March 13, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

What we will do to stop the mayhem. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

In the field of eight candidates for mayor, Melanie van Haaren and David Koch are putting forward the most robust and specific strategies for dealing with anti-social behavior.
Ald van Haaren wants to substantially expand the town council’s role through by-laws and far more rigorous enforcement.
Ald Koch says recalcitrant offenders should face sanctions culminating in custodial work camps providing rehabilitation through such activities as cleaning up rubbish and fighting buffel and weeds.
Other candidates put their money on strategies including education, relaxing alcohol restrictions and stemming the urban drift by making bush communities more appealing.
Ald van Haaren says: “Some people come to town to drink, creating chaos.
“Many get stranded here.”
She says the town council should bring in measures including these:-
• Forbid camping in the river and designated areas.
• Give council rangers the power to move people on and to confiscate alcohol, with back-up from police if necessary.
• Maintain current restrictions if it is proven they have reduced alcohol consumption in problem drinkers.
• Lobby for the new shire headquarters to be located in the shires and not in Alice.
She says: “Hermannsburg and Ti Tree should become prosperous.
“The more these centers grow and become attractive alternatives to Alice, the fewer people will come to town for the wrong reasons.”
• Work more closely with Tangentyere on “return to country”.
“We need a hostel for people who need a bed overnight on their way out of town.”
• Support activity that helps Aboriginal people to take action. We need an “elder force” here in Alice, says Ald van Haaren.
Ald Koch is running on 12 years of experience as an alderman and periods as Deputy Mayor, as well as his commercial experience gained by long-term directorship and management in hospitality companies with roughly the same staff numbers and budget as the town council’s.
Ald Koch, standing only for mayor this time, says the public booing of Chief Minister nearly a year ago was a defining moment for Alice Springs: the town and its council became assertive and demanding, and started to be listened to by the NT Government.
“Anti social behavior is squarely an NT Government issue,” he says.
“But the council has lobbied for, and got, mounted police, motorbike police, push bike patrols, and helped get surveillance cameras.
“Our continual nagging got police up to what’s regarded as the correct number.
“But we still need more.”
High profile candidate Murray Stewart says: “I’m betting that part of the problem is that Indigenous Central Australians in town camps and communities are not entitled, under the Federal Government’s approach, to drink in their own homes.
“This is one part of the legislation which needs to be quickly dismantled.
“We need to have tough laws that discriminate only against the irresponsible drinkers.
“Every Australian should be entitled to have a quiet relaxer at home.”
Mr Stewart says “chronic alcoholics should be removed from the bottle and the streets and byways and placed in a strong, long term remote rehabilitation program for as long as necessary”.
New candidate Angus McIvor is an architect with many years of work in Central Australia and the Top End, and an ALP member.
He says: “Urban drift is killing tourism [but] how am I going to stop it?
“You don’t go into an election with solutions. We first have to acknowledge the problem.
“People coming into town for medical treatment may bring another 20 people with them.
“And some people are moving into town to die, from alcohol.” 
Mr McIvor says income management under the intervention provides people with store cards which means they “can travel anywhere.”
Jane Clark, one of three Greens in the council elections, says: “I will be negotiating for more bus services to communities at peak times like sports weekends.
“Bush Bus is not enough. 
“Short term hostel style accommodation has worked well in Alice and we should focus on working with the NT Government and shires to increase hostels in preference to adding more camps.
“More meaningful work on communities would greatly assist in stemming urban drift.
“Communications with communities are vital as they become incorporated into shires, so that we can find out where people engaged in anti-social conduct and long term itinerants and alcoholics are coming from.
“We need an alcohol free day, more appropriate drying out facilities and better living conditions on town camps,” says Ald Clark.
Damien Ryan says anti-social behavior “is a problem endemic throughout the NT.
“More legislation and rules are not the answer.
“The answer lies in providing gainful objectives in outstations and communities, with structured travel to and from Alice Springs and education of visitors in our community pride.
“Alice Springs is a town for everyone.
“We also need development of hostel style accommodation for young working people seeking to gain employment in our town.”
Ald Meredith Campbell, who is also standing only for mayor, says: “We need to harness the lobbying power which moved the NT Government to commit $10m to support Darwin’s homeless, provide resources to return people to bush communities, and effectively prosecute public drinking, littering and illegal camping infringements.”
She says Tangentyere and Waltja need to commit to the “return to country” program.
“Lhere Artepe must play a role in behaviour management on Arrernte land.
“We need accommodation for bush people who are legitimately in town.
“We saw it in Port Augusta, providing security and an alcohol-free environment,” says Ald Campbell.
New candidate Miguel Ociones, a trade union organiser, says while the council doesn’t have the money to build temporary accommodation for bush visitors, it can do much more than it has in the past.
For example, the council could do the ground work, including consulting with the community and picking the two locations.
He says last year’s initiative for two transient camps collapsed because there was no agreement on the locations.
The governments need to be lobbied energetically: “Make them see the cost of not fixing the problem,” says Mr Ociones.
As a member of the Labor Party he has “opportunities to talk to the governments in power”.
He sees the current urban drift as being caused in part by difficulties still surrounding the intervention.
Some bush stores are not cooperating with the income management
“And CDEP has to be fixed,” he says.
While he supports plans to get people into jobs with “real wages, super and normal benefits” he says this must be done quickly and efficiently.
He says the new Federal government claims it will change the intervention for the better “but at the moment they are mum”.
Since the introduction of dry town measures in Port Augusta “Pitjantjatjara people are coming up here to drink”.

Mills backs call for work camps. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Opposition Leader Terry Mills says he supports the proposal of work camps for offenders, including troublesome drunks requiring mandatory rehabilitation, as suggested by mayoral candidate David Koch (Alice News, February 21).
Mr Mills says in the war against alcohol abuse there needs to be an “attitude shift, not just creating an impression but creating change”.
He says inadequate measures and resourcing have created “confusion and disillusionment.
“There needs to be a harder course taken, which may be unpopular in some quarters. The work camp type of arrangement does have some merit provided we have the courage to run those ideas right through to their conclusion.”
Would this be a custodial arrangement?
“It would need to be,” says Mr Mills.
Alcoholism “is a hard thing to break.
“Broad, general social solutions that annoy the majority but have little impact on the core problem are naive, dangerous and a waste of money.
“We’re dreaming if we think that there won’t be resistance.”
Should a court be given the power to order a confinement to such a work camp for a period if time?
“It would have to be, otherwise we are whistling in the wind, we’re going through the motions, we’re creating an impression but not a difference.
“The purpose is not just punishment but it is rehabilitation.”
Mr Mills says there is no overarching strategy to deal with alcohol problems.
“Everything is ad hoc. Living With Alcohol, recognized nationally as the most successful initiative of its kind, provided a sensible framework over the whole community.
“It was uniform across the Territory, while now the rules in Nightcliff may well differ from those in The Alice.
“The central notion was that we have to learn to live with alcohol.
“You don’t eradicate it, you learn to live with it.
“You provide the principles that inform all of our actions which provide cohesion.”
However, the change in the taxation rule, eliminating the cask wine levy, pulled the rug out from under the program, and the necessary and planned escalation of the measures could not take place.
Mr Mills is a member of the bipartisan Parliamentary Substance Abuse Committee.

