March 20, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Sparks fly in lead-up to council polls. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The gloves are off in the race for Mayor with a call on apparent front runner, Damien Ryan, to say he is not a stooge for the government.
The call comes from Steve Brown, head of the vocal Advance Alice group, and a candidate for alderman.
Mr Brown is supporting Murray Stewart in his bid for Mayor, but not financially: “I like what he is saying.” 
Mr Ryan vigorously denies the insinuation, saying he is not “a member of the Labor Party nor of the Liberal Party nor have I asked for, solicited or accepted any funds from either party. 
“The funding for my campaign is far from the reported $40,000 being spent by other mayoral candidates in an effort to buy a council position.”
Mr Ryan declined to say who those candidates are.
Neither would he say to whom he is referring in another part of a statement prepared for the Alice Springs News: “The only stooges in this campaign are those who support a mayoral candidate to further their own personal businesses and financial benefit agenda to grease the wheels of property developments to be approved outside of the Northern Territory Development Consent Authority in a Wollongong Council style local building planning authority.”
Mr Ryan was responding to statements by Mr Brown and Ald Stewart in an interview with the News early this week. Ald Stewart says he will not attack any opponent, but when asked what message it would give the government if the town elected Mr Ryan, Ald Stewart said: “It would say we are very happy to go along as we’ve gone along.
“We are very happy to say very little about the wrongful Darwin decisions that you [the government] have made.”
Ald Stewart, who last year was involved in Advance Alice’s patrol of the streets at night, is scathing about “these crusty cocktail suit types who think that sort of thing [patrolling the streets] is beneath them.
“I’m a man of the people. I join with average people to do above average things.”
He says his stance as an alderman has been instrumental in getting additional police, CCTV camera surveillance in the CBD, and dry town legislation.
However, compared to the $10m government spend on fighting anti-social behavior in Darwin-Palmerston, this is a “small drop from the very big Darwin ocean”.
“Ten million bucks, bang, no problem,” says Mr Stewart.
“Three months ago they discovered they had an anti-social problem – they got ten million bucks.
“That is a dead set rip-off.”
Mr Stewart says if he gets voted in, “the government would see the town has given a 100% mandate to someone who believes the town is being ripped off”.
However, some of his opponents, whom he doesn’t name, make “the sort of deals that ‘working with you’ means that you don’t say much about the things they’re doing wrong, and we actually end up going nowhere.
“It’s got nothing to do with Labor or Liberal,” says Mr Stewart. “This is about Alice Springs.
“It just happens to be a Darwin-focussed government.
“For some leaders in this town it is almost a status symbol to build up ‘creds’ with governments of the day, socially and in other ways.
“I haven’t done that.
“I’ve been stridently independent, and therefore I can have meritorious relationships, and be able to strongly represent Alice Springs,” says Mr Stewart.
“This is why they’ll have to work with us, not because I shared with them a short glass with an umbrella in it.”
Mr Brown is more direct, squarely taking aim at Mr Ryan, whom he suspects would carry on the unproductive relationship the current Mayor, Fran Kilgariff, is having with the government.
“What Damien and his camp are saying, they work well with the government, they are part of the establishment, they’ve been working with these people all along,” says Mr Brown.
“That’s what we’ve had. That’s what we’ve seen, not only with Fran for four years.
“That’s what we’ve seen for the past 20 years,” he says.
“Governments say that’s nice, they pat them on the head, there is no irritation.
“When everybody’s in the club people accept what the government puts to them.
“And we get nothing.
“We’re saying we’re not going to be part of that establishment.”
Mr Brown says the council needs to drive its own development, needs to make demands from the government and have the resolve to have them met.
Alice Springs should be booming but “there are so many aspects of the town that haven’t been allowed to develop”.
He says the council is far more than “roads, rates and rubbish and we’ll be polite and let that government do the rest.
Mr Brown says “the plain fact is that Damien is doing deals with [Greens candidate] Jane Clark, he’s been meeting with [Government minder] John Gaynor, who asserted Alice doesn’t have a problem and has gone out of his way to try and shut us up.
“We just see that as an unhealthy alliance.”
Mr Brown says in the wake of the furore over a communication between him and Mr Gaynor, featuring a string of invectives, and Mr Gaynor’s release to the Alice News of notes he took during the private conversation with Mr Brown, his relationship with the government has taken a nosedive.
Mr Brown says he is no longer invited to high-level meetings with bureaucrats and Labor politicians.
What bargaining chips does Alice Springs have in its bid for more resources?
“It is one of the world’s iconic places,” says Mr Brown.
“A place where stories begin.
“We can generate publicity at our whim, pretty well, throughout the world.
“We can use the media for power.”
Mr Ryan says Mr Brown and Mr Stewart “did untold damage to our tourism industry in this town by inviting the television program Today Tonight”.
(Ald. Stewart says he has had nothing to do with inviting the program. He was trying to quell negative publicity when the TV crew had already arrived.)
Mr Ryan says the show “cost Alice Springs over $7.5m in bad publicity that is now being felt by the whole town in declining visitor numbers”. 
This figure of $7.5m is identical to that made by Tourism Minister Kon Vatskalis in the wake of the Haven backpacker resort controversy.
Continues Mr Ryan:”It is this confrontational attitude that has put Alice Springs on the bottom shelf when it comes to Northern Territory Government assistance.”
He says if elected “I will be working co-operatively, but firmly, with the Northern Territory and Federal Governments in the best interests of our town.
“Mr Stewart was the first candidate to contact me seeking a preference deal. 
“Yes, I certainly have spoken to other candidates and I intend to meet with them all before polling day.
“What Mr Brown says about ‘not being on the invite list’ is exactly what I will be working on to avoid.
“A co-operative working relationship is the best way to produce results and funding grants for Alice Springs.
“Mr Brown and Mr Stewart would put this town on a collision course with all governments and other agencies resulting in a further decline of support for Alice Springs.”
“I pit my passion for promoting this town against anyone,” counters Ald Stewart.

