ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
March 6, 2008. This page contains all
Alice to turn fortress mentality
inside out. By KIERAN FINNANE.
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
After more than a year of discussions and planning among “stakeholders”
the public of Alice Springs is about to be brought into the picture
with the release of a masterplan for redevelopment of the CBD.
A document summarising briefings and workshops on the redevelopment to
March 2007 speaks of the need to turn Alice Springs “inside out”.
The document, titled “Care at a distance”, was written by leading
public space design thinker Paul Carter, a collaborator on the
award-winning landscape design of Melbourne’s Federation Square and a
consultant to the Moving Alice Ahead project.
Professor Carter writes: “It is widely agreed that the present
organization of buildings, interstitial spaces and traffic design [in
Alice Springs] creates a ‘fortress mentality’.
“There is a strong recognition that Alice Springs needs to turn ‘inside
“The external boundaries need to be edited and punctuated, opening ways
to the Todd River and views to the surrounding hills and ranges.
“Internal obstacles to flow also need to be removed; in particular, an
east-west passage connecting the Railway Station to Todd Mall needs to
“The Department of Planning and Infrastructure (Ken Hawkins) and Alice
Springs-based planners have on the table proposals that begin to
address these aspirations.”
A start has been made at the railway end on the east-west passage.
Early landscaping works along a pathway that would take Ghan passengers
by foot into the CBD had an official opening last year.
Over the summer a handsome fence separating the railway from the Stuart
Highway, designed by Susan Dugdale, has been constructed.
The fence is a graphic representation of the Stuart Highway, showing
its meandering across the landscape and the major centres along the
way: PA (Port Augusta), CP (Coober Pedy) and so on.
Interestingly though the fence does not enhance the idea of “flow”,
creating a barrier, albeit an attractive one, in the urban landscape.
And in this Dry Town era it is also playing a role in screening from
view public drinking and its attendant litter as our photo taken last
Mr Carter’s 2007 document does not go to specific design proposals but
outlines broad principles that would underline them.
These were informed by local stakeholders and representatives, notably
Rev. Tracy Spencer of the Uniting Church, Bruce Walker (Centre for
Appropriate Technology) and John Huigen (Desert Knowledge Australia) as
well as Mr Hawkins.
The Town Council, Tourism NT, representatives of the local business
community, the native title holder body Lhere Artepe and Alice Springs
Desert Park have also been part of the discussion.
The Uniting Church has had a central role because of its “plans to
redevelop Lot 74 (one of three lots it owns on Todd Mall) with a view
to creating ‘a place for welcoming, connecting and encountering’.”
Lot 74 is where the current offices of the Aboriginal Employment
Strategy are located.
The News understands that there are plans for this lot to become part
of a public space, a green corridor that will run at least from
Yeperenye Shopping Centre down to the Todd.
This would impact on the present carpark at the back of Hartley Street
School, which is owned by the Town Council.
Additional parking would be created by a multi-level carpark behind a
street-level shop and cafe development with frontage along Gregory
Terrace and Hartley Street.
The News understands that the carparking area in the old Imparja
building on Leichardt Terrace may also become part of the green
Rev Spencer told the Alice News that the church is keen to ensure
“community level consultation” about the use of the land the church
And that the church’s vision is to continue to support use of that land
for outdoor recreation, art and performance, for it to be “an
The Carter document emphasises the “many distinctive stories” of Alice.
The town is “a unique meeting place of Arrernte Dreaming Stories and
non-Indigenous histories of exploration, settlement and migration”.
Without wanting to diminish the difference between them, Mr Carter
writes of the potential these two story traditions offer for
“cross-cultural meeting” in that both are about “travelling, about
processes of bringing country into being”.
“This fact provides a potential place of cross-cultural meeting. At
present this potential is not realized.
“The physical plan of the Alice Springs CBD explains why. The
rectilinear grid symbolizes white understanding of place-making.
“It is a graphic representation of how non-Indigenous cultures
structure communication. Straight lines connect people who are distant
– witness the Telegraph Wire – but they don’t create places where
people who are together can connect.
“This is where Arrernte maps are important: they describe a landscape
where communication is structured around meeting places connected by
“The ideal form of an Arrernte meeting place is a circle... It makes
everywhere potentially near.
“The rectilinear grid and the network of circles are two stories about
“In Alice Springs they uniquely coincide...
“These different ways of drawing Alice’s stories capture two aspects of
the experience of arrival. One provides a measure of distance. The
other provides a measure of nearness.”
“To design a place where people from a great distance can be near to
one another, both the quantity and quality of the experience of arrival
must be written into the design.”
