May 29, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Are CCTV cameras in Todd Mall a waste of money? By KIERAN FINNANE.

Well over half a million dollars have already been spent, and projected outlays for the next four financial years are well over another half million: all that for CCTV in Todd Mall from which, international and national research shows, we can have no firm expectations in terms of its impact on crime.
There is now an equity issue involved in the funding of the Alice system: the Town Council is making submissions to the Territory Government that they fully fund the monitoring costs and that they pay for the expansion of the surveillance.
To date the Territory Government granted $150,000 towards capital costs and agreed to pay half the monitoring cost for the first year – contributions agreed to in the wake of the now notorious public booing of former Chief Minister Clare Martin. (The $300,000  from the Federal Government towards crime prevention measures, announced by MHR Warren Snowdon on Monday, is the fulfillment of an election promise and has effectively already been spent by council on the CCTV installation.)
The council are making their case to the Territory Government for further funding particularly in light of the government’s commitment to spend $3.125m over three years on CCTV in Darwin and Palmerston.
Alice Council CEO Rex Mooney says there is nothing in the NT Budget papers to suggest that the government has made any provision to pay for CCTV in Alice Springs.
But even if the government were to find the money, would it simply be throwing good money after bad?
Back in 2003 the council commissioned an expert in CCTV research, Dean Wilson from the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University, to look at the feasibility and advisability of installing CCTV in Todd Mall as a crime prevention measure.
Dr Wilson advised strongly against the measure: primarily because the overall level of offending in the mall could not justify the expenditure and that alternative crime prevention measures had not been attempted.
To the Alice Springs News this week he said: “I think alternative measures may have produced superior outcomes, if there had been the political will to try them.”
In 2003 he wrote: “There is consensus amongst CCTV researchers and policy makers that CCTV should be regarded as a measure of last resort,” he wrote.
“CCTV is a very expensive and administratively intensive crime prevention measure whose results can often be less than satisfactory. In considering any crime problem in a location other initiatives should first be considered and implemented in preference to surveillance cameras.”
Among “planned measures” at the time were a lighting strategy; a youth drop-in centre and youth night patrol.
Stage one of the lighting strategy had already been implemented in 2002-03; and stage two was completed in the following year.
Further lighting throughout the CBD, “to highlight and entertain”, is on the council’s wish list for the CBD revitalisation.
However, five years later there is no recreational youth drop-in centre in Todd Mall and no plans for one.
The only drop-in and recreational service is at the Alice Springs Youth Centre in Wills Tce, much in need of refurbishment. The centre, though open to any youth, mainly caters for children in the 13 to 15 years age bracket and closes in the early evening.
Later closing (9pm) in the school holidays was trialled last summer and is likely to be trialled again this winter.
Congress operates an after-hours crisis response centre in the Westpoint Building (opposite Billygoat Hill) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights (8pm to 1am). This includes “outreach patrols” from 10.30pm to 1am which encourage young people to go home and can provide transport.
Tangentyere Council operates a youth night patrol, also on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm to 1am. They have not yet heard whether their funding for this service will continue after July 1.
The patrol focusses on the CBD and other public areas where young people are hanging out.
In the 2003 study Dr Wilson noted that anti-social behaviour in the mall is often alcohol-related and that “it is generally acknowledged surveillance cameras have little or no deterrent effect on individuals who are drug and alcohol affected”.
Given the proximity of the Alice police station to the mall and limitations of available police resources and the already intensive policing of the mall, he questioned whether “even an actively monitored CCTV system could secure responses any more rapid that those presently experienced”.
A physical presence, either by police or security guards, “would have a greater effect on anti-social behaviour”, he wrote.
Vandalism, especially broken windows, was the major problem identified by the 15 mall traders Dr Wilson interviewed.
There had been 37 window breakages in the preceding 12 months.
The cost of repairs of the windows was estimated at $65,000 all up – half the cost of the current partial CCTV monitoring.
While international research showed that CCTV could reduce vandalism in some locations, there was no certainty that it would, he noted.