Council out in cold on masterplan. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Territory Government has kept the Alice Springs Town Council in the dark on the development of a masterplan to revitalise the CBD although the council owns key assets involved, including Todd Mall and the Hartley Street carpark.
Aldermen were made aware only a fortnight ago, on March 4, about the preliminary masterplan document, which is 12 months old.
This was two days after the Alice News had obtained the document, “Care at a Distance” by Professor Paul Carter, from an unofficial source (see lead article, March 6).
The News had been asking the Territory Government for access to the document since February 25 and asking from earlier than that for an interview with the chair of relevant committee of Moving Alice Ahead.
We were denied both.
At Monday’s committee meeting aldermen expressed confusion, bafflement, anger over their apparent side-lining.
Alderman Melanie van Haaren said she felt like she was “chasing a bus and missed it”.
“Our name [the council’s] appears in the document as supporting the plans, but what are we supporting?”
She questioned the authority of the group leading the discussions and asked for the relevant people to be “invited to the table”.
Ald Robyn Lambley expressed her “total confusion and dissatisfaction”.
“The Alice Springs Town Council council shouldn’t be just one of many on this, we should be leading it.
“Why are we waiting?”
She said the future mayor and council should make the revitalisation plans their number one priority.
“I can’t understand why the coordination role has been given to anyone else.”
She pointed out that it is council who must deal with any complaints and liabilities in the mall.
“What is local government about if it can’t lead the revitalisation of the CBD?”
In one of her final council meetings, as she is not contesting the forthcoming election, Ald Lambley moved that council seek a meeting on the issues with the Territory Government’s most senior public servant, Tony Mayell.
She said council should “communicate to him that it is our view that the council should be the leader in this process”.
All a bit late perhaps and Ald Murray Stewart sensed the poor look.
He sought to recapture the initiative, taking a swipe at “certain sections of the media” who had been “duped” into thinking that it was not council who drove the process.
This was referring, Ald Stewart later told the News, to the Centralian Advocate who ran unquestioningly a media release from mayoral candidate Damien Ryan about revitalisation of the CBD.
The release gave the impression that ideas very similar to those being canvassed behind the scenes were Mr Ryan’s own.
The Alice News questioned Mr Ryan about this at the time: he said he had gleaned the ideas from public sources, and drawn them together, with his point being that council should indeed take the lead role in the project.
Back at Monday’s meeting, Ald Stewart said council had “piloted and promoted” the revitalisation process – met for breakfast, walked through the mall with former director of technical services, Eric Peterson, who developed a report used to apply for funding.
“We have been the driving force and should continue to be and bring others along behind,” said Ald Stewart.
He also praised what had been achieved to date (presumably as laid out in the document): “It’s looking very good.”  But Ald Stewart’s spin was barely finished when Ald Lambley expressed further sense of injury over the appointment of a “project officer” without council’s involvement.
The Alice News understands that this job, a part-time and temporary position, has been given to the Uniting Church’s Rev Tracy Spencer.
Rev Spencer was not named at Monday’s meeting.
Ald Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke asked whether all those walks in the mall had been “a waste of time”. 
CEO Rex Mooney sought to placate the aldermen: it hadn’t been a waste of time, it was “because of council’s actions” and “leading” role that the project was getting somewhere.
Ald van Haaren was not easily convinced: “I don’t know how we can say that we have taken a lead role when we didn’t even know that a consultant [Prof Carter] had been appointed.
“How could it happen?”
Mr Mooney said it was his understanding that the former Chief Minister (Clare Martin) had identified Todd Mall for focus for the NT Government and the government had engaged the consultant.
“It’s the council’s mall but the NT Government provided the money and the movement,” said Mr Mooney.
Ald Meredith Campbell suggested her fellow aldermen were being “defensive”.
She was “sure” the project is “in good hands” but agreed the communication between the parties had been “poor”.
She reminded aldermen that the Uniting Church was a major stakeholder, owning three city blocks fronting the mall.
“We will be brought to the table, let’s move on.”
The situation is yet another example of the tense relationship between the Territory Government and the Town Council.
The News also asked Mr Mooney whether he and the other directors could have done a better job in briefing aldermen.
Mr Mooney said he did not think there had been much progress to report to council on.
He himself was only given the “Care at a Distance” document at a meeting on March 3, passing it on to aldermen the following evening. At this meeting he met Prof Carter for the first time.
Was he surprised at the document being 12 months old?
He said the document was regarded as “just background information”.
He said a “defined steering group” will now be formed to take the project forward, on which council will certainly be represented.
Council is holding in a trust account a grant from the NT Government for $330,000, for unspecified works related to the revitalisation project.
There is question over whether part of those funds will be drawn on to pay for Prof Carter’s consultancy, even though council was unaware till now of his appointment.
This issue will be decided pending discussions with Mr Mayell, says Mr Mooney.