Ideas about how this will be done and the public consulted will
presumably be in the masterplan.
Big brother watches.
As the Alice News spoke to Alison Anderson and Leo Abbott, sitting in a
cafe on Todd mall, Ms Anderson received a phone call from chief minder
for the NT Government, Director of Comunications Richard O’Leary.
He wanted to know what she was talking to the News about.
He was calling from Darwin.
Someone in Alice, passing by, had thought it their business to let him
know that they had seen Ms Anderson talking to the News.
And he thought it his business to interfere.
Fortunately for her constituents and for Central Australian democracy
more broadly, Ms Anderson is not easily intimidated.
“I speak up because this affects me personally,” she says.
“I’m right inside the problems.”
National parks ownership a
measure of Henderson’s commitment to Alice. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Chief Minister Paul Henderson was in town last week, doing the rounds,
opening things, telling us how much he cares for Alice Springs, and for
Now he has an opportunity to prove it.
From his predecessor he’s inherited what is easily the most virulent
manifestation of his government’s contempt for Alice Springs and
It’s Clare Martin’s plan to transfer our most valuable assets, 13
national parks, almost all in The Centre, from public to Aboriginal
Over some years, several Coalition ministers for Aboriginal affairs in
Canberra, although giving verbal agreement, have not obliged Ms Martin
by scheduling the parks under the Federal land rights act, as she had
asked them to.
Now the new Labor Government’s Jenny Macklin has said she will.
Mr Henderson can put a stop to that.
If he doesn’t, without making public compelling reasons for doing so,
his hand-on-his-heart assurances about Alice Springs will be seen as
The way Ms Martin went about setting up this deal, with the Central
Land Council, was a high point in her hoodwinking the public, which
voted for her in 2001 largely because of her promise to run an open
She acted on this issue in complete secrecy, without an iota of public
A pamphlet delivered to homes in Alice Springs – hardly anybody can
remember it – did not invite the public to give its views which would
be heeded in the decision-making process.
The public was bluntly told what Ms Martin would be doing, and that was
Over some three years the NT Government has rejected every single
request from this newspaper – we made dozens of them – for information,
comment or explanation on the parks strategy.
In the ongoing Alice Springs News web survey “What Alice Wants”, 305
people so far have commented on the following proposition: “Leave all
national parks in public ownership but set up an Aboriginal park
management advisory body.”
More than three quarters of respondents, 77% (235 people) said “I
agree”; 15.1% (46 people) said “I disagree”, and 7.9% (24 people) said
“I am indifferent”.
After a series of investigative reports in the Alice News, more than
200 people attended a public meeting in April 2006, called to protest
against the parks handover.
Not a single government politician fronted up.
The Alice Town Council and the Territory Opposition are opposed to the
transfer of park ownership.
Five out of six candidates for mayor of Alice Springs have condemned
it, some of them vehemently:-
Meredith Campbell: It seems the current arrangement, which is public
ownership, is working well.
Murray Stewart: National Parks are for all Australians ... 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.
Damien Ryan: All parks, Federal and Territory, are owned by the people.
The parks should remain in public hands.
Melanie van Haaren: I believe there should be a dual management
approach which includes traditional owners, but the parks should remain
the property of all Australians.
Dave Koch: Our parks should be owned by the public. They are for all
Australians. National parks should not be owned by a segment of the
population. There should be complete and equal access for visitors and
investors alike. I don’t agree with the NT Government’s current plans
to give favorable treatment to Indigenous businesses in the
The odd one out is the Greens endorsed candidate, Jane Clark, but she
isn’t up to speed on the issue: she thought Rainbow Valley had already
been handed over.
It hadn’t, and it won’t be; it’s not one of the 13.
Nevertheless, the deal with Aboriginal custodians for Rainbow Valley is
a daunting illustration of the NT Government’s approach to joint
About 90% of the Rainbow Valley reserve has been declared off limits to
That puts into perspective the arrangements the government has in mind
for the 13 parks when it has accomplished the expropriation of the
The undertaking “no fees, no permits”, and a 99 year lease-back to NT
parks authorities, are meaningless if the great bulk of the parks are
closed to the general public, or if access is made subject to onerous
Aborigines would be given priority in all grants of permission for
business activities in the parks.
That wouldn’t be so bad if 30 years of landrights had underpinned
thriving communities profiting from the vast opportunities in tourism,
cattle, horticulture and mining.