Man hurt, car burned in attack by youth gang. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A Head Street resident, Michael Leerson, a club and stones were use by six or seven teenagers “of Aboriginal appearance” when they attacked the flat in Head Street of Charlie Ah Fat, 59, on Monday night. Mr Leerson and another neighbor, musician Craig Tilmouth, intervened to stop the attack.
He received a head injury. Mr Ah Fat's car was destroyed by fire and his flat damaged extensively.
Another neighbor, footballer Clinton Pepperill, says he thinks one of the attackers was armed with a sword.
Mr Leerson, says the fire brigade was on the scene "in five minutes" but it took police more than an hour to arrive.
Police Superintendent Sean Parnell says the delay appears to have been the result of a human error in the police force and said he would be making a full enquiry.

Alice Springs needs to play catch-up to tell her story. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Outback Queensland is leaving Alice Springs for dead when it comes to interpreting their heritage, and it’s town and shire councils who are driving their communities’ sophisticated promotions.
So says film-maker and heritage campaigner David Nixon after returning from a road trip across the Queensland backblocks.
“The grey nomads who come through Queensland to Alice must find next to nothing to see here in comparison with towns like Winton, Longreach, Cloncurry and Mt Isa,” says Mr Nixon.
The Queenslanders have not only done their research, collected their oral histories, pored over their visual and sound archives, they’ve used the latest story-telling technologies to produce engaging presentations.
“In Alice we occupy a unique position in the psyche of the nation and yet we are so far behind in being able to share our stories with visitors.
“We have to give them the level of presentation that they are getting everywhere else.”
In town, there’s talk among “stakeholders” about the need for a bigger and better visitor centre in Alice.
And mayoral candidate Damien Ryan has joined the fray, by promising that a Town Council with him at the helm would take a leading role in revitalising the CBD.
Among the proposals Mr Ryan supports is “a central visitor information centre located next to the Flynn Church”, that would also include “a detailed display of the new Western MacDonnell tourism development”.
However, Mr Nixon cautions against an immediate bricks and mortar response.
He says if the town’s interpretive focus and investment goes into a single big centre it will kill off the already fragile heritage sector, including the historic attractions along the walkway that is being developed to take passengers off the Ghan through the centre of town to the Todd River (see last week’s lead story). 
These attractions are the Old Stuart Town Gaol, the Old Courthouse, The Residency, Hartley Street School and Adelaide House. 
Mr Nixon gives an example: if a single big visitor centre included a display or short film about the Queen’s visit to Central Australia in 1963, how many visitors would then bother to go and experience for themselves the atmosphere of The Residency where Queen and Prince Phillip overnighted.
Mr Nixon says energy should first be devoted to developing The Residency’s own interpretive material, or story-telling content as he prefers to call it, a taster of which could be offered at the visitor centre.
He says if this could be done for all of Alice’s heritage attractions it could turn 10 minute visits into two hour experiences, and turn one or two day stays in Alice into five days.
And the town would fulfill its tourist promotion promise of “sharing our story” –  weaving a tapestry of a thousand stories about our fascinating and complex community.
Enter another tireless heritage campaigner, Domenico Pecorari, president of Heritage Alice Springs (HAS), a volunteer heritage lobby group. 
If the town is going to develop a walkway leading to historic attractions, let alone interpretive material for them, then the doors to the   attractions have to be kept open, says Mr Pecorari.
HAS have been given custodianship of  The Residency – with no funding.
All their fundraising efforts and most of their time goes into simply keeping The Residency doors open, for limited hours. Closed over the summer, the building reopened this week, and will remain so until December, hopefully for four hours a day, five days a week.  
And The Residency is the lucky exception. The other heritage attractions in the CBD are either closed or open sporadically. All are dependent on the efforts of volunteers.
By handing over responsibility to volunteers government has saved itself the salaries of one and a half positions, says Mr Pecorari.
“We approached Museums and Art Galleries of the NT to give us back half a salary to employ a part-time coordinator for volunteers, but they said no.”
Mr Pecorari also criticises the National Trust (NT) for not investing in keeping its heritage properties open, especially as three of their properties return rent to the organisation.
The heritage cause could be better served by the Territory Government funding groups in the smaller centres – Alice, Pine Creek, Borroloola –  rather than concentrating resources on the National Trust, suggests Mr Pecorari.
The issue affects the whole town, he says. If visitors can find out more about the town’s story by reading a book than they can by actually being here, because everything is closed, they will stay away with the obvious economic impacts.
“We will have shat in our own nest one time too many – that’s a story no one wants to share,” says Mr Pecorari.
Over the last 12 months Mr Nixon has exhaustively put his “share our story” proposal, in the form of a striking powerpoint presentation, to the powers that be – to former Chief Minister Clare Martin, former Tourism Minister Paul Henderson, former (and present) Arts Minister Marion Scrymgour, to the former CATIA (now Tourism Central Australia), and a range of other agencies and forums in the tourism, heritage and arts sectors.
While everyone has appeared to be enthusiastic not a cent of investment, other than limited sponsorship of the StoryWall, has flowed into taking up the ideas.
There is excitement in the sectors about the development of technology that allows the delivery of “site specific on demand digital content delivery” via the 3G telephone network.
But again, where is the content being produced to take advantage of the technology? asks Mr Nixon.
It requires investment now, but it could ultimately be recouped from consumers as they stand, for instance, at the Telegraph Station and pay for their download of the story of the Bradshaw family or the Bungalow children.
While Mr Nixon, together with collaborator Craig Mathewson, asked government and agencies for funding to develop content around the 30 most time critical stories – time critical because those who can tell them are nearing the end of their lives – he says a lot of the content can be generated by ordinary Central Australians.
Digital story telling workshops are now a well tested approach in the social justice area: people work their personal stories up into one a half minute digital presentations – using film, photographs and narration –  with a particular focus.
Mr Nixon’s innovation is to apply the approach to tourism- and heritage-related story-telling, with film industry professionals bringing their technical expertise to the final product.
He says a wealth of material is already in the hands of local people, many of whom come to him to digitise their old Super-8 footage.
One such was Peter Symonds, whose footage contained such treasures as the first Ghan along the Tarcoola line, the last Ansett Fokker through the airport, bogged road builders along the Ross River Highway and 1970s family life in the Araluen subdivision.
“And that’s just one person with barely 30 minutes of film!” says Mr Nixon.
“Its up to the Government to support the vision – the talent is here and eager to redefine the experience of living and visiting in Alice.
“If three to four locations around town had attractive, sophisticated presentations of this kind of material, Alice could have an international reputation in the field. 
“It would be an easy, satisfying way, with a sound economic base, of redefining our town’s image.” 
Meanwhile, the Heritage Tourism Implementation Group has reconvened as an informal network of heritage tourism operators and enthusiasts.
Colleen O’Malley, curator at the Olive Pink Botanical Garden, says a recent meeting identified shared concerns and interest areas, one of which is the recognition of linkages between places in remote areas and places in town.
These are not always chronological or based on transport or communications; they can be people-based – such as who married who and what arose out of that connection.
People within the group are “thinking outside the box” on ways of bringing these links to visitors’ attention. 
Like HAS, the group is aware of the need to coordinate the energy of volunteers.
On this Ms O’Malley welcomed the presence of Volunteering NT who have just opened an office in Todd Mall.
An issue for the group, currently without solution, is the protection of heritage places in remote areas. Listing does not bring proactive protection and places like Alice Well, on Aboriginal freehold land, are deteriorating badly, the group heard.

Is ban on town camps boozing unenforced or unenforceable? By KIERAN FINNANE.

