sent letters to Clare Martin but didn’t get a reply.
Mr Bossard says that when he first arrived ten years ago three rangers were in place, living on site with spouses and children who lived on site. 
“In the mid eighties this area was a big focal point,” he says.
“Now a caretaker is in place living in one of the duplexes. 
“There is a three bedroom house and a duplex which has two bedrooms each.” 
He says the other accommodation is now run down as it has not been used for over seven years.
Meanwhile Mr Kelly isn’t holding his breath that things will improve anytime soon.
He says: “In the same manner as most commercial enterprise in Central Australia, NT Parks tells us that they also have difficulty in staff recruitment, with longer lead times due to Government regulation.
“This is a matter of concern to CATIA that forward planning of staff movements are in place to ensure that visitors receive the highest level of attention and safety so that they go away with a memorable outback experience.“

Travelling to sell intervention:  Labor MLAs cover vast areas. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Two Territory Labor MLAs are quietly doing their bit to advance the most resolute Aboriginal affairs initiative in history.
Day after day, Alison Anderson (MacDonnell) and Karl Hampton (Stuart) are at the coalface, covering an area the size of Central Europe, explaining the “intervention”  to the “little people on the ground”.
Meanwhile the people who think they are not so little are doing their best to put a spanner in the works. Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA spoke with Mr Hampton (pictured).
HAMPTON: I’ve been out there since the announcement of the intervention. Things are moving so quickly it’s hard to keep up with it, in a lot of ways, and people out there are finding that as well.
NEWS: What particularly do they have a difficulty with? There is law enforcement, medical care, administration of welfare money, phasing out of CDEP,  and stores.
HAMPTON: They have problems with the number of people coming into the community.
NEWS: How do you see your role in this?
HAMPTON: I’m putting all these measures on a whiteboard, sitting down with mainly groups of people, using interpreters where required, and just talking through what I know about these measures.
NEWS: Are you supporting the intervention?
HAMPTON: I’m supporting the measures that are long term and practical. People in the communities are engaged in the process. I’m giving people information so they can become engaged. The NT Government has been clear on what we support.
NEWS: Run me through it again, please, what it is that you support and what you don’t.
HAMPTON: We support the changes to the Centrelink payments and CDEP [the transition to Work for the Dole and “quanrantening” for food and other necessities of half the welfare payments] although we’d like to see things slow down a bit. We support measures that create real jobs.
It’s a joint initiative between the two levels of government. We’ve got to work with the Commonwealth on that.
We support the alcohol and pornography bans. A lot of people support those measures when it comes to alcohol and extra police, and moving into real jobs. And it’s got to be long term.
NEWS: Do you see the announcement by Canberra of a budget for the intervention of a massive $1300m in the next four years, including $600m in the first year, as a sign that it will be long-term?
HAMPTON: I think that’s a good indication. That’s a significant contribution from Canberra.
NEWS: Is it something you expect Labor to maintain if they win government?
HAMPTON: That a question you’ll have to ask Warren Snowdon.
NEWS: What’s your expectation? The word neglect is most often used when describing Aboriginal affairs over the past 30 years. On the face of it at least, the Federal intervention aims at putting an end to neglect.
HAMPTON: That amount is a significant contribution, and that’s certainly most welcome by people out there. They have been asking for this level of resourcing and commitment for a long time – and so has the NT Government.
NEWS: A flyer has been circulated by Mr Snowdon on communities in which he appears to be signaling a return of CDEP if Labor gets in. Have you seen that flyer?
HAMPTON: I’ve heard about it but I haven’t seen it.
NEWS: The initial agenda of the medical initiative wasn’t popular. But the element of coercion was removed.
HAMPTON: I’ve been encouraging my electors to fully engage and work with the medical teams, work with the police on the ground, they are there providing another service. It’s a good opportunity. I’ve been to Nyirripi, Willowra and Utopia, where there are now extra police on the ground.
They and the communities are working together. It’s fantastic.
NEWS: There seem to be a lot of statements about the intervention by people from outside the area. The group of around 100 activists who formed the National Aboriginal Alliance in Alice Springs last week, launching a vigorous campaign to stop the intervention, seemed to be mostly from interstate. What do you say to these people?
HAMPTON: They are entitled to put across their viewpoint. There are a lot of strong indigenous leaders in that group and I have a lot of respect for many of them. You’d have to talk to them. As the Member for Stuart I’m talking to my constituents, and encouraging [the taskforce] to work with people on the ground. A lot of the changes are going to happen on the ground between the people most affected by the intervention and the people seeking to help them.
NEWS: What effect do you think the National Aboriginal Alliance will have on the initiative? Some national and international media seem to be giving the activists credibility. Le Monde in France, for example, is reporting that the government is taking land away from Aboriginal people. In fact it’s only the townships, the administrative centres, just one tenth of one per cent of Aboriginal land, that’s taken over by Canberra for five years. There is clearly disinformation out there.
HAMPTON: The National Aboriginal Alliance is entitled to its view.
NEWS: What’s the view of your constituents about the lifting of access permits to the administrative centers?
HAMPTON: There is a very clear message from my constituents that they don’t support the lifting of the permit system.
NEWS: Is it broadly understood that the permits waiver applies only to the administrative centres, that means one tenth of one per cent of Aboriginal land?
HAMPTON: Most people understand that, and explaining it is part of my job.
NEWS: Permits have been lifted for a month now. Have there been any bad experiences?
HAMPTON: I haven’t heard of any yet.
NEWS: What is the attitude towards the compulsory acquisition for five years of the administrative centers, a couple of square kilometers in each case?
HAMPTON: People are concerned about the compulsory acquisition of their land.
NEWS: Aside from opposition to that in principle, are there practical disadvantages flowing from the compulsory acquisition for five years?
HAMPTON: Not that I’ve become aware of in the three or four weeks since the compulsory acquisition [began].
People are concerned abut how this happened. People were not engaged. It was done over the top of them.
NEWS: The intervention has shown flexibility in all sorts of areas. Do you think there could be a compromise on permits and temporary acquisition? Are you talking to the taskforce about this?
HAMPTON: I met Major General Dave Chalmers once and I will be meeting with him again soon. I’ll be raising issues with him.