Recent comments on the local experience of CCTV thus far, from Mayor Damien Ryan and Police Superintendent Sean Parnell, have referred to the public feeling safer in the mall as a result of the presence of CCTV cameras. 
However, Dr Wilson in his 2003 study, suggested that perceptions that the mall was unsafe were likely to be reduced with the implementation of the planned lighting strategy.
“Lighting has been demonstrated to reduce fear of crime, particularly for women,” he noted.
Dr Wilson suggested in 2003 that crime prevention initiatives for the mall lacked coordination and a clearly articulated idea of what they were intended to achieve.
He asked: “What sort of public space is it envisaged that Todd Mall will become?”
This is a question being pursued through the current round of community consultations over revitalisation of the Alice CBD.
But while the answers are being gathered the CCTV dollars are piling up.
Alice is not alone as a regional centre to go down the CCTV path.  A discussion of “open street CCTV” by Dr Wilson and Adam Sutton in Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice (#271, November, 2003) noted that while the systems “were initially located in the central business districts of capital cities, there is a notable trend toward public space surveillance in smaller regional and rural centres and in suburban locations”.
At the time the Northern Territory was the only jurisdiction in Australia not to have CCTV.
The authors wrote: “Economic and political pressures for CCTV systems can have negative consequences.
“Once the CCTV concept has gained sufficient momentum, alternative community safety measures, particularly social ones, are seldom considered.
“Councils may then be locked into substantial ongoing expenditures (for monitoring and so on).
“This may be no great problem for wealthier municipalities such as Melbourne or Sydney, but can represent a considerable burden for smaller regional centres.
“Finally, once commitment has been made there is a tendency for those with an investment in a system to make grandiose claims about its likely and actual achievements.”
In the same paper the authors recommend “preinstallation research” to avoid “knee jerk installation”.
Ironically, Alice Spring Town Council had sensibly commissioned such research and had Dr Wilson’s comprehensive report to hand.
This still didn’t save aldermen from a “knee-jerk” decision at the end of 2006 when angst over actual and perceived crime and delinquency in Alice brought a rowdy and at times intimidating group of residents, including business people, into the public gallery of council meetings.
Aldermen, led by Murray Stewart, Samih Habib, Melanie van Haaren and David Koch, rejected the officers’ clear preference for a wait and see approach on the issue and ignored then Mayor Fran Kilgariff’s warning about voting for a policy that didn’t have an up to date costing (Dr Wilson’s costing was then three years old).
Only Ald Jane Clark dissented from the vote in favour of CCTV. (See Alice News web archive, November 2 and December 6, 2006). Is it all too late?
The cameras are there but it is not too late for council, and the public, to make decisions about further commitments to monitoring and expansion of the system – decisions based on evidence and reflection about the kind of environment we want to create in Todd Mall.

Council wants to boost spend for tourism, freeze pay for aldermen. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council’s spending on support for tourism will be tripled, while aldermanic allowances will be frozen for the next financial year if the council’s draft business plan is approved.
The public have until close of business Monday June 23 to comment on the plan, put on display last Friday.
Striving for a balance between fiscal responsibility and innovation, the newly elected Eleventh Council are proposing an 8.65% increase in rates revenue to underpin the plan – at the higher end of recent increases but not as high as a feared 10%.
The actual rates levied on individual properties will depend on valuations. 
An additonal $25 waste management charge is also proposed for town residents (the charge for rural residents remains the same).
This reflects the true cost of waste management, calculated by council’s new environment officer, said financial director, Chris Kendrick, at a press conference last Friday.
CEO Rex Mooney commented on the lack of subdivision activity that would bring more ratable properties into town.
He said the council will make strong representations at the June 5 planning forum about the need for more ratable properties.
Aldermen decided not to increase their allowances even though the Local Government Association of the NT guidelines suggest that they are underpaid by about 25%, said Mayor Damien Ryan.
Aldermen are also proposing to put aside $395,000 for future rehabilitation of the landfill, adding to $620,000 already in reserve for this purpose.
The money will be invested in long-term high interest accounts.
