February 14, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Dry town a farce. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Anti-social behaviour In Alice Springs is increasing “inexorably”, back to its levels before Dry Town legislation was brought in, police Commander Bert Hofer told the Town Council on Monday.
The usual responses of picking up drunks, tipping out liquor, issuing infringement notices, offering a domestic violence service, are doing little more than shifting the problems around the town, said Cdr Hofer.
And he quashed expectations of aldermen that there would be extensive police support for town council rangers policing illicit camping and littering, arguing that their effort was poorly targeted.
Cdr Hofer says police are looking for new ideas and he has asked his female ACPOs (Aboriginal Community Police Officers) to identify strong local Aboriginal women, with whom he wants to hold a forum. 
He said police numbers are basically up to strength: establishment is 130 officers, with 127 personnel currently available.
Of these, 29 officers work solely on issues of anti-social behaviour.
But of course, there are not 29 on duty at a time; they work rostered shifts between 6am and 2pm, and have days off.
Cdr Hofer said every available officer has been rostered on for the football weekend (Lightning Carnival) at the end of the month, which always draws a lot of visitors from bush communities. 
“We will saturate the town over that period” he said, but reminded council that this kind of effort is only possible for a couple of days.
He said special alcohol restrictions will be in force over the weekend (no cask wine, no full strength beer in bottles), but police had to push hard to get the measure in place.
Have police got enough manpower, asked Alderman Samih Habib.
“The entire Territory force could do with more police,” said Cdr Hofer, referring, for example, to the need to participate in the policing efforts of the Federal Intervention.
“If I had another 300 police, I could use them.”
He said police respond to all reports of anti-social behaviour, including breaches of the Dry Town laws, unless more pressing matters are taking their attention: “We can’t be everywhere at once.”
He contested the assertion, in a report by council’s director of corporate and community services, Craig Catchlove, that police over the last three weeks had not responded to numerous calls to address public drinking and violence on the lawns in front of the library.
Police records over the period showed that they had dealt with 23  incidents at the location, of which 11 attendances were the result of proactive “hot spot policing”.
Cdr Hofer’s comments were almost entirely about problems caused by Aboriginal people determined to drink, no matter what nor where: they find hideaways around town or go to the Todd River, Teppa Hill and Billygoat Hill.
When police intervene they simply get more grog and move elsewhere. 
He spoke of a recent incident when police on an evening shift came across a relatively large group of people, residents of Larapinta Valley town camp, drinking in the Todd River.
Liquor was poured out, an infringement notice issued and they were told to move on.
The very next day officers on the morning shift came across the same group back in the river, with more grog.
Would drinking clubs, like the defunct Tyeweretye Club, help in his view, asked Ald Habib.
Cdr Hofer replied by way of anecdote: in his first week in Alice he had visited the Gapview Hotel at 1pm on a weekday afternoon.
Some 200 Aboriginal people were drinking in the bar.
At 2pm, when the botteshop opened, “you could have driven a Mack truck through the bar without injuring anyone”.
People bought their supplies from the bottleshop and dispersed in all manner of vehicles.
These people had certainly demonstrated their preference to drink off-premises.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff asked about the impact of town camps and communities becoming dry.
The “general view” of his officers is that prohibiting drinking on town camps has had the affect of moving “unsavory elements” into town, where they escape the regular patrolling of the camps.
Ald Melanie van Haaren asked if he would support an “inter-agency taskforce, a protocol” – involving police, council rangers and Tangentyere Council personnel – to deal with the issues.
Cdr Hofer said the three already work together.
However he contested the usefulness of police accompanying council rangers on their trawl of the river at 6am, formerly scheduled three times week.
Cdr Hofer said there are some, but not many, drinkers in the river at this time, and use of police resources there does “disservice” to other areas of town.
Police are currently doing only one horse patrol a week in support of the rangers, to increase to two in March.
In turn, rangers accompany police three times a week, at around 2pm, as they enforce Dry Town in the river. 
Ald Murray Stewart questioned the police’s commitment to a partnership with the council – a point CEO Rex Mooney later tried to hose down, describing the horse patrols as an “unqualified success”.
Cdr Hofer said Ald Stewart was being “disingenuous”: the river patrols are designed to enforce council by-laws regarding littering and camping, yet camping is not banned after 6am.
“If the Alice Springs Town Council have difficulty fulfilling your own functions, you can’t blame me.”
Ald Stewart said council is “constantly under pressure” over anti-social behaviour issues.
“Come and sit in my office,” countered CDR Hofer.
Council’s case was not helped on Tuesday morning when rangers and Tangentyere staff failed to meet the horse patrol at the arranged time and place.
This was due to “an unfortunate internal communication breakdown”, said Mr Mooney, “for which we apologise most sincerely.”
Tangentyere staff were apparently off due to illness.
Later in their meeting on Monday aldermen discussed a report by Mr Catchlove on council’s by-laws that support the Dry Town legislation.
The legislation is the sole responsibilty of the police, said the report: the council currently has no by-laws prohibiting drinking of alcohol in a public place.
There are no by-laws designating “Move-on Zones”.
Enforcement of existing camping and littering by-laws has been “effectively curtailed” by the police decision on the river runs.
“ASTC rangers [there are six] are not permitted to do these runs without police in attendance due to the extreme danger in which they would be put,” said the report.
New by-laws, including one that will ban camping without a permit 24/7, are currently being drafted to be considered by the next council (to be elected on March 29).
The report says: “Rangers could be given the same authority as police (by the NT Government, but they are reluctant to do this) and be given the resources and training to take on this task, but the effort and expense do not seem warranted when the relative numbers of rangers to police are taken into account.
“Increasing the number of rangers would be cost prohibitive, requiring either money to be taken from existing programs or requiring increased revenue.”
There was consensus among aldermen about the need for by-laws with more “backbone”, but also an unwillingness to expose their rangers to danger.
There was shared frustration about the lack of progress on the issues despite what they considered to have been a lot of hard work and lobbying.
However Ald David Koch said he “thinks” that the town is safer today than it was five, 10 and 15 years ago when he suggested that it was “an open slather war zone”.