What we in fact have is thousands of brutalized and destitute people in
a mostly idle ghetto archipelago stretched over a million square
The consequences are not hard to imagine if the development of the
tourism industry, the town’s biggest and most prospective, built around
the scenic beauty of the West MacDonnells and other parks, were put
into the hands of people with an almost perfect failure rate (setting
aside the brilliant achievements of Aboriginal artists and their
Ms Martin’s clandestine machinations were triggered by the Ward
decision of the High Court in 2002 (see break-out this page).
The long bow she drew then has become even longer.
This should put Ms Macklin firmly on her guard: before sealing the fate
of the parks, under legislation for which she assumed responsibility
100 days ago, she could start by asking her party colleague Warren
Snowdon whom he is representing – the majority of his constituents, or
his mates in the land council where he finds employment before and
between stints as a Member of Parliament?
She may also examine Ms Martin’s record of dealing with Aboriginal
What prompted Ms Macklin’s immediate predecessor, Mal Brough, to take
the reins from the former Chief Minister, with respect to quite a few
Many of Mr Brough’s arrangements are being left in place by the new
Any notion that Canberra must necessarily ratify decisions by Darwin
with respect to land needs to be looked at in this light.
If Ms Martin couldn’t be trusted to govern with competence in matters
of Aboriginal welfare and safety, why should she be able to make
decisions so vehemently opposed by a clear majority?
Ms Martin claimed in her brochure: “To date, every native title claim
in the Territory heard by the Courts has resulted in a determination
that native title rights and interests exist.”
That has become heavily qualified: native title compensation claims
over the Ayers Rock Resort (Yulara) and Darwin failed.
In each case Ms Martin’s government fought the claimants in court, and
How come, Ms Macklin should ask, is the NT Government rolling over when
the parks are concerned?
In the national parks argument the issue may well be merely proving
that any kind of native title existed over the parks, at the time of
their declaration, making the declaration invalid.
No doubt the government has expensive legal opinion on that, paid for
with public money.
Consequently that information should be public. We should not be kept
in the dark.
Is Mr Henderson continuing Ms Martin’s stonewalling?
We asked his minder for an interview two weeks ago but his round of
feel-good engagements last week didn’t include the Alice News.
Ms Macklin should ask this: What are the names of the Aboriginal elders
who apparently want to take the parks away from the public, of which
they themselves are a part? Who are these claimants who want to exploit
an inadvertent loophole, flying in the face of the wishes of the vast
majority in their community? Do these people really exist?
And: How difficult would it be to prove native title rights existed
decades ago, when the parks were cobbled together from a patchwork of
blocks under various forms of title?
Then Ms Macklin should talk to the people of Central Australia and do
what Kevin Rudd has said his government would be doing: listen to the
people, and do as they say.
Will Paul Henderson?
The parks conundrum.
The problem started when the High Court, in the Ward Decision in 2002,
judged the declaration of the Keep River National Park to have been
That meant that the declaration of 48 other parks may have been invalid
The Territory Country Liberal Party government created the Conservation
Land Corporation to become the owner, in 1984, of the Territory’s
Under NT law the corporation could not own land to which anyone other
than the Territory, or the corporation itself, held a “right, title or
At the time the parks were transferred to the new corporation, there
was no official knowledge about Aboriginal native title rights.
They were recognised much later in the 1992 Mabo High Court decision.
However, native title rights, now acknowledged to have always existed,
could influence land management actions before Mabo, if they occurred
after the enactment of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
In logic the layman may find difficult to understand, the accepted
legal view now is that the creation of the Racial Discrimination Act
should have made it obvious to all of us that native title rights
existed and would be recognised by the High Court 17 years later.
And this is at the nub of the parks problems: because of native title –
still unknown at the time – the Territory and the Conservation Land
Corporation may not have been the only ones to have an interest in the
Native title holders may also have had an interest, however minor, and
that would make void the declaration of the park in question.
It would then revert to vacant Crown Land and as such become available
for a land rights claim.
All things being equal, the Ward Decision would have mattered little to
the present fate of the parks, because land claims under the Land
Rights Act had a 1996 sunset clause.
However, a former Central Land Council lawyer, acting on a hunch just
days before the sunset deadline, placed land claims on 11 parks in The
Centre, including the West Macs, Emily and Jessie Gaps, Arltunga,
N’dhala, Trephina and Finke Gorge – the crown jewels of Central
Australia’s tourism industry.
These claims have not been heard by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner
because until the Ward Decision, the parks were believed to have been
declared properly and as such immune from claims.
The commissioner has no power to strike out these claims – so they’ve
been in limbo ever since.
But now the lawyer’s extraordinary legal foresight has become the crux
of the parks wrangle: wherever native title interests can be proven,
the way may become clear for hearing the land claims he was responsible
If granted the parks in question would become Aboriginal freehold, and
the Aboriginal owners would have the right to deny access.
