December 13, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Stewart running for Mayor. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Outspoken alderman Murray Stewart will be running for mayor in the town council elections in March next year.
He says he has a progressive agenda, and is close to the conservative lobby group, Advance Alice.
But he claims he will not ask for their support because their objective should be to be a watchdog over people in power.
After a rocky start in council, when Ald Stewart was a frequent impatient interjector – “I don’t regret any of that, it was the style required for those times” he claims – he has now settled down to a more disciplined style.
But he is seen as a loner, not joining any bloc.
The first-time council member has changed his mind after announcing in June that he would stand only for aldermen, not for Mayor, because he was about to become a third-time father, his business (physiotherapy) was expanding, and he wanted to further his career as a blind sportsman.
He now says: “These considerations and desires have not changed.  However I have had amazing support and encouragement from my wife and family who have urged me to stand.
“My running coach has also given me his unyielding support, suggesting that even if we have to train at 11pm, I could get both jobs done.”
The Alice News put to Ald Stewart questions now appearing on our web site,, as part of a survey, “What Alice wants”.
The survey seeks the public’s opinion about what it wants the town council to achieve with its own resources, or what it should pressure the NT and Federal governments to do, possibly supported in the lobbying by Tourism Central Australia, the Chamber of Commerce and Lhere Artepe.
The questions and topics have been submitted to us, over time, by our readers.
The News will announce the interim results of the survey in our first 2008 edition on February 7, and update the topics in the light of the answers received up to that time.
“There will be a style revolution if I become Mayor,” says Ald Stewart.
“There will be more access to and from elected members.
“My office will be in the town’s coffee shops and offices of other people.
“Any Mayor tied up with ceremonial occasions has no time to drive the corporate responsibility of developing the town.
“I’d be passing on to aldermen the rituals, in line with their interests.”
These were the topics put to Ald. Stewart, and his responses:-
TOPIC:  Open up cheap residential and industrial land.
STEWART: This should be the goal of all levels of government. However firstly we should stem the tide of those young people who are choosing to move away from our town. We should grant a two year rate exemption for all first home buyers. I’m not full on development crazy. A balance needs to be found between progress and lifestyle, but we should aim for a population of 40,000 to 45,000.
TOPIC:  Put tourist promotion into the hands of locals who know the game and get bang for buck.
STEWART: I couldn’t agree more. Out with the long-haired advertising agents from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and hooray for locals promoting themselves.  All of us are potential flamboyant advertising agents. We should be given the license to promote the miracle that is Alice to the world. Production of our marketing should occur here in Alice Springs. The best placed people to do it are Tourism Central Australia [formerly CATIA] and they should be funded for the purpose by the NT Government.
TOPIC:  Double the available water supply, including through recycling.
STEWART: The truth is, it is not five minutes to midnight in Alice when it comes to water supply.  We have got time to promote best practices when it comes to water management, conservation and recycling to preserve our wonderful lifestyle and grow our economic and agricultural base. The technology is expensive, but this will improve. We have time to do things right. All natural resources should be treated with respect.
TOPIC:  Immediately move the power station, the garbage dump and the sewage plant well outside the town.
STEWART: It’s a no-brainer, of course these things should have been done many years ago, as a part of sensible town planning.
TOPIC:  Develop, in collaboration with private enterprise, tourist facilities in the West and East MacDonnell National Parks.
STEWART: The answer is yes. The parks do not live up to the expectations of modern tourists.  This is not to say we should take away adventure and ruggedness. We need places for rubbish collection, proper toilets. A friend of mine encountered giant rats in a toilet. It was like an episode out of Jaws.
TOPIC:  Leave all national parks in public ownership but set up an Aboriginal park management advisory body.
STEWART: National Paks are for all Australians, both black and white.  The parks are a symbol of togetherness, integration and tranquility. 
I don’t want to see a divided Central Australia which I fear would occur by the handover of our parks to any population segment.
TOPIC:  Put in place flood mitigation that will reliably save the town from catastrophic loss of life and damage resulting from storms increasingly likely to occur because of climate change.
STEWART: Yes. This should have been attended to years ago.
TOPIC:  Create farmlets at Rocky Hill, near the new gaol and on Arid Zone Research Facility land so that small fruit and veg growing enterprises can be created, both for the local and interstate markets.
STEWART: I agree.
TOPIC:  Build one or more recreation lakes within a 100km radius of Alice Springs, which can also be integrated in the water supply.
STEWART: Love to see it but the debate may change when our new swimming complex is built. It will be simply magnificent.
I’ll be interested to see where this debate goes once the town begins to experience its value. I’ll wait on that.
TOPIC:  Convert the Civic Centre to a place where visitors are welcomed, including a museum celebrating and providing an introduction to The Centre’s natural beauty, art, culture and skills in living in a remote area.
This would include expanded space for Tourism Central Australia, and facilities for social and other functions for visitors and locals alike.
Move the majority of the town council bureaucracy to office accommodation elsewhere in town.
STEWART: We have just spent $11.5 million to house our town council staff. 
As you know I was a big supporter of re-location at that time however the debate was run and I lost. 
I’m not convinced that this exercise wouldn’t lead to significant additional costs to the rate-payer. Now that we have a base, we should stay there.
However, I have significant plans to put to the people and to Tourism NT that would ensure the civic centre and the entire CBD becomes more vibrant, innovative and tourism friendly. Stay tuned.
TOPIC:  Advance regionalization of the NT Government: achieve greater autonomy for The Centre, with senior bureaucrats being brought back to Alice Springs.
STEWART: I believe one of the central roles of any new mayor should be to lobby, with every tool available, governments and corporate Australia in order that they understand the attractiveness of re-locating government departments or corporate bodies to a town like Alice.
It would make fantastic economic sense and for us, it would provide extra reasons for young people to stay and to grow families.
TOPIC:  Place the responsibility for town planning in the southern region of the NT with Alice Town Council.
STEWART: I’ve always been a believer that our locals should be charting our own future. The proviso is we would need to be properly compensated from the NT Government, thus ensuring there is no additional cost burdens on our rate payers.
TOPIC:  Set up an Aboriginal cultural centre, featuring bush foods and corroborees, alongside the Desert Park.
STEWART: Anything that sells Aboriginal culture and draws the world to us I am in favour of.
TOPIC: Work with Centrecorp and other Aboriginal interests.
STEWART: Centrecorp have extraordinary funds that could make a big difference to ordinary people. I would hope that I could assist in ensuring that those funds flood down to where they are needed most.
TOPIC: Require shopping centers to have public toilets, and provide further public ablution facilities around town, including showers.
STEWART: Providing a tourist friendly Alice Springs is an obligation that we all should share. 
The right leadership will act as a stimulus for this to occur. In terms of public ablution and showering facilities, I think we are getting there.
I would like to do my own personal audit on the current facilities before I go so far as to suggest any compulsory approaches are required.
TOPIC: Create and enforce public conduct standards.
STEWART: The most destructive form of promotion or perhaps demotion, is the word of mouth denouncing of one’s town.
We simply have to draw the line in the sand when it comes to the offensive and unsightly conduct on our streets. 
We have to herald in a new era of accepting responsibility for one’s actions. Our closed circuit cameras and extra police will form a part of this response.
I believe a part of any new mayor’s charter should be to put extreme pressure on our judiciary to remodel its approach to sentencing, thus reflecting the values of the common man and woman in the street.
In order that this should occur, the new mayor should also lobby both the NT and Federal Governments to provide rehabilitation facilities which would be a compulsory requirement, and far away from the temptations that have drawn offenders down an ill road. 
There is a perennial question about by-laws and how can they be stiffened to cope with these problems. By-laws need to be tested under the Local Government Act and the council’s by-laws people.
Drunks are wandering around, trashing Adelaide House at the moment.
TOPIC: Create two camps for visitors from bush communities, whilst strictly enforcing laws against unauthorized camping, littering and public drinking.
STEWART: I’m against this approach. Creating isolated ghettos is what has brought about many of our problems.
TOPIC: There should be stringent take-away alcohol restrictions.
STEWART: We have to draw a line in the sand. I’m a big believer in linking alcohol sales to licenses for buyers. We need to detect people with drinking problems and have compulsory rehabilitation.
A legal and intellectual atom bomb has to be dropped on it. There will be casualties. Supply restrictions, in a lot of ways, make it worse. We need to stop problem drinkers from drinking, full stop.