It’s the morning after the night before.
In Charles Creek, a stone’s throw from the Alice CBD, visitors from Nyirripi are gathered under the scanty shade of a small river gum, with relatives and friends from the two town camps along the banks. 
The visitors came into town for the exhibition match between AFL sides Carlton and West Coast Eagles.
Over 8000 people, a mixture of town residents and bush visitors, black and white, had attended the match. A heavy police presence and action on drunk driving and illegal public drinking as well  as a temporary added layer of restrictions on grog (no cask wine at all and no beer in bottles) contributed to the overall success of the event.
But in the creek on the Saturday morning the law was being nonchalantly broken:
The group pass around a few cans of VB between them.
The debris of many drinking sessions – not necessarily theirs –  is scattered across the creek sand.
There are makeshift camps dotted here and there.
The banks of the creek are shining with VB cans, rolled down from drinking sessions on higher ground.
There is no need to go digging for evidence that the total ban on drinking in town camps and in public areas of Alice is here either unenforceable or unenforced.
As you drive into Charles Creek Camp the first sign that announces the ban on grog and pornography has been totally defaced. The sign alongside it, which once announced the name of the camp’s housing association and the necessity of obtaining permission to visit, is covered in layers of graffiti, the most recent reading “Fuck da guvment”.
Further on, another sign marks the entry to Hoppy’s / Scrutton Camp. The grog and porn sign alongside it is untouched.
Down in the creek, Eddie Jackson, a resident of Charles Creek Camp, says tourists drive in and take photos of the sign and try to get Aboriginal people in the shot. He doesn’t like that: they should ask, he says.
While everyone at the little gathering in the creek has been and are still drinking, no one is very drunk. They seem relaxed, happy to talk.
The visitors are heading back home later today in their own Toyota.
They say there should be visitor accommodation in the camps.
They camped with David Wintjana, who is in a wheelchair following an amputation and lives permanently in town – in a humpy  after his house was largely destroyed by fire. 
But if David had a house, the visitors point out, they would all have camped there and it would have been very crowded.
I ask about them drinking grog in the camp, despite the ban.
The old man from Nyirripi says, “We’re drinking in our home.”
He speaks partly in English to me, partly in language to MLA Alison Anderson. He refers in English to “the new minister making laws”.
Ms Anderson explains: they don’t like being pushed out of the camp to drink. 
She translates for the old man: he wants to drink at home [in the camp] so that when he’s too drunk to move he can go to sleep there.
She explains: they are concerned about the health of drunk people, if they’re left behind, outside of the restricted area [the camps and public places].
She translates for the old man: he doesn’t want the drunks to get killed.
Others speak, she translates: they want to make sure people drink and sleep inside the family circle, so the family can watch them in case anything happens; they want to get the sober people to watch them; they don’t want social drinkers, people who only have a couple of cans, pushed out of the restricted areas, into more dangerous areas.
I ask if they understand the reason behind the grog ban.
Yes, says the old man with Ms Anderson translating, it is to protect women and children in case they get hit.
Further north into Hoppy’s Camp, I meet visitors from Papunya, Linda Anderson and Mandy Pegg, who had also come in for the football, overnighting here with relatives.
Where the men from Nyirripi are gathered the debris of drinking is scattered everywhere, here it lies in thick carpets.
Across the creek there’s a gang of prisoners picking up rubbish. Soon they’ll have to knock off: the back of their large lorry is filled to overflowing with garbags full of rubbish. 
Linda says the people in the camp should clean up their own mess: “The prisoners don’t do the mess.”
“I feel shame,” says Mandy, gesturing around her.
“I like to sleep here but with accommodation better than this.”
They don’t want to go to hotels or motels, it’s too expensive and they don’t like getting the third degree: where are you from, why are you here, are you drinking tonight, and so on.
“There are racist people in hotels,” says Linda.
“They don’t like Aboriginal people staying,” says Mandy.
Linda would like a proper camping ground, with shower and toilet facilities, within the town camp, near to family she likes to visit.
They would be happy to pay: Linda suggests a fee of $10 a night for outdoor camping; $15 for accommodation.
Since the debacle over the dongas last year, the provision of bush visitor facilities seems to have dropped off the agenda, but the need remains as pressing as ever.
The creation of such facilities has overwhelming support from the now more than 300 respondents to the Alice News survey, What Alice Wants at
ABOVE: The “shameful” rubbish strewn area, on the banks of Charles Creek and the fringes of Hoppy’s Camp, where visitors from Papunya, Mandy Pegg and Linda Anderson, unhappily overnighted when they came to town recently for the AFL game. BELOW LEFT: Graffiti at the entrance to Charles Creek Camp makes clear the attitude of some camp residents to federal government measures. BOTTOM: A favourite itinerant camping spot at the bottom of Billygoat Hill, alongside the Girl Guide Hall. Groups can be frequently seen here, and often blankets and cooking utensils are stashed in trees and behind rocks for a return visit. A lack of toilet facilities means the use of the area is a public health hazard, a stone’s throw from community facilities and major tourist attractions.

Golf club determined to beat handicap. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Alice Springs Golf Club has asked the Northern Territory Government to release to the club the title of a housing block on The Fairway, so that the club can realise the value of the house it owns on the block.  
Sale of the house could help the club settle part of its debt – “in excess of $300,000”, according to a member who declined to be named. 
The sale is an option that the club is looking at, says newly appointed manager Jim Lawrie.
The government would have to either grant the club the land or sell it to the club at market price before the house could be sold. 
Mr Lawrie says the house has been used in the past to accommodate staff but is no longer needed and is expensive to maintain.
There is a drive to get the club onto a better business footing. 
Overheads are very significant: the member who spoke to the Alice News put the cost of maintaining the 18-hole facility at $500,000.
Mr Lawrie, in his position for just two weeks, says it would be at least that and probably more; and then there are the costs of maintaining the clubhouse.
The club is financed by membership fees and green fees.
The member says these have lagged behind CPI increases over the years and may have to rise.
Currently full membership is at $825, including GST, which can be paid in installments. 
The course has just been ranked at number 53 in Australia – “an excellent result”, says Mr Lawrie.   
He says membership of clubs on the east coast can be as high as $5000 to $10,000.
But rather than raising local fees he would prefer to see “more activity” at the club and “better marketing” as the way to get out of difficulties.
He estimates that some 1200 players (including repeat players) are on the course each week and more people use the clubhouse.
But he agrees with the member that the facility is under-utilised.
His job, together with the new committee that will be elected at the AGM on March 30, will be to come up with a business plan that responds to the current concerns.
This could include a revision of bar prices – the bar in the past has been one of the cheapest in town.
“We cannot keep absorbing the price increases of our suppliers,” says Mr Lawrie.
And the club’s partnership with the Power and Water Corporation could be looked at.
The club contributes to PWC’s control of salinity in town by using water from the town basin to irrigate the course.
In return for the water, the club has to bear the costs of maintaining the bores. The high cost of pump replacements in recent times “make up a large part of our current deficit,” says Mr Lawrie.
There is no regular government assistance for the club though a grant of $130,000 for course maintenance was made during the last election.
Mr Lawrie says it will be two to three months before he and the committee are ready to talk to government about possible further support.
The member says government should look at any approach from the club in light of its role in attracting and retaining people – both residents and tourists – in town.

Bread and circuses: big open air theatre.

The NT Government has confirmed via a spokesperson that the construction of a 1500 seat amphitheatre at the Desert Park is in the early design and feasibility phase, as reported exclusively by the Alice Springs News online edition last week.
The Alice News understands that the philanthropic organisation, The Myer Foundation, is involved.
The spokesperson declined to further comment, saying that it “could jeopardise the outcome of the project”.
Asked why, the spokesperson repeated that “comment could jeopardise the outcome of the project”.
CEO of the Myer Foundation, Christine Edwards, also declined tocomment.