Rehabilitation is expected to cost around $10m, a burden that will have to be met by the Thirteenth and subsequent councils, said Mr Ryan.
Cash reserves will be increased from $100,000 to $300,000. This is to provide working capital during the period from July to September when there is no cash flowing to council for the new financial year, said Ms Kendrick.
The tourism allocation, increased from $20,000 to $60,000, will be used to support visits to Alice Springs by tourism-focussed programs such as Discover Down Under, and to send the Mayor and Tourism Central Australia CEO interstate to promote Alice Springs as a destination.
Examples of upcoming opportunities for the town are the Ulysses and Goldwing Clubs AGMS in three to four years’ time, said Alderman Brendan Heenan.
Savings have been achieved in some areas, such as the library and ranger services. For the library this was mainly through reallocating money for materials and consumables, unspent in previous years, while rangers have achieved a 37% decrease through improved efficiency.
There will be no reduction in service in either area, said Ms Kendrick.
The footpath program will be increased by $70,000 to $180,000.
Many allocations pale in comparison to those for garbage collection – a total of $2m, of which $600,000 is estimated to go on picking up liquor-related litter.
Some 90% of this goes on wages, said Ms Kendrick.  If the litter problem were resolved, employees involved would be redirected into other areas, such as beautification works.
Council will be tackling the situation through a mix of tougher by-laws and education.
By-laws are a form of education, said Mr Ryan: “You pay for your mistakes.”
There is no allocation for flood mitigation in the plan, although reserves can be rebadged, said Mr Mooney.

Turning 20, a new studio, but is Imparja on the right track? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Some important facts were omitted from the gushing praise for Imparja TV last week, from a Federal Minister, Stephen Conroy, and from its own chairman, Owen Cole, on the occasion of the broadcaster’s 20th birthday and the opening of its $10m office and studios.
Mr Cole resigned early this week. He is facing charges arising from a brawl at the football grand final last year.
Imparja is not doing anything like what was promised to the broadcasting licensing authority by the people, last week showered with glowing compliments, who in 1986 won the license, exposed to only limited competition under Australian laws.
Today Imparja is essentially merely a relay station for Nine Network programs: just one per cent of airtime is taken up by locally made productions, if one counts the children’s program Yamba’s Playtime.
It runs from 6am to 7am on Saturdays, not a time slot indicating Imparja’s pride in the show.
If you leave out Yamba, just one third of one per cent of airtime is Imparja produced, namely the half hour a week – minus the commercials – for the new magazine show, Footprints.
The station has 64 employees, partly busy with making videos for government clients, and local commercials.
Imparja’s satellite uplink function could easily be performed, at a fraction of the costs, by any number of TV organizations around the country.
But the festive crowd turned a blind eye to all of this, which is the more surprising given the presence of Wendy Bell.
Her book, A Remote Possibility – The Battle for Imparja Television, which was given away free to guests at the festivities, sets out in detail what was expected of Imparja at the beginning.
Ms Bell, who effusively thanked Imparja for giving her the opportunity of writing about it, seemed oblivious of the contradictions between what she reports Imparja was meant to be, and what it turned out to be.
In the chapter “Imparja Today” she asks: “Has Imparja Television justified the decision to give an Aboriginal-owned company a commercial television license to broadcast over more than one-third of Australia.”
And she answers herself: “Twenty years later the answer is ‘yes’.”
Ms Bell later told the Alice News the new office and studio would make it easier for Imparja to increase its production output, and its deal with the Nine Network was a strategy for persevering in a tough industry.
Two decades ago the two final applicants for the license were Imparja’s parent company, CAAMA, and the Packer-owned Television Capricornia, linked to NTD8 in Darwin.
The applicants had to meet a string of requirements of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT).
Ms Bell reports they had to “research the ‘diversity of interests’, and understand the ‘goals and expectations’ of different communities ... to form a ‘reasonably complete picture’ of the proposed audience.”
They had to “design programming schedules and production proposals to reflect their research findings and philosophies.
“It was expected that this process would be ongoing throughout the period of the license.”