How clever really is this bit of desert knowledge? By KIERAN FINNANE.

The NT Government has given its Power and Water Corporation (PWC) yet another two years to complete Alice’s water “reuse” scheme, just as the scheme has – ironically – scored a gig at the World Conference for Intellectual Capital for Communities in Paris in May.
This latest extension follows an earlier two year extension which expired at the end of last year.
The cost of the scheme, to avoid discharge into the Ilparpa Swamp and other public spaces of partially treated effluent from the sewage ponds, has grown from $6m to $10.4m, and still does not have an “end user” of recycled water, such as a grower of fruit or other produce. 
The Paris gig is proudly trumpeted and is no doubt a PR triumph, but just how impressive is the “intellectual capital” behind the scheme?
The technology involved is old: a 10km pipe taking effluent to ponds just off the South Stuart Highway where the fluid seeps into the ground before being later pumped back to the surface for irrigation.
Its proponents acknowledged back in 2004 that it was “not rocket science” and had been around for decades, widely in use in the United States (1500 major projects) and Europe. (See our web archive, July 21, 2004.)
The PWC last week declined to answer any of the Alice News’s questions, referring us only to their website.
Their partner in the scheme, the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, also declined to answer questions.
We specifically wanted to ask them about the potential end users they were now talking to.
The original “preferred end user” has pulled out and there’ll obviously be no “reuse” of the water until others are signed up.
Mike Crowe of Desert Knowledge Australia – who received the Paris invitation while he was attending an Arab Knowledge Economy Association conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – was at least more communicative.
We asked, given all of the above, why the scheme is deemed intellectually impressive?
The point is, he says, there is “intellectual property” involved in knowing what you want, seeking out the international expertise on the matter and adapting it to work up an appropriate local solution.
“We are not pretending in any way that there is new technology involved,” he says.
“The interest at the conference was in the process.”
Alice Solar City and Bushlight, also showcased at Jeddah, are other local examples of similar processes, says Mr Crowe. 
On the specific problems associated with the water reuse scheme, Mr Crowe says he is “not across that level of detail”.
The scheme came into being largely because of community and especially local resident and environmental group outrage over the mosquito-infestation of Ilparpa swamp.
The infestation was caused in substantial part by the overflow of effluent from the sewage ponds into the swamp, encouraging reed growth and hence mosquito breeding, and from the swamp, from time to time, onto public areas. (See website, October 31, 2001; August 14, 2002.)
In reponse, the NT Government imposed a discharge licence on the PWC, with a December 2005 deadline to stop all dry weather discharges.
That deadline came and went and still the overflows continued, most noticeable each time they reached St Mary’s Creek, under a licence extension to December 2007.
Now the PWC have a new five-year licence, granted on January 10 (information provided promptly and comprehensively by the Department of Natural, Resources, Environment and the Arts).
The licence sets no conditions for dry weather overflows until the “SAT ponds” are commissioned.
These are the “soil-aquifer treatment” ponds at the Arid Zone Research Institute where the effluent will slowly infiltrate the soil and be stored in naturally-occurring underground channels.
The new licence gives Power and Water until January 31, 2010 for the full commissioning of the SAT ponds.
First must come the commissioning of the DAF (dissolved air flotation) plant, which treats wastewater before it enters the pipeline. 
Its commissioning has at least begun, according to Power and Water’s website, with the clean water produced “currently being returned to the [sewage] ponds”.
The licence sets a deadline for January 31, 2009 for the commissioning of the DAF plant.
The covering letter for the licence, from Lyn Allen, Executive Director, Environment, Heritage and the Arts, notes an “88% compliance with discharge limits” under the previous licence.
“Some of the poor compliance was from lack of required monitoring,” says Ms Allen in her letter.
“It is anticipated PWC will continue to improve discharge compliance.”
Other areas for improvement in the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the sewage ponds pointed to by Ms Allen are:
• reactivation of the rehabilitation plan for Ilparpa Swamp;
• water recycling;
• salinity management.
Power and Water have three years to provide the next draft EMP.