Ociones, McIvor on main issues. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The last candidates for mayor to throw their hat in the ring, trade union organiser Miguel Ociones and architect Angus McIvor, here answer the Alice Springs News survey, What Alice Wants, at
They join 336 respondents to date to have answered  the survey, which will close at 5pm CST this Friday, March 21.
The News will publish the results of the survey in next week’s edition, in time for the outcomes to be considered by voters in the council elections.
Other mayoral candidates have answered the survey in our editions of December 13 & 20, 2007 and February 7 this year.
Mr Ociones, a member of the Labor Party, shows himself to be a free thinker when it comes to issues like a recreation lake and retaining the national parks in public ownership.
Mr McIvor, in keeping with his profession, keeps a close eye on development issues and interestingly, does not want to see town planning in council hands, fearing the potential for a Wollongong-style scandal. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. 

1. Convert the Civic Centre to a place where visitors are welcomed. It should include a museum celebrating Central Australia’s natural beauty, its art, ancient Aboriginal culture, and the pioneering skills of living in a remote area. This would include expanded space for Tourism Central Australia, and facilities for social and other functions for visitors and locals alike. Move the majority of the town council bureaucracy to office accommodation elsewhere in town.
OCIONES: I agree, but the museum should be separate, so it’s easy to staff it. There should be a new building for it, but, of course, this would cost money.
McIVOR: That should have happened when Paul Quinlivan put together the report on purchasing the Greatorex Building instead of redeveloping the current cavernous space.
The town has lost an opportunity by not locating Solar Cities into a shopfront style space in the heart of the Civic Centre, not wasting big money on the space Adam Giles just vacated on a five year lease. We could have got people into the Civic Centre by using a Solar Cities office as the drawcard!
2. Open up cheap residential and industrial land. Create powerful incentives for people and industries to move here.
We need affordable accommodation for people working here, and for first home buyers.
OCIONES: Yes. We have to plan for growth. If supply of land is restricted then only a limited number of people can have land, and new investors are excluded.
McIVOR: Very good but not forgetting the infrastructure!
3. Build one or more recreation lakes within a 100km radius of Alice Springs, which can also be integrated in the water supply.
OCIONES: Yes, there is a need for that, but we must think of the cost of maintenance and environmental consequences. You would need to have people willing to provide services such as kayaking.
McIVOR: Yes. The town is too boring and it needs good stuff to keep people in town.
4. Put tourist promotion into the hands of locals, for example, Tourism Central Australia, who know the game and get bang for buck.
OCIONES: I agree. It would be pratical for people within Alice Springs to handle it. People outside don’t know the needs and opportunities.
McIVOR: Yes, as Lori Ventura said, why are we paying big money for promotion in UK when they tell tourists not to come here!
5. Double the available water supply, including through recycling.
OCIONES: I agree. We need the supply to last. A lake could also help making the water supply adequate for the town.
McIVOR: Yes. Let the water be re-used as often as practicable.
6. Move the power station, the garbage dump and the sewage plant well outside the town.
OCIONES: Yes. We could then use that land for residential purposes.
McIVOR: Good idea.
7. Develop, in collaboration with private enterprise, tourist facilities in the West and East MacDonnell National Parks.
OCIONES: Yes. For example, it’s not well advertised that the Eastern MacDonnells have a lot to offer as well. There are many opportunities both in the East and West MacDonnells.
McIVOR: Yes. We as a town are getting bypassed. Tourists only hear about Ayers Rock and head off there to get fried by the heat when they could visit a waterhole west of here and enjoy themselves and spend money in our town.
8. Leave all national parks in public ownership but set up an Aboriginal park management advisory body.
OCIONES: I agree with that. I know that I am in conflict with the policy of the NT Government and NT Labor but I am only a small part of the Labor Party here.
McIVOR: I agree.
9. Put in place flood mitigation that will reliably save the town from catastrophic loss of life and damage resulting from storms increasingly likely to occur because of climate change.
OCIONES: Yes. Have a look at the 100 year flood map. A lot of the newly developed residential areas, in the Gap and the new Bradshaw areas, will be seriously affected, as well as the CBD, of course.