End of the parks.
Life’s better with income
management, say men and women from town camps and bush. By KIERAN
Quarantining of welfare payments, or income management as it has become
known, brought in by the Coalition last year, and to date continued by
the new Labor government, got the thumbs up from Aboriginal people the
Alice News spoke to, men as well as women, from town camps and from the
Children are better fed and clothed, school attendance is up and
gambling down, they say.
Women have an assured income to spend on their families and, some of
them for the first time, are going shopping in Alice Springs for goods
previously out of their reach.
Mandy Pegg spoke to the News in Charles Creek town camp, in the company
of MLA for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson.
Mandy is from Papunya. She is assertive and articulate, fluent in
English and wants to be heard.
She and friend Linda Anderson, also from Papunya, were in town to see
the AFL match last Friday.
They overnighted in a makeshift camp on the banks of Charles Creek to
be near family who now live in Hoppy’s Camp.
They say life in Papunya is better, especially for children, since
income management was introduced.
It must stay, they say.
Mandy’s income is managed; she works in the shop at Papunya, on
work-for-the-dole. Before the changes to CDEP last year, she was
working for the aged care program, on CDEP wages, doing
In her spare time, together with Linda and Amos Anderson, she continues
to look after elderly people living at Papunya’s outstations – cooking,
Linda is salaried, having worked at Papunya School for the last 18
Says Mandy: “If this income management is changed, it will affect
everyone in the community.
“If they get [cash] money I know fathers and mothers will come to town
and buy grog and drugs and the kids will starve.
“That’s what used to happen. The kids are getting fed now.”
Kids are also going to school in greater numbers.
The women are happy about that but warn that attendance could drop away
when the local footy season starts.
Mandy: “If sport is on they will go to another place.”
Linda: “It’s all right if it’s a public holiday, but some communities
put footy on weekdays.”
This means families don’t come back till Tuesday or Wednesday and
children’s schooling drops down to two or three days a week, instead of
And it’s not just Papunya families who are so footy mad, says Linda:
“It’s everywhere [in the bush]. I go to meetings and hear that this
Income management has impacted on gambling, say the women.
Mandy: “People are still gambling, but it’s $1 or $5 games, instead of
“Or $200 games,” adds Linda.
All this is a good start but there’s still a long way to go.
Linda says the focus now needs to be on employment.
“We need to see more jobs because that is what the children need to
“Whenever we need tradesmen, the money goes out of the community.
“I’d like to see someone on the community train to do those jobs,
plumbing, carpentry, electrician, building houses.
“People would be on better money too.”
“They could save,” says Mandy.
She does not have children herself; her strong views are about the good
of the community: “That’s why I don’t want income management to change.
It’s better than before.”
“I’m looking at the future, at the children coming on,” says Linda.
“What do they see? They haven’t got good role models.
“Our parents didn’t have washing machines. They used to wash our
clothes with their hands. We didn’t have showers. We had to get up to
wash in a bucket of hot water.
“We never had scabies. Our clothes were clean, our yards were clean. We
used to smell the good breeze. Now it’s rubbish all around us.”
“It’s like living in a dump,” agrees Mandy.
Further along in the creek, the News spoke to a group of men, visitors
from Nyirripi and town camp residents.
Nyirripi is a community of some 300 people, a 440 km drive north-west
Income management is not due to be implemented there until April.
The men from Nyirripi, also in town for the footy, are unimpressed with
the measure: their children get enough to eat, they say; they want
their cash money; white fellas in the same situation get all their cash
But Eddie Jackson, who as a town camp resident is already experiencing
income management, chimes in: he’s finding the new system good; money
is saved for all the things his family needs; there’s the opportunity
for everyone, including him, to get good clothes.
A young man who didn’t want to be named, also a town camp resident,
agrees: the kids have got clothes, he’s got clothes, there’s money for
food, and there’s still some cash money.
David Wintjana is in a wheelchair following an amputation and lives
permanently in town.
He has a house allocated to him. The Alice News reported in its issue
of December 20 last year that the house had been largely destroyed by
fire. At that stage David and the people camped with him were still
able to get water and to shower at the house.
The only change since December is that the water has been turned off.
David is happy with income management: he’s got money available for
food all the time now.
Eddie talks persuasively to the visitors from Nyirripi; they listen and
nod, taking in what he says.
The young man says with satisfaction that he gave his store card (which
allows quarantined money to be spent in licensed stores on essential
items) to his wife to go shopping for the kids. He says she enjoyed
going shopping in K-mart for the first time.