What future for outstations? By KIERAN FINNANE.

Tjuwanpa Resource Centre is just a few minutes drive from Hermannsburg, on a rise with a view straight across to Palm Valley.
It’s a cluster of functional buildings – a few houses, a workshop, offices, an art centre, a disused service station and cafeteria, providing employment for and services to people living on Western Arrernte homelands or outstations.
There are 40 of them all up, scattered across four and a half thousand square kilometres of country, home purportedly for some 350 people, although at the moment, according to CEO Jane Rosalski, only a fraction of the outstations are occupied.
This is despite a quite massive investment in resourcing them: Ms Rosalski cited, for instance, $4.5m spent over the last four years on electrifying 20 of the outstations, linking them to the Hermannsburg power station.
Tjuwanpa maintains over 500 kms of roads linking the homelands, and has just been given $250,000 from FACSIA for a new front loader for the work.
Last year Tjuwanpa sank a new bore at a cost of $100,000 and spent $300,000 on solar setups for five outstations.
But everyone at Tjuwanpa is now wondering about the point of all this. With the Federal Government’s resolve to get children to school, they recognise that some families will have to move, to Hermannsburg or into Alice Springs.
The three little schools on the homelands for one reason or another are all closed at the moment and for most families the daily travel to Hermannsburg or other communities in the region is too exhausting or too expensive or both.
Ms Rosalski and MLA Alison Anderson, doing the rounds of her vast electorate last week, discussed their worry over a family on one outstation where the children are not going to school: “They sit on a mattress and watch TV all day.”
They also counted up the abandoned outstations; with dogs left behind, surviving on horse shit, or starving; with gardens dying.
And counted up the outstations invaded by drinkers from Alice Springs, since the dry town legislation came into force in the town.
They showed the Alice News the litter of cans left behind on the banks of the Finke River and along the roads that was not there two weeks earlier, they said.
For all this, there was an upbeat atmosphere at the resource centre, amongst the people working there.
Mark Inkamala, chairman of the corporation and workshop supervisor, showed the News five transportable ablution blocks that his team have manufactured.
They were the brainchild of Ms Rosalski, a flexible way of alleviating overcrowding at some of the outstations.
Andrew Porta and Phillip Fly both work full-time under Mr Inkamala, carrying out repairs to machinery, doing general mechanical and maintenance work at Tjuwanpa and on the homelands.
They are CDEP workers who earn top-up, as do 50 of the 160 people of working age on the homelands. On CDEP a worker is entitled to their benefit and up to $20,000 in top-up.
In the office two young women similarly work full-time for CDEP plus top-up.
They run the Centrelink agency, with 420 clients. Both have done Centrelink training and, as native Arrernte speakers and well motivated workers, are perfect for the job, says Ms Rosalski.
Sherona Richardson started the job earlier this year, after returning to Hermannsburg from South Australia, where she’d been working in a tuna processing plant at Port Lincoln. She liked travelling around but after a while she’d become “homesick”.
Turning 24 next month, she went to year Nine at Yirara College.
Shona Windley, 22, went to Year 10, also at Yirara.
Shona had tried a number of different jobs – child care worker, shop assistant, working at the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct – but she prefers this one, which she’s been doing for one year and eight months, as a “more professional job to do”.
She’s studying for a Certificate in Business with Batchelor Institute.
And Sherona is going to do her training as an Aboriginal Community Police Officer, starting in March next year.
All of these people seem well equipped to face Mal Brough’s brave new world, having already acquired skills and attitudes that allow them to respond to work opportunities.
The art centre, under the guiding hand of Heather Shearer, is gearing up after a period in the doldrums. The main activity of the last three years has been to prepare entries for the Desert Mob Show, although artists also sell their own work.
Ms Shearer says an art centre sub-committee was formed at last week’s corporation meeting to work on long term strategies to promote the artists’ “huge heritage”.
As for Tjuwanpa itself, Ms Rosalski sees there may be a future for it as a training centre, working in with work-for-the-dole and STEP programs. 
“We need to utilise this point to go forward, to bring our vision forward,” she said, taking Ms Anderson’s advice to get on the front foot with the CDEP broker and making a phone call to her as we spoke.
“There can be hiccups with any change,” said Ms Anderson, about the concerns over the end of CDEP.
“But once we got over them, there’ll be opportunities for these people to engage in real employment.
“The time for consultation is finished.
“We need the opportunity for new growth.
“It’s like a bushfire that goes through the country and fresh seed comes up behind.”