The friendship of saying ‘sorry’ will be good for whole country. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“Throughout my journey I managed to keep moving forward through huge fear of change: the friendships shown me along the way were my saving grace.
“There’s not often much friendship in politics, but Kevin Rudd and this new government apologising to the Stolen Generations allows the friendship that Australians showed tremendously 11 years ago  to rekindle.” 
Indigenous writer and poet Ali Cobby Eckermann identifies as one of the Stolen Generations. Yesterday, when Mr Rudd marked his first day in Parliament as the new Prime Minister with the long awaited “sorry” on behalf of the Australian Government, Ali was going to celebrate, down at Titjikala where she works as the art centre coordinator. 
“I’m going to open up my house for breakfast, I’m going to wear the Aboriginal flag over my shoulders as a cape, like people do on Australia Day, I’m going to drag a TV out into a public place and share the day with my Titjikala family and friends. 
“I think it’s a day that should be celebrated. A lot of hard work by Indigenous people and the whole country sits behind it. “Acknowledgement of our past and new friendship will help each other overcome our pain and denied history. People talking honestly with each other is a stepping stone to a better future for Australia.
“I watched the Bridge Walk [on May 28, 2000 in Sydney] with my aunty. She said it was one of the best days of her life, she was so glad she had lived to see it. 
“She passed away not long after.” 
For Ali, one of her joys yesterday was that her own natural mother, Mum Audrey, had lived to hear the apology. 
Audrey was removed from her Aboriginal family when she was four years old and taken to Koonibba Mission outside Ceduna. 
It was one of the removals made with “good intentions” for, as far as Ali has been able to find out, it was done to offer the bright child an education. 
She went on to become the first Aboriginal student at Concordia Lutheran College in Adelaide and later the first fully qualified Aboriginal nursing sister to work at Port Augusta Hospital. 
But she carried emotional scars from the removal that Ali implicates, together with social and religious pressure, in her surrendering, at 19 years of age, her baby, Ali, for adoption. 
Ali grew up as one of five adopted children in a loving but stern Lutheran farming family, where despite the kindness of her parents, she never felt she fully belonged. 
She knew of her Aboriginal heritage but, apart from one of her adopted brothers, she didn’t know any Aboriginal people. 
As she grew older, being Aboriginal became a label that she wore and endured, for she and her brother copped the usual racism. 
She was often in trouble and became quite wild, eventually leaving home, entering a “mad relationship” and falling pregnant. 
At age 19 she also surrendered a child, her son, for adoption. 
“I was worn down into giving my son up. The church had a big influence. I don’t think I was ever asked how I felt, what I wanted to do.” 
Later, when “drugs and alcohol didn’t work anymore and nothing I knew was making sense, with the help of some very kind people, I realized I needed to meet my family”.  
When she met Audrey “it was the first time I’d ever seen anyone who looked like me. Walking into that mirror – we have the same eyes – was very powerful.” 
Four years on and she was ready to seek out her son, Jonnie. 
It’s harder to be the mother in this situation, she says: “I needed to forgive myself for 18 years of separation. 
“I’d never had any more children. I was afraid they wouldn’t stay with me. The maternal part of me had shut down when I walked out of that hospital. 
“To feel it opening up again is terrifying.” 
But she was “braver and wiser”: “I didn’t waste any time. From the start Jonnie and I were honest in coming to a new relationship together.” 
And she also benefited during this time from the support of her “two Mums”. 
She says Jonnie, now 25, has at times struggled with his “new” Aboriginal identity.
“Being younger than I was when I met my mum, he feels more ‘ping-ponged’ between his two families, and only growing older or starting his own family will lessen this conflict.”
He lives in Palmerston, has studied Indigenous Cultural Land Management at Batchelor Institute, but at present has taken some time off work to “find himself”.
“He too has survived his first ‘mad relationship’ but he too has a solid group of friends around him, and it is obvious to me when I visit him that they love and respect him.” 
Yesterday her dearest hope for herself and Jonnie was that “the inter-generational pain and trauma begin to lessen”. 
Her thoughts were also with her adoptive mother, Mum Frieda, with whom she has always been close. 
Ali says the journey towards recovering the family she had lost – not only Audrey but a vast extended family as well as a niece whom she raised as a daughter – has only strengthened her on-going relationship with Frieda: “The healthy benefits didn’t just happen for me and my Aboriginal family, they were also there for my adopted family.” 
She believes her adoptive father would have been happy to see this day. After his death in 1997 she and Frieda found many newspaper clippings falling out of his books, about, among other issues, the affects of removal on Aboriginal children.
He’d never talked to them about the subject; it was not then the sort of thing that got discussed in a farming community in the mid-north of South Australia, says Ali.  
Times have changed now. She and Frieda recently met an old school teacher of Ali’s. They talked of the past. The teacher said she could see, all those years ago, that Ali and her brother had been struggling: “starched into their childhoods” was her phrase.
They had a beer and lots of laughs, and a long, honest conversation. This openness with a relative stranger was “a first” for Mum Frieda. It was one of the moments of friendship that Ali values so much.
This personal experience makes her optimistic about the benefits for the wider community of the Australian Government’s apology. “Family can only do so much; friendship can soften the edges.
“I couldn’t have done what I’ve done with just family; I needed a shitload of friendship.
“Everything is not as frightening if you can talk about it.” 
This is a step she hopes people will take more easily after yesterday’s apology: “Build friendships, which open the door to everyone, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, helping each other.”

