November 22, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Crunchtime for the new council laws. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

It’s crunch time for the Town Council to assert its position on the controversial Local Government Bill, which the NT Government wants to pass into law before Christmas, including removing the present certainty that the community can elect its mayor in a separate poll.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff says she is opposed to this, and to the possiblility of mayors losing their casting vote.
But she is signalling her readiness to compromise over issues  on which outspoken alderman Murray Stewart is taking a harder line.
Ald Stewart says these changes would be tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the position of mayor.
Both Ms Kilgariff and Ald Stewart have announced they will not be standing for mayor in March next year.
Ms Kilgariff has said she may contest a seat in the Legislative Assembly at some time in the future.
She stood unsuccessfully in Greatorex for the Labor Party in the last Territory election.
Ms Kilgariff welcomes changes the government has made about the powers of the Minister for Local Government.
But a Territory academic has described as “almost meaningless” the transfer to the Administrator of powers given to the Minister in an earlier draft of the Bill.
“It’s just shifting the blame, a very clever piece of politics,” says Professor Allan Patience, of Charles Darwin University’s department of politics.
He says the Administrator would never fail to act on advice from the government.
“He would never do so or he would be sacked,” says Prof. Patience.
The exception would be when the Federal government overrides a Territory decision: in that case the Administrator would be “legally obliged” to fall in line, because unlike governors and the Governor General, the NT Administrator does not represent the Queen, but the Federal Government.
Prof. Patience says the wide-ranging powers in question exist in similar ways in other states.
They empower the Minister to abolish a council; create a new one; amalgamate two or more councils into a single council or divide a council into two or more councils; alter the number of members of a council or the number of members to be elected for a ward; suspend all members of a council, or terminate their terms of office; and cancel, defer or suspend an election.
Ms Kilgariff says the government wants to do away with the separate poll for the mayor but she has written to the Local Government Minister Elliot McAdam, supporting a compromise position.
This would allow aldermen, three to nine months before the end of a term, to decide that in the ensuing election only aldermen would be chosen, who then would appoint a mayor.
Ms Kilgariff says her own view is that the separate poll should continue because it gives the mayor “independence and credibility and gets rid of politicking”.
Ald Stewart says there should be no compromise on the issue – the separate poll must stay, and this is why: “The general public is comfortable with two terms for the mayor.
“If this is changed, aldermen can move at the end of the first term to deny the mayor the opportunity of being popularly elected,” says Ald Stewart.
“The mayor would be a puppet, stripped of respect.
“The factions would have their say. The process would be politicized.”
Ald Stewart says the current situation “preserves the position of mayor in terms of high respect for the office”.
The proposed provisions for the casting vote are similar: aldermen would decide at the first ordinary meeting of a new term whether to permit or deny the casting vote for the rest of that term.
Either decision – separate poll and casting vote – would be decided by a 75% majority of the vote.
Both Ms Kilgariff and Ald Stewart say the government is rushing the matter, seeking to pass the Bill before Christmas.
But they disagree on a clause requiring council’s to “cooperate appropriately” with the NT and Federal governments.
Ms Kilgariff has managed to have the word “appropriately” removed from the Bill because, she says, it is “ambiguous and paternalistic”.
But Ald Stewart asks what “cooperate” means. 
He says: “How is it to be construed by the minister of the day?
“Could it mean not writing a letter to the editor about the government, or not passing a vote of no confidence in the government, as [the current council] did in relation to inaction on youth issues this year?”
Sticking points, some resolved:-
• Having reserves such as Blatherskite Park “foisted onto us without agreement”. There would need to be council consent for reserves to be placed under its care, and they would need to be in the municipal area. That has now been agreed to.
• The power of an aggrieved person to seek a revision, by the council, of a decision made under a council by-law,
• Capping of rates: this should apply only to the nine new shires while the four municipal councils should retain discretion about setting rates. This has been accepted.
• There should be no extension to boundaries unless the council wants it.
Ms Kilgariff says extended local government in the NT is likely to reduce individual Federal Assistance grants, but these make up only $1.2m of the council’s $25m budget consisting of rates (60%), miscellaneous Federal and NT grants (20%), and fees and charges (20%).

Water: The cheap option. By ERWIN CHLANDA

Community members consulted about the new water strategy for Alice Springs, which is restricting growth of consumption to 20% over the next 10 years, were given a “charter” limiting the enquiry to the use of existing resources, according to Alderman Murray Stewart.
This precluded any examination of new and plentiful sources of water, such as the majority of the Mereenie Basin to the west, the Great Artesian Basins to the east, the use of dams, and recycling effluent that is mostly evaporated now.
But Ald Stewart, who represented the town council on the study, admits he accepted the limitations, although he claims the strategy is a work in progress and can be modified at any time.
However, the strategy says it will be subject to a minor review in five years, and a major one in 10.
Donald McDonald, who represented the Chamber of Commerce, says, “They have gone for the cheapest solution.
“It was predominantly a study of underground aquifers.  We looked at all known water reserves within a rational distance, up to 25 km to 50 kms.
“Recycling was specifically not part of the agenda.”
However, Mr McDonald says he endorsed the outcome of discussions, and the draft of the strategy early in 2006.
“I was quite comfortable with the way the bureaucrats were going,’” he said.
Last week Advance Alice said the town is being sold short by the strategy: there is plenty of water in the region, the group claims, and Alice should be given an opportunity of using it as other regions of Australia are suffering shortages.
Ald Stewart says whenever spending money on new developments was mentioned in the strategy planning group, there were “gentle indications that this is not our charter.
“We would have been shown the door.
“We can really only base this plan on the current trends,” Ald Stewart says the committee was told, although trends “were not all that healthy, the trend was zero growth.
“We were not given a visionary charter. That would have been perceived as hypothetical.” 
The objective was really to maximize the potential of existing water resources.
Suggestions such as dams, new basins, new technology and desalination were resolutely rejected.
“We should be working towards preserving our lifestyle. We should not have to live like cavemen to survive, like Fred Flintstone,” says Ald Stewart.
He also says that the group was “reminded on several occasions that discussions are confidential”.
The upside of the issue, says Ald Murray, is that a public discussion is now under way, and the government can be pressured to revise the strategy soon.

Local issues will drive elections in The Centre. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Alice Springs will cop the consequences like never before of whatever – good or bad – the Federal election produces in the bush.
The choices there are brutally simple.
Adam Giles is pointing to Warren Snowdon’s failure, during 20 years in public office, to bring about any relief to Aboriginal misery.
In fact it finally got so bad that a national emergency had to be declared this year.
On the other hand, all Snowdon needs to say is that “Giles’ mob is taking away your sitdown money. Vote for me and I’ll give it back to you, and to your children and their children and forever after.”  The CLP candidate is already known as “No Money” Giles.
As Snowdon isn’t saying how the Mal Brough intervention would be managed by a Labor Government, his pledge to honor the Coalition’s commitment has a hollow ring.
And so we are left to speculate – and to be amazed at the anti-intervention vocabulary.
“Consultation” means channelling public money through the publicly unaccountable Aboriginal organizations, which have demonstrated their endemic incompetence for roughly the same amount of time as Snowdon has been in Parliament.
“Confusion” covers the undermining by people working for Aborigines of the current administrative changes, from CDEP to STEP, for example, and encouragement to oppose this new, resolute and adequately funded government effort to fix the outrageous mess their clients are in.
“Land grab” means renting for a fee and for just five years two tenths of one percent of Aboriginal land so that vital aid can be delivered, unencumbered by red tape, to the nation’s most disadvantaged people.
“Self determination” means saying no to a gift of 1300 million dollars, although opponents of the intervention have previously screamed incessantly that more money needs to be spent on Aboriginal affairs.
“Dole” is a right to receive money without conditions attached, forever, and unencumbered by any views the donor might have on the matter, namely the taxpayer, who inadvertently is paying for the Rivers of Grog, and the savage slaughter in their wake.
“Genocide” is sending doctors and police officers to places of pervasive ill health and lawlessness.
And so we will find out on Saturday if the first coherent effort in a generation to deal with the “Aboriginal problem” will continue, albeit with some necessary modifications.
Or if this once in a lifetime opportunity will be sacrificed on the altar of party politics and self interest, with the victims being not only the Sacred Children, but also Alice Springs, at the mercy of an increasingly sick, impoverished, angry and lawless underclass.