It’s not just the Mayor. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“You don’t need to be mayor – it’s a good council that makes the decisions.”
Steve Brown puts the less glamorous aldermanic race into perspective.
He joins 17 other candidates, four of whom are sitting aldermen, and six of whom are also running for mayor. 
Given his profile as chairman of the lobby group, Advance Alice, many may have expected Mr Brown to run for mayor. But, apart from seeing it as unnecessary to achieve his goals, he also says his commitments to his electrician’s business wouldn’t allow it. He has obligations to an apprentice who is also his son, and the father of seven says he has other children interested in joining him.
He is running in order to influence planning for the future growth of the town and “the way we live in it”. He sees all the major issues as interconnected.
In doing electrical work for the public housing authority he sees “the kids who don’t go to school, sleep all day, and then are on the streets at night, people who sit in their units, doing nothing, the ghettoes we have created from one end of town to the other”. 
“We have the answer to our staff shortages here in town,” he says. 
“But we’ve never dealt with the thousands of young lives going to waste.”
Land shortage has seen the “density of the town go up, there’ve been no new parks, there’s nowhere for kids to play and this leads to anti-social activity.
“The town needs more land to live on.”
Mr Brown is pleased with the crop of candidates who have come forward. While he’s not “excluding anyone” he sees incumbents Murray Stewart and Melanie van Haaren, as well as Damien Ryan, Sandy Taylor, Marie Harrison, Liz Martin, and Brendan Heenan as all people he could work well with.
If that looks like a bit of a block, then there’s another that’s presenting itself, under the NT Greens banner.
A Greens-endorsed mayoral candidate, sitting alderman Jane Clark, is also running in the aldermanic race and has now been joined by two other Green candidates, Lisa Hall and Lenny Aronsten.
Mr Aronsten, a physiotherapist, was working out bush when the Alice News was researching this report.
However we caught up with Ms Hall, a teacher, before she too headed bush early Monday morning.
She put kerbside recycling and transport at the top of her list of issues for a new council to address.
The cost of a kerbside recycling scheme should factor in the contribution the scheme could make to extending the life of the landfill, says Ms Hall.
The transport issue relates particularly to visitors from the bush getting stuck in town.
“That’s one of the flow-on impacts of Alice being a service hub for the region,” says Ms Hall. Council could work with the new shire councils and existing services with limited coverage to create an accessible regional transport service with much greater coverage.
On her Greens membership Ms Hall says it’s a matter of being “up front and honest with voters about who I am”.
The Greens do not dictate, at any level of government, how a member should vote: “If I were elected there would be no issue on which I couldn’t vote as I wanted to,” says Ms Hall.
She says the three Greens candidates, if elected, would not form a voting block: each would assess the issues and information and vote accordingly.
Ms Hall says she would also want to work cooperatively with all other aldermen.
She says the Greens are more than just an environmental party; they are also about grassroots democracy, peace and disarmament, social justice and economic equity.
“I think people are beginning to understand that, and our support is growing.”
Two prominent tourism sector identities, Brendan Heenan, owner of the MacDonnell Range Holiday Park, and Liz Martin, head of the National Road Transport Hall of Fame, have thrown their hats in the ring.
Greater support from council for their industry, the town’s biggest private sector employer, tops their concerns.
Mr Heenan wants council’s budget allocation to support tourism to go back to $50,000, as it was a few years ago.
He says it’s down to $20,000 now. The fund would be to support initiatives put forward by the industry.
“Our drive market is dropping, and people flying in are down 8% on last year. Alice Springs is suffering,” he says.
To counteract the effects of bad publicity, he has worked to get Discover Down Under to produce a program showcasing Alice’s attractions for a seven day itinerary.
He enlisted the support of Ald Murray Stewart and made a presentation to council, asking for a $20,000 contribution to help bring the program to town.
“We got $10,000.”
But Tourism NT, Tourism Central Australia and the NT Caravan Parks Association between them came up with the rest of the $45,000 needed.
The program will go to air in July on Imparja (Channel 9 elsewhere) and will be packaged as a give-away DVD for Caravan World magazine’s February issue next year.
More broadly, Mr Heenan says council must put pressure on the NT Government to release more land in town, to encourage young people to settle here and retirees to stay.
“We are losing the history and experience of people who have lived and worked here for 20 and 30 years when they move away to retire,” he says, calling for a retirement village to be built.
The list of other candidates he feels he could readily work with is similar to Steve Brown’s, with Samih Habib thrown in for good measure, as well as John Rawnsley, “a nice young feller”.
“Youth issues are important,” says Mr Heenan.
Ms Martin wants council to do more to support the small tourism-related organisations around town, many of them run partly or wholly by volunteers.They could do with help on things like writing submissions and developing business plans, she says.
And a pet project is the establishment of a “resource bank”, making available on loan photocopiers, tables and chairs and so on, for organisations who can’t afford their own.
“We could also do a lot better on the inter-connectivity of our attractions,” says Ms Martin, “the man-made, the natural, Aboriginal culture, explorer and pioneer history, and the roles the mining, pastoral and transport industries have played.”
She has just returned from a visit to Wagga Wagga and was impressed by the council-funded museum there, which had its own display on the history of the town but also pointed to what else there was to see in the town.
On infrastructure more broadly she says there isn’t enough forethought and planning: “We build roundabouts that road trains have to drive over to get round them.”
Better infrastructure catering to the needs of locals and visitors in the CBD and along the river is essential, ablution blocks included.
She is against takeaway grog restrictions in their present form, though she does think there are too many alcohol outlets in town, and council should press government to buy back licences.
But she says restrictions act only at the “top layer”: “People sniff, drink, do drugs to get away from their wretched and unfortunate lives.
“We have to deal with the grassroots issues and also have strong resources to help people who can’t handle alcohol.”
Ms Martin says she has pulled back from a number of her inter-state commitments in order to play a greater role locally: “I did 17 trips away last year; this year I’ll only do four.”
She says she’ll look forward to working with like-minded people, especially those with a local history, investment and long-terms plans to stay in town.
Sandy Taylor has certainly got the “local” credentials, born and bred here, the eldest of the eight daughters of well-known Aboriginal racehorse-trainer, Emmie Wehr.
She emphasises her extensive work history as preparing her well to serve the town: some 25 years in the Commonwealth and Territory public services, as well as jobs in tourism, retail of Aboriginal arts and crafts, and now in education. She has been an Indigenous Education Worker at St Philip’s College since 2000.
She wants to restore pride, integrity and commitment to the community, badly eroded by anti-social behaviour.
“You get used to it as a local but it shocks visitors – the humbugging, the brawling, the shouting.”
She is perplexed by the apparent need of Aboriginal people to “sing out loudly to one another”: “When we were growing up with my mother everyone used hand signals.
“Perhaps the yelling now is born out of Aboriginal people’s sheer frustration with their relatives.”
Councils need to be proactive to address these behaviours, she says, working with other agencies, like the Licensing Commission and police, and with native title holders – enforcing laws and standards, rewarding community pride. 
And they need to work with Tangentyere Council to clean up the camps: “That is something that can be fixed straight away.”
She says simple solutions, including dialogue, are often the way to deal with problems.
She would work to improve council’s communication with ratepayers: a 10 day turnaround on dealing with correspondence and “then continue to keep them updated”.
“As an alderman I would certainly want to know what everyone employed by council is doing, and would have a look at making the corporate side more accountable.”
Anti-social behaviour also looms large for Sally Luchich, a former teacher, now manager of the town pool.
The pool itself is not heavily exposed to the problem, she says, though there have been some break-ins and vandalism.
She says it is undeniable that a major part of the town’s litter problem is related to the consumption of alcohol, but some offending behaviour has other causes: in a recent break-in at the pool it was clear the offenders were after food.
“We need to offer affected youth direction, things in their life so they don’t get dragged down,” she says.
To get them away from alcohol and violence “give them somewhere to go, day and night.”
She proposes a well-structured shopfront environment in the mall where they could develop and sell their skills – in arts and crafts, in IT.
“It could be a stepping stone to employment.”
Council wouldn’t have to fund and run the facility on its own, but rather work with other agencies and a pool of volunteers.
“If we build on the positives with youth it will have a ripple out effect for their families.
“Everyone needs to feel more ownership, more pride in the town.”
Litter and anti-social behaviour hotspots like Billygoat Hill and Todd Mall should have lighting, seating, interpretive material to “attract people with good intent”.
Their presence will “deter people with negative intent”.
Council has to “be persistent,” she urges, “move people on until they give up.”
She also says that it is not only public drinkers responsible for litter: pool guards pick up rubbish all day left behind by otherwise “law-abiding citizens”. 
“People need to think about their behaviour, not drop the thing in the first place. How do you get through to people – maybe an advertising campaign.”
John Rawnsley at 27 is the youngest candidate in the field (Ms Hall is 33, the average age of Alice Springs citizens, and has also emphasised youth and energy in her campaign).
This is Mr Rawnsley’s second local government campaign: he was runner-up in the by-election that returned Meredith Campbell to council in September 2005.
Since then he has been an active member of the Labor Party and currently works as electoral officer for MLA Alison Anderson.
He is running a careful campaign, releasing policy ideas as he goes along.
They include finding ways to offer incentives to youth, especially those who have grown up here, to settle here.
Often local young people have left town to further their education.
He proposes that council work in partnership with business and other levels of government to offer free flights to Alice to those who can demonstrate that they are taking up a work opportunity and have a “commitment to stay”.
“Council could go a long way through partnerships,” he says.
As another example, he suggest a partnership approach for improving the town’s parks and gardens: with the Federal Government to provide horticulture training for young people (a la Green Corps), and with local residents keen to help maintain their local parks and gardens.
He acknowledges anti-social behaviour, specifically public drinking and littering, as a core issue for the people he has talked to and intends to put forward a plan “integrated across agencies” to address it.
He would not be drawn on details but says, “We need to build a social and cultural intolerance of anti-social behaviour.”
He declined to “endorse” any other candidate but looked forward to working with anyone who provides “leadership, passion, intelligence and integrity”.
Passion is something that certainly fuels David Chewings. He has been a thorn in the current council’s side with his unorthodox, dogged campaign on littering, especially as it affects the “out of sight, out of mind” areas around Alice – Crown land, areas around town camps.
And in recent times he has used his ute and trailer as a mobile billboard alleging council corruption (a non-specific “looking after their mates”).
His campaign for this election is focussed on a single issue: “Reform of the Coles taxi rank”.
The part of the rank in Bath Street allocated to mini-bus operators, of whom he is one, is far too limited in length, he argues, for the demand on their services.
In a survey of use of the 50m rank, conducted on January 7, from 7am to 5pm, he found that mini-busses conveyed 262 passengers and made 69 drop-offs at the rank.
This compared to 165 passengers in taxis, with 35 drop-offs, and 45 passengers in taxi-busses, with 22 drop-offs.
He has made some in-roads on the issue, with council lengthening the rank from six metres to 18m, as a trial measure.
He says the mini-bus drivers and their customers, most of whom are Indigenous, deserve a full 25 metres of the rank.
In future reports the Alice News will look at the record of incumbent aldermen seeking re-election – and the candidates, other than mayoral, not covered in this report – Barbara Shaw, Marie Harrison, and Lenny Aronsten.