McIVOR: Yes. Computer modelling shows the 100 year floodwater 1.5 metres up my wall at home in the Old Gaol Hose. Billy Goat Hill would turn into “Rocky Island” and we would have ourselves to blame for not acting now. Look at Katherine and the floods that hit that town!
10. Create farmlets at Rocky Hill, near the new gaol and on Arid Zone Research Facility land so that small fruit and vegetable growing enterprises can be created, both for the local and interstate markets.
OCIONES: That’s a good idea and it is very practical. It can be done easily. Apart from the local market, when there is flooding interstate we could sell there.
McIVOR: I say no. Overproduction in Australian Agriculture is a big problem for producers. I came from a prime lamb and wool background and when everyone gets into the act the profits dry up and people go broke! Be it mangoes, avocadoes, lavender etc it all goes to “shit” when too much is produced. Some of the rural blocks are so crammed with rusting junk, car bodies containers and crud that the general visual amenity of their neighbours is affected.
11. Achieve greater autonomy for The Centre by bringing senior bureaucrats back to Alice Springs.
OCIONES: I agree with it, as long as they have decision-making power.
If they live here they will better understand our problems, rather than taking instructions from Darwin.
McIVOR: Yes. The brain drain goes on and on to Darwin.
12. Place the responsibility for town planning in the southern region of the NT with Alice Town Council, together with appropriate funding from the NT Government.
OCIONES: I agree. It’s more practical. We should have autonomy. We should make the decisions affecting our town.
McIVOR: No way ! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Current council could not handle the responsibility. One word to sum it up? WOLLONGONG.
Council would be too open to corruption and too intent on serving interest groups, unable to look at the long term good.
13. Set up an Aboriginal cultural centre, featuring bush foods, corroborees and other entertainment and educational elements alongside the Desert Park.
OCIONES: The new performance venue apparently planned for the Desert Park could serve that purpose as well.
McIVOR: Yes. This is starting to happen with the interactive display out there [at the Desert Park] where you can throw a spear and look at bush tucker. Aboriginal Culture is what tourists come here to find.
14. Seek better cooperation with Centrecorp and other Aboriginal interests.
OCIONES: It’s much better to work cooperatively than against each other.
McIVOR: Yes. I would love to see that happening.
15. Require shopping centers to have public toilets. The council should provide further public ablution facilities around town, including showers.
OCIONES: Not sure about showers. But we should not have to pay for the use of toilets. In other shopping malls around Australia the tenants share the cost of maintaining toilets.
McIVOR: Shopping centres that have toilets mean that people especially with kids stay longer and enjoy the experience. When I go to KMart the toilets put me off.
16. Create and enforce public conduct standards.
OCIONES: I am indifferent to that, whilst I don’t disagree. What would it take? Do we have to be dictatorial? I am more inclined to use education. Clubs enforce conduct rules. Should we as well? There should be discussion about that. It’s how you implement this, that’s my concern.
McIVOR: I would bring in a $50 on the spot littering fine and try and seek more police involvement at night. If people fail to pay they get a sanction. The police should be the ones monitoring the Mall CCTV otherwise it is another waste of public money.
17. Create two camps for visitors from bush communities, whilst strictly enforcing laws against unauthorized camping, littering and public drinking.
OCIONES: I agree with that. It’s getting out of control, while there is no proper accommodation for these people. The council must lobby the Federal and NT governments to get this done.
McIVOR: Visitors camps if properly designed would improve the life of people coming to football, for family support and health reasons for sure. But I myself like the way Stuart Lodge works now (swipe card, security and looks good), and I believe we have moved beyond the camp mentality. I am really not keen on the donga proposal offered previously.
18. There should be stringent take-away alcohol restrictions to reduce harm to a large segment of our community, and to curb anti-social behavior.
OCIONES: I agree with that. It’s being abused, it’s too easy to buy alcohol. For example, the $100 limit without ID is meaningless. You can take the first lot of alcohol away and come straight back and buy more. It needs to be much more stringent than that.
McIVOR: Lots of the drinkers in the park in front of my home are slowly killing themselves and need help. Their drunken actions are penalising the wider community who like a drink. I enjoy a drink and would not like to see a “Thirsty Thursday” stopping me from buying.