Oil and gas explorers take on land council. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

An oil exploration company is confident it has found a way around an impass with the Central Land Council (CLC) which, according to the company, has been blocking for more than a year a project that could lead to a multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry in the Alice Springs region.
John Heugh, of Central Petroleum Ltd, says he and other company representatives met with 28 members of an Aboriginal Land Trust in Santa Teresa on Thursday last week.
They signed an agreement to grant a lease for a road to be built on Aboriginal land, and issued an instruction to the CLC to finalize the necessary paperwork.
The agreement provides for an up-front minimum payment, repeated annually, and a payment per kilometer of track, payable in any week the track is used by the company.
Mr Heugh says the amounts have not yet been finalized.
The meeting took place without an access permit, which have recently been abolished by the Federal Government as part of the intervention.
The exploration area, where Central Petroleum wants to carry out extensive drilling and seismic exploration, is due east of Finke and due south of Jervois, in the Simpson Desert.
Mr Heugh says the area would be most easily reached by a road, proposed to be built by the company, generally following the Colson track that runs in a south-easterly direction from Numery Station.
The proposed bore field is, as the crow flies, 260 km from Numery, which in turn is 170 km east of Alice Springs. 
About half way between Numery and the bore field the planned road runs through Aboriginal land over which the Pmere Nyente land trust has control.
Mr Heugh says the CLC, through its senior lawyer, David Avery, had advised that the route was not an option because it would interfere with sacred sites at the Allitra Tableland.
Its highest peak, O’Neill Point, is a waymark on the Alice to Birdsville flight route.
However, Mr Heugh says a helicopter survey of sacred sites with Aboriginal custodians had revealed that the sites were in fact on the western side of the tableland, not on the eastern side where the Colson Track is.
“The sites are in fact quite distant from the route proposed by the company, and the traditional owners were not concerned by the access planned,” says Mr Heugh.
The CLC, which did not respond to a request for comment from the Alice Springs News, had offered a route from the from the west, via Alambi and Andado.
But Mr Heugh says this would have added some 40 kms to the length of the road, taken it over numerous sandhills and traversed the floodouts of the Todd and Hale Rivers, making it impassible at times when they flood.
The Colson Track parallels the sand dunes and avoids the floodouts.
“The route proposed by the CLC in fact passes quite close to several sacred sites, initially identified by Ted Strehlow and then during oil exploration in the seventies and the eighties,” says Mr Heugh.
In any case the Colson track is already frequently used by four wheel drive enthusiasts, without permits from the land trust and apparently without any control by the CLC.
The company’s road would be further to the east of the Colson track and further away from the sacred sites.
Mr Heugh says the company would assist the trust to manage access to its land, and enable it to earn money from tourists, if the traditional owners wished to do that.
Mr Heugh says the CLC is “in flagrant breach” of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act because it had failed to present the company’s offer to the trust, making the direct approach necessary.
He says the company had sent countless messages to the CLC, starting in August 2006, before deciding to speak to the traditional owners direct.
The CLC would be committing a further breach of the Act if it now failed to carry out the instructions from the trust. They are “to finalize the necessary lease documents ... as soon as possible, but in any case before December 31, 2007”.
The resources include oil and gas partly available to Central Petroleum Ltd through a “farm-in” arrangement with Rawson Resources.
Exploration so far has revealed a 50% likelihood of 320 million barrels of oil, worth about $30 billion at current prices, and a 10% likelihood of 1600 million barrels.
There is also a 50% likelihood of gas worth $47 billion estimated at $1 per gigajoule.
Mr Heugh says the company has “long term contingency plans” for a gas to liquids plant in Alice Springs with the gas being piped there for the production of high-quality, low pollution diesel, and other products.
He says the world’s biggest plant of this kind, worth US$7 billion, is currently in Qatar, on the Arabian Gulf, producing 140,000 barrels a day.
The estimated gas reserves in Central Petroleum’s “patch” in the Simpson would keep that plant going for 100 years.
Such a plant, “all things being equal,” would employ more than 500 people.

Democratic fervour in the faraway bush. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A steady line of voters queued 20 and 30 deep under a stinging sun at Alpurrurulam (Lake Nash) on Monday.
As cumulus clouds gathered in the midday sky, polling was extending for over half an hour to accommodate the numbers. 
With turnout at around 80% residents of the community, some 650 kilometres north-east of Alice and just 17kms from the Queensland border, were taking their democratic rights seriously.
Unfortunately many were not on the roll. CLP scrutineer Peter Cain estimated some 50 were turned away – some having never voted, some having voted previously but not sure of where.
ALP campaigner David Moore lamented the lack of voter education between polls, resulting in numbers of voters in remote communities not only unregistered but uncertain about how to cast a formal vote.
Poll officials assisted many voters at Alpurrurulam.
Controversy arose over one official appearing to instruct a voter to put number one in the Labor box on the Senate ballot paper.
Mr Cain says he will make a formal complaint to the Australian Electoral Commission.
“I’m not suggesting anyone put her up to it and she may not have known she was doing the wrong thing, but it’s about the fairness of the process,” he says.
“She had been working for abut one and half hours. So I will be claiming that a certain proportion of the votes were tainted.”
ALP scrutineer Paul Quinlivan agreed with Mr Cain that there was a problem with the official.
He suggested that council staff, speaking the local language, be found to act as “voters’ friends”.
First candidate for the job arrived wearing a Labor campaign t-shirt. Mr Cain expressed his vehement objection.
Two more staff were found and proceeded to do “an excellent job”, says Mr Cain.
The CLP is out to take 3800 votes off Labor in the bush in order to win Lingiari. 
Mr Cain suggested that some 30% of voters favoured the CLP at Alpurrurulam: “You’d be surprised at how accurate the estimates of an experienced scrutineer can be.”
But outside the booth the CLP was completely outgunned by Labor.
Three local men donned the Labor t-shirt to hand out how-to-vote cards and talk to their fellow residents. They were joined by Mr Moore from Alice Springs, a fluent speaker of the local language Alyawarr, as well as Arrernte and Anmatyerr, and, in his day job, an advisor to the Martin Government on remote communities.
The CLP had only one campaign volunteer, Amanda O’Brien from Alice – friendly, enthusiastic but quite unknown to the community.
Intending voters to a man and woman approached by the Alice News declined to talk about what they saw as the election issues or who they wanted to see win.
One young man, a recent arrival in the community, did comment on the lack of information to explain “who’s who”.
Labor campaigner and local resident Maxie Ray did not hesitate to say why he thought Alpurrurulam would be voting for his party.
“Labor will bring back CDEP and the permit system, and there’ll be more consultation about leasing [the five year leases to the Commonwealth of communities’ public areas].
“That’s very important for us, the land issue.
“We’re not supporting the CLP because they did things without talking to us and without talking to one of our biggest organisations, which is the Central Land Council.” 
Mr Ray is a member of the Central Land Council executive for “region number seven”.
He is also a member of the local council and was equally unhappy about local government reform: it has been “rushed – no consultation whatsoever”.
He welcomed the additional police soon to arrive in the community: “That’s a good thing the intervention has done.”
At present Alpurrurulam, with some 650 residents, receives weekly routine visits from police at Avon Downs but only during the dry season. The black soil roads are impassable in the wet, making it necessary for police to fly in when they have to.
Mr Ray supports action on child abuse and alcohol, more good things about the intervention, but says the community is struggling to get people into “proper jobs”: “There are some at the clinic and school. But for the rest, where are the proper jobs going to come from?
“A lot of people don’t want to leave the community, they train here, they want to work here.”
He said the community would like to create more jobs, such as a bakery and butchery, as well as a tourism venture, “but where’s the infrastructure?”
Council CEO, Tom Kairupan, with more than two decades of community experience behind him, is more upbeat about job prospects.
He runs a 300 strong CDEP program across the Barkly, from Tennant Creek in the west to Alpurrurulam in the east, taking in many small communities and outstations in between. In Alpurrurulam there are 89 participants.
The emphasis is on multi-skilling – in communities like this “you can’t have one person per task”, he says – and on getting Indigenous people into responsible roles.
He gets strong enrolments in training courses delivered by a variety of providers, including CDU and Batchelor Institute: 32 men have done chainsaw operation, 27 weed control, 14 completed heavy machinery operation.
Last year this kind of multi-skilling saw nine men given dry season work on cattle stations “from here to the Gulf”.
Another local man, trained as an essential services officer, has just been appointed to that role in a Top End community.
“He rang me up – ‘Tom, I’ve got a crocodile in my sewer pond!’
“That’s different alright!
“It’s what I’m looking for, advancing people, giving them an opportunity.”
Other locals, trained in office work for the council, have also got jobs in other communities, says Mr Kairupan.
“That’s a thrill I get.”
In Alpurrurulam there are two local Indigenous officers in the powerhouse, one already a senior officer.
There’s a senior Indigenous officer in road construction, another in essential services, another in the women’s centre, a qualified carpenter in building, and the four supervisors running CDEP activities across the region are all Indigenous.
Mr Kairupan understandably says, “I strongly believe that CDEP has worked here.”
But he also says he’s not too worried about the demise of the scheme, likely to be in April for Alpurrurulam, as long as training continues to be well orchestrated.
“There’ll be enough real jobs without CDEP.”