Done & Dusted. By DARCY DAVIS.

Last Saturday Bassinthedust brought together almost 2000 of Alice’s music fiends, as desperate for a live music festival as the land is for rain.
Despite the scorch of an approaching summer, the crowd did not dry out.
Exit Earth kicked off the day’s events, followed by local bands, Bloom, Tara Stewart and the Roaring Sand Pods, Nights Plague and headlining local act Through Bullets and Bravery (TBAB).
“Nights Plague tore the air open in front of them” said metal head and TBAB bass player Jackson Smith.
National act Behind Crimson Eyes were also impressed by their performance with a special song dedication to them during their set.
It would’ve been great to see the local acts playing between the national bands for some real exposure and experience, rather than being slotted in the roaring heat like barbeque meat.
The first of the national acts was the surprise favourite of the day, Mammal.
Those who got into their primal tunes were up on their feet, and singer Ezekiel Ox (Zeek) got down on ground level to recruit more moshers.
“This isn’t myspace – you can’t just turn this shit off,” he screamed towards the seated members of the audience.
The stage force of Mammal got those in the crowd reverting to their animal instincts. Towards the end of the set, when energy levels were dropping, Zeek scaled the scaffolding holding the speakers and followed through with a stage dive he had promised earlier, jumping over security guards and missing the barricade.
Speaking to members of the audience after the set, it was clear that Mammal had established a loyal fan base, keen to get them back.
Behind Crimson Eyes performed next and people gathered in their masses.
BCE have won over plenty of Alice fans after their gig at Bassinthegrass and the release of their latest album “A Revelation for Despair”.
Singer Josh welcomed these fans with open arms, literally, and gave everyone in the front row a hug.
Despite a successful show, Josh managed to smash a stage light with an ill directed water bottle power throw, leaving the crowd thirsty for more.
“Behind Crimson Eyes made my eyes crimson with tears when they left the stage,” wept Matt Porter while friend Angus Morina nodded sympathetically.
Lowrider brought a funkier feel to the evening, with laid-back keys, grooving bass and soulful vocals.
The mosh mania morphed into a funk fest.
Singer from Lowrider, Joe Brathwaite, expressed an affinity with local band Bloom: “They had some great grooves goin!” he said.
“The vibe that bloom put out was spectacular,” said crowd member Gary Burgoyne.
“I was surprised at the amount of warm feedback we received,” said Tanya from Bloom.
“It was a buzz to be playing with such a professional set up.”
The Waifs were an obvious favourite, playing songs mainly from their new album, Sun Dirt Water, but pulled out classics such as “London Still” and “Bridal Train” later in the set.
Zeek from Mammal also had something to say about The Waifs: “They had some great chops.”
Next up was TZU.
Hippies and hip hop heads alike got up to groove.
The band did great considering they haven’t performed together in three years.
Jet headlined the night but seemed to lack real conviction and disappointed many fans.
“Man, I wish Behind Crimson Eyes had headlined,” cried a disappointed Eric Schindler.
Perhaps the comparatively small Alice crowd made it difficult to perform – poor things.
Despite the crowd being smaller than last year, by all accounts the show was still a great success.
“I was very happy with the conduct of the crowd,” said chief of Northern Territory Major Events, Paul Cattermole.
“The local bands were fantastic, the police were terrific, the security did a great job managing the crowd and once again Alice looked after each other to keep this great event running smoothly.”
Like the Bush Bands Bash, it would be great to have Bassinthedust become a nationally acclaimed event to positively promote the town, the local bands and the surroundings and to highlight Central Australia as the creative, innovative place that it is.