Blocks, preferences, tactics. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Most candidates for Mayor say they are in favor of conscience votes while some of them, if not all, will be handing out how to vote cards.
“I never vote with blocks,” says Angus McIvor.
“I am opposed to any suggestion that you tie yourself to a system that prevents free thought.
“If people want to vote with me on certain issues I’ll be very happy to see them do that.
“You get the horse trading, the wife swapping, and all the things that ruin a council.
“It totally excludes the public.”
Jane Clark says: “I will be issuing a how to vote card as an option, but I urge the public to work out their own preferences.
“Elected Greens members are entitled to make a conscience vote every time they vote. Voting as a bloc is not desirable,” says Ald Clark.
Damien Ryan says: “Elected members must not stoop to the politics of voting by block but must vote on the merit of each issue as they see it.
“I have not yet made any firm decision about suggesting preferences but I will make my intentions clear well before polling day.”
David Koch stood down as the chairman of the local CLP branch.
“For me council comes before party politics,” he says.
“I’ll be making my decision on preferences later.
“I’m not part of a voting block. I have not yet had the those discussions.
“The public should be able to make the choices.
“We should not set up the public to make the choices the block operators want,” says Ald Koch.
“It doesn’t get things done: We’d end up with a Queensland style party local government.
“Elected members should exercise conscience votes in the interest of Alice Springs.”
Ald Meredith Campbell, who is standing only for Mayor, not for alderman, says: “As Mayor, I would not participate in voting as a block.
“Other councils, like the doomed Wollongong City Council, have come to grief, in part, through the practice known as caucusing.
Miguel Ociones says he is not currently in discussion with anyone about preferences: “I guess I will think about it in the next few days.”
He says he nominated last Friday, just before the deadline: “I could not sleep, I thought I’d kick myself if I didn’t do it.”
He says Ald Koch is “closest to my position”.
He and Ald Campbell deserved support because of their experience in council.
Murray Stewart says: “What a shame we have to consider preference deals.
“They are an unfortunate byproduct of a grossly undemocratic and outdated exhaustive preferential system. 
“My premier preference deal is with the people of Alice Springs. 
“Come March 29, if anyone sees a how to vote card with my name at or near the bottom, you’ll know something crooked is on.” 
Ald Stewart says given his record, even if voters prefer another candidate “then maybe placing me as your second or third preference would be far more reflectant of the true picture”.
Melanie van Haaren said “no comment” when asked about her intentions with respect to preferences and voting with a block.