Sitting alone in a makeshift camp is Laurel Daniels, an aunty to Alison
She has blankets and bags stashed into the branches of a tree. There’s
a mattress in the shade as well as a couple of dogs.
Ms Anderson says Laurel needs the dogs for protection.
She camps with three other women.
She has only been in the spot for a week, having left Old Timers Camp
where she had a house.
Why did she move?
“I lost my husband,” she says quietly.
The other women are out selling paintings; Laurel also paints but has
nothing to sell today.
Ms Anderson advises her to dig a hole to store her food or it will all
be taken when she leaves the camp.
Laurel is not happy with income management; she says she can manage her
At present her fortnightly income is divided like this: $100 in food
vouchers; $180 on a store card; and $280 in cash.
She might want to buy a bus ticket to go to Broome or to Darwin, she
says, and with her money tied up like it is, she can’t.
Alison tells her to go see Centrelink about the bus ticket; they’ll fix
“She doesn’t understand the rules,” comments Ms Anderson, “the
information flow needs to be better.”
Talk to us, not urban people:
Green Senator is off mark. By KIERAN FINNANE.
“We don’t like people in the cities talking for us, we can talk for
ourselves,” says Mandy Pegg.
“I think it would be a good idea for the government to ask us people
out bush, instead of urban people, the Stolen Generations,” says Linda
Both women are from Papunya, home community of MacDonnell MLA
The Alice News put to Ms Anderson the views of Senator Rachel Siewert,
the Australian Greens’ spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs: that “the NT
Intervention is racially discriminatory”, that it “takes away
Aboriginal land and quarantines people’s money without cause”, that
“quarantining is creating chaos and confusion”.
Ms Anderson dismisses the arguments: “I contest the right of Senator
Siewert to speak on the issues – these people are not her constituents.”
She acknowledges “teething problems” but with earthy directness she
says: “If we can’t get this Intervention right, we can kiss our arses
Leo Abbott is part of this converstaion. He hails from Wallace Rockhole
and with father Barry runs a petrol sniffers’ rehabilitation centre at
Ilpurla, south-west of Alice Springs. He campaigned for the CLP in the
last federal election and is increasingly prominent as a spokesperson
on a wide range of Indigenous issues and will surely throw his hat into
the political ring some day.
Mr Abbott suggests that more consultation with communities is the way
to make things work better.
“I disagree with you, brother,” says Ms Anderson.
“We’ve been consulting for 30 years and it’s got us nowhere.
“The government doesn’t consult the rest of Australia on health and
education, governments are there to govern.”
Mr Abbott: “You’ve got no argument from me. By consulting I simply mean
better information so that people understand what it really means,
education so that they can speak for themselves, instead of do-gooders
speaking for them.”
Footy, Ronny: the spectacle was
us. BY DARCY DAVIS.
Last weekend was a time of Centralians coming together for a common
First off was the AFL exhibition match between the West Coast Eagles
and the Carlton Blues on Friday night.
The game had nothing of the glamour or intensity of a “real” AFL match.
The word “exhibition” was the appropriate descriptor – the match more
like an art exhibition, but instead of paintings, people went to see
“the big men fly”.
There was no immense roar from thousands of throats protesting about
the outrageous decisions made by the umpire like you might hear at
“real” match. In fact, I didn’t hear the umpire get called a “dirty
West Coast ended up defeating the Blues by 41 points.
As much as the match, the spectacle was all of us – eight thousand or
so. It was almost surreal, the bright lights of Traeger Park shining
down on our own little cosmos.
Regardless of racial origins, whether you were sitting on the dusty
mound on one side of the ground, or in the reserve seating on the
other, people were brought together by their fascination with the
spectacle of 36 men, some of them wearing quite tight shorts, chasing
an egg-shaped ball across the turf; football was the common
Skin colour mattered not (unusual in Alice).
As barrackers, we could all punch the air in either adulation or
frustration; as players the team focus was entirely on moving that ball
towards and through the goals. Aboriginal players and non-Aboriginal
alike were all part of a greater purpose.
There weren’t too many drunks although a friend of mine was bashed on
his way into town, possibly by the Crips or Bloods (who are they? And
why are they branding the streets?)
That was Friday.
On Saturday night people came together out of a sense of humanity and
care for a dear friend, Ronny Reinhard, well known in our town, as
musician, media teacher, friend, so much a part of many lives here.
The fact that he has become so ill has jolted the sensibilities of
many, uniting us in our own fear and concern, galvanizing us into
committing an act of love and care.
Hundreds attended the benefit concert at Watch This Space to raise
funds for the large cost of his treatment.