Public art: Two on the short list. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Two contenders have been short-listed to take further their proposals to transform the north-west corner of the Civic Centre site with a public art project.
They are an Alice Springs-based team of artists, designers and architects (Pamela Lofts, Sonja Peter, Pip McManus and Sue Dugdale) and Victorian sculptor Julie Squires.
The project is intended to “pay homage to Aboriginal country, to Alice Springs’ inhabitants and its visitors” and to “positively contribute to the global attention” Alice gets.
The town council is commissioning the work, providing 50% of the total budget of $260,000, with the expectation that their contribution will be matched dollar for dollar by Arts NT.
The brief for the project has been developed by an advisory committee, chaired by Alderman Meredith Campbell. The brief emphasises community consultation  as  a “key to the success of the project”.
The committee considered 11 expressions of interest, of which two came from locals.
Ald Campbell says the committee was impressed by the preliminary consultation already undertaken by Ms Squires who visited Alice Springs at her own cost prior to submitting an expression of interest.
“She’s interested in ideas from the ground up,” says Ald Campbell, “and in engaging others in the work and passing on her skills.”
Her concept for the 120 square metre site is called “The Gathering Garden”, appealing to the committee’s aim for the site to become “a place to be, rather than a thing to see”, says Ald Campbell.
Ms Squires proposed that the garden would include a number of sculptures in the form of coolamons, that would bear designs and text reflecting the different inhabitants of the site.
If this were the central image of the project, would that not give it an essentially Indigenous character and is this what the committee wants?
Ald Campbell says that she strongly suggested to Ms Squires that she “broaden her focus” in the development of her proposal to the next stage. The local team emphasise “symbolic references to the history, the diverse cultures of the town and the wider desert / arid zone environment” as “paramount in the resolution of the work”.
Their themes are “community (diversity, unity), environment (desert, water, river, inland sea), culture (story, art, song, language), and history”.
As well as the collaborative development of an artwork acting as “a focal point within the site”, they canvass as possibilities to be explored:
• the dramatic use of large slabs of coloured local sandstone, offering the potential for carved designs, such as ripples to reference the inland sea, and texts;
• a soundscape;
• water misting as an interactive component via movement sensors;
• creative lighting;
• landscaping providing rest areas and play areas;
• plantings to make the connection with Olive Pink, who once lived on the site, and with the Botanic Garden;
• transplanting of date palms to reference Afghan history;
• sinuous pathways suggesting “rhythmic storylines” and creating links to the Todd River.
However Ms Campbell says the team’s proposal to involve the public in further consultation over the development of their concept for the site is what centrally interested the committee.
Their expression of interest relies mainly on their combined CVs in this regard, while they also indicate that they will make presentations and invite comment in the usual ways.
All have had a range of experiences in developing work with and for Indigenous groups such as the social history exhibition celebrating the CLC’s 30th anniversary (Pamela Lofts) , but other projects on which they’ve been involved include the “Greening of Swanson Street, Melbourne (Sonja Peter) and the 1997 Darwin Mall redevelopment (Pip McManus). 
Ms Dugdale has been responsible for a number of striking architectural projects around the town, including the extension to the Alice Springs Cinemas, the renovation to the facade of the Yeperenye Shopping Centre and the Charles Darwin University building. 
The two finalists must now develop a to-scale maquette and drawings of their proposals and submit a detailed budget.
The committee will make its recommendations to the council in February. Council members, as they near the end of their term, will make the final decsion.
Work cannot begin before the success of the Arts NT grant application is known (mid June) and is hoped to be completed by the end of 2008.