Cultural showpiece for council corner. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A “gathering garden” featuring seating in the form of upturned coolamons cast in bronze and a central water feature, also in the form of a coolamon, within colourful and shady native-species landscaping, will become a feature of the Civic Centre block if council’s allocation of $150,000 is matched by the NT Government.
The concept is the work of Melbourne-based sculptor Julie Squires and Central Arrernte / Warlpiri artists Marie Elena Ellis and Roseanne Ellis.
The artists are sisters and the daughters of renowned Papunya painter Michael Jagamarra Nelson, who created the design for the forecourt mosaic at Parliament House in Canberra.
His daughters’ involvement in this first public art project at the seat of local government in Alice Springs adds significance to this long overdue recognition within the CBD of the major contribution of Aboriginal art to this region’s cultural life, identity and prosperity.
Artists of the region, through nine art centres identified by the Ellis sisters and Desart, will create surface designs for the bronze coolamon seats, each two metres long, making for a cultural site of considerable scope and depth.
Other collaborators on the project are horticulturist Geoff Miers who has done the landscape design, and Arrernte consultant Margaret Kemarre Turner.
Cross cultural consultants David and Bess Price contributed to the development of the concept and also provide a Central Australian family link and “education” for Ms Squires, who is Mr Price’s niece.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff announced on Monday that this team had been selected, on advice from the public art advisory committee chaired by Alderman Meredith Campbell, to take forward council’s public art project for the corner of Gregory Terrace and Todd Street.
But execution will depend on the success of council’s application for an NT Government public art grant, seeking a match of dollar for dollar.
If this application is unsuccessful, the project could stall, though Ms Kilgariff said that it would return to council’s budget process for the next financial year.
Ms Squires said she was confident of success as the project responds to a lot of the grants fund’s guidelines. 
The result of the apllication won’t be known till the end of June.
The layout of the gathering garden is based on an original painting by the Ellis sisters, showing tracks converging on a central meeting place.
With the addition of the landscaping, featuring over 450 local plants including many flowering species and shade trees (desert kurrajongs), the site will become a “lush, shady area, a sanctuary” in the heart of Alice, says Ms Squires.
Sandstone elements engraved with text, on the ground in front of the coolamons so people can sit while they read, will evoke the heritage of the site and town, including Afghan and early European settlement, as well as contemporary local life.
However, the central imagery of the site is overwhelmingly Aboriginal.
The Alice News asked Ms Squires if there would be visual images associated with the other cultures present in town.
The existing architectural element on the corner of the site, referencing Afghan heritage through the crescent associated with Islam, will be retained.
But other visual elements would have created a quite “compartmentalised” impression, says Ms Squires.  She chose rather to work with a more “unified image” for the whole site. 
There will be consultation over the text for the sandstone elements with the public art advisory committee playing a liaison role with community representatives. 
The site will be lit at night, with floodlights on some of the larger trees and ground level lighting.

Living history. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The exhibition Colliding Worlds, which opened to a large crowd at Araluen last Sunday, is sub-titled “First Contact in the Western Desert 1932-1984”.
It might have been subtitled “Unusual encounters in the Western Desert”, suggested Jeremy Long, a former patrol officer of the NT Welfare Branch, who was present at the opening.
“Unusual” because in most first encounters the Europeans were not “armed with cameras and notebooks”, said Mr Long.
In his floor talk and catalogue essay, curator Philip Batty was at pains to encourage visitors to the exhibition to make up their own mind about the nature of the encounters.
Dr Batty expected there would be some negative reaction, for instance, to the idea of body-casting and said there was quite some debate at Museum Victoria about whether to include the casts.
There are two on display, with one of particular interest being of Waripanda, the sister of MLA Alison Anderson’s grandmother. Ms Anderson was present at the opening, introducing Dr Batty and catching up with Mr Long. Ms Anderson recalled she was eight years old when Mr Long “brought in the Pintupi”. 
The link of the exhibition with people alive today – “the continuation of history”, as Dr Batty put it – was keenly felt on Sunday with many Indigenous visitors, including famed artist Mitjili Napanangka, identifying themselves, their forebears and their traditional country in the photographs.
From what I observed, this was done with a lively interest, rather than with affront.
And although the apparent cataloguing of people, with genealogical information cards and numbered frontal and profile photographs, is at odds with contemporary sensibilities (replaced, at times, by different forms of intrusive scrutiny), the overall impression of the exhibition is fairly benign.
Particularly the photographs of Donald Thomson are very engaged with their subjects – identified individuals self-assured in their country, observed with evident warmth, fascination and delight.
And unless I’ve overlooked something, there are no photographs (outside of the Woomera bomb tests) of the crueller face of the frontier.
This makes the painting, First Contact, commissioned for the show from Watiyawanu artists, all the more interesting.
Five artists collaborated on the work: Wintjiya Napaltjarri Morgan, Kathleen Whisky Nungarrayi, Colleen Whisky Nampitjinpa, Ngoia Napaltjarri Pollard and Ulkalara Napaltjarri.
Six large and sinister white figures hover over the scene: these represent the mythic figure Pungkalangu, who killed and devoured people, acting as a metaphor for a white man, Kungki, “who was reputed to have shot and eaten Aboriginals”.
Not surprising then to find in the layer of the painting that schematises the sweep of first contact  – the arrival of men on horses, camels, a preacher and his church and so on –  that there is a chilling representation of the men chained together at the neck – a practice when Aboriginals were caught stealing cattle.
There are four lines of chained men represented, involving 38 individual figures – clearly, for the artists, the abominable practice looms large. 
They make it plain, by including alongside the chained lines of men a line of camels, tethered to one another by the nose, that these among their forebears were treated as animals.
However, a strength of the show is to present a range of exhibits and stories around its themes, and it includes in this section about the flourishing of the Western Desert art movement, a very striking painting by Wentja Napaltjarri 2, which makes clear a different story via its title, Early Days of Living at the mission at Haasts Bluff where everyone was happy, 2004.
There are many stories in the exhibition about Aboriginal people making themselves the decision to move into settlements, with drought conditions and the prospect of more plentiful food being major motivators.
“Many groups enjoyed the security of settlement life and remained there,” writes Dr Batty in the introduction to the catalogue.
“Others never adjusted and moved back and forth between their homelands and settlements. Some individuals returned to the bush indefinitely.”
The often heated debates around these experiences are “important sites”, he says, where the moral foundations of “Australian nationhood are contested and defined”.

LETTERS: CLC way off the mark on parks.

Sir,- Once again the Alice Springs News is deliberately trying to whip up fear and resentment on the issue of park ownership. And, as usual, it gives a very one-sided view of the situation.
Last week’s article didn’t contain one word about the 99 year leases under which all of these parks would be operating. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park operates under this arrangement and appears to thrive – 400,000 visitors annually and rising.
The Alice Springs News didn’t mention once any of the positive benefits joint management would deliver to Aboriginal people in Central Australia in terms of employment and participation.
It forgot to mention that visitors to the parks would have a better, more diverse and more interesting experience, let alone the increased tourist dollars to Alice Springs.
And it soundly contradicted itself – after railing against the new arrangements – by ending its ‘report’ with the conclusion that had the arrangements not gone ahead all parties would have been subjected to years of litigation through the courts to settle land claims and if successful in those claims, traditional owners would have been free to set whatever limitations or fees on access they chose.
Instead, the compromise of shared management will bring benefits to all. There won’t be permits to enter the parks, nor any fees.
Anyone with some foresight would recognise the great result of shared management of our parks.
David Ross
Director Central Land Council
ED - Mr Ross’ hypocrisy knows no bounds.
To accuse the Alice News of one-sidedness after he, his media staff and his organisation, have stonewalled dozens of requests for comment and information from the News is a cynical distortion of the facts.
As our web archive bears testimony, we have reported extensively about the 99 year lease arrangements.
This includes last week’s report: “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 conditions.”
That’s not just “one word” but 40.
We have never rejected proposals for an Aboriginal management advisory body, nor against Aboriginal involvement in a range of matters. We have advocated these initiatives.
However, in comment pieces, clearly identified as such, we have been objecting to a transfer of ownership, as is the vast majority of the public.
The likelihood of massive litigation isn’t something the News is alleging.
Avoiding litigation is the very reason the NT Government – equally secretive over the issue – gives for transferring ownership.
I take Mr Ross’ statements, no matter how wide of the mark, as a signal that he will finally end his paranoid silence on the parks issue.
He can expect a phone call from me this week to make an appointment for an interview.
A few glib motherhood statements from him won’t do, especially not now that a Federal Labor Minister says she is going to comply with the vastly unpopular requests from a Territory Labor Government