Mum Said!
Mum said she wanted to give me a hug this morning
for all the smacks she gave me when I was a child
Mum said she used to get so angry
Mum said I was so different from the other children
Mum said she didn’t know what to do back then
Mum said I hope you can forgive me.

She held open her arms
This adopted mother of mine 
This woman with white skin and white hair and white heart.

I climbed inside the embrace
This adopted daughter of hers
This woman with brown skin and brown hair and brown heart.

I said Mum I forgave you a long time ago.

© Ali Cobby Eckermann
10 January 2006

McAdam goes to back bench.

The NT Government’s decision to exclude Top  End Shire from local government reform prompted Member for Barkly Elliot McAdam’s resignation from the Cabinet on Tuesday.
“Mr McAdam (pictured) has given everything to the tough job of implementing the important Local Government reforms – but we’ve both agreed it’s time to give someone else a go,” said Chief Minister Paul Henderson in a press release.
“No-one has worked harder for Local Government reform, and he has also been an outstanding Minister for Housing.
“The Cabinet has supported my decision to proceed with local government reform with the exception of the Top End Shire.
“Unfortunately Mr McAdam said he can’t support that Cabinet decision and we have mutually agreed that a new set of hands completes the reform package where it’s needed most – the bush.”  
In the same release Mr McAdam said, “I support the Chief Minister, the Cabinet, the Government and all my colleagues – but it’s time for someone else to have a go.
His replacement in the ministry was to be announced within 24 hours (but after the Alice News went to press).