Habib seeks third term to "finish a few things". By KIERAN FINNANE.

When the Federal Government decided to send police into Indigenous communities in June last year, Alderman Samih Habib was acknowledged by his fellow aldermen for what looked like greater political realism than they’d given him credit for.
At the end of April, after repeated appeals to the NT Government had fallen on deaf ears, he had put forward a motion to appeal to the federal police commissioner “to help restore law and order in the streets of Alice Springs”.
The suggestion was initially decried as over the top, but Ald Habib, in his thickly accented but often to-the-point English, won the argument and gained majority support for his motion.
A letter to the effect was probably written and in any case events took over, with the Federal Government soon deeply engaged in intervening in law and order in the Territory.
The motion is worth recalling now as an example of Ald Habib’s attack on things.
He cares nothing for the bureaucratic reflexes of the local political culture – consultations, studies, surveys.
He’d rather take his cue from “the public” – the people he talks to in the streets and local cafes – and then find ways to tackle problems head on.
He shows little sign of reading his “papers” – the mass of reports prepared for aldermen by the executive; at council meetings there are often mutterings about this from those aldermen who read everything.
And despite two terms on council – that’s eight years – he shows little sign of adapting to the conventions of meetings: if he wants to say something he’ll say it, out of turn, out of order, very often with a dose of humour thrown in.
But none of this is to say that Ald Habib is not a worthwhile member of council.
He keeps his sole guiding principle – what’s good for the town – at the forefront of every issue.
As with other aldermen, it’s his take on what’s good for the town, but he is never so eloquent as on the subject of young people, black and white – their need for support, resources, opportunities as well as a strong sense of what’s right and wrong.
Ald Habib also devotes a considerable amount of time to behind the scenes work – lobbying for a second airline, for example; lobbying the federal government to come good with the financial support promised for the airport’s international charter operations.
He is please with the apparent success on both.
He is the only alderman standing for re-election who is not putting himself forward as a candidate for mayor.
And he may have given it some thought had he been fully retired: he has no doubt about the more than fulltime commitment involved.
His obligations to his business interests are not fulltime but he says he has more time now than in the past “to give back to the community”.
He would also like to “finish a few things” – in particular the walking and bike paths along the Todd River, which have been a pet project, and other beautification work around town, including stage two of the footpath program and verge tree planting.
“The town really needs this – it’s looking tired.”
He says the current council has had its attention taken up by four “big achievements” – the introduction of “Dry Town”, Opal fuel, the Aquatic Centre, and Alice Solar City. 
In none of these matters has council acted alone, but aldermen and the mayor have worked “very hard” on all, says Ald Habib.
“Looking back this has been a good council, but we don’t have the power and resources to make things move quicker.”
A developer and owner of substantial real estate, he says a top priority for the new council should be to lobby for land releases – “desperately needed”.
He would also like to see council push to take over town planning responsibilities: “We live under the mercy of the Minister”.
He says the department has blamed land shortage in Alice on native title issues, yet at a meeting late last year with the native title holder body, Lhere Artepe, which he attended with Mayor Fran Kilgariff and CEO Rex Mooney, he found the chairman keen “to get land moving”.
“It’s the government who’s been playing softly, softly,” says Ald Habib.
“The council has the town in its heart more than politicians, we should not be out of town planning,” says Ald Habib.
He would also like to see council invest far more in tourism – at least $500,000, he says, to undertake promotions in partnership with Tourism NT and Tourism Central Australia.
Something in the budget would have to give, wouldn’t it?
“We would have to tighten our belts. We have a $24m budget, surely we can find half a million for tourism, give it a priority.”
In the past downturns in tourism have always been seen “as someone else ‘s problem”, says Ald Habib.
“We can’t ignore tourism any more, we have to be a player.”
He sees Dry Town failures as due to insufficient police numbers.
He calls for a rehabilitation centre for alcohol and drug addicts, suggesting a farm-based approach, on land at the government-owned Owen Springs – “so these people can start a new life”.
He says everyone – Aboriginal people and the whole community – have paid the price for the “political stunt” behind the failure of plans to provide short-term accommodation for bush visitors.
He scoffs at the idea that no suitable land could be found – “it’s a joke, a sad joke, not a funny one”.
Council has to be “a major player” in pushing for a solution in the future.
He laments the state of the town camps; suggests Tangentyere Council has spread itself too thinly; can not understand why Tangentyere has resisted council’s offer “to clean a few of the camps. I would repeat the offer if council agreed, because at the end of the day, we are one town, one community.”
He declines to comment on any other candidates, saying he’s willing to work with anyone who is elected.  

Is tree planting rocket science? By KIERAN FINNANE.

With another summer of baking, near treeless streets in the Alice CBD under our belts, the Alice News asked the Town Council why tree planting progresses so slowly in the heart of the town.
We met with director of technical services, Greg Buxton, and supervisor of parks and gardens, Scott Allen.
The short answer is that council is waiting, as are we all, for the release of the masterplan for the CBD.
However, this doesn’t mean that no trees at all have been planted, but the experience is not a happy one.
As part of the work done in the river and on its banks at the Wills Terrace causeway and along Leichardt Terrace, council put in 200 plants including native grasses: they were all uprooted overnight.
Council suggested that verge trees be included as part of the development permission for the Yeperenye extensions, which were completed last year.
This recommendation was taken up by the Development Consent Authority (DCA) and the developer duly planted three native species outside the premises of the Commonwealth Bank.
When the News spoke to Mr Buxton the developer had had to replace the trees three times.
When the News photographed the trees earlier this week, one had disappeared altogether (picture at right), and the others appeared to be doing poorly.
No thanks either to passers by: someone had left a shopping trolley (left) on top of one of the young plants.
The kind of protective barriers used on trees outside the Post Office are not sufficient to prevent the wanton vandalism, says Mr Buxton.
He says he would be keen to see any new developments in the CBD incorporate verge trees but it is up to the DCA “to listen”. 
In suburban areas, there is a better success rate, and a two for one replacement policy is implemented.
Replanting is done during the cooler weather.
The latest audit of verge trees in town puts their number at 9000 (this doesn’t include main roads, where plantings are the responsibility of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport). 