... but not everybody is happy. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

When the Alice Town Council set up the process of commissioning, for a quarter of a million dollars, public art for the 120 square meters in front of the civic centre, the aldermen could have said: “We will pick something. Our decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into. If you don’t like it, get over it.”
Maybe they should have said that.
Around the world, spending public money on public art is fraught with controversy.
Apparently in a bid to avoid that on their own patch, the city fathers and mothers set up a process that, on the face of it, is very democratic and involves the public in making the choice.
Only in fact it doesn’t, and that makes things a lot worse.
One of the artists who put in a bid is Archie St Clair, Alice born and bred, well known in cattlemen’s circles as a mustering pilot.
He sustained serious injuries in a helicopter crash 13 years ago, and is still recovering from them today.
The chopper went down because, as is alleged in ongoing litigation, a non-standard bearing had been fitted.
Undaunted, Mr St Clair taught himself to make life size – or bigger – bronze statues and sculptures, and set up a studio, complete with a foundry, in the small town of Grapevine in Texas, USA.
Overcoming his still severe disability, he has since acquired an international reputation, with commissions in the USA, Europe and Australia.
In Australia he created the mounted stockman in Katherine and the Cunnamulla Feller.
When the Alice council invited expressions of interest earlier this year, Mr St Clair put his hand up, suggesting a bronze statue of Albert Namatjira, double life size.
There were 11 submissions. Only two made it to the town council’s short list: a group of four women artists, designers and architects from Alice Springs, and a woman artist from Victoria. (See main story.)
Mr St Clair’s didn’t, and he and his supporters in The Alice are not pleased.
In the normal course of events, missing out is part of every artist’s fate.
But this is different, says this quintessential battler.
The council’s invitation of expressions of interest says: “Effective community consultation procedures are the key to the success of this project. Engagement of the Alice Springs’ community in collaborative community processes will be an important determinant to the success of the project.”
And: “The Public Art Advisory Committee will advise on this process in accordance with Alice Springs Town Council’s Community Consultation Framework.”
That framework contains nothing that would exclude Mr St Clair. In fact it says that “public art” is something that is “created by a single artist, a group of artists, a team of appropriate design professionals in collaboration with an artist or in collaboration with members of the community through a community cultural development process”.
And “art” is “an object or experience of significant and / or aesthetic value which is created or presented as art by an arts practitioner or design team.”
Nothing in the invitation document defines “effective community consultation procedures”.
What are they? When do they kick in?
Given that they are the “key” to the project, how come there was no public consultation about the elimination of nine of the 11 applicants?
A preview of the two remaining applicants’ proposed work is soon to be on public display at the council.
The other nine don’t get a look-in, and neither did the public get a chance to have its say on the rejected proposals.
Ald Campbell says Mr St Clair “did not convince the committee that he had demonstrated evidence of methodology of community consultation”.
Mr St Clair counters that his idea “reflects community values” – the principal brief for the project, prominent on page one of the council’s invitation.
He says Mr Namatjira is the “most recognized Aboriginal artist well-known to the community.
“He awakened the Western art world to recognize the best known desert landscapes in and around Alice Springs. 
“As a native Aborigine who was exposed to Western culture and Western style of painting in watercolors, he had a distinct style of expressing his love of the land.”
What’s more, Mr St Clair says he’s consulted, both directly and through his Alice friends Ian and Francoise Builder, with his considerable network in The Centre.
Mr St Clair also says he and Mrs Builder tried to put questions to the council’s Community Cultural Development Officer, Jasmine Lance, to its Corporate and Community Services Director, Craig Catchlove, and the chairperson of the council committee overseeing the project, Ald Meredith Campbell.
They got no responses before the decision on the short list was made.
Ald Campbell disputes the claim that Mr St Clair and Mrs Builder attempted to contact her.
Mrs Builder, on Mr St Clair’s behalf, attended a meeting to get information about the project, but no explanation was given about community consultation.
Ald Campbell says the council members don’t have “much background” in the arts, and relied on “volunteer expertise in the community”.
The members of the organizing committee include figures from the arts world who are respected, but a cross section of the community they are not: apart from the council members they are an architect (Andrew Broffman, Tangentyere Design), a Community Cultural Development Officer (Lucy Kenneth from Red Hot Arts), a Native Title Holder (Elaine Peckham), an Art Organization representative (Lisa Stefanoff of the Institute of Aboriginal Development), an arts NT Regional Officer (Sonja McLean) and Sylvia Neale (town council library).
Sue Dugdale, a member of the shortlisted group of four, ceased to be a member of the organizing committee in April, and “has nothing to do with the expressions of interest,” says Ald Campbell.
However, she also says the public art project was first discussed in January.
“Is there a case of insider trading?” asks Mr St Clair.
No, says the council’s Craig Catchlove: “The criteria for the expressions of interest were formulated well after Ms Dugdale’s departure.”
Ald Campbell says Mr St Clair’s problem, as was the case with the other unsuccessful applicants, was that he put forward a design, rather than a concept for a design.
And “the committee thought he was too mono representational, not speaking to a broad enough church”, says Ald Campbell.
By selecting Namatjira Mr St Clair was emphasizing a “Western Aranda icon, excluding other elements of the community”.
Ald Campbell readily admits that there are “challenges” with this project, the council’s first foray into public arts.
“We had difficulty, to say the least, with the framing of the methodology.
“It was a case of suck it and see.” 
Ald Campbell was surprised about Mr St Clair’s difficulties in getting responses from the council. 
The project coordinator, Jasmine Lance, was always “available to flesh out” any details, she says.

LETTERS: Grabbing the Tiger by the tail: Now a bus company bites back.

Quote for the week: “By naming the Territory’s Warren Snowdon, a determined critic of the intervention, as Defence Science and Personnel Minister, Rudd binds this main mouthpiece of the antediluvian Left to cabinet solidarity and removes his voice from the debate [on Indigenous affairs].”
Nicolas Rothwell, The Australian, December 8, 2007.