Clark gets parks facts wrong, says finance secrets are OK, brawls with sport identity. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Alice Town Council is asking for a police investigation into the leaking to the Alice Springs News of details about the new rubbish dump contract, according to a reliable source.
The source says Ald Jane Clark moved a motion in a “confidential” meeting late last month to demand the probe.
She has since announced she would be standing for Mayor at the council elections on March 29, following an endorsement from the Greens.
Ald Clark declined to confirm or deny that she had moved the motion to call in the police.
CEO Rex Mooney raised the Alice News’ request for confirmation and comment at Monday night’s council committee meeting.
“Council confirmed that, in accordance with its practice, the issue is ‘commercial in confidence” and therefore does not wish to comment,” said Mr Mooney.
The controversial dump tender had been decided and awarded to an interstate company at the time the News received, and published, the “confidential” information in our issue of December 20 last year.
It meant the demise of the local firm Bowerbird, sparking off a lively protest.
Ald Clark, whilst declining to discuss the dump tender, defended council secrecy in connection with ratepayer funded contracts.
The Alice News put this to the mayoral candidate: “As a matter of principle, if a tender is awarded, is there any case for keeping details from the public which, after all, is paying for the tender?”
CLARK: Certainly. It’s commercial in confidence. [Disclosing details] may compromise the future ability of a company to operate if their prices are publicly aired, and we don’t do that.
NEWS: Are you saying that the ratepayer has no right to know how rate money is spent, once a tender has been awarded, specifically excluding any disclosure of details before the contract is let?
CLARK: Confidential information remains confidential.
NEWS: It’s up to the aldermen to decide what is confidential and what is not. In the case of a decided, awarded tender, would you vote to make public the details or not?
CLARK: That would depend on what is in front of you on the day.
NEWS: As a matter of principle, when a tender is decided, and public money has been committed, would you vote for the details to be made public or not?
CLARK: It’s proper for commercial in confidence information to remain commercial in confidence.
Meanwhile, Ald Clark also got her facts wrong (in her comments in this paper last week) about the ownership of a national park, and has became embroiled in a dispute with prominent fitness and bicycle tracks advocate, Noel Harris.
He complained to aldermen and media on December 28 about mess in the town’s creeks, left by people flouting the Dry Town laws.
Two days later he emailed Ald Clark, asking for a meeting.
She replied on the same day, saying: Unfortunately I must decline your offer to speak on the phone or meet with you. I do not want to do either.”
When asked by the News why, as an aldermen, she had declined to speak to a constituent about an issue of ongoing public irritation, Ald Clark said: “He used the ‘f’ word. He used profanity.”
NEWS: He used the work “bullshit” in his email. I have a copy of it. There was no other profanity.
CLARK: It was a pretty abusive letter. If people want to talk me in a civil manner I’ll talk to them, but I don’t have to talk to anybody.
NEWS: Was it the word “bullshit” to which you took exception?
CLARK: I can’t really discuss this. There is certainly a lot more information that you don’t have.
NEWS: We’re giving you the right of reply to give us any relevant information.
CLARK: I have very good reasons for not discussing [matters] with Noel Harris. I’m not going to go into it.
Mr Harris, when asked for a reply, said: “This is a blatant lie. I did not use the ‘f’ word. 
“There was no profanity other than the work ‘bullshit’ in the email of which I sent Ald Clark a copy.
“I never spoke to the woman, neither in person nor on the phone.
“In an email I asked her to speak to me and she won’t.”
The News pointed out to Ald Clark that Rainbow Valley national park had not been “handed back to traditional owners” as she had claimed in last week’s edition.
CLARK: That’s right, but park management is not a local government issue. I do support the principle of handing back national parks to the Indigenous owners. That’s a personal view and has no bearing on a council role. The previous council [which rejected the handover, proposed by the NT Government, of Territory national parks to Aboriginal interests] got into dangerous territory. It was taking a stand on issues we were not well informed on, and over which we have no power. We should not have wasted our time with issues that have nothing to do with what we are elected for.
NEWS: So you don’t subscribe to the view that the council is a powerful lobby for the town, putting its views to the government on issues of vital importance, such as the national parks, which are a key asset of our economy?
CLARK: I made my point when the council voted against the parks hand-back. We had to vote but we didn’t have all the background information.
NEWS: Why didn’t you get the background information?
CLARK: It’s not our place. We get briefed by our staff on issues that are related ... I don’t know why we didn’t get the information. It’s not anyone’s place to give the town council that information. We’ve got to focus on what we’ve got to do. I said we can’t make this stand. We don’t have the facts.
NEWS: Have you asked the government for the facts in the meantime?
CLARK: No, I haven’t asked them.
On Monday Ald Clark gave the News this statement: “Just another aspect on parks – until we get our own local parks (which are directly under Alice Town Council realm of responsibility) clean, shady and functioning, we should not be wasting valuable time chatting about Australian Government issues. 
“The previous council commissioned a comprehensive open space plan for the Eastside which has largely been left on the shelf for six years. 
“This should attract our attention and fill us with a sense of urgency because it is council’s responsibility.”

Rellie Rally and a few ideas for improvement. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A typical cost for bulk road freight from Adelaide to Alice Springs is 29 cents per kilo.
The distance is 1616 kms.
A liter of fuel weighs 0.7 of a kilo, which means – all things being equal – it costs 0.012561881 cents per kilometer to transport fuel from Adelaide to Alice Springs.
On January 28 a liter of diesel cost $1.47 at Pt Augusta and $1.69 at Pimba, just 175 kms up the track, a difference of 22 cents.
If that hike were to be justified with freight costs alone it would mean the motorists is slugged (again taking into account the specific gravity of fuel) 31.42 cents a kilo or 0.179591837 of a cent per liter and kilometer.
That’s more than 14 times as much when compared with the Adelaide to Alice transport costs.
We put that question to the manager of the Pimba Roadhouse, but he did not respond to our invitation to comment.
My family and I, over Christmas, travelled 6086 kms in our Troopie 4WD, towing a bike trailer, to Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Mt Gambier and again Adelaide.
We spent $1675 on diesel.  The cheapest price was at Pt Augusta (on the way back), $1.47 a liter.
The dearest was Coober Pedy, $1.60, just before Christmas.
The long range tanks came in handy: we could avoid Erldunda which was charging $1.75 for diesel on January 29.
In Alice it was $1.59 on that day.
The Erldunda Roadhouse displays the following sign: “We do not supply drinking water.
“Please do not ask for drinking water as refusal may offend. Remember – we are situated in the driest part of Australia.”
So that’s a reason for refusing a traveller drinking water?
Erldunda Roadhouse also did not respond to an invitation to comment.
Outback hospitality at its very best, no doubt.