Make rules for bush visitors work: Rawnsley. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The protocols for visitors to Alice Springs, developed a year ago by the native title holder body Lhere Artepe, are consistent with the broad views of the general public and should be re-invigorated, says aspiring alderman John Rawnsley.
With typical understatement, the carefully spoken candidate – at 27 the youngest of the field – says it is the view of many people that the protocols are not adhered to, especially in relation to public drunkenness and littering.
He says the town council in the past has done some work in partnership with native title holders: now by-laws supporting the protocols should be put in place. He suggests that council rangers would issue infringement notices where the by-laws were not being observed.
“Council rangers are on the ground every day. They know the people and their practices.”
Native title holders, with police, would issue trespass notices for repeat infringements.
The return to country program would then assist people if necessary to go back to their home communities.
If the trespass notices were infringed, more punitive measures would be pursued.
These would be have to be negotiated and could involve a legislative response from the NT Government. 
But whatever the measures, they would have to constitute a “strong disincentive” to reoffend.

LETTERS: Long time Aboriginal friends check his growing cynicism.

Sir,- I’m fortunate in knowing many strong Aboriginal and mixed race families, and these friendships spanning many years provide some check to my growing cynicism.
While grog and alcoholics are present in most of these extended families, the rights of all to food and shelter is a priority.
Respected family members include those who work for a living, a surprising number of teetotalers, and others who drink responsibly – and the children watch everything and learn.
On the grog spectrum I also know families that have a daily battle with alcoholics and – through the heroic efforts of one strong woman – somehow function but it can’t be said that these families thrive.
I can say with reasonable certainty that the women in most of these families are respected and protected and this leads me to conclude that human potential is unlikely to flourish in homes where the women are systematically bashed and afraid.
Unfortunately, it is the hardened alcoholics that are extending their negative peer group and seem to have achieved a potent critical mass in Alice Springs. Recently, when I asked after a knowledgeable law-man, the “elder” of a binge drinking school responded: “He’s not a real blackfella - he won’t drink with us”. The impressionable young “initiates” laughed too loud and spoke in practiced grog metaphors – one young man speculated, “… probably they drink grog on the moon.”
This “ceremony” could last several months and for many a lifetime.
The bleak alcoholic future on offer to the next generation remains virtually unchallenged – the hearts and minds war has been lost for another summer. Most alcoholics still believe their binge drinking is not harming them, their families or the wider community, and an alarming number of women still believe that husbands have a right to beat their wives!
Young people seem only vaguely aware that drug abuse could have catastrophic effects on their long-term mental health. Gut-wrenching advertising and innovative public education can’t solve these problems but it would be a start.
Alcohol will eventually return to the town camps. For anyone trying to survive within a grog or drug culture, resistance must seem futile – often the only option is to join the party and synchronise your waking and sleeping patterns with the dictates of the majority.
With or without the ‘intervention’ our community could turn this situation around. We must look at pre-emptive police patrols at (say) 10.30 - 11 pm that target serial party houses. A friendly request to turn down the music or lose your stereo player works in most suburbs.
A small number of targeted arrests for disturbing the peace would also improve the viability, school attendance and work readiness of whole neighbourhoods. These are simple and logical measures in communities where people are unlikely to complain about their neighbours for fear of repercussions. Such strategies may also reduce the frequency of stand-offs with a hundred rampaging drunks defying a handful of police.
Regretfully the transition period is likely to involve more paperwork and an initial spike in arrest and incarceration rates so we are going to need politicians who can put the future of this community before their fear of public relations and statistics.
Mike Gillam
Alice Springs

Sir,- Lest anyone think we are only concerned with ourselves here in Yuendumu, we are heartened by our new government’s actions.
At last something is being done about teenage binge drinking. Having experienced at first hand the previous government’s great initiatives on Aboriginal communities we consider ourselves qualified to recommend a course of action to deal with this festering blight on our society.
The government has already recognized that teenage binge drinking is a national crisis. They’ve seized on the ‘Teenagers are Precious’ report and are in the process of writing 500 pages of emergency legislation.
To make this legislation more effective, the Commonwealth Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination Act will be suspended, as well as any state civil liberties acts.
The Minister for Teenage Affairs has already announced measures to initially stabilize the 1250 urban centres identified as being dysfunctional as a result of having a serious binge drinking situation.
Before the end of March, military support teams will be sent to these towns, quickly followed by volunteer teams of
Alcoholics Anonymous personnel. Compulsory inebriation checks will be carried out on all teenagers.
The Commonwealth should take five year leases over these prescribed centers (as a first step towards 99 year leases). All houses should be taken over by Commonwealth Housing as poor housing conditions and overcrowding have been identified as a major cause of binge drinking.
The Commonwealth should appoint centre business managers. These should be very highly paid so as to attract high caliber people to run the lives of those incapable of doing anything for themselves. A top priority should be to build accommodation for these managers. A demountable surrounded with a two metre high chain wire fence topped by three strands of barbed wire is suggested. Preferably in someone’s sleeping area.
Cost should be no obstacle, so critical is the situation, that a budget of at least $2 billion is recommended. A bargain when compared with 100 second hand army tanks.
To reduce income available to buy grog in these places, we strongly recommend that income quarantining be introduced. In these prescribed areas, all Centrelink payments should be “income managed”. Half of recipients’ entitlements should be quarantined and only be able to be redeemed at Coles, Woolworths or a designated remote village store.
Should any of these teenagers not attend school regularly, their entire family entitlement should be withdrawn.
Increased penalties should be mandatory for consuming liquor, which should be banned in these prescribed urban centres. Any local employment schemes should be scrapped as they have not prevented outbreaks of binge drinking.
All local comments or opposition to these initiatives should be condemned or ignored, as these locals (teenagers and others) have clearly failed to effectively deal with the problem themselves.
Frank Baarda