Sir,- I refer to the letter (Alice News, December 6) by Ross Pollock, Airline and Tourism Consultant, and the former operations and business manager of the now defunct Aboriginal Air Services, that has been sent to Chief Minister Paul Henderson and all government members.
In his letter Mr Pollock makes reference to Dyson Cobb and Co. and asks why a company with no airline or airport handling experience ended up with a contract for handling Tiger Airways at Alice Springs Airport, and why did it rely entirely on Qantas to provide its airside ramp services with no fallback position?
This statement infers that the Dyson Group of Companies (Cobb and Co) is in fact responsible for the ramp services and thus the deferral of Tiger Airways services to Central Australia.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
No contract has been offered, accepted or declined by our company or any other to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing - we completely reject Mr Pollock’s defamatory and incorrect assertions.
Mr Pollock was featured on the front page of the Centralian Advocate on Friday, November 30, displaying the ground handling equipment of Aboriginal Air Maintenance Services that he indicated would be capable of servicing Tiger’s needs. Further, it was quoted that AAMS general manager Vince Carter and airline consultant Ross Pollock said they repeatedly approached Tiger about doing the ground handling. Surely, if these services were readily available, Tiger would have accessed them instead of seeking expressions of interest from other Alice Springs businesses including ours, given they had only three weeks to arrange this service to meet the first flight.
As the Central Australian manager for the Dyson Group I would like to set the record straight.
Dyson’s was approached three weeks prior to December 1 to possibly assist in the handling of Tiger Airlines logistics. I am also aware that several other local companies were approached prior to this by the national ground handling contractor for Tiger Airways to provide ramp services in Alice Springs.
I am sure each of these companies looked at the business proposition quite seriously. Given the initial limited flight arrivals and turn around times, providing these services would require companies that have staff with other income bases and flexibility; this was seen as a positive to local employment security and the basis of the approach.
The Dyson Group of Companies is very proactive in Australian tourism, and our NT operations are a major commitment and division within the company. Dyson’s will assist in whatever way possible to increase exposure of the Central Australian destination and aspire to fulfil the expectations of all our visitors.
We have no issue with Mr Pollock, Mr Carter, AAMS or any other business promoting themselves to Tiger Airlines but we strongly object to being wrongly portrayed in the process and will seek to protect our rights accordingly.
Wayne Thompson
Alice Springs

Sir,- I am a history addict involved in the tourism industry.
The fascinating thing about Central Australian history is that it is so recent, yet there is no single repository or publication about the history of Central Australia.
I have also been privileged to have experienced a guided tour of Pitchi Richi by Elsa Corbett, a wonderful lady who has devoted her life to preserving the site since her husband Leo died 36 years ago. But let’s not get too emotional about the significance of Pitchi Richi and the usual few hundred heritage and art fraternity enthusiasts turning up for the recent open day.
Undoubtedly, the sandstone sculptures by William Rickets and their settings by Leo Corbett are all valuable pieces of art and it is a miracle that they have been preserved relatively intact after so long in the open.
Whether these artworks require the same 12 acres for display exposed to the elements to deteriorate even more for years to come, or whether they would be better preserved in a gallery somewhere indoors is the question.
Some of the pioneer artifacts collected by Leo during his travels over many years have immense historical significance and are definately worth preserving but, once again, do they really need to be on display in that precise location rusting away?
The fact that Pitchi Richi was one of Alice’s first tourist attractions before the war is noteworthy but there are other tourist attractions of the era and later that are perhaps equally or more significant and deserving of heritage listing ahead of Pitchi Richi.
Hearing Elsa explain how the art and artifacts were collected by Rickets and her husband and her unstinting devotion to their preservation is an emotional experience in itself, but does the entire site and its contents deserve to receive heritage listing and be allowed to deteriorate further in an isolated corner of Alice Springs that few will ever see, or would they be better preserved and displayed in a purpose-built enclosure where thousands of tourists could see them in an appropriate environment to which they are definately entitled?
It’s a decision I wouldn’t like to have to make but perhaps one the Heritage Council has got right.
In the meantime, it is sad to see Pitchi Richi and its history closed to the public and the art and artifacts detriorating more and more as each day passes.
Ross Pollock
Alice Springs

Sir,- The Arid Lands Environment Centre-Beyond Nuclear Initiative (ALEC-BNI) welcomes the incoming Labor Government’s commitment to repeal the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act that overrode Territory laws to force a federal radioactive dump on the NT.
People at each of the targeted sites clearly stated opposition to the Howard Government’s proposal, and have fought consistently over the last two and a half years to increase national awareness and opposition to the plan.
It is a big relief that their land and communities are now spared the burden of hundreds or thousands of years of radioactive waste storage.
Though the proposed NT sites are now off the drawing board, the BNI will continue to carefully monitor the situation and work closely with the Government to ensure that the scientific inquiry and consultation processes for radioactive waste management are rigorous, accountable and community focused.
We call upon the Federal Government to undertake an open public inquiry to assess all aspects of radioactive waste production and management in Australia, and that any process should include the option of returning the spent fuel waste to Lucas Heights when it returns from overseas.
The waste produced at the OPAL nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights will remain at the facility for a minimum of 10-20 years before it is sent overseas for reprocessing.
There is no need to build another dump site for returning waste as well as managing the waste at this facility.
Lucas Heights is where the nuclear scientists trained to deal with these materials are situated.
Transport is an important factor in radioactive waste management decisions.
The numerous freight and transport accidents on Territory and interstate roads over the last couple of years highlight the risk of trucking highly radioactive materials across the country, through hundreds of communities, to remote locations.
ALEC-BNI will continue to work with and support communities along potential waste transport routes, to ensure that their opinions and concerns are fully acknowledged and acted upon by the Federal Government in any radioactive waste management process that is undertaken.
We look forward to the repeal of the draconian Radioactive Waste Management legislation and to working with the incoming Government on this important national issue.
Natalie Wasley
Beyond Nuclear Initiative - ALEC
Alice Springs
Sir,- The election results [November 24] shows how out of touch the Liberals and the CLP are with other Territorians on issues such as IR laws, climate change, interest rates, nuclear waste dumps, etc, and (more importantly to me) Indigenous Affairs.
The two men responsible (John Howard and Mal Brough) for the “Invasion” (Intervention) into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities and townships had their butts spanked and now are part of history and folklore.
Long Live Democracy.
Mario Guiseppe