Intervention snags CLP hopes for Santa Teresa. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“We want Labor to win – we’ve been voting Labor a long time.”
“Next week we start leaving money at the shop – we don’t like that.”
“We know how to save money, we’re not drunks.”
“Labor. We don’t want to go backwards.”
“Everything is changing and we don’t like it.”
“Labor. We want to get everything back to normal.”
“CDEP is all mucked up.”
“Everyone’s been talking [among themselves]: vote Labor this time.”
“What we want is a change of government.”
“It’s pretty hard for people now. They took off CDEP, everything.”
At Santa Teresa the Federal Government’s intervention and its political supporters seem to have lost  the battle for hearts and minds.
Some 200 voters out of 305 enrolled turned up to vote in a pre-poll for the Federal election last Thursday.
The Alice Springs News randomly approached voters, taking care to be out of earshot of candidates, with the question, “Who would you like to see win in this election?”
The sitting member, Labor’s Warren Snowdon, CLP candidate Adam Giles and Greens Senate candidate, Alan Tyley were present.
Not one person told the News that they would be voting for the CLP or for the Greens.
All of the above comments came from women, of all ages, some of them with their children and grandchildren. Women on bush communities are frequently cited as the base support for the intervention measures.
One man told the Alice News he wanted Labor to win, but asked why, said “I’m just guessing”.
Two groups of young men, standing in queue and carrying how-to-vote cards for all parties, said they hadn’t made up their minds yet.
A young man and woman simply pointed to Warren Snowdon’s picture but declined to say why.
Santa Teresa resident, former community police officer and now a council employee, Robbie Conway, donned a Labor t-shirt and helped hand out how-to-vote cards.
Why did he want to help?
“Because of CDEP and Mal Brough’s intervention.
“Everyone is still confused. We’re hoping the ALP can put everything back on track, just like it was before.”
He doesn’t want to see any change?
“It’s good to change a bit, but people need to understand. It was too quick.”
Mr Conway referred to the nationally televised debate between Prime Minister John Howard and Labor leader Kevin Rudd.
“Howard was talking about growth, Rudd was talking about a fresh start, new ideas – people will be thinking about that.”
The CLP’s Adam Giles had an important ally with him, Leo Abbott, a relative of many in the community and a local language speaker.
Why was he backing the CLP candidate?
“That’s an easy question – Warren Snowdon hasn’t delivered for Aboriginal people.
“His excuse is that he hasn’t been in the majority party but 10 years before Howard came in, his party was in government.
“What has he delivered?
“He’s held meetings with people but there’s been no delivery.
“We need change – new blood, new ideas.”
Mr Abbott worked the crowd, shaking hands, slapping backs, laughing. The News asked him towards the end of the poll how responsive people had been to his message.
If he had any doubts, he wasn’t sharing them.
“I’m related to a lot of people here,” he smiled, “they were the same with me as they always are.” 
The atmosphere was relaxed, especially between the Aboriginal campaign volunteers on either side.
Eileen Hoosan had come out from Alice for Labor and enjoyed catching up with relatives, too.
She made a point of using Adam Giles’s slogan against him, repeatedly telling voters: “Look at this sign here – ‘no more sitdown money’ – that’s the truth!”
But she and Mr Abbott had a few laughs together.
Ms Hoosan said everyone always has fun on the campaign trail and people help each other out: for example, the CLP had given her and another Labor supporter a lift home from the Willowra pre-poll.
“That’s right, the CLP is for the people,” said Mr Abbott, paying Labor out for having left the two women behind.
“They were going to come back for us,” Ms Hoosan countered.
They were both chuckling.
Other volunteers for Labor were long time party member and Trek Larapinta owner, Charlie Carter, and Labor MLA Alison Anderson’s electorate officer and past aldermanic candidate, John Rawnsley.
The CLP had recruited two young pathologists, Robert Carey and Anthony Hodge. Relatively recent and enthusiastic arrivals in the Territory, they were responding to the “fresh ideas” appeal of the Adam Giles campaign, giving up a day off to lend a hand.
Greens Senate candidate Alan Tyley was on his own at Santa Teresa where he is well known to community members, having worked for five years at Keringke Arts.
But Mr Tyley did not seem to be setting too much store on personal contacts, at times contenting himself with telling people that a vote for the Greens would be a vote for Labor anyway.
Greens volunteers Mandy Webb and Ada Markby as well as Greens Lingiari candidate Emma Young were already at the Amoonguna pre-poll when Labor and the CLP arrived from Santa Teresa.
ABC television and the Centralian Advocate were there as well, which meant that early voters were subject to a barrage of attention.
A young family were among the first to arrive. They sat down in the shade of the verandah to study the how-to-vote cards.
Who did they want to see win?
“I don’t know,” said the mother.
“What do the Greens stand for?” asked the father, curious.
“We’ll stop the intervention” and “we certainly do support the permit system and CDEP” were the key Green messages at Amoonguna.
“We’re the only party opposing the intervention,” Ms Young told the Alice News, “that’s not well known.”
A group of women gathered around the corner. They didn’t know who should win, hadn’t made up their minds, but:  “The [intervention] changes are not good,” said an older woman.
“I  heard CDEP is gone,” said a young mother, “that’s not good.”
Three men and a woman arrived; they were uncertain about who should win, or simply reluctant to talk.
Roseanne Ellis, an accomplished local artist, was happy to talk: “I’m hoping for Labor because if they win, they’ll  reinstate CDEP – that’s really good. 
“And permits are important because we don’t want people going in our backyard, camping on sacred sites.
“When the old people heard the permit system would be scrapped they didn’t like it – people might go around on a sacred site.
“We live near town – we don’t like people arriving in the communities, driving around.
“And I don’t agree with quarantining [half of the dole]. If Labor wins, I want them to reinstate [the former system for benefits payments].”
A man arrived who’d had more than one too many. It was his birthday, he said. Handshakes all around.
He was told there would be another opportunity to vote, on polling day, next Saturday.
He thought about this for a moment but decided, “I might as well do it today, otherwise you won’t catch me.”
Having cast his vote, he announced: “I sure voted for someone but I don’t know who!”
Laughter all around.
The afternoon grew long, hotter and fairly quiet. There were 158 people on the roll but it didn’t feel like that many voted on the day.
Waiting for the stragglers, candidates and volunteers sought the shade.
Ms Hoosan offered those nearby cool drinks and apples from the Labor esky.
The CLP workers ordered in Subway: Mr Abbott warned Mr Giles about the jalapeno peppers.
“They’ll make your eyes sweat if you’re not used to them!”
Talk turned to plans for the next day; no doubt it was the same in the Labor camp.
CLP spirits appeared buoyant.
But the Alice News’s notebook made that look like a brave face.