LETTERS: Canberra now listening to locals on NT intervention.

Sir,- The Central Australian Youth Link Up Service (CAYLUS) has welcomed a recent federal government commitment of funds to support youth services in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
We say the allocation, which was made as a part of the NT Emergency Response, demonstrates that the new federal government is listening to remote communities and moving from concentrating on a punitive approach toward implementing preventative measures.
The funding will help support development of remote youth services and will make a real difference to the wellbeing of children and youth in remote communities. With the roll out of Opal fuel, policing, welfare quarantining and health checks, young people in remote communities have been through a lot of change but an essential component of that change needs to be providing young people with better day-to-day opportunities in their communities.
This commitment of funds is a good step in that direction.CAYLUS, which works with youth programs across the region, has identified a $17 million shortfall in funds for youth services in the region. The service is calling on state and federal governments to meet this need as a matter of urgency.
The recent declaration of a national emergency in the region has demonstrated the situation of remote youth and their families.
Basic youth programs are a way that remote communities are making a big difference for their young people.
Blair McFarland


Sir,- There is an old saying: “There are those that do the work and those that get the credit.”
With that in mind, I am very encouraged that Damien Ryan has offered himself as a mayoral candidate for Alice Springs.
He is a generous and committed employer of young people (including my own son).
He takes a pro-active interest in the educational destiny of Aboriginal youth at Yirara College. He is also respected by other Aboriginals he has contacted and served in past business endeavours.
Damien promotes Alice Springs as a community in many other unflagged and unassuming ways.
He is a town promoter rather than a career self promoter.
I hope he gets to be mayor.
Howard Davies
Alice Springs


Sir,- In light of the somewhat blasé comments on town planning by some mayoral candidates I would like to vigorously support the suggestion that the Alice should take control of its own planning, as it is in most similar towns across the country.
Decisions about our town’s future directions should be made by those who live here with a commitment to its future, not by a far away bureaucracy whose only interest appears to be the suppression of any external growth that might necessitate giving up their entertainment funds.
In the past week Minister Delia Lawrie has openly admitted to holding up, slowing or stopping land release in Alice in order to support land prices.
Yet in Darwin she is releasing thousands of blocks and Darwin is booming.
Alice is strangled, and in a very dangerous place. The deliberate strangling of a market to artificially inflate prices always leads to collapse.
A strong market is brought about by strong growth, not by greedy market manipulations similar to insider trading, which quite frankly ought to be the subject of similar criminal charges.
For Alice to protect itself from these manipulations it must have a town plan that sets out the structure of the town, along with an orderly land development and release strategy.
This will give certainty to our future growth. Nothing assures the stability of a market more than a well set out, progressive, planned future.
Town planning needs to be easily accessible to the public to which it applies and be open to the desires of its community; instead of being the bastion of cold aloof officialdom, it should exude an air of enthusiasm and cooperation welcoming investors and new ideas that adds to the development of our unique community, while protecting the investments of those already here.
I believe the body responsible should be the town council.
Alice finds itself in its present state because we have failed to take charge of our own destiny. I think it’s about time we did.
Steve Brown
Advance Alice


Sir,- Almost a year after the closure of the Laver Court laneway was proposed by local residents, the matter has finally been laid to rest.
On January 30, the Local Government minister, Elliott McAdam, wrote to the Mayor, Fran Kilgariff, to inform the council that, pursuant to council policy on the matter, the particular laneway had been categorised as not for closure. Therefore, ministerial consent had not been given to the closure.
As your readers may be aware, there has been much heated debate in council on the merits of this particular proposal, debate which led to the responsible and correct course of action, the development of a policy.  We now have (revised) policy No. 147 which will guide elected members to a more informed and rational discussion around the table in the future.
On the matter of Laver Court, I applaud the sustained efforts of Malcolm and Sandy Trull, who have been firm and articulate in their opposition to the proposed closure. It has been an issue that have may have led to neighbourhood tensions and animosity.
Mr Trull informs me that one of the proponents of the laneway closure has moved house, and the new residents actually classed the laneway as a community asset when deciding to purchase property and live in the street.
On a personal note, I am relieved that the laneway will remain open for pedestrian use. I regularly use it in my work in disability support. Laneways are for people, however they move through the suburbs. They are also a no-cost way to keep people exercising, which has to be a good thing for personal and global health. Reducing recourse to the motorcar as a personal transport option has got to be an energy-smart spin-off, and should be supported by this community and its civic leaders.
Alderman Meredith Campbell.
Alice Springs