Sir,- In relation to the ongoing discussion over land release for Alice Springs the Prime Minister’s statements would appear to have our own Territory Government completely at odds with the rest of the country.
Rather than getting land onto the market as cheaply and rapidly as possible, as requested by the Prime Minister, the Territory Minister recently stated her objective as being to “hold up land release” in order to maintain existing prices, supposedly to protect existing land owners (I suspect more in the interest of supporting land speculators).
Either way the consequences for our town have been horrific and, unless attended to urgently, will lead to a complete collapse of our market. Alice doesn’t need more token land releases – a few blocks here and there – we need sustained land release, complete with planned and serviced suburbs set out in advance of requirements. This will give homeowners, builders and business much needed confidence in the town’s growth opportunities. Without that confidence, investment goes elsewhere.
Recent articles have spoken of exciting new technological and mining opportunities for our town. We must be positioned to take advantage of those opportunities, or we will quite simply miss out.
Companies assessing development in the area must be able to see land available. Housing blocks in hundreds, not just a token few.
Without that land availability companies will simply resort to flying their staff in and out, as I believe some already do. The result for Alice will be to see our minerals mined and our only gain being extra traffic at the airport and a gigantic hole in the ground.
Our town and our government must throw off the shackles and come outside the Gap along the Stuart Highway - if necessary, all the way to the airport. There are already large tracts of government-owned land in the area which are central to all the services, and as such very cheap to develop.
This development must take place with the greatest of urgency!
Should the Territory government insist on continuing its deliberate suppression of growth, Alice Springs must appeal to the Federal Government to intervene.
At a time when the Alice struggles to grow its economy, when the continuing unemployment amongst our Aboriginal population is a national disgrace, the continued suppression of our growth is quite simply unacceptable to the vast majority of Australians, I would think.
Steve Brown
Chairman Advance Alice

Sir,- The caption under the photograph on page three in last week’s edition, taken during the opening of the Quest accommodation facility in South Terrace, stated “the $10 million complex was developed by the long established Alice Springs Neck Family”.
The complex was not developed by the Neck family but by the long established Northern Territory business Sitzler Bros, as was announced at our official opening.
The Neck family acquired the Quest franchise for Alice Springs.
Val Neck
Alice Springs
[ED - The Alice Springs News regrets the error.]

Sir,- I sent the following letter to the Alice Springs Town Council: Today [February 16] at about 4.30pm, two friends and I visited the Tip Shop, advertised as “open”.
We have all been regular visitors to the “Bower Bird”, but today’s visit reflects badly on the new contractors. Do we assume that the gross, rude slob male sitting on a chair in the shade is the manager?
I told him that we were regular tip shop customers, to which he replied, “Maybe 30 years ago”. I said, “No, present day”, and we got the same reply. He then made some crack about the “Bower Bird”, and I told him it was a bad subject.
Naturally, there is little stock in the yard, and we left after a short inspection – if this man is an indication of the lack of quality and decent speech that we have been accustomed to with the “Bower Bird” staff, I hold out little hope of return business.
We are all in our seventies, and find that this rudeness, lack of presentation, and general lack of any respect is just not acceptable.
Patricia Pate
Alice Springs
Greg Buxton, the town council’s Director of Technical Services, responded:
I am sorry to hear about the undiplomatic behaviour of [Subloo] staff. I have taken up the issue with the Subloo director and he will investigate the matter further and act accordingly.
Finally, let me offer my sincere apologies to you and your friends over this matter, should you have any queries, please feel free to contact me.
Ed: Subloo has not responded to a request for comment.

Sir,– In response to the story about the approval for exploration of uranium to go ahead by Paladin Resources (Alice News, Feb 28), I clearly and categorically want to say uranium isn’t the answer to the world’s energy problems for global warming or any other reason.
I detest the fact that it has been dangled in front of readers as some economic cure-all carrot, for us as a community and for Australia.
Not only is it wrong to tout uranium as clean, it will keep supporting a lifestyle which is not sustainable for the planet anyway.
While Paladin seems to answer the water contamination concerns of environmentalists in the article, it still has an air of arrogance that is endorsed by our Chief Minister by saying it is “clean”.
Uranium, and any business associated with it, is a substance so potentially powerful in a world of unstable politics it is anything but clean.
For one it is a nightmare for waste concerns; and let’s not ignore the use of depleted uranium used in warheads and ammunition around the world, let alone the fact that nobody wants waste in their backyard, to name only a few of the lesser evils.
Presenting uranium mining in terms of economic rationalism is totally misleading. It ignores the relationship of uranium to many more extraneous issues.
My problem is with the sort of thinking of the likes of Chief Minister Paul Henderson that I cannot trust. How much uranium does one need for short term energy purposes?
Who is asking that question? What happens to $2.5 billion of uranium once it is out of the ground? Where does it go? What is its lifetime? To whom is it entrusted?
Are we expected to trust the leaders of this world to keep it safe? These fears of mine and others need to be discussed fully in the discourse of this issue.
There are other much cleaner alternatives to “clean energy solutions” and I am proud of the burgeoning solar technologies in this town.
I would love our governments, both local and national, to continue helping us to be more creative to simplify and change our lifestyle in the mean time. There is enough energy available falling on the surface of this planet.
Having uranium unleashed onto the Earth is too much energy for good men to handle. It would be wise to let Angela and Pamela sleep!
Isabel Dupuy
Alice Springs

Sir,- In the wake of the federal government ‘intervention’ your paper has reported on the town’s uphill battle with drinking and camping in public places. I should say from the outset that I know town camp residents I would genuinely value as neighbours and I know white-fellas that would lower the tone of the most desperate human settlement.
Naturally we see the loudest or most violent and overlook the masses quietly getting on with their lives.Unfortunately the spirit of the Territory Intervention has been de-valued by its strict focus on indigenous communities. While there is obvious scope for revision in the detail, intervention should also be applied right across Australia wherever government welfare is used to support harmful alcohol or drug addiction.
Income management could be tiered according to ‘need’ and could easily include voluntary provisions for modest saving plans – just $20 a week can grow into an airfare ticket and the saving process becomes an important life lesson for the whole family. Grog touches most and rules too many families in this town. Summer binge drinking by some people is magnified by an influx of visitors that can remain for four or five months because inexplicably, in a time of great economic opportunity, they have no jobs to return to.
It’s not surprising that Aboriginal men cited boredom as a major reason for alcohol consumption in a 1986-7 Territory-wide study! Our society can’t effectively overcome the grog epidemic without resolving the obstacles to employment.
A life with purpose must be the Holy Grail for all politicians, government policy makers and social planners. Education, health and sobriety are not enough; no-one can hold down a job until basic life-style stresses such as accommodation are addressed.While the sheer scale and complexity of the town’s social problems seem daunting, I’m confident that we can do much better.
Currently our town of 29,000 is losing a war of attrition with perhaps several hundred full-time drinkers / campers who are pushed from one public location to another. Placing increased pressure on this hard core is a necessary stop-gap measure but we must also provide tangible options for their possible rehabilitation and inclusion within a working society.
In the near absence of support, police have been taking a softly, softly approach that is understandable but inappropriate for some recidivist offenders.
Countless verbal warnings and the over-use of trespass orders for criminal offences have eroded respect for the law in recent years. There is an urgent need to empower community service orders and put offenders to work repairing some of the tragic damage to sacred sites throughout the town.
Equally our community must help bush visitors make the transition from illegal camping to managed camp grounds with showers, toilets, water and other facilities (currently available for $11 per person each night).
Environmental damage aside, current strategies are costing this town vastly more in law enforcement and rubbish collection.
We have six months to prepare a range of accommodation options for our bush visitors – who knows, in time we might welcome them as the holiday-makers that we could never seem to attract in the height of summer!
Mike Gillam
Alice Springs