ADAM CONNELLY: Concert crowd shocked by middle-aged dancer.

By the time you read this column, I will have officially turned another year older.
I’ve noticed that those around me seem to celebrate their own birthdays with increasingly less regard the older they get.
They seem almost to be ashamed of their birthday, as though they are nothing more than a reminder of time’s winged chariot hurrying near (to quote Mr Keats).
I now get as many furrowed looks as presents on my birthday for having the nerve to remind my contemporaries of their mortality. Well, I’ve had enough of the nay-sayers, those that choose to live life in the realms of the glass half-empty.
To quote another British poet: “Hey! (Hey!) You! (You!) Get off-a my cloud”.
Carpe Diem, fools! Time to embrace the age you are and be the best at it as you can. Every second it takes you to read this column is another second you don’t have.
But on your birthday you get to celebrate the fact you’ve survived a whole bunch of those seconds.
Thirty one million, five hundred and thirty six thousand each year.
I’m not one of those people who looks upon youth as the magical solution to life. I don’t feel the need to want to stay youthful.
I have a friend who rides his push bike for hours every day.
He eats low fat goop. He is constantly drinking water and owns a library full of books on how to live longer.
He doesn’t do these things to stay fit so that he can live better, he does it to live longer.
I have a fairly fatalistic (for want of a better word) outlook on life. I will live for as long as God wants me on the planet. Not a second more or less.
To me it’s not about cheating time. It’s about sucking the juice out of the time you have.
It is good, however, to - on occasion - check the pulse of the time line. To throw yourself into a situation that calibrates your age.
I did just that last weekend at the Bass in the Dust Festival.
Working for a youth radio station I thought I should go along and observe our target demographic.
The scrum of kids pulsating in front of the stage was a heady mix of newly discovered testosterone and estrogen.
The gawky, the gangly and the too-cool-for-school fueled on the presence of their idols. 
Emo boys tried their little broken hearts out to look interesting as the Paris Hilton-like girls totally did their best to - like, you know - look pretty and that.
Bogan kids tried to crowd surf and sneak beer in their over-sized shorts alongside the bookish girls who looked as though the entire world was critiquing them.
And there was I. The overweight, bearded, soon-to-be 32 year old bloke in the old man hat surrounded by a sea of kids who haven’t figured out who the hell they are just yet.
Standing there in the middle of all this juvenile humanity it dawns on me that, while I really enjoyed my time as a teenage kid, I wouldn’t swap places with them for quids.
In fact, I can’t help but remember that I had a stack of life learning to do in my teens. I’m really glad I don’t have to go through all that stuff again. I’m 32 and I’m just warming up.
Nonetheless, I am at the Bass in the Dust festival, out of my comfort zone. What does a man in my position do when confronted by a situation such as this?
The 18-year-old Adam would have felt uncomfortable and incredibly self-conscious. The 23-year-old Adam would have tried his best to look as good as he could. He had tickets on himself like most 23-year-olds.
The 32-year-old Adam danced like no one was watching.

LETTERS: Anti-social behaviour is back.