CDEP goes, too quickly.

CDEP, the Community Development Employment Program, came to an end at Santa Teresa last week, with one’s week’s notice to the community, says the program manager, Miriam Dieudonne, an employee of the community council.
There were 125 participants in the program, involved in 16 activities. These included stock work, road maintenance, housing maintenance, parks and gardens, fencing, firewood collection, school assistance, arts and crafts.
Federal funding has flowed to create 21 part-time “real jobs” in some of these areas.
Keringke Arts has had a “very good” result, says Ms Dieudonne, with the creation of 10 part-time jobs.
There are also four jobs at the school; five at the women’s centre; one for outstation support; and one full-time Centrelink agent’s position.
Thirty-nine former CDEP participants are now on “transitional” payments until June next year for undertaking a range of activities, including after school care, essential and municipal services, and work at the community store (six STEP positions).
The piggery, which has just started, has seven of the “transitional” jobs.
Ms Dieudonne says Indigenous Business Australia is looking at the possibility of combining the piggery with firewood collection to run as a small business.
The remaining 65 former CDEP participants are on Work for the Dole, with an activity program being run by Tangentyere Job Shop.
Ms Dieudonne describes the process to end the scheme as “a mess”, “too abrupt and without any consultation”.
“It made people worry,” she said.
She says she has also not heard anything about future ownership and maintenance of the community’s CDEP assets.

StoryWall worries aired behind organisers’ backs. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Uniting Church Minister Tracy Spencer, who has come under attack by aldermen over the “political bent” of StoryWall, will brief aldermen at next week’s meeting about the StoryWall project and its partnership with council.
The council’s financial sponsorship of StoryWall has been “helpful but relatively minor,” says Rev Spencer. 
Its major role is as a partner in the venture, one of three.
“I would have expected any concerns to have come to a partnership meeting”, she says, referring to the attack by several aldermen at last week’s committee meeting.
The church’s role in the partnership is to provide the wall’s Todd Mall site and facilities as well as management.
The third partner, David Nixon’s production company, welcomeTV, provides film-making expertise and programming preparation.
A three-way partnership meeting was held on Monday, one week after the attack accusing StoryWall of taking “a political bent” and “dividing the community” (see last week’s Alice News).
The partnership agreement gives the town council an advisory role in relation to StoryWall “meeting the needs of the community”, says Rev Spencer.
The agreed concept for StoryWall, yet to be formalised in a memorandum of understanding, is to present programming that “celebrates who we are, how we think and feel”.
This concept would be seriously eroded if Storywall avoided discussion of some experiences deemed to be controversial or political, and Alice Springs “would be the poorer community for that”, argues Rev Spencer.
“The programming is non-partisan,” she says, “it doesn’t support the agenda of any one political party.
“But if it shows material about many of the issues affecting this community, inevitably some of that material will be political in the broad sense.”
She says all sections of the community are invited to participate in and express themselves through StoryWall, with the only limitations being breaches of the Racial Vilification Act, inappropriate material for a broad audience potentially including children, or material that is deliberately insensitive to sections of the community.
A major aim of the project is “to develop pride in who we are, and to increase understanding of one another as well as visitors’ understanding of our community”.
“There is a lot of cross-cultural content in the programming to address that,” says Rev Spencer.
But there’s also a lot of heritage content – films about the development of the town. StoryWall has recently paid $8000 in licensing fees to obtain the rights to screen 25 additional heritage films.
The project is also producing new content, recently filming a series of interviews with tourism operators and another series with old timers, currently being edited.
“And whenever we hear of new local content we chase it up,” says Rev Spencer.
Examples include the Harts Range Races DVD of 2006 and the Pony Club’s DVD of their pony scurry – “very cute and very funny”. Both have been screened.
Rev Spencer was accused by Alderman Robyn Lambley of having “clearly very left-wing” views on the basis of a letter to the editor in the Alice Springs News (Oct 18), expressing the opposition of the Northern Synod of the Uniting Church to the Federal intervention.
Ald Lambley cast doubt on this being the church’s view, suggesting it was merely Rev Spencer’s view.
Rev Spencer says the letter was a faithful summary of the synod’s statement.  The Alice News has since viewed the original statement and it clearly condemns (that is the word used) the intervention as “abusive, intrusive, and  damaging”, urging a return to the recommendation of the “Little Children Are Sacred” report.  
The Northern Synod’s position has since been taken up at a national level within the Uniting Church. Again, the Alice News has sighted the documents. 
Rev Spencer says the Uniting Church, the third largest Christian denomination in Australia, has a long history of making comments on social issues.
Councillors’ criticism of StoryWall mentioned in particular an “open mic”  reading of creative responses to the Federal intervention, organised by the small local publishing group, Ptilotus Press, and supported by the NT Writers’ Centre. The event was titled “Atlas of the Difficult World” (a title borrowed from American poet Adrienne Rich).
Executive officer, Sandra Thibodeaux, says the NT Writers’ Centre supported the event “in acknowledgement of the artist’s role: to respond to his/her (sometimes) ‘difficult world’; to make sense of this world and feed it back to the community who will then respond, in turn”. 
She says the NT Writers’ Centre is opposed to censorship: “The ‘Atlas’ evening was an open mic evening at which anyone could have performed, including those with varying views on the intervention. It was, thus, a dynamic and healthy forum – a sign that democracy is alive and well, a sign that NT literature is strong.
“I hope that we continue to see such events in Alice Springs – thought-provoking and passionate events at which writers make diverse, brave and considered responses to the world around them ... if that’s not too difficult?”

Tourism: the one-eyed leading the blind. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