There was a bar, good food and raffles to raise funds, and to celebrate
there was music.
Rusty and the Infidels were playing their own version of Russian Gypsy
dance music without the vodka.
Rod Moss and Henry Smith, better known as visual artists, banged out
some Bob Dylan.
Jacinta Price and McDee gave us their home-grown rhythm and blues, jazz
Herman Marcic twanged out the blues on his Dobro.
The Secret Admirers spanked the ivories and made their admiration for
Ronny no secret.
In Tatters got people rocking to the tunes of Ronny’s generation.
Katrina Stowe and Christopher Brocklebank melted our hearts with their
beautiful classical guitar and soulful clarinet.
The yellow bucket was passed around and quickly filed with 5s, 10s and
Drinks were sold, food was bought. The crowd swelled, more and more
people arrived; the great spirit of our common cause saturated the
Craig Mathewsom MC called for people to dig deep, then to dig deeper;
the yellow bucket came round again.
Dr Strangeways came on and the audience rose to their feet, swamping
the dance floor for some “booty-shake therapy” – the yellow bucket
roared past again.
Finally The Moxie jumped up on stage (minus lead guitarist Declan
Furber-Gillick) and put the rock in “Rock for Ronny”.
What was remarkable was that everyone was there for the same reason, to
contribute to the care of one of their fellow travellers. Saturday
night demonstrated how far Ronny and his family networked in the Alice
community and the love people have for them. Tonight, people from
different spectrums will once again come together to play the same
CAAMARAMA is a concert of bands from around the Centre who will be
playing at the Alice Springs Youth Centre. The Rising Wind Band
(Yuendemu), Dr Strangeways (Alice Springs) and Santa Teresa Band will
be there not to oppose each other, but to play together. See you there.
LETTERS: Govt. minder out of
Sir,- I hope I’m not alone in finding the recent correspondence from
Steve Brown and John Gaynor to be one of the most extraordinary things
I’ve read in our local newspapers in a long while.
Some may disagree with Mr Brown’s views; that’s good, we’re meant to be
a democracy. Some may disapprove of his alleged language, though it was
not him that shared it with us.
Some may wish to admonish the Alice News for publishing it, though its
publication has raised some important issues.
But the one thing that was truly unacceptable was that a senior
government advisor thought it appropriate to publish his remarkably
detailed record of a private conversation in a newspaper, with the
clear intention of bad-mouthing and discrediting a member of the
community whom he is meant to be serving.
When was it that our bureaucrats forgot why they are there?
What is most frightening is not that a senior bureaucrat felt this was
appropriate, but that he must have been confident of the support of
those he thinks he serves, namely the NT Government.
There is a cult of personality politics that has come to pervade our
bloated bureaucracy – and which can only survive with at least tacit
approval of government ministers, who must (it seems) be more
interested in their electability than in their achievements - in
protecting their own interests, rather than in listening to the
legitimate views of Territorians.
It is a form of corruption - there is no other word - when a government
has favourites whom it funds, supports, invites to its Christmas
parties, or is even prepared to listen to – and when it tries to harm
those who disagree with it.
The current government came to power accusing the last lot of
“mateship”, but this mob has turned it into an artform cloaked in
impenetrable layers of bureaucracy. (The only local artform,
incidentally, that’s well funded).
What will be the government response to this letter or to this issue?
Well, it should be a public review of the conduct of government
employees; they should be firmly reminded of their role in our society.
Perhaps, though, I should be lucky if there is no response at all, for
the standard response to any who dare stand up and criticize any aspect
of this government, however professional and objective their language
and their arguments, is to ignore the message and to try to shoot the
Sadly, this seems to have become the mantra of our government.
It’s just that it’s not normally quite so blatant.
Dr David Curl
What we’ve become hardened to ...
Sir,- I’ve lived in Alice Springs most of my life and the parade of
walking wounded is only slightly less disturbing than the comatose
drunk lying in a very public heap.
Is he drunk or dead? I usually stop to check, and on rare occasions
discover the victim of a beating, a diabetes hypo or a stroke.
Almost every day I walk past the face of a thousand beatings - today
she is humbugging for money.
The tourist looks disapprovingly at my curt manner. Now she looks
alarmed - it must be 2pm - a wave of people, enter the shopping centre
on their way to the bottle shop. How many have already had their fill
at the pub?
I recognise some of the local drunks, familiar faces in the final few
years, or with luck, a decade of their lives – it’s like watching
generational change-overs or, rather, flame-outs in fast forward.
Surely childhood ear infections and perforated ear drums can’t explain
all this adult noise and mayhem? But how many grew up in neglected
communities where the loudest and often the most violent prevailed in
the struggle for scant resources?