Sir,- Just when it appeared that our beautiful town of Alice Springs was returning to normal, we again see the violence and rampant vandalism returning, with cars being burnt on football fields, riots at the football, women being molested on Gap Road, and then today I was a victim of teenage louts.
I was alerted by the sound of yelling and assumed it was out on Gap Road as it usually is. On investigation I found five teenage Indigenous youths swimming in my pool.
The pool gate was locked with a large sign advising that the water was being treated so my concern, apart from the fact that they were trespassing, was that as I had just placed acid and other chemicals in the water then the youths would possibly get burnt eyes.
 On telling the youths to vacate the pool and leave our property immediately, I was then abused with some pretty vicious and foul profanities and threats, and told by the youths that I was a white c... , that this was their land and I was the one who should f... off, and we’ll be back to get you, you white c...
How can we possibly ever get total reconciliation between all Australians, not just Indigenous versus the “others”, but between all races, when these Indigenous youths show no respect for anyone else.
This must stem from their home life because I thought Australia belonged to all Australians, not just a select few?
The parents of these youths obviously haven’t taught these louts that we are all equal and that they do not have the right to use, abuse and vandalise other people’s property just because they are Indigenous.
It is time the Indigenous leaders, who are so vocal to protest at anything else that doesn’t go their way, to start talking to the young indigenous people and make them aware that they cannot continue on the aggressive way they are going against non indigenous Australians.
It’s not too late to change, but if it keeps going the way it is, the tide will turn against them very soon.
R. Watling
Alice Springs

Sir,- You might recall me writing a letter to you a couple of months ago about wanting to “break legs” because I was sick and tired of having broken windows. 
It was a letter that you published and, I must say, I got a lot of comment from it. 
Obviously I had no intentions of going to break legs but I certainly felt like it, and most of the comments from people that I received were of a similar supportive thrust.
Since then, the dry town legislation has been brought in and the general comment around is that it has made a difference, and that drunks and troublemakers seem to have disappeared somewhat.
Well, in the first couple of weeks I thought so, too! 
But I now think it was just that there was saturation policing - which was good (but could well have been done under the two kilometre law as well!) 
However, of late I notice that it is reverting back to the old ways!
From a personal point, I have received three broken windows since that letter I sent to you - two of these breaks in the past two weeks. 
Also the other evening at around 8pm, there was a group of drunks sitting drinking (as they usually do) beside my gallery by the Gregory Terrace car park. 
You could have heard them five kilometres away!
I politely asked them to leave because I really am tired of this behaviour, I’m tired of having to clean the area up in the mornings, and I’m tired of them using it as an ablution block! 
All but one got up and politely left - where did they go? 
Another dark place no doubt, as there is certainly no place in this town to help get them off the streets and attempt to rehabilitate them into good citizens! 
Some halfway house between the streets and jail -it would be a step in the right direction, I think! 
Perhaps the Government could skim a couple of million off the Darwin Green belt plan, or the upgrading of Darwin hockey fields or some other Top End project, for something to help down here? Do you think that might happen?
Anyway, back to the problem: Yep, the one that didn’t want to go abused me for at least five minutes and tried to find a rock to throw at me. 
Fortunately she couldn’t find one, so eventually wandered off into the night yelling obscenities!
No doubt multitudes of your readers could write similar stories and I invite them to do so. 
Why? Because I think this is a fantastic town and I don’t want all of this recent awareness and new attempts to improve the situation to just fade away. 
I think it is something that must continually be headlined and kept in the face of our Government.  
There will never be good long term solutions, for the public and the perpetrators, if we don’t continually expose it. 
So readers write your stories to the Editor, and hopefully he will print them. 
Let our politicians and law enforcers know on a regular basis so they too will have it in the forefront of their minds - not just us!
Tim Jennings
Alice Springs

Sir,- The time has come for leaders in Alice Springs to put the talk about climate change into action. 
Alice Springs has a plethora of reports such as the Alice Springs Town Council Climate Action Plan, The CSAT Sustainable Arid Towns Report and Power Water’s various efficiency reports.
These reports have been ordered by various levels of government over the years in response to local outcry. 
However, no action has taken place for YEARS.
The time has come for action now. 
Climate change is real and we continue to waste, waste, waste. 
I have been told that Power Water loses 14% of our water allocation through LEAKS!  This is not good enough.
Reports have been sitting on desks for too long now. 
All levels of government need to start taking action and stop passing the buck - just like Norm in the Life Be In It ads, you need to get up out of that armchair and take action today.
A public meeting about climate change action will be happening in the near future and I urge people to join us and let their voices be heard.
Jane Clark