Sir,- How terribly wrong have we managed to get the welfare system here in the NT?
In the Alice Springs hospital a 13 year old indigenous girl gives birth to a child of her own. She qualifies for the baby bonus.
The child’s father is not charged with carnal knowledge – in all likelihood he is under the legal age himself and has been acting with the consent of the girl’s family.
Conventional teaching has it that in tribal times family groups survived by making binding contracts with other family groups. Daughters were an accepted form of currency. A son-in-law could be expected to provide sustenance.
In today’s world a son-in-law promises a baby bonus and access to the family allowance.
In the larger picture, hunting and gathering is a traditional skill used to obtain enough food to survive. Many indigenous Territorians now use that skill to hunt and gather easy money in government departments.
I sometimes wonder if life reduced to a scramble for cash payouts doesn’t dissolve the glue that binds a culture together. It has certainly done its bit to dissolve any respect between the conventional and the traditional on the streets in Alice Springs. I also wonder how many generations will be needed before a sense of dignity and self worth can reassert itself and replace the corruption that accompanies a life reduced to a scramble for those cash payouts.
To paraphrase an old saying, money corrupts and easy money corrupts easily.
We desperately need to upgrade our welfare system. Somehow we have to short circuit the debilitating notion that easy money is there for the asking. One way this is being done is through income management.
It’s interesting watching the Brough Intervention gain acceptance.  All it took was enough time for some of the more visionary ideas to start working, and for the Rudd government to experience for itself the magnitude of our problem.
Now if our new government can just avoid being hijacked by its own old guard, we might start seeing some real progress.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Sir,- Recently, in the still silence of an early evening, a dog suddenly barked several times from just a couple of rural blocks away. No big deal, I thought, until the animal’s voice rose to a yelp and then a high-pitched continuous scream.
I was transfixed. Had it been run over? No sound of a vehicle.
Amid the terrified screaming came a persistent thump, thump - over and over - until I realised the dog was being flogged.
Sounds carry clearly in the bush; I even heard the perpetrator grunt with his effort, like one hears with some tennis players. After several more thumps and screams a male voice roared, “Get out!”
Did he sink his boot in, I wondered. Did the dog run or slink away, shivering in terror and pain, limping and bruised? Is it alive?
Does that near neighbour on Heffernan Road have the guts to write and explain his actions?
I wonder what dastardly deed the dog might have committed, like dig up precious plants, chew clothing, or piddle against a car tyre or some other treasure? Did it really deserve such cruelty?
Man, get your anger under control. Perhaps you should not keep a dog.
Patricia Nelson
Alice Springs

Sir,- In the early years of self-government, when a range of powers were devolved from the Commonwealth to the NTGovernment, electricity was provided by NTEC - the Northern Territory Electricity Commission, the precursor to the modern PowerWater Corporation.
Nowadays the initials NTEC refer to another NT Government instrumentality, the Northern Territory Electoral Commission, responsible for overseeing the empowerment of enrolled voters in elections.
So there you have it - in one form or another NTEC has always meant power to the people.
(Some might think we suffer many more blackouts in the operation of democracy than in our electricity supply ... )
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs

Sir,- I am an American who, for some reason I haven’t yet figured out, is absolutely fascinated with Alice Springs. It started a couple of months ago while, on a whim after my wife was complaining about problems at her school (she’s a teacher), I googled “teaching positions” and the first result was for a position at a Lutheran school in Alice Springs.
I had never heard of Alice Springs so I decided to see what I could find out about your town. The first images I found looked a lot like the area I grew up in – the Verde Valley in Arizona (near Sedona) – except for the amount of water in the Verde compared to the Todd (the Verde River flows year round).
Anyway, since then I have been trying to learn all I can about “The Alice” (I’ve been an avid reader of the Alice Springs News since I found the site) and am seriously looking into what it would be like to live in Alice Springs.
I do have concerns – about finding a good job, housing and moving to a new country – but there’s something about your town that fascinates me.
I have heard that Australia places great importance on family and friendship.
My country seems to have lost this, and I miss it greatly.  Australia also seems to place a high importance on education – something my country and state have difficulty doing, much to my wife’s frustration.
I would really like to learn more about Alice Springs from those who live there.
Chris Kontz
Glendale, Arizona, USA

ADAM CONNELLY: The circus is coming.

It’s another Saturday morning in the Todd Mall.
People are going about their business. Some are having a cup of coffee at one of the cafes. They read yesterday’s papers because today’s haven’t turned up yet.
Some have been jogging. They do this to look good. Ironically the only time people see them is when they are red, blotchy and unattractively sweaty. 
Others are being asked if they’d like to buy authentic Indigenous art done with day-glo poster paints on bits of cardboard.
Another Saturday morning in the Todd Mall.
As people sip their lattes and their orange and ginger juices, a ruckus is noticed from the top of the mall. Heads turn and conversations subside.
A small but growing group of people is noticed gathering outside the Westpac Bank. This isn’t like a Thursday morning gathering outside the Westpac Bank, this is different. The now medium sized crowd isn’t talking. In fact they aren’t doing much at all except looking upwards.
About 60 people now have gathered together, all with their noses pointing towards the sky. Some people point while others make almost inaudible gasps and giggles.
Metres above the crowd is the focus of the gathering. There on the rooftop of the Alice Plaza is a man. Some people in the crowd below recognise him. He is wearing nothing except for a loincloth to cover his unmentionables. 
On his back is a silver box with two tubes coming out of the base. It can’t be a jet pack can it? He can’t be about to fly off the top of the Alice Plaza can he?
At the same time in the Hartley Street carpark another crowd is gathering. They are watching a woman on a motorcycle. She’s revving it hard and through the visor on her helmet you can almost see the steely determination in her eyes.
In front of her is a large wooden ramp. Behind the ramp, a line of electric cars. Someone in the audience mutters that there are 27 of them. Another member of the crowd whispers that there is one electric car for every year the motorcyclist has been in town. She isn’t really going to jump them is she?
At Traeger Park the press have converged on another man dressed in a sheet. One of the journos figures out that the man is dressed as a swami. That explains the coffee stained skin and the blob of red lipstick on his forehead.
A yellow or red sheet might have been more appropriate however the pink floral bed sheet was what was used. The media scrum collectively sighs and agree to forgive the fashion mistake. The man in the sheet shimmies up the eastern goal post on the northern end of the park, nearest the scoreboard.
As the photographers flash and the reporters shout questions in the hope of getting some form of answer, the man stands one footed on top of the goal post.
He calls out, not to the reporters in particular but to anyone who might be listening that he intends to stay one legged on the goal post for three days. Three days without food, water or toilet breaks.
Throughout the rest of the week a woman tries to walk on water at the aquatic centre. Another woman attempts to surf a sea of green cans down the Todd River and another man decides to hold a fight against a camel.
Late at night in a lounge room somewhere in Gillen a man is watching the late news.
He sees all these amazing feats played out before him on the television. Momentarily stunned by the colour and movement he regains his mind and thinks to himself: “Remember when the only thing mayoral candidates campaigned on was cleaning up the rubbish, fixing the footpaths and turning up to senior citizen morning teas.
What happened to those days?”

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