The “dry town” declaration is fairly crude policy and Alice Springs is
really struggling but some positive signs are emerging.
The band of hardened drinkers, including some that batter their women
with impunity in drinking camps on desecrated sacred sites, are under
increasing pressure from police.
I’m hoping that much tougher restrictions on take away grog will
gradually shift this core group into pubs and beer gardens where
altered spending patterns, education and socialising might re-shape the
character of today’s stand-over men. Perhaps more of our pub and club
managers will realise that their client mix has changed and future
developments will focus on beer gardens instead of more yuppy bars.
A letter to the editor is taking shape in my head, as a new wave of
drinkers arrive at the shopping centre with the time consciousness of
factory workers clocking on. It’s 6 pm and time to buy cask wine, port
Sir,- On my way home from work last Friday evening, I stopped at the
Eastside Bottle Shop to buy a box of beer to share with my friends who
were arriving from interstate that weekend.
I was informed that no full strength beer was allowed to be sold over
the entire weekend as there was an AFL football match on in Alice
I asked how this applied to me, as I wanted to buy a box of Boag’s
Draught to drink at home, but was informed that this was a legal
directive to prevent the sales of full strength beer in glass this
The alcohol reforms that have been unfairly directed at Aboriginal
people are now affecting every person in this town if they choose to
have a drink – they have not considered applying these bans with the
rules of logic or common sense.
No alcohol is permitted at the football. So what has this weekend’s
rules created? I purchased a 30 pack of VB cans in lieu of 24 Boag’s
The alcohol reforms have forcibly removed some people from town to
drink in isolated areas outside of the town boundaries, which
potentially increases the risk of alcohol-related harm when large
groups get together.
Harm reduction is one of the philosophies of the alcohol reforms, as is
reducing supply and demand.
However, I don’t see a decrease in demand, I don’t see a decrease in
supply and, based on the local police commander’s recent report to the
Alice Springs Town Council, I don’t believe there has been a reduction
Sir,- Your correspondent, Angus McIvor, himself a personal
friend, has taken issue with my promise to withdraw alcohol from
council-sponsored functions. He says it is entirely the wrong approach,
and does not address the real problems.
I’m about sending a message to the community regarding what appears to
be the mandatory presence of alcohol in all facets of Territory public
I am saying that as a body with carriage of public funds, the Council
can send a powerful message to its constituents that it is possible to
have meaningful social interactions without alcohol. We can save a lot
of ratepayers’ funds as well!
As I write this letter, my teenage son (still under-aged) is cleaning
up after a drinking party at our home - he and his mates took advantage
of my absence while I was on night shift at the disability residence
where I work. I have just evicted the last young man who has managed to
struggle to his feet.
Footnote One: Angus, when we dined together last year, if you have
faithful recall of the occasion, you will know that nary a drop of
claret did pass my lips.
Footnote Two: A dry mayor for a dry town - now that’d be a tourist
Sir,- The Labor Government’s much lauded Alcohol Courts are little used
and even less effective.
In the 18 months since they have been operating a mere 99 people across
the Territory have been referred to them.
Just 27 have successfully completed a court-ordered treatment program
and only three have been subject to a prohibition order.
In the same period of time almost 40,000 people have been taken into
protective custody for being drunk in public. Territory Labor has taken
a pop gun to the beast of alcohol abuse.
It’s hard to imagine a less effective or more expensive means of
dealing with alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour.
At the time the legislation was introduced then-Attorney-General, Peter
Toyne, stated the Alcohol Court will also contribute to the safety and
wellbeing of the broader community which is affected by antisocial
behaviour associated with regular and excessive alcohol consumption.
Paul Henderson claimed: “We will monitor this legislation as it takes
“I am sure if we need to make further amendments in the years to come,
we will do so.”
Sir,- Lanes, and requests to close them, look set to loom large on our
next town council’s agenda. From remarks made in recent meetings, up to
15 requests for lane closures are now awaiting consideration.
Anti-social behavior is the most common complaint mentioned in these
requests. This is hardly surprising given that night times in Alice
Springs can get a bit ordinary, especially up dark laneways.
However, there might be an option other than full closure as there are
pedestrians, kids on bikes, mums with prams and those in wheelchairs to
think of, all of whom have a legitimate use for our laneways during
Remembering that laneways were especially built into our newer suburbs
to provide easy access to shops and parks for those without a vehicle,
and remembering that once a laneway is gone, it’s gone forever, another
option is partial closure; say from 6 pm to 6 am.