Sir,- Forty years ago equal pay was made the law of the land, and as a result many Aboriginal stockmen were trucked off the cattle stations and dumped in town. 
Their families came with them, and town camps started their slow evolution.
The dole, or sit down money, was distributed along with the right to buy grog, and I think we all know how completely that idea has bombed.
Then came land rights, the outstations movement and self-determination. 
But a working social structure still didn’t develop, not least because publicly funded self-determination is a contradiction in terms. 
He who pays the piper gets to call the tune, and public funding means the government gets the call.
CDEP, or working for the dole plus extras, was the next magic bullet.
This has had some success but working for the dole is still the dole, even with the extras. 
Now the Federal Government, in what may be its most controversial intervention, is bringing it down and replacing it with we don’t know what.
So where do we go from here? 
Clearly it’s time to re-visit the original idea of equal pay and give teachers’ aides, medical staff, coastal rangers, night patrol officers and many of the other CDEP workers a real wage for any and all essential work they do?
It is encouraging to learn that this is happening.
If we take the wages issue one step further, common sense tells us that if homeland communities are to prosper the residents need to be given all available government-initiated work. 
If the resumption of leases is really about infrastructure redevelopment, hire locals. 
If houses are to be built, hire locals.  For all maintenance needs, hire locals.
And if the locals need training, train them. 
If the army can build a TAFE school in Afghanistan with local labor, it can come home and do the same thing right here. 
But don’t just distribute more sit down money and then quarantine it. It would be much better if sit down money is not distributed at all.  Offer work instead. 
With the permit system’s bottle-neck now widened, business might start up. 
People could build a life.  Ask Noel Pearson. He’s the one.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Sir,- An Indigenous Land Use Agreement providing for the Rainbow Valley park (Alice News, Sept 20) to operate under a joint management agreement and joint management plan was signed by the Chief Minister in March 2005.
The current draft joint management plan for Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve, which was recently out for public comment for six weeks, is available at
The reserve’s area is 2483 Ha. We expect that very few visitors will be affected by proposed zoning and access conditions.
It is not unusual for the PWSNT to regulate visitor access on safety, environmental or cultural grounds.
Similarly it is not unusual for Aboriginal traditional owners or sacred site custodians to allow visitors to access culturally sensitive areas, for example, Tnorala (Gosse Bluff).
The Reserve will continue to provide a superb experience, albeit with an enhanced cultural perspective developed over time.
Subject to funding a longer walking track and sunset viewing opportunities will be developed.
Camping will continue as at present in the short term and, subject to funding, enhanced over the longer term.
The PWSNT will be preparing similar joint management plans for the 27 parks and reserves subject to the Parks and Wildlife Reserves (Framework for the Future) Act.
Public input into these is welcome.
There is a statutory one month period of public comment on each draft plan.
There were three public submissions on the Rainbow Valley draft plan.
Edwin Edlund
NT Dept. of Environment and the Art

Sir,- I have just finished viewing the now famous 2007 Alice Springs grand final on YouTube.
Congratulations to all the thugs and particularly the king hitters for now sabotaging any chance the Alice had of entering a team in the SANFL competition soon.
I hope both clubs unite and publicly appologise to their community for such a pathetic display.
Grow up.
Darren Kay
South Australia

Sir,- A new Indigenous Economic Development Scheme (IEDS), launched by former Macquarie Bank executive Bill Moss AM, has been swamped by expressions of interest and support from the Australian public.
Mr Moss says he is delighted with the breadth of the response, especially from the business community and the Aboriginal community.
About 40 companies and industry groups have asked for details of how the scheme works and the vast majority of them have said they will support it.
These include the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), The Tourism Transport Forum (TTF) and Porosus Pty Ltd.
Bill Moss funded the now successful Gunya Tourism initiative in 2004, a joint venture with the Titjikala community, 120 kilometers south east of Alice Springs.
It has become the model for his proposal: business bankrolling cottage industries as a way to create employment and reduce the many social problems.
Support has come from indigenous leaders as well as communities that would like to be recipients of the scheme.
High school attendance has gone from zero to 24 in four years.
Economic modeling in the Bill Moss Green Paper suggests that - for five jobs created - the federal government would actually save over $3 million across a 10-year period, via direct savings on government spending and accrued economic impact.
For each job created under the proposed scheme the Federal government achieves a cash saving of $23,820 a year with a further $39,000 of economic benefit to the economy.
Libby Gauld

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