“We’re acting on gut feeling. It’s hard to plan when there is no information,” says Steve Rattray, the chairman of Tourism Central Australia (TCA), formerly known as CATIA.
All that Tourism NT, formerly known as the Tourist Commission, will supply is three year averages for visitor spend and numbers.
Apart from the name changes little has moved in the tourism industry in the Alice Springs - MacDonnell region: Between 2000/03 and 2006/07 annual hotel earnings were between $28m and $31m; caravan parks took between $5m and $5.4m; and hostels were stagnant at $5m a year.
“Backpackers are moving on after one night,” says Matt Mulga, of Annie’s.
“They are not hanging around.
“The bars and coffee shops are not busy.
“A lot of backpackers are on packages.
“The Free Independent Traveller is a dying breed.”
The government’s tourism promoter (annual budget $40m) puts out an information sheet paradoxically called “In Focus”.
It doesn’t give out hard, current figures which any investor in tourism infrastructure would require.
And Mr Rattray says his members are secretive about their own details.
An email seeking to survey TCA’s 300-odd members yielded a mere 32 replies, says Mr Rattray, most of them evasive and vague.
Conventions are good business, and in fact next year Alice will host a convention for convention organizers.
The downside is Alice will be facing competition from the new Darwin convention centre next year.
The Federal election is a big yawn in the industry, says Mr Rattray, although improving the East West Highway is a major issue.
“Nothing’s happened there for the past 10 years,” he says.
The dearth of data is a problem especially because of the rapidly changing face of the industry.
Says Mr Rattray: “The ma, pa and two kids annual holiday is a thing of the past.
“It’s short and sharp. People get on the net, on impulse, and go for a week, not for four or six weeks.”
Aurora Hotel manager Ron Thynne says he’s had a 12% jump over last year through “last minute” website bookings.
Mr Rattray says caravan parks owners, too, had to sharpen up their act.
Modern mobile homes are self-contained and can now be seen to overnight anywhere.
People are retiring earlier and spend months cruising ‘round Australia, avoiding caravan park fees whenever possible.
Brendan Heenan, whose MacDonnell Range park is one of the best establishments in the nation, is wooing clientele with a BMX track and pancakes.
Asked why Mr Rattray didn’t fly the industry’s flag at the grog march by Aboriginal women last week (the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce weren’t there either), Mr Rattray said he intended to go but was too busy.
He says the industry is vehemently opposed to take-away free days, as demanded by the rally, but has no objections to the introduction of ID cards.
He says TCA will have a keen interest in the Town Council elections next March: The organization will hold a special meeting in February to quizz candidates “and put them on the spot”.

As future of outstations hangs in the balance, where to for rural health? By KIERAN FINNANE.

‘There’s no point in upgrading health services in small rural and remote communities if these communities are not sustainable, says John Wakerman, chair of the National Rural Health Alliance which is calling for a national inquiry into the issue.
Professor Wakerman, who also heads up the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs, says the call for this inquiry has come particularly from consumer groups, such as the Country Women’s Association and Health Consumers of Rural and Remote Australia, members of the alliance.
The alliance brings together 29 national rural health groups.
Prof Wakerman says the alliance has received a strong and pragmatic message from the consumer groups, who are demanding improved services for communities that have a viable future.
Viability is open to question for many small pastoral communities in the grip or the wake of severe drought – “people are walking away”.
The issues for small remote Indigenous communities, especially outstations, are different. But they are currently under threat and current government policy is unclear.
“We are trying to be logical,” says Prof Wakerman. “Of course no-one wants to see small communities deteriorate. But if we can see there is no opportunity for people to stay or if there are insurmountable pressures for them to leave, then where is the consideration of the movement of these populations?” 
The inquiry should be conducted by an independent body such as the Productivity Commission. 
The alliance has scored political parties according to their announcements addressing the alliance’s top 10 priorities.
To date only the Greens have supported the call for a national inquiry to which the alliance gives number one priority. 
Second priority goes to a national health plan.
There needs to be clear accountability between the different levels of government – “who is responsible for what”.
And resources should be spent in a coordinated fashion, according to need, which would see rural and remote populations given more equitable access to services.
The current “dog’s breakfast”  has been illustrated in the pre-election period by the Federal intervention “coming in over the top of Territory health services” with child health checks on Aboriginal communities, as well as by their intervention in Tasmania with their takeover of the Burnie Hospital.
Labor, the Democrats and the Greens have all committed to a national health plan, while the Coalition has not.
Health infrastructure in large rural and remote communities has improved over the last decade, says Prof Wakerman, but there are still big needs in relation to accommodation for health professionals and IT.
“We would like to see 100% broadband coverage across the country.
“When I hear about 98% coverage I wonder if it’s not the 3% of the population who live in the most remote areas who are going to miss out and they are the ones who need it most.” 
The alliance is calling for national investment to bring primary health care for Aboriginal people across the country “up to scratch”.
The cost is estimated at $460m per annum – “relatively small when you consider that we have a $16b national surplus,” says Prof Wakerman.
Contrary to popular opinion, Aboriginal people receive only marginally more per capita than the general population in health expenditure, while suffering much greater morbidity and mortality rates, and while the cost of delivering health care to those outside the major centres is considerably higher.
“The current government is making a substantial financial  commitment to Indigenous health services in the NT,” says Prof Wakerman. “And Labor has promised $20m for remote health services infrastructure in the Territory.
“We want to see a sustained, co-ordinated effort with community participation, in order to bridge the health gap in the NT.
“But we also ask, why this piecemeal approach when there is need across the country?”
The Democrats and Greens score equally and better than the major parties on this issue.
They score equally with Labor on national investment in oral and dental health, with the Coalition scoring less well; but the Coalition scores better than the rest with their rural dental health workforce initiatives. 
The Greens and Democrats score equally and better than the major parties on their approach to mental services.
The alliance welcomes the commitment by the Council of Australian Governments to invest $1.9b in mental health services, but again wants to make sure that the 30% of the population living in rural and remote Australia get their fair share.
“Because of the maldistribution of the workforce, this may mean looking at different models of delivering mental health services,” says Prof Wakerman.
“These should be built around existing primary health care teams, which would involve GPs or Aboriginal Mental Health workers where appropriate.
“There may need to be special incentives for mental health professionals to relocate.”
Overall on the Alliance priorities, the Greens and  Democrats score equally with 15/20, while Labor scores 10/20 and the Coalition 6/20.

They begged for help but Alice didn’t listen. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Dozens of women came to Alice Springs last week from some of The Centre’s most remote places to beg for help.
But the town didn’t listen.
They came to talk about matters of life and death, about the Rivers of Grog that spring from this town, killing their men.
They danced bare breasted to show the depth of their felling for this issue.
Middle aged to elderly women mostly, they pleaded to reduce the lethal supply, .
They were watched by white staff from their organizations, a sizable contingent of media and a few tourists.
But the town’s high and mighty were nowhere to be seen.
If there were representatives from the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Central Australia, Tangentyere, Congress, and so on, they were keeping a very low profile.
They certainly didn’t come up to the microphone and offer some thoughts about how to stop the carnage, and the damage that alcohol-sodden anti-social behavior is inflicting upon Alice Springs.
This is what the women said:
NPY chairwoman Yanyi Bandicha: “Please, we want all people in Alice Springs to support us because we, the NPY Women’s Council, support Alice Springs.
“NPY people come here to drink. That’s for the three states [NT, SA and WA].
“Our young people come here. They are the ones running in and out of Alice Springs.
“Women are special. They are looking after their sons and daughters, and also after their grandchildren.
“We are all crying out for help. What will the government do for us, because we are the women crying out for help.”
Mavis Malbunka from Ipolera, near Hermannsburg: “Grog is making [men] do bad things, harming their families.
“They should be home, teaching their children and keeping their families, working.
“On pension day they should just drink in the pub.
“And on pay day they shouldn’t sell heavy drinks, like rum and Coke, even in the bar.
“There should be more police to catch the grog runners.
“When police go out of the community there should be other police there.
“We want to be able to talk to our local police. [By the time there is a response] a person being bashed might already be dead.
“Supermarkets should not be selling grog, mixing it up with food.
“There shouldn’t be so many places selling alcohol.
“[If this is done] it might save our families and young people.”
Valerie Martin from Yuendumu: “We are crying out, here, look, in our stomachs.
“Come on, government. Do something!
“Do something and help us out.”
Margaret Smith from Imampa, on the road to Ayers Rock: “I lost two brothers to grog. I’m left with nine kids.
“I’m like aunty and father. All because of Alice Springs grog.
“Car accident.
“We’ve fought petrol sniffing and now we’re fighting grog. We’re losing a lot of people.
“This grog is whitefella’s culture, not Anangu. We don’t know how to make grog.
“The problem was created by Captain Cook’s family, grog, drugs, everything. White culture.
“And they should fix it. In four or five years’ time we’ll be all wiped out.”