Sir,- Why is it that Alice Springs remains one of the most isolated regional centres in Australia?
The QANTAS monopoly is of course the correct answer and they will continue to hold us to ransom if Tiger Air cannot break the stranglehold of this uncaring, exorbitantly priced airline.
With the news of the intended arrival of Tiger Airways my daughters and I booked to travel south in January to attend their grandmother’s 70th birthday.
The release of affordable airline tickets from Alice to Melbourne meant for the first time in 10 years that as a family we could afford to fly south together.
Regardless of the fact that Tiger Air may have contributed to the delayed flights out of Alice the poignant question is how much longer QANTAS can justify its exorbitant prices? On Tiger Air I was able to purchase three return tickets for approximately $600 yet when booking with QANTAS one return airfare was the full $600.
While Alice is home to our immediate family, all our extended family is interstate, so an illness or death becomes a major financial burden on top of the stress of distance from family in times of crisis.
Meanwhile our family on the East Coast regularly travels from Brisbane to Melbourne to attend family events, as they are able to purchase affordable family air travel.
In a time of such global communication it seems ironic that as residents of Alice Springs we are trapped within our own local community.
Unless, of course, one has a couple of spare thousand dollars to pay QANTAS for the outrageously overpriced seats on its flights to other major centres within Australia.
Surely QANTAS with all the extra money it has gained from Alice Springs commuters over the years would have rewarded our community by offering to support local projects and give us a fair deal.
From their response to the OLSH plea for help with the interstate chess tournament team obviously their allegiance remains with ripping off our community at all costs.
Here is a wonderful opportunity for our new Chief Minister to show his commitment to the people of Alice Springs by eradicating the QANTAS monopoly. As a family we implore other disadvantaged travelers to speak out.
It is time for change.
Jo, Amy and Kat Sherrin
Alice Springs

Sir,- My name is Marisa Horan. I am looking for information about Alex Wilson. He was my grandfather. I read about him in your paper in an article about the Coniston Massacre by Dick Kimber (Alice News, September 10, 2003).
I would like to talk to anyone that knew something about him. My family comes from Yuendumu. I have not met them yet but would like to. (My family name is Wilson).
Marisa Horan

Sir,- I am hoping to hear from WW2 veterans living ‘down under’ and people who served in essential services, war work, and so forth. I am half way through compiling a book of letters and have received many replies from veterans here in the UK (Chindits, Desert Rats, RAF, etc).
I would love to hear from ex-pat veterans and also ‘born and bred Aussies’. What are your memories of WW2? To the expat veterans - why did you leave the UK, have you been back? What do you think of the UK today and of Australia?
For the Aussie born, what are your views on how Australia has changed over the last 60 years? And anything else you would like to say.
If you would prefer to remain anonymous please state this in your letter.
I hope to hear from some of you soon; you can respond to:-
Nick Pringle, PO BOX 1110, Newcastle Upon Tyne,Northumberland, UK, NE99 2XL or email
Nick Pringle
Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

Sir,- A two-handed vaudeville act by the new Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, and the Minister for Local Government, Elliot McAdam, has left the new Labor Government profoundly embarrassed.
The extraordinary scene of the Chief Minister and the Minister for Local Government getting the number of shires wrong is the latest folly in what has become a running farce. If  they don’t know how many shires will operate in the Territory after the forced amalgamation, how can anyone have confidence in the process?
Equally damning is the fact the enabling legislation was pulled on the eve of its passage through Parliament. Elliott  McAdam has repeatedly and doggedly claimed that there has been widespread, genuine consultation with ratepayers about the forced local government amalgamations - but now the new Chief Minister says we need another three months of consultation.
Simultaneously the Chief Minister asserts there will be no substantive changes to either the time line or the structure of the proposed changes. By opting for more token consultation, Paul Henderson will only deepen the Government’s wounds from this process.
I suspect  the real reason the enabling legislation was pulled is that it is a dog’s breakfast.
This Bill was the ninth version the Government had produced but, without genuine consultation, the tenth version will be no better.
Meanwhile, the events last Friday night at the taxpayer-funded Christmas function of the new Minister for Sport, Matthew Bonson, once again sees Territory Labor sending all the wrong messages to the electorate.
I’ve no doubt people are indignant that a Minister of the Government hosts a Christmas party at taxpayers’ expense that results in all three emergency services being called and end ups with one of the guests being taken into protective custody.
Territorians  would rightly expect a measure of control to be exercised when taxpayers’ funds are being used at an event involving alcohol. Instead, Territorians get yet another example of Government excess and indulgence and have to pick up the bill. These events don’t seem to concern Minister Bonson in any way – he apparently thinks that is just the way things are done in the Territory.
It’s true that alcohol abuse is a common occurrence in the Territory, which is exactly why Government ministers need to be setting a good example for the rest of the community. Last year more than 26,000 people were taken into protective custody as alcohol abuse continued to rise in the Territory.
The Labor Government blames the rising assault rate on alcohol abuse, and claims to be concerned about alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour -  yet has a Minister hosting a party more suited to a university dorm than a Minister’s electorate office.
Paul Henderson erred when appointing Matthew Bonson to his front bench – this is just further proof of that error of judgement.
Jodeen Carney
Leader of the Opposition