Possibly an arrangement could be reached whereby the residents making
the request for a closure would agree to pay for gates and to lock them
in the evening.
The council could agree to install them and to send a ranger around to
open them in the morning.
Surely we can work together to that extent.
Sir,- In response to some comment about a “certain vehicle” in your
last issue - the vehicle is there as a protest to let passers-by know
that not all is well between our council and the community.
Your recent front page article about volunteers burn-out and Richard
Lim’s excellent response illustrates my very long held position on
these exact issues.
My on-going protest has morphed into a single issue campaign to force
reform of the Coles taxi rank. I do not expect nor seek majority
support from the community on this. To any individual that I have
inconvenienced in any way, I say sorry.
Before voting in our local elections on Easter Saturday, the community
must realize that the level of double standards, serious misconduct and
neglect around the Coles taxi rank is not good for our town.
Sadly it has become too typical of our council’s conduct.
The general tenor of the town council’s response could be summed up
with the following words: “We believe in free speech, BUT…”
Freedom of speech is a non-negotiable. It is either respected or it is
There are no if’s or but’s, Alderman Stewart.
May I leave your dear reader with what I judge to be some words
relevant to this certain matter - I would rather be hated for who I am
than loved for who I am not.
ADAM CONNELLY: A face which only
a mother could love!
Could you do me a favour? Won’t take long. What I want you to do is
look at the picture that comes with this text.
See it? That’s me. Or more specifically that’s me about 18 months ago
when Erwin took the photograph.
Many of you who know me might be surprised that indeed I do have eyes.
You see, I’m a squinter. Not in the “I can’t see” sense but more in the
Clive James, Tim Webster sense.
The eye to eyelid ratio isn’t exactly right and so my eyes spend most
of their time hiding.
Look at the picture again for a moment, will you? By the time a man
reaches my age he can no longer call himself youthful in any
Thirty-two is still quite young but it’s not youthful and since this
photograph was taken I suppose my face has aged a little and my hair
line receded a little.
The point is that by the time you reach 32, one should have come to
accept that one’s face is never going to be mistaken for the world’s
sexiest man, George Clooney.
Truth be told I’m probably not going to be mistaken for George Michael
or even George of the Jungle either.
It is something we come to terms with in our twenties.
Throughout our teens we rail against this notion that our physical
features could be described at best as serviceable.
We use hair product and get trendy haircuts and wear too much cologne
in order to stun the opposite sex into thinking that we might just be
physically attractive. We aren’t, and we know that women know it.
Throughout our twenties however, we realise that a decade of peacocking
has only paid off a couple of times at best and that we really need to
be focusing on those attributes we are good at to keep women
We speak differently around women. Polysyllabic words and witty retorts
replace the grunts and sailor talk that we use around our mates.
We start taking an interest in what women have to say. We “listen” and
we say things like, “That’s an incredibly insightful take on the
We quote Homer and Kierkegaard in order to seem worldly and
Faced with the inability to woo a woman with a swarthy look across the
room, the serviceable man is forced to actually interact.
It’s Social Darwinism at it’s purest. See? See what I mean?
Social Darwinism is a perfect term.
It says exactly what I mean but has the added bonus of showing the
opposite sex that I’m a bit cluey.
“Sure our progeny (there I go again) might not look like Jude Law but
they might have a chance of getting a tertiary education.”
I’m not saying that women are shallow. Nor am I saying that attractive
men are stupid. All I’m saying is that the plain man has to work a bit
harder in order to initially peak a woman’s interest.
The problem with all that is that because our faces aren’t all that
pleasant to look at, we tend not to look at them all that often.
Every now and then I find myself looking at the picture in the paper
and thinking, “Do I actually look like that? Are you sure that I don’t
look like a cross between Gregory Peck and Hugh Jackman? Are you
Occasionally, when the conditions are right I get on a bit of a roll
and people actually want to listen to what I have to say.
I’m funny and insightful and the cadence of my conversation flows like
the mighty Todd after a deluge, sweeping everything in its path along
with it. It only happens occasionally but it is nice when it does.
Even then however, when I’m riding the conversational equivalent of the
perfect wave, in the back of my mind I know that if Johnny Depp were
saying this, it would go down better.
My own mother confirmed this once.
My own mother, for Pete’s sake! Sitting on the lounge, I was in the
middle of one of my rants that she has come to accept as what I do on
the lounge from time to time.
In a pause she said to me, “Adam, if you were thin and good looking
you’d be dangerous.”
What? Aren’t mothers meant to think their sons perfect? Aren’t they?
I’m sure that the Elephant Man’s mother told him that women love a man
with a trunk.
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