Greens want a return to self-determination. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Apart from pushing for more effective alcohol restrictions, the Greens want to wind back the Federal Government intervention in the Territory’s Aboriginal communities. 
They oppose the intervention’s “top down approach”, and champion a self-determination agenda.
The Alice Springs News asked Greens Territory senate candidate Alan Tyley to describe the successes of self-determination over the last 30 years.
Says Mr Tyley: “I believe self determination includes the well being of Aboriginal culture, coexisting within a multicultural Australia.
“We as a society should be encouraging the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage. The intervention will be remembered for its refusal to allow for any consultation or meaningful input into policies affecting Aboriginal people by those people themselves.
“The Greens believe in grassroots democracy and the intervention is a long way removed from that.”
How does the Greens’ emphasis on rights of communities takes into account the rights of abused and / or neglected children?
The News suggested that there are few voices among those opposed to the intervention speaking out on behalf of children.
“The measures which are being put in place have little to do with child protection,” says Mr Tyley, father of two with an extensive background in welfare work.
For the past five years he has worked with his wife Judy Lovell in the Aboriginal art industry and in the 2005 Legislative Assembly elections stood as a Greens candidate for the seat of Araluen.
Says Mr Tyley: “If the Federal Government were sincere about protecting children, they would have listened to the Territory police who support the permit system as one way of limiting the amount of alcohol coming onto communities and of keeping undesirable people out.”
The Greens call for the implementation of the “Little Children Are Sacred” recommendations with “adequate participation and consultation with communities”.
The recommendations have been criticised for their failure to propose immediate actions even though the report described the situation as “a national emergency”.
What does Mr Tyley have to say to this?
“The feedback I’ve received is that the way the Federal Government has gone about the intervention has been heavy-handed and done more harm than good. I work with and have Aboriginal people as family friends. I also travel to remote communities.”

Alice’s own Summer Heights High: Boooooooring (the school, not the show). By DARCY DAVIS.

Best Friends 4 Eva is a play written and performed by 30 Alice Springs High School students, about school life, their school life, staged last Friday and Saturday nights at Araluen.
Incorporating hip-hop dancing, rapping, live music and film projections, the play was a feast for the senses; even for audience members who didn’t go to ASHS, the school quickly became familiar.
“I loved it!” blurted out Silka Chalmers after the show, “that’s exactly what ASHS was like, especially the librarian!”
As the script for the play was written by both teacher, Glenda McCarthy and the students, the play had a genuine Alice feel with plenty of “gammons”, “nahs” “yeahs” and “buddas”.
Introducing the school from the point of view of the new boy helped warm the audience to the play.
A conversation between lead characters Jimbo (Lewis Nankivell) and Fred (Lukas Blom) shows the danger of Alice Springs’ dialect being misconstrued.
“But don’t go near those girls with the shiny shirts,” said Jimbo, giving new kid Fred the school survival plan.
“They call you butter all the time – they want to eat you!”
Exploration of the different cliques at ASHS was a scream. From the iPod girls, to the Gangster girls who wear those shiny t-shirts, to the kids with weird jokes who play cards, to the nerdy boys and the hip hop kids, no Alice stereotype was left un-touched.
“We were the ones who hung out in the chess area and no-one got our jokes,” said Silka.
“It’s true,” confirms ex ASHS student, Alicia Smith. In a world where Shakespeare dominates the high school play market, it’s a fantastic initiative to write and produce a play so close to home for the audience and a great record of how kids talk, act and behave in 2007 at ASHS.
I would be interested to see some of the other high schools around town tackle an auto-biographical play about their school.
“We never did much drama at ASHS,” said Alicia.
“Media was big and we did a lot of performance like dance, but not much drama.”
It’s a great thing that a school production, written and constructed by the students, can be incorporated into the school curriculum  – surely there wouldn’t be a more hands on way to get kids interested and involved with the work they’re doing.
The play was an all ‘round success, pleasing both the young and the old and is sure to be quoted more often than Summer Heights High until the end of the year.

New local CD: Calibre music from this country. By DARCY DAVIS.

The federal election won’t be the only cause for excitement in Alice this Saturday, which will also see the official release of the long in the making CD From this Country, featuring close to 50 writers and musicians from this region’s music community.
“The initial reason for the album was to showcase great songs from the region that might never be recorded,” says Centralian studio producer/musician, Ross Muir.
“A theme of ‘having the spirit or feeling of this country’ was adopted to form a framework for an album designed to include as many from the music community of this area as possible but at the same time create a radio friendly album which worked as a whole.”
Here’s a sample of lyrics from the title and final track on the album, “From this Country” by Warren H Williams: “So look around your country, know what it means to you, our life, our love, our future.
So don’t be worried if your world just don’t seem right, stand up, be stronger.”
Muir stresses the importance of having quality recordings that can be appreciated by wide audiences.
“Live music is finding it more and more difficult to compete in this ‘instant gratification’ age; the reasoning in this instance is that an album which garners airplay, standing up both musically and sonically when compared to international and national releases, will say so much.”
The compilation features artists in a wide variety of genres: from opening track, “End of the Bitumen” by Shauna Hartig, with its flavours of country, folk and a bit of bluegrass, the album twists and turns down a path of the smooth, bluesier country of Lorrie Hunt, to the chill country, acoustic sounds of Peter Barker.
But the local artists bring a feel to the music that will guarantee recognition by all Centralians.
“I cracked my mirrors in the bar room wall, and I found my heroes in the Todd St mall.”
In what is perhaps a first, Alice Springs Commercial Broadcasters (8HA/Sun FM) have sponsored the album’s mastering at the nation’s top mastering house, Studios 301 in Sydney.
“As if that wasn’t huge assistance, Murray Neck Musicworld have also thrown their weight behind the project and sponsored the CD’s pressing,” says Muir.

ADAM CONNELLY: What a moving experience.

This is quite a peculiar feeling. In fact I think I can say that I feel strange.
Not along the same lines as when you’ve slept on your arm and then try to use it to get out of bed but peculiar nonetheless.
I’m not a creature of habit by any stretch.
I like to think that life is more fluid than an adherence to routine.
You can say I’m more Steiner than Patrician in my attitude to the way I structure my day. The state of my bedroom is testament to that.
However when it comes to writing this column there is generally a specific routine that gets me in a mood right to write.
I have not woken early, taken the drive from my house via a breakfast stop and I have not read yesterday’s paper before coming into work to write about something.
Today is a different day. It’s late in the afternoon.
I ache in my shoulders, legs and arms and the sun that normally floods through the window in my office is coming through the other side of the station.
This feels quite alien but I only have circumstance to blame.
You see for the last two days I have been moving house.
It has been said that the relocation of a person’s residence is one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life.
In fact on one of those lists found in glossy magazines and Internet sites, moving house comes in just under a death in the family and financial stress.
I wouldn’t go that far but I would have to say that if I don’t have to do what I have done in the last couple of days for a while I’ll be grateful.
I think the stress comes from the fact that after two years of living here my life can be boiled down to a handful of van trips down the road.
Can all my worldly possessions be boiled down to half a lounge room full of what is mostly cheap crap?
Quality aside for a moment they are mine and I do need them in the new place.
The problem is that with my free and easy attitude to life and the way I live it I have missed out on acquiring the skills needed for the neat and methodical stacking of these possessions into rectangular cardboard boxes.
Maybe many of you find this next question ridiculous but how do round dinner plates and round coffee mugs and round wine glasses fit well into a box?
Most of the time this question needs no answer but for the two days I have just endured, it was a question more important than any other.
There are other questions too that require urgent answering at only this time of life.
Questions that don’t even enter ones consciousness at any other time.
Which friends will be willing to help me lift my bed and bookshelves without giving me the guilt trip of ruining their weekend?
Will I need to pack the toilet brush or will my new housemate have that covered?
Who the bloody hell connects the gas and why do I have to pay so much to have it “connected” when quite clearly the pipes already run up to the stove?
Anyway it is almost all over.
The boxes are in their new environment and once all the stuff find a place I will be in a lovely new house with a wonderful new housemate in a lovely new street.
And as I sit here feeling a bit strange typing with the sun in the wrong place and without my regular breakfast and coffee combo to my right I think to myself: “Thank God I live in Alice Springs.
“I’d hate to have moved house in Sydney”.
That might have taken all week.