Sir,- The owners of the Haven backpacker hostel in Alice Springs have completed a detailed investigation of events leading up to a group of guests leaving the hostel on March 8.
As a joint owner I state that hostel management did not ask guests travelling as part of a Royal Life Saving Society of Australia group, some of whom are Aboriginal, to leave their accommodation. The group was, in fact, encouraged to stay.
As owners we are disappointed and sorry for the upset and embarrassment this situation has caused these people.
The hostel manager had earlier tried to deal with complaints from international tourists about Aboriginal guests staying at the hostel.
Our investigation reveals:
• The hostel manager received a complaint from international backpackers about Aboriginal people who had checked into the hostel as part of a Royal Life Saving Society of Australia group;
• The manager was unable to allay the backpackers’ concerns and offered to move the backpackers to other accommodation. The lifesaving group was not asked to move;
• The manager was told that other backpackers were also complaining;
• The manager advised both parties of their respective views, that she was prepared to move the complainants and assured the lifesaving group that they were welcome to stay;
• An organiser with the lifesaving group told the manager that they felt uncomfortable and they wanted to leave;
• The manager offered to seek alternative accommodation once the lifesaving group decided to leave and did so in consultation with them;
• An organiser with the lifesaving group then asked for a night’s accommodation payment ($480) for the whole group, which was provided by the manager. Subsequently another organiser decided not to take the money and returned it to the manager.
Our firm does not tolerate racial discrimination in any form and, in fact, we promote cultural experiences to our guests.
Greg Zammit
Alice Springs

Sir,- Here I am thinking that those days of discrimination were gone – it seems I am sadly wrong.
I was listening to the radio and heard about the 15 lifesavers-in-training from Yuendumu who were told to leave their accommodation at the Haven because it was for internationals, and also because other guests were scared of them.
I am furious because we should be celebrating the fact that these Aboriginal people are excited about their community, want it to work, and are getting the knowledge to make it work. Scared of them? I think not.
Yuendumu, stand straight and tall, you’re on the way to great things.
Lifeguards, keep up the good work.
Glenys Lord
New Zealand

Sir,- I found a wonderful, exciting and vibrant community in the mid fifities and determined to make my future in this place called Alice Springs, the centre of cattle and mining country at that time.
Returning jobless in 1969, I found a bustling growing town with a destiny, an excitement and a need for enterprising young business men and women to shake off the shackles imposed by administration from Canberra.
That was nearly 40 years ago and history shows that a dynamic town grew out of the efforts of these men and women who formed a conservative political union which still survives in the Territory today.
We of those left behind also must face the challenges that are looming and endorse the intervention for recognising the needs to assist those who are ready to move forward with us in this century.
Alice Springs has seen the emergence of business and community groups that have positively attempted to deal with our social issues and to provide dynamic solutions to forward our town’s prosperity. 
The success of their efforts will only be exemplified by voting for Murray Stewart as our new mayor. 
Steve Brown is also deserving of our support, unlike some traditional Central Australians, he has not been afraid to say it how it is.
My family and I have invested a lot of our time, effort and money into this town. 
I am so hopeful you will feel the same way.
Ian Builder
Alice Springs

Sir,- It is my hope that the new council, while appreciating the big projects, can now get down to the details of making the Alice more livable. Lose sight of the detail and I would argue you risk losing the civic plot.
An unfortunate example of this is the spat happening between the National Road Transport Hall of Fame and the Rotary-supported Henley On Todd committee.
We can all get back to basics and make our own contributions to creating a better town.
However, the real livability and future of the town I feel rests with the professional planners and the many locals who have developed their thinking of our region over many decades.
If the new council genuinely picks up on the ideas of turning the fortress mentality inside out we, the public, will be the beneficiaries of a better town. One of council’s challenges and responsibilities is to achieve the public ownership of these very public redevelopments.
The argument put forward by Mike Gillam in the Alice News (February 21) to change council buildings in order to serve as an inspirational multi-purpose visitor centre has my support.
So far, council has not faced these important issues.
David Chewings
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: Lifestyle is in the eye of the beholder.