Sir,- The Henderson Government has skewed the workplace balance in favour of the unions with the passage of its Work Health laws through the Territory Parliament, which grants unrestricted union access to every Territory workplace whether or not they have a union member on site. Under the guise of work place safety, the Henderson Government has opened the door for unions to trawl for members on worksites across the Territory.
The Territory will be the only jurisdiction in Australia that allows union officials to enter a worksite without notice and without reasonable suspicion of a breach of Occupational Health and Safety rules.
Unions previously required permission from the employer to enter a worksite but now all a union official will need is potential members at the site and OHS training to gain unrestricted access.
Now, if someone wants to join a union, that is their right and I’ll defend their right to do so. What I cannot support is the implementation of a belligerent pro-union intrusion into the Territory that will significantly change the culture of the Territory workplace.
This change will result in an aggressive workplace recruitment drive by unions. It needs to be remembered that the Labor Party will financially benefit from increased union membership.
When introducing the Bill the Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, stated: “It is fair to say that the main areas canvassed in the various submissions focussed on the consultation processes between employers and employees, particularly with regard to health and safety representatives and authorised union OHS representatives.
“In drafting this legislation, Government has taken into account the various positions of stakeholders on these issues and has ensured the appropriate checks and balances are in place to address the expressed concerns.”
With the Territory Construction Association, Chamber of Commerce, Housing Industry Association, Civil Contractors Association and the Minerals Council all vehemently opposed to these changes, it is obvious the power of the unions prevailed.
Terry Mills
Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Sir,- How many more public service positions will be downgraded by this government? The previous Chief Minister frequently rambled on saying, “what we want is effective decision making in Alice Springs”, and spoke of upgrading some senior positions.
However, the recent downgrading of the position of Assistant Director Southern / Deputy Fire Chief clearly shows the government’s lack of support and acknowledgement of the vital role such positions play in lobbying for a fair deal for the Centre.
There are a number of people holding senior positions in Alice Springs who are retiring.
Will these positions also be downgraded, and decision-making shifted to Darwin?
Will the Chief Minister show his support and maintain the current levels of seniority in the Centre and not force effective personnel to move to Darwin or take a reduction in their positions?
Having just been through an election campaign focusing on the importance of our labour force, it’s ironic that a Labor Government treats its own workforce in this way!”
Loraine Braham
Independent Member for Braitling

Breath tests not unusual where 6 die.

Random breath testing at the the intersection of Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive is regularly conducted by Hermannsburg police, says Superintendent Sean Parnell, in the wake of the fatal single vehicle rollover that killed six people and left the driver critically injured late on Friday night.
Police had attempted to stop the vehicle for a breath test as it approached the intersection, coming from town.
When the vehicle failed to stop, police activated lights and sirens and did a U-turn to follow the car.
They found it  overturned approximately three kilometres away.
It appears the driver lost control of the vehicle on a right hand bend, causing it to roll a number of times at the Hugh River causeway.
Four men, aged 20, 23, 24 and 30, and two women, aged 27 and 37, died at the scene, while the 31-year-old male driver was taken to Alice Springs Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
The driver was arrested and placed under police guard at the hospital where he underwent surgery. 
All occupants of the car are believed to have been residents of  Hermannsburg and for cultural reasons their names will not be released.
The deaths will be treated as deaths in custody as required under the Northern Territory Coroner’s Act.
Police are appealing to the public to help in ascertaining the movements of the vehicle – a white Ford Falcon with Northern Territory registration – earlier in the night. 
Anyone who may have seen this vehicle travelling towards Hermannsburg about 9.30 pm on Larapinta Drive is asked to call 131 444.
Meanwhile, police continued their focus on illegal drinking in town camps, taking some 130 people into protective custody on the weekend, some of whom were from town camps.
“This time last year we weren’t locking up people from town camps because drinking there wasn’t illegal.
“It’s positive for the women and children that we are able to now,” says Supt Parnell.

Imparja chief vague on future of station’s news.

There will be a change to the local news service offered by Imparja Television.
CEO Alistair Feehan denies that the local news service will be dropped – “you’ll always have local news” – but confirmed that there are changes afoot.
At present a sprinkling of local news reports are included in an edited national network bulletin, presented by a local newsreader.
Mr Feehan was not prepared to discuss what the changes entail.
“People at the station know what’s happening, that’s all that matters to me at the present time,” said Mr Feehan.