LETTERS: Freedom of speech well worth a fight.

Sir,- In reference to the Story Wall articles last week (Alice News, November 15), unfortunately I missed the council committee meetings because of work commitments. I was, however, disturbed by what I read in the paper and hope that other aldermen will be able to fill me in on the details.
I have supported the concept of Story Wall since it’s inception and believe that it will serve as a place of free speech and healing for this community.
All the faith communities of Alice, like the Uniting Church, are active vibrant micro-communities who are self-supporting and add value to our social fabric.
We should continue to support projects like this that promote reconciliation and communication. At the end of the day, all social reform is political and should therefore be given full airing. The people of this town need safe forums in which to talk. You can’t hold back the ocean; you just have to work with it.
View the YouTube Clips for yourself thanks to Welcome TV.
Ald. Jane Clark
Alice Springs

Sir,- A significant percentage of the Alice Springs population is concerned with the federal government’s Intervention into Indigenous communities.
That a public space could not be utilised by these same members of the public to create discussion on the issues so central to our lives is preposterous. It is the tolerance practiced in our society that keeps many members of our community here. We tolerate much in living here, and we even try to tolerate free speech. It is a virtue of this place that it allows us to express our opinions, our knowledge and our existence. People such as Alderman Stewart have done this readily for many years and in many formats.
Each of us who lives here takes part in an incredible dynamic.
We witness, we hear, we digest raw emotion and wide dysfunction and many respond to this in creative ways. Art is a community practice. Art - creativity – comes from what people watch, what people witness, and how they resolve this experience within (and without) themselves.
Just as Murray Stewart and others have expressed their great concerns at the lived realities of Indigenous Australia: by taking to the streets in yellow vests; through utlising various media outlets; so too did a group of artists, writers and arts supporters seek to do the same.
A vibrant, growing community needs to discuss its own darknesses. It needs to break the cycle of shame in which people’s problems are not unearthed and therefore not resolved.
The time for thinking critically, analysing what has gone before and what is possible ahead, has come.
We cannot deny our artists - our educated and not so educated – and our community a chance to express the issues that directly concern us. You cannot seek to silence us, Alderman Stewart et al, because of some ridiculous notion that tourists might get shocked. Tourists are shocked. They are shocked by the overwhelmingly obvious indicators of third world lifestyles. They are shocked by the abject misery in evidence on the faces and the bodies of so many Indigenous people in our streets.
Tourists do not want us to stand back, smiles plastered on our faces, feigning ignorance. They want to know what we have to say about these issues, and they want to leave certain that our community actually cares. Not about the tourists so much, but about the people who are suffering. Let tourists see that there are many minds in evidence in this town, that people are concerned.
Let them see that people care enough to create responses to share with the outside world.
I came to this town - and stayed - because of its vibrancy, because of the voices - black and white - that could be heard.
I am not alone in thinking that it is these qualities that Alice Springs should share with the outside world.
Harriet Gaffney
Alice Springs

Sir,- Our Town Council continues to amaze me with the narrowness of some of its thinking.
I attended the Story Wall evening, which included background films as well as spoken word presentations. There was a variety of writings and views, the most moving and pertinent of which were pieces from an Aboriginal woman who lives and works in a ‘prescribed area’ and has a right to vocalise and document her experiences with the government’s intervention and her concern for her people.
Since when did speaking up for human rights become wrong? We sat on the grass. We watched, we listened. Some spoken pieces were not so good - a bit askew of my thinking - but that was all right.
The background film clips were great as they are historical documentation of community development in process - an insight, no doubt, for passing tourists or even locals into life outside of Alice Springs.
Most visitors to town that I encounter in the mall and elsewhere are interested in what is happening here. Many don’t have firsthand contact with Aboriginal culture and they are keen to learn. It would be unfortunate if our latent “redneck-ness” pervaded and spoilt what the Story Wall is - a positive and unique experience.
Marlene Hodder,
Alice Springs

Sir,- This is part of a letter I sent to the Rev Tracy Spencer about the StoryWall, a proposal at that time, in December last year:-
I was a little surprised to see “weekly or nightly free films in the Mall, showcasing local talent and issues relevant to life in Central Australia”.
My wife and I live in Todd Mall. This home has been our peaceful abode for over three years, only occasionally interrupted by some colorful outbursts.
I am concerned that the regular introduction of the White Wall may interfere with our quality of relaxation we are fortunate enough to enjoy most evenings.
As yet I have not had an issue with the noise level or times chosen.
My understanding was that the films would be shown only occasionally and maybe in conjunction with some night markets, not as stated above.
As you know I am all for promoting new ideas into the town of Alice but, like all projects, there needs to be strict guidelines put in place before a concrete commitment proceeds.
My concern as General Manager of Aurora Alice Springs is that some of the issues raised in the forum report will not be addressed before the project gets the go ahead.
• Lack of approved toilet / water facilities. (Would need to be constructed and completed - not just promises).
• Strict control on sound levels and finishing times. (Directly relates to guest accommodation at Aurora Alice Springs).
• Food stalls being introduced at a later date in direct opposition to The Red Ochre and other Todd Mall restaurants.
• If food stalls are introduced will they have to go through the same stringent health regulations as the restaurants do?
• Unsupervised alternative music. (Drums, as an example, being played on the lawn area).
• That a forum for conversation and interaction was introduced by way of public speakers.
It has been suggested that supervision of behaviour around the screening would also be appropriate, by police and youth night patrols.
If you think the White Wall is going attract the type of people into the Todd Mall that will require the above action, WHAT THE !!!!!!!!
I think your initial idea of combining the night markets and the White Wall film did enhance both and will be successful.
The evening the film ran as a stand alone lacked the same atmosphere.
My suggestion is to continue with the night markets and encourage local traders to trial late night shopping.
As a stand alone free movie night I feel the Council Chamber grounds would be a more suitable site.
Ron Thynne
General Manager
Aurora Alice Springs

Sir,- I think events like the StoryWall and the open-mike readings about the Federal intervention in Indigenous communities, organised by Ptilotus Press of which I’m a member, will stimulate tourist interest.
A number of tourists stopped for some time to listen to the readings. I’m sure the event made a stroll down the Mall much more interesting for them than it would’ve been otherwise.
Public theatre, writing and discussion of political events are a highly valued part of social life in many democratic countries.
Meg Mooney
Alice Springs

Sir,- Does anyone remember the days when long haired louts and bra-less women sang protest songs on street corners? What our aldermen might call “taking a political bent, dividing the community”. Guess what guys, this is what poets and songwriters do. Do you really believe that you can convince people that it’s no longer ‘nice’ to do that sort of thing in public anymore?
As a local poet who participated in the Story Wall Open Mic. session regarding the Federal Intervention, I would like it known that I presented two poems that were in fact pro-intervention. My fellow wordsmiths were as accepting of my views as I was of theirs. That’s freedom of speech for you.
Aldermen Lambley, Van Haaren and Habib, you need to understand that poets have always appeared ‘dangerous’ to those who do not understand their craft.
Poets have something to say; it’s what they do. If you try to prevent them from expressing their views then you are suppressing freedom of speech itself.
May I suggest that you stop worrying about what is happening on the lawns in front of the church and take a walk behind it, where you will find Aboriginal people pouring wine into water bottles from casks they have concealed in wheelie bins.
Penny Whiley
Alice Springs