Sir,- I’m so glad Kieran Finnane wrote such an honest article with regard to the Musee du Quai Branly (Alice News, Dec 6, 2007). I was in Paris earlier last year and encountered that very same sentiment.
I had lunch with MQB’s Director and it was clear that for the most part we are still the European exotic curiosity as he could not see the connection between living culture, Indigenous performing Culture and a “nice painting”. It was so disheartening to then see how our living cultural treasures work had been placed and I’m glad that someone finally cut through the hype.
Sam Cook
Executive Producer
Yirra Yaakin (Aboriginal Theatre Company)
Perth WA


Sir,- The first students in Australia to start a new national course for enrolled nurses are right here in Alice Springs! Henge Education in partnership with an Adelaide-based training organization have imported the course to the Territory thereby giving Territorians access to the cutting edge of nurse training, before other states.
 Another first, unprecedented across the country, is that these students will be ‘remote ready’ upon completion – the course is packed with additional content to prepare them for the bush.
There is no doubt that the new training course, coupled with a strong focus on primary health, will result in the best graduates in this country. They will stand out from the crowd as their training from the outset is geared towards ensuring they are able to work in isolated and specialized fields – the sort of nurses required not only here in the Territory but in all of regional Australia.
“Territory-bred” enrolled nurses will lead the way – and earn Alice Springs another blue ribbon for innovation.
Melanie van Haaren
Alice Springs


Sir,- As a tourist I enjoy Alice Springs enough to return every every few years since my first visit.
A problem tourists have to deal with is being annoyed by drunken street people around Todd Mall.
The worst I have found is between the Uniting Church, Post Office and Woolworths. 
In a store near the Post Office I saw a man drag his filthy fingers through a large tub of potato salad then stuff it in his mouth.  
Since then I avoid food from open self-serve containers.
Robert Graham
USA (email address supplied -


Sir,- Recently the City of Port Adelaide / Enfield placed a plaque at Glanville Hall, Semaphore South, SA, acknowledging the years that it was St Francis’ House from 1946 to 1960. Glanville Hall is now an historic heritage building.
In 1945 Father Percy Smith, the first resident Anglican priest in Alice Springs in 1933, brought six Aboriginal boys to Adelaide with the consent of their mothers to further their education.  These boys were Charlie Perkins, David Woodford, Peter Tilmouth, Malcolm Cooper, Bill Espie and John Palmer.
Father Smith bought Glanville Hall for the Anglican Church, dedicated it to St Francis and began his home for inland children. It was a different approach to try and assist Aboriginal children gain a meaningful education.
Some of the former residents of the Home include the late Dr Charles Perkins AO, Dr Gordon Briscoe AO, Dr John Moriarty AM, Mr Les Nayda AM, the late Rev Ken Hampton OAM, Mr Bill Espie (Queen’s Medal for Bravery), Mr David Woodford, Mr John Palmer, the late Mr Peter Tilmouth, the late Mr Malcolm Cooper, Mr Harold Thomas (Artist), Mr Vincent Copley (Port Adelaide League Footballer), Mr Richie Bray (Port Adelaide League Footballer), Mr Brian Butler and many others.
The City of Port Adelaide / Enfield is now in the process of transforming Glanville Hall into a convention centre and as part of that photographs and captions tracing the history of Glanville Hall when it was St Francis’ House will be part of that perpetual photographic display. In addition a booklet outlining the history of Glanville Hall is to be produced.
Glanville Hall was built in 1857 for Captain John Hart who among other things was Premier of South Australia in 1865-66, 1868 and 1870-71.
It is unusual for an independent statutory authority to formally acknowledge work with Aborigines initiated by a denomination of the Christian Church.
John P McD Smith
Port Adelaide SA


Sir,- In November last year the Alice Springs Town Council received a raft of letters from year six OLSH students regarding the lack of recycling in our town. These letters were clear, sensible and practical in their approach.
They looked widely at issues like the mindless waste, the effect on animals and the environment and much more. The time has come to act - I would like to see these kids look back and tell their kids that things changed and they made a difference.
I remember having similar concerns when I was in year six, and that was 33 years ago.
Just reducing my own waste, which I have not properly recycled over the past 33 years, would have had a significant effect on the environment. The kids are motivated, most adults are motivated, so let’s just do it.
Our waste dump will need to be relocated in 20 years at the current level of use. Let’s set a waste reduction target so that the dump does not have to be moved for 50 years or longer.
Alderman Jane Clark
Alice Springs