Thumbs up for Year 10 at senior college. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“More opportunities” was the common thread to comments from Year 10 Centralian College students about their move to the senior college this year.
The move was controversial, especially amongst parents, when it was first mooted in early 2006 but it’s been all good, according to students Lucy Barlow, Matt Gosch, and Toni O’Brien (pictured at right).
All three have taken advantage of the greater accessibility of vocational (VET) courses as well as the possibility of studying at higher year levels if they’re up for it.
Lucy, formerly an Anzac Hill High student, has completed Certificate I in Hospitality and will do Certificates II and III next year. She also had a taster of Cooking which she’ll go on with.
And she’ll be doing Year 12 History next year when she’s in Year 11, reducing her workload for the final year.
Matt, also formerly from Anzac, has done Philosophy this year.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do that at Anzac – there’s a better range of subjects here,” he says.
He’s thinking of doing Advanced Maths Studies in Years 11 and 12 and took part in extension study maths workshops held on weekends earlier in the year.
He’s also done a VET IT course.
Toni, a former Alice Springs High student, has done Certificate I in Hospitality and has been attending a Year 11 Tourism class.
“And there are more classes that I enjoy here,” she says.
The move from their middle schools to senior college was “a bit confusing” at first, especially for the Anzac students who were not used to an open learning classroom.
This didn’t worry former ASHS students, who were used to this style of classroom, says Toni, but there were still differences – new people, more of them, different ways of doing things.
“The teachers were patient with us as we were introduced to the new structures,” she says.
Students from Anzac and ASHS were “reluctant at first” to mix, says Lucy, but soon that changed. She and Toni became friends, for example.
“And if you took a Year 11 class you met a lot of those students,” says Matt.
They all appreciate the more relaxed atmosphere at the college but “we knew we had to come to school”, says Lucy.
“If we didn’t they would call and check up.”
Toni values having more independence: “We’re not babied here.”
They observed few “discipline” problems; what there was – “a few fights, of course” – was dealt with straight away.
Offering students “additional opportunities” was one of the main reasons behind the move, says college principal Joanne Earl.
“This is definitely what has happened, not just through the curriculum, but through the significant access to vocational courses.”
The college has also created a new course for Year 10s, Central Australian Studies, and has specialist maths, science and music teachers.
“That’s not to say that there are not opportunities in the middle schools, but this is a key focus for us and our resources are significant.”
Being able to work with Years 11 and 12 students and to see the way their programs operate is also very useful for Year 10 students, says Ms Earl (pictured), as is the opportunity to develop leadership roles.  Year 10 students participate in equal numbers on the student executive, for example.
Making up around 150 of the 500 plus students at the college, with an expected increase in 2008, the Year 10s are “part and parcel” of the school, take part in the college social and cultural activities, share a common lunch break, share the grounds and facilities while they also have their own “home base” in which to feel secure. This was particularly important for them in the first semester, says Ms Earl.
One of parents’ key concerns was “pastoral care” in a school environment noted for its more “adult” atmosphere.
There is plenty of supervision and pastoral care, says Ms Earl. Absences are rigorously followed up: with the intake of Year 10, the college gained a home liaison officer to monitor attendance, with a particular focus on Year 10. Every student also has a teacher allocated to them as “coach”; the coaching program is part of the timetable.
The Year 10 school day also ends at 3pm, as it does in middle school, although there are “optional extras” after that hour.
Third term attendance for all year levels averaged at 90%.
“That’s good,” says Ms Earl.
Has the change been mainly one to do with improving resources and efficiency? Not at all, says Ms Earl.
“It has been very much about pedagogy.
“There are appropriate ways to deliver education to Years Seven to Nine that are different from what you  can and should do with Years 10 to 12.
“We are responding to the needs of the different age cohorts.”
The success of the move was underlined by the achievements of eight students in Year 10 with straight As, and  “there was another large group close behind”.
Ms Earl couldn’t put a figure on the average – this kind of number-crunching isn’t done before reports are completed.
But “we do know that the students are ready to progress to the next level” because of the close communication between their teachers and the Years 11 and 12 teachers.
The new year at the college will kick off with the hosting of a professional development day involving all maths teachers in government schools in Alice Springs, including all primary school teachers (as they all teach maths).
This is to ensure that teachers at every level know what  is necessary for their students to achieve in order for them to progress to the next level.
“This is responding to the Territory and Australian Governments’ focus on improving literacy and numeracy across the board,” says Ms Earl.

School enrolments not yet responding to intervention. By KIERAN FINNANE.

School enrolments have not changed significantly since the Federal intervention in the Territory’s Aboriginal communities, says the Department of Education’s Sharron Noske.
Ms Noske is Deputy Chief Executive of Planning and Resources for the department.
She says the department is monitoring the situation closely.
“The latest data from the 2006 Census indicates that there may be up to 2600 remote and urban children across the NT who are not enrolled.
“DEET is working in partnership with schools, communities and other government agencies to confirm the actual number community by community. 
“Preliminary work is indicating that DEET enrolment data is sound, however, this is being crossreferenced with other data sources.
“The NT has a highly mobile Indigenous student population and historically, enrolment numbers do not reflect attendance.
“Attendance numbers have for many years fluctuated on a seasonal basis in many remote schools and this pattern continues.”
The department says that average attendance rate in remote schools is currently around 68% (an attendance rate of at least 80%  is required for students to make progress).
The Alice Springs News put to the department precise information from a reliable source about school attendance at Ntaria (Hermannsburg).
According to the department Ntaria “has an attendance rate near the average”.
However, according to our source, for term three it was well below the average, at just 44%.
Enrolment was reported by the source as 142, while daily attendance in term three ranged from 31 to 105, giving an average of 63.
The News asked the department to check their figures.
A spokesperson said: “I can assure you that the attendance rate for Ntaria School in Term 3 was well above the 44% that you have quoted.
“I can also confirm that Ntaria School’s current attendance rate is near the NT remote schools’ average of 68%, as previously stated.”
The News understands that attendance in term four has improved as a result of a “no school, no pool” policy.
The News’s source indicated that the main growth of enrolments at the school is in the early childhood age group, with 70 of the students, half of the total, in the pre-school to Year Two classes.
The source says the school needs their pre-school position upgraded from half to full-time as a minimum, although another full-time teacher would be ideal, allowing the school to run a dedicated half day pre-school program.
The department says the latest data from the 2006 Census indicates that there are very few, if any, children of compulsory school age in the community not enrolled at Ntaria.
Says Ms Noske: “It is worth noting that, with 40 outstations linked to Ntaria, there is, at any point in time, a number of families in the community on short term stay and this continuously affects the population of the community and, in turn, enrolment and attendance at Ntaria School.
“Ntaria School community remains firmly focussed on increasing attendance.
“Most recently the school reviewed its teaching programs, ensuring the delivery is relevant and engaging to students. 
“The school operates a number of attendance incentive programs and recently initiated an aquatics program aimed at children who attend all week and exhibit appropriate behaviour at school.  This approach is working well.
“The school also has a local community member employed in the home liaison officer position who works with families to track student absenteeism and mobility, reinforce the importance of education and to encourage regular school attendance.”
Meanwhile, Ms Noske says the process of preparing remote schools for possible increased enrolments and other implications of the Federal intervention includes:
• a dedicated team to provide additional support to small remote schools to deal with enrolment and the monitoring of attendance;
• a tailored support package including literacy materials designed for students with limited schooling experience.
• a mobile pool of additional teachers and support staff to work with school communities including initial assessment of student ability.
• a school attendance team and awareness campaign.
• additional resources and infrastructure including 15 additional classrooms, 22 teacher houses, six extra mobile preschools and upgrades to Community Education Centres.