Australia is a strange place. We are the only continent united as a single nation. We are the only continent united by a single language.
We cite the spirit of the ANZACs, the ideals of class-free mateship and of a fair go for all.
We all full throatedly sing Waltzing Matilda and even mumble our way through Advance Australia Fair. We are one but we are many.
Yet truth be told we hate each other. Coming from New South Wales, I cannot stand Queenslanders. I have a deep patronising distaste for banana benders.
I’d hate to be caught in a lift with a Queenslander, I’d almost prefer to be in there with a Victorian.
We all have these prejudices ingrained from birth. We are breastfed this particularly Australian brand of geopolitical parochialism. Adelaide versus Melbourne, Melbourne versus Sydney, Sydney versus Brisbane, Brisbane versus anyone who has learned to spell, it’s all there from the start.  Alice Springs isn’t immune either. We have a certain level of disdain for people from Darwin. We scoff at the backward ways of Tennant Creek and don’t get us started on Adelaide. 
A by-product of this parochialism is the need to dub ourselves the “something capital of Australia”. Economically it makes sense, I suppose. Canowindra in central New South Wales is the self-proclaimed ballooning capital of Australia. Calling them the place to go for balloons is a great way of telling those people into balloons that they need go to Canowindra. 
Wycliff Well is the UFO capital of Australia. If you are a total nutbag, you might want to get along. Try the space chips at the road house. Chips and glitter, yummy!
If you love beef then you simply must go to Casino. I love beef but I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t care for it enough to plan a holiday in Casino on the back of that love.
That’s the point really, isn’t it? While those that say they are the something capital of Australia say it is for the economic and tourism boost, most of the time it’s nothing more than blatant grandstanding.
Adelaide calls itself the arts capital of Australia. They might be right but I’ve got to tell you when I was growing up the only art I knew about from Adelaide was Cold Chisel, ACDC and Here’s Humphrey. Not exactly the hoi poloi of the Bolshoi. 
I’m also convinced that there is a fair swathe of artistic pursuit in Sydney and Melbourne and here in Alice Springs.
My hometown of Sydney calls itself the lifestyle capital of Australia.
I’m not even sure what that really means but I know a Sydney with a two hour commute home from work on a failing public transport system to a house as big as a medium sized bathroom that cost $1.3 million. That’s a lifestyle you can keep.
We even have some places that find being something capital of Australia too restrictive. Coober Pedy calls itself the Opal Capital of the World.
Quite the grand statement for a place that looks so awful they put it underground. 
Alice Springs doesn’t really have such a claim. Well except for the murder capital of Australia. I’m not sure we want that on the tea towls, spoons and t-shirts to be honest. The closest we get is “The gateway to Central Australia”. Poor form, Alice!
Last weekend I was a part of one of 25 sporting grand finals in town. That’s a 2 followed by a 5! We are sports crazy in Alice Springs. Yet Melbourne claims to be the sporting capital of Australia.
All they had was a formula one grand prix. That’s it. Yet we, a town of 28,000, had 25 grand finals. I’m going to write to the Prime Minister and if Rudd knocks us back then I’ll write to the Privy Council if I have to but, rest assured, I shall not stop until we the people of Alice Springs are known as the sporting capital of Australia.

Youth drama: the body beautiful. By DARCY DAVIS.

Body image among young people is the subject of Mirage, this year’s play for the Youth Drama Forum, at the Totem Theatre on April 5 and 6.
The drama is being produced by the best of the Year 8 drama students from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College.
The subject of the play is the brainchild of OLSH drama coordinator, Suruli Rajan Kandasamy, in the hope of helping to prevent Alice Springs kids from falling prey to  the body image epidemic.
“I read a recent survey done by the Eating Disorder Association of Australia which said that one in four teenage girls and one in three teenage boys suffer from eating disorders,” said Mr Kandasamy.
“It was brought to my attention at last year’s Youth Drama Forum where it was highlighted as a key issue amongst today’s youths.
“I began writing the play last year, but it’s been fine tuned by psychologists, school counsellors and hospital dieticians to make it as accurate as possible.”
Last year Mr Kandasamy’s drama class put on the play Journey, which dealt with the issues of teenage pregnancy, bullying, divorced parents, and the implications of not completing high school, tying together the stories of four different characters.
This year, Mirage deals with body image problems and eating disorders through three characters – Anne, suffering from anorexia, Kate, who is bulimic, and the third is Max, a guy who is suffering from negative body image.
All three share a similar goal of attaining a perfect self-image, the mirage they will never get to.
“The characters show how teenagers take extreme measures to try and become picture perfect,” said Mr Kandasamy.
The characters express their body issues through soliloquies as individuals, but only the character of “Inner Voice”, played by Annelise Doecke, speaks the truth.
“People call me all kinds of names but I don’t care!
“Some say I look sick, my mother says I am too thin for a 14 year old girl and some of the nasty girls in school call me anorexic,” says character Anne, introducing herself.
Character Kate explains how she became bulimic: “I don’t know when I first started feeling like this but I look at myself in the mirror and see this fat person standing there and it looks really disgusting.”
“I look skinny, scrawny and ugly.
“These are the words that describe how I feel about myself,” says body-conscious character Max.
There’s been a real dedication from the young actors to do this play justice.
“Sometimes the kids don’t go for recess but instead come to the drama room to practice their lines or parts of the play,” said Mr Kandasamy.
“It’s been difficult to get the emotions right,” said Samuel Crowe who plays Max.
“It’s quite a complex play.”
The actors appeared to have learnt a lot about the play’s themes and the ideas conveyed.
“If you look closely you can see these problems around you, but it’s a difficult issue to deal with,” said Mekaela Bennion who plays Anne. 
“That’s why we’re putting on this play, to help get the message across.”
“It’s surprising how much the kids pick up!” said Mr Kandasamy, “they really know more than we think!”  Mirage is a free show but you must get tickets from OLSH college Traeger Campus.
There will also be a free sausage sizzle … so you don’t starve. Call Mr Kandasamy (Raj) on 0439 363826 for details.

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