Sir,- Alcohol restrictions are working in Alice Springs but more is needed.
A year on from the introduction of price-based alcohol supply reduction measures the impact is positive and clear; now we need to further reduce alcohol sales and consumption in Alice Springs towards the national average.
The restrictions that were put in place in October last year are working and have seen a 10% reduction in alcohol consumption and consequent harms. This includes a major reduction in alcohol admissions for assault – especially for Aboriginal women. Comparing June last year with June this year they have been reduced from two admissions per day to one. Other alcohol caused admissions are also reduced by about 25%. This evidence-based approach needs to be strengthened.
The take-away restrictions implemented over two days in Tennant Creek earlier this year provided further evidence that take away alcohol-free days can have immediate, dramatic effects on alcohol consumption and harms.
Police reported no arrests on a Saturday night compared with a possible 70 arrests on a usual bad night. This adds to the evidence that the ban on take-aways each Thursday was very effective.
It is now clear that evidence-based supply reduction measures also work here in Alice Springs. Failure to take further action now on supply reduction, given the impetus for change, is unacceptable.
We need to introduce a minimum price benchmark and reduce take-away trading hours. This should include no take-aways on Thursdays linked to Centrelink payments and further reduction in take-away hours on other days. These measures will further reduce alcohol sales, consumption and harms.
Supply must be further reduced without delay. A state of emergency has been declared in the NT and it is time to do what is needed, not what is necessarily popular.
Dr John Boffa
People’s Alcohol Action Coalition
Alice Springs

Sir,- I respond to your excellent article on the Alice Springs water strategy and two subsequent letters in reply.
A few issues have been raised that need addressing; the first being the popular conception that (because of global warming) Alice Springs faces a water shortage. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The east coast of Australia is facing a water shortage brought about by an extended drought. Droughts are a normal part of Australian weather and should be taken into account by governments; however, the first major drought in 30 years has shown up a complete lack of investment in water infrastructure by governments along the east coast. For example, there has been no new water storage capacity constructed for Sydney since the population was half what it is now. Sydney has been living the high life, splurging millions on the Olympic Games and so forth instead of constructing basic infrastructure - now they are paying the price.
Unfortunately, instead of accepting responsibility and rectifying the situation, various eastern state governments have latched on to the global warming theory as an excuse for the mess in which they find themselves.
Propaganda about global warming and water shortages appears nightly on our televisions, daily in our newspapers. Many who don’t understand the realities take it to heart, writing letters to governments and newspapers, expressing their fears about running out of water.
So how does that affect us? The Northern Territory Government, not willing to spend on the Alice’s infrastructure, sees a perfect propaganda opportunity by feeding out a bit of misinformation about our water supply being non-renewable and – hey, presto - you have a whole crop of sackcloth-wearing doomsayers supporting their arguments. However, for all you doomsayers out there (making complete asses of yourselves) the complete opposite is the truth. Water does not “disappear” as every drop that was ever on Earth is still here - it is a totally sustainable resourceIf global warming is correct, then we are about to see just how much water there is - we are not going to run out of it, rather we are going to “drown” in it.
Returning to the Alice Springs situation, our government has used this unreasonable fear of running out of water to engineer a situation that allows it to put a stop on any growth in our town. Alice Springs enjoys one of the best water supplies of any city or town in Australia.
It sits alongside what amounts to vast underground lakes (bigger than Lake Argyle) and they do recharge every time it rains.
So while the rest of the country is struggling with lack of water and (in some areas) possibly running out of it next year, we in Alice Springs are sitting nervously alongside an enormous water supply worrying about 20% of one aquifer running out in 350 years.
Am I alone in seeing that as being totally stupid and selfish? If we sit on an asset like this and don’t use it then someone is going to take it off us - and so they should!
While our country is struggling to grow its fruit and vegetables and people face escalating costs in their living expenses as the drought bites harder we sit here smugly, an almost entirely welfare fed society, living off those same struggling “east coasters”.
We should be doing our bit. Thirty years ago Alice Springs was supplying all its own horticultural needs and supplying quite large tonnages into Darwin and even Singapore.
Hey, what great progress we’ve made since then! If I was on the east coast,
I would call for the closing down of the Alice, putting its citizens to work doing something productive and pinching its water supply. Why should the rest of the country pay for a bunch of super cautious, unproductive citizens who huddle nervously in the centre of the continent surrounded by almost boundless opportunity and making almost no use of it?
The present government, under the direction of its various agencies such as PowerWater, and through utter greed and lack of vision, seems quite prepared to strangle our town. The Alice needs to wrest back some semblance of control over its future planning.
If that proves unachievable under the present political system we must lobby the federal government to change that system, even if it means shutting down the present NT Government!
Let’s take the nation-wide changes to local government a bit further. Let’s divide the Territory into two separate council regions, as (with our small population) this would give us a more adequate and equitable level of government.
Has the time come to consider the State Of Central Australia? Whatever it takes something needs to be done, and very quickly, to halt the rapidly escalating wheels of decline set in motion by our government.
As Matt Conlan said to me the other day: “It’s not that they don’t care about the Alice, it’s just that they never think about it!”
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

Sir,- The Australian Greens have launched their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health initiative.
It is an international embarrassment that there is a 17 year gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.
This is not an intractable problem. It is not a case of not knowing what to do, but rather a matter of scale and political will. What is needed is a commitment to better health care on the basis of need, and dedicating more resources to close the gap.
The Australian Greens’ policy aims to close the gap within a generation, with an interim target of less than ten years difference by 2015.
The Greens are calling for an extra $460 million per annum to be spent on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary healthcare. Aboriginal Australians should have equal access to affordable and appropriate primary health care by 2012.
Right now, for every dollar of PBS or MBS spent on other Australians, only 40 cents is spent on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ health. The Greens want this gap closed by 2012.
A key way to turn around the health disadvantage and alarmingly high rates of chronic disease in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the future is to target early childhood development and to make the health of mums and young kids a funding priority.
Senator Rachel Siewert
Australian Greens Senator for WA

Sir,- The fact the Territory’s road toll for 2007 has now surpassed the total number of fatalities in 2006 shows the imposition of an open road speed limit has failed to improve safety on our roads.
The latest fatality in Alice Springs takes the Territory road toll to 45, one more than the total number of fatalities for all of 2006, and six more than at the same time last year.
There was no evidence that the open road speed limit was a significant factor in the Territory’s high road toll.
The Martin Government was barking up the wrong tree when it imposed the open road speed limit on January 1 this year. The Acting Minister for Transport, Chris Burns, claimed at the time: “These changes will save lives and reduce the unnecessary road trauma on Territory roads.”
Well, they haven’t. As so many people predicted at the time, imposing an open road speed limit has failed to cut the road toll. Far more important is the number of Territory motorists who fail to wear seatbelts; a factor in the latest fatality.
The Martin Government has failed totally in its stated goal to reduce the road toll in the Territory. The open road speed limit was just another pointless attack by the Martin Labor Government on the Territory’s lifestyle. Demerit points will prove to be equally useless in curbing the road toll.
Labor’s only answer is more and more regulation at ever greater cost to Territorians - they just can’t be trusted with the Territory’s lifestyle.
Fay Miller
Shadow Minister for Transport

Sir,- I love this site [the Alice Springs News website].
It makes for great reading about a place I would like to visit in the future. Great news stories, and to all the reporters keep up the good work.
L Mitchell
Canada (email address supplied)

Sir,- Wow! That is quite an issue your guys and gals put together this week (Alice News, November 15). Very interesting coverage of town events. Congratulations!
Dave Sullivan
Chesapeake, VA, USA

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