Feeling connected. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

To walk into Jenny Taylor’s “Burning Bush” exhibition, in the Sitzler Gallery at Araluen until February, is to take something of a tour of the artist’s processes as she made work, consciously or unconsciously wrestling with her burning question – “what is required of us when we look at country?”
The collection of charcoal drawings of the underside of animal paws at the entrance to the gallery prepares the viewer for an unusual take on things.
Firstly, this perspective (from beneath) has to be sought out. Secondly, from cat to mouse, from echidna to  wallaby, the paws are rendered at the same scale – each has their place in country, there are tragic implications for our tendency to relativise, to lament the endangered bilby, for example, and not even notice the rodent extinctions under our noses.
Inside the gallery I found these themes – the search for awareness and understanding, the challenge to complacency when looking at country  – pursued strongly in some of the small sculptural works.
But aesthetically the show goes in many directions. And although it’s possible to see how the different directions go to Taylor’s burning question, the overall impression is diffuse.
This is a risk in relation to Taylor’s  intention for the show, which is to prompt people “to feel again their close connection with place”.
The ready sale of landscape works on opening night was in no doubt evidence of people feeling connection, but the presence of these very accessible works – accessible in their subject matter, its treatment and also in price – I suspect got in the way of viewers’ engagement with the rest of the work.
It’s quite hard to shift gear, mentally, aesthetically, from, for instance, the “burning country” series to the “small prophets” on the plinths below; from the “skyline” paintings to “Medicine cabinet” and then to the “small prophets” on canvas; and so on.
It’s especially hard when work is for sale: personal taste filters would lead many viewers, I suspect, to overlook a lot of the ideas-based work in favour of the more immediately recognisable and pleasing paintings.
I would have preferred to see this show as an installation, with its lines of enquiry more clearly focussed and with less work shown (there are 176 pieces in this solo show!).
The sale of work (of course the artist has to live) and perhaps the display of additional work could have come at the end of the exhibition period, rather than at the start, so that the immediate engagement was with experiencing the work and engaging with and reflecting on its ideas, instead of with acquisition.
My keystone works for an installation would have been the incredibly moving “Stick Nest Rat Shrine”, “Medicine Cabinet” (pictured above) and “The water is wide series”, the delightful  “Peep” series, and both “Small prophet” series, the charcoal drawings, and a strongly edited selection of the paintings, with the work presented as a whole environment (for eye-opening experience and contemplation) rather than as a collection of objects.
I would also have given thought to how to present Taylor’s texts as part of this whole.
She writes succinctly and beautifully and where she has presented texts they work well (if you take the trouble to read the small print on the discreet labels) to amplify the experience of the work – enabling us to better see “the life in things, and [see] our own lives as inseparable from that”, a process to which Taylor has made, despite my reservation over presentation, a subtle and original contribution.

ADAM CONNELLY: Centre celebrity.

For those of you with less than a passing interest in the gossip magazines, Tara Reid was in the Territory last week.
She’s one of those celebrities less famous for her acting and more famous for simply being famous.
She has been plastered over the glossy trash mags for the best part of a decade in various states of consciousness.
While I’m sure she would prefer us all to know her for her great work in such watershed films like “Josie and the Pussycats”, truth be told most people would know Ms Reid as the woman who was photographed at Puff Daddy’s birthday party with one of her augmented boobs hanging out. 
She might also be remembered here in Australia as having dated Mark Philippoussis for a spell.
Which isn’t the claim to fame you might think. Dating an Australian bloke who has a prodigious talent and done absolutely nothing with it … tell me an Aussie woman who hasn’t done that.
We Australian men are pretty good at wasting our talents. I blame the Playstation and our genetic disposition to the love of beer.
Ms Reid was in Darwin this week to host the annual Hooker’s Ball.
Those of us from Rugby playing states might be able to rationalise the Hooker’s Ball as some sort of front row forward themed night.
(For those from Aussie Rules playing states, the Hooker is the man who “hooks” the ball in order to win possession in a scrum.)
But we’d only be grasping at moral straws.
No, Ms Reid was there to host a party in which the patrons dressed as prostitutes. Because young men and women in nightclubs need an excuse to wear less and act like prostitutes!
I wonder if it works the other way round. Do sex workers throw “drunk 23 year old boofhead” parties?
Whatever your thoughts on the Hooker’s Ball idea, Tara Reid was a public relations dream. Darwin was highlighted in gossip news across the globe.
It was a perfect marriage. Tara Reid is the celebrity custom-built to fit Darwin’s image. Blonde, a bit sweaty, cosmetically enhanced, a good drinker and a bit of a wreck. Darwin and Tara, like lamb and rosemary.
It makes me think that we here in the Centre are getting a bit of a raw deal when it comes to our guest celebrities. Sydney got David Beckham, Darwin got Tara and curiously Brisbane got Sir Bob Geldoff.
I’m pretty certain that the last couple of celebrities to grace our town have included Darren Lehman and Pauline Hanson.
Top blokes and absolute superstars no doubt but not the glam A-listers Alice Springs deserves.
But who? Who would be the perfect celebrity endorsement for Alice Springs?
Someone who can capture media attention on the one hand but also compliment the character of the town.
Someone beautiful yet robust. Social but secluded. Someone who doesn’t mind a party, a drink and a laugh. Someone political but a bit naïve.
Someone who doesn’t like being told what to do or how to do it.
Angelina is a bit too “right on” for the Alice, she’s probably right for Melbourne.
Beyonce is definitely Gold Coast material. Nowadays Madonna needs to be close to a synagogue, so no dice there. Britney has a couple too loose in the top paddock.
Probably better suited to Adelaide. She loves iced coffee and pie floaters and let’s face it, she’s as crazy as a serial killer – she’ll fit in fine.
Nope the only celebrity who fits all the necessary requirements is none other than Pamela Andersen.
Stop throwing things at me and think about it. The press would go nuts! She’s a party gal, a bit rough and worn round the edges and shares a physical attribute or two with some of the natural wonders around Central Australia. She even has skin the same colour as the dirt around here.
See! A perfect match. 
Let’s make it happen. Someone get Tourism Central Australia or whatever they call themselves these days on the phone. She could come to the Camel Cup (insert your own “hump” joke here).

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.