Sir,- I know this is a long shot but I wonder if your readers could possibly help me. My name is Steve Duncan and I live in Scotland.
I am trying to contact old friends James and Fiona Neil who have lived in Alice Springs for many years now.
I served in the army as a musician with James (aka as ‘Spud’) many years ago and have lost touch over the years. I guess he must be about 50 years old now.
Last I heard they have three children and James plays guitar and drums, and also tries to sing!Steve Duncan


Sir,- My 12 year old son Raymond, who eventually wants to live in Alice Springs, is seeking a pen pal over the internet.
Is there an astronomy group or school science club that he could e-mail and ask questions? Please contact me on
Shedrick Jay Wilkins
Portland, Oregon USA

ADAM CONNELLY: Pollies below the Berrimah Line don’t represent the right people.

Matt and Jon Bennett are sons of a preacher man.
For the formative years of my childhood these two brothers were my best friends and like many preacher kids they showed me ways of getting into trouble I had not yet imagined.
They came from a place called Ottumwa, Iowa in America. A humble, rural town whose only real claim to fame is that Radar O’Reilly from M.A.S.H called Ottumwa home.
If you look at the Ottumwa Courier on the internet the news is less politics and crime and more snow related stories. They have the same zeal for a good snow story as the Darwin tabloid has for croc sightings.
Through the Bennetts I met many great Americans during my childhood. This meant that during my time at university when it was not just seen as the trendy thing but also the socially acceptable thing to speak poorly of Americans, I had to find ways of exiting conversations.
Here in Alice Springs we have the same conundrum. In a time when Australians are well within their rights to form a poor opinion of the one super power left on the planet, we here in Alice Springs find many “seppos” among our good friends.
[ED – “Seppos” is apparently rhyming slang: Yanks = Septic Tanks, abbreviated to “seppos”. The Aussie Words site adds the note: “Does NOT mean we think you stink!”]
Having said that, if you are an American reading this column let me inform you that, like you or not, we Australians think you’re a bit weird. No seriously … quite peculiar.
No greater example of your country’s strange ways is the unfolding melodrama currently masquerading as the method for choosing your president.
For a country that fought a war in order to break away from the British tradition, America has in its stead put into practice a governmental system with more pomp, more ceremony and more complexity than any other on the planet.
The coronation of the Queen had less pomp; the election of the Pope is simpler.
In fact placed alongside the US presidential race, finding the next Dalai Lama looks like a walk in the park.
We Australians look upon all the hubbub of Super Duper Tuesday and the New Hampshire Primary and the electoral caucus with a mix of amusement and curiosity.
“They say they are the paragon of democracy, but you don’t even have to vote?” we think to ourselves.
And all this to-do is lavished upon the populace in order to elect whom? What amazing, brilliant and inspiring person comes from this process of conventions, delegates and primaries?
To be perfectly honest America, there wasn’t that many of us in love with the last guy you chose. So whom have you offered up to lead our free world this time?
On one side you have a 70 year old Vietnam veteran who wants to single handedly catch Osama Bin Laden, or a Southern Baptist minister who plays guitar and has a fetish for Chuck Norris.
On the other side you have an African American man who’s whiter than I am and a woman who’s more of a man than I am.
Perhaps it’s our convict heritage or the fact that we’re quite a distance from everyone else, but one thing we Australians have figured out is that no matter how much money you throw at an election, you still end up with a candidate that will probably disappoint.
So why spend all that cash? Why make the placards? Why go to all that trouble?
But we must be careful with our criticism. Sometimes our own methods are a bit ludicrous. Take for example the recent change in the leadership of the opposition.
The reason for Jodeen Carney’s ousting wasn’t that she was performing poorly or that she was somehow unfit to perform her duties.
No, the reason given for the change was that the leader lived in Alice Springs and was therefore incapable of effectively running the party.
As though you have to set up a swag on the floor of parliament in order to be the leader of the opposition.
We only have 200,000 people in the Territory yet the argument is that the leader must live in the “capital”.
So sorry Fay, Matt, Marion, Elliott, Karl and Alison, any aspirations you had of making a real difference, any thoughts you had of leading policy or making the Territory better from the leader’s chair, forget it. You don’t represent the right people.
It’s like saying that Kevin Rudd can’t be Prime Minister because he wasn’t born in Canberra.
The lesson that can be learned from all of this stupidity is simple. If you are a young person with a passion for politics, with a zeal for making changes for the better, don’t move to Darwin, move to Queensland.
Their most successful politician was a peanut farmer from Kingaroy, current population 7260.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.