It is not clear how wholly rebroadcasting an interstate program line-up gets even close to meeting this requirement.
Imparja will not release its audience ratings, saying only that it has 430,000 “potential” viewers.
It shares that audience with the other commercial service, Seven Central, as well as the ABC and SBS.
Seven Central is part of the Seven Network which has been outperforming the Nine Network in most markets.
A typical result, where three commercial services are available, is 30% Prime/Seven, Southern Cross/Ten 24% and WIN/Nine 23.9%.
Imparja pledged to the ABT to produce six per cent of its airtime – a far cry from what it is doing now, and a target it has never reached.
Capricornia pledged 29% – almost five times as much, but was refused the license.
At the ABT hearings Imparja relentlessly pressed its claims that as an organization familiar with local conditions, it could prevent harm by keeping undesirable programs out, and use the medium to do good through education.
Ms Bell quotes CAAMA co-founder Freda Glynn.
Tragically, the picture Ms Glynn painted for the ABT of the woes Imparja could help fix, or forestall, 20 years later looks like a current police story, or an excerpt from the “Little Children Are Sacred” report of a year ago.
Ms Glynn: “I just do not think that the NTD8 people have any idea of the emergency that has arisen with Aboriginal people over the last 10 years.
“I do not think that any of the tribunal members would have to spend Friday night hiding knives so that your children are not going to cut themselves up.
“I do not think that any of the people in NTD8 have experienced watching nine-year-olds walk around with cans of petrol held to their noses.”
And so on.
Ms Glynn asked for help from “the tribunal, the Commonwealth government, the NT government ... because in a few years there is going to be no Aboriginal culture left to want to protect.
“Pouring into Aboriginal communities ... the English language only means destruction.”
Imparja’s only Aboriginal language program, Nganampa, produced by CAAMA, is broadcast for only a limited period in each year.
The Nine Network fare includes a good dose of violent and often sordid fare, such as Crime Scene Investigators and, of course, is all in English.
Imparja CEO Alistair Feehan oversaw the major construction of the new studio and the station’s conversion to digital broadcasting. Not surprisingly he defends what Imparja is doing.
He says – and so does Senator Conroy, who is the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy – that the new facilities will enable Imparja to produce more programs.
Artscape, a 13 episode series on the history of Indigenous arts, in production for a year already, will be “just huge”.
It is “moving forward, maybe a bit too slowly”, but should be finished in 18 months.
Mr Feehan says part of the series is going to be re-shot in high definition format.
“We’re waiting for cameras to arrive,” says Mr Feehan.
He also defends the decision to replace the nightly news half hour with eight one-minute micro-bulletins – most of it “rip and read” material from sources around the broadcast footprint.
When the nightly bulletin still went to air “the reality was we were producing per day probably three minutes of local news.
“That’s all. And that was local news in Alice .”
He says Imparja had not managed to regularly get news footage from its vast area in 20 years in operation.
“Getting pictures from our broader footprint is all but impossible,” he says.
“We’ve looked at this before. We’d need 15 journalists.
“We can’t afford that, even on a stringer [freelance] basis.”
Imparja gets $2m a year for satellite costs from the Federal Indigenous Broadcasting Program.
This is money from the “bucket” for Indigenous people which, presumably, could be used for other initiatives on Indigenous disadvantage.
The other non-urban TV “footprints” get satellite subsidies from the respective states.
But Mr Feehan says for the $2m the Feds get “$3.2m worth of services” including $820,000 for National Indigenous TV uplinks and $340,000 for uplinking eight indigenous radio stations.
It is understood these costs include service fees for Imparja.
Mr Feehan says the $10m for the new complex is money saved and money borrowed from the bank: “We have a lot of equity in this now,” says Mr Feehan.
Imparja declined to disclose its advertising rates, but a reliable source, who did not wish to be named, says they range from $50 (breakfast programs) to $450 (State of Origin matches) for 30 second slots.
As Imparja is a de facto relay for Nine, why not uplink the program from another facility, at a fraction of the cost?
“You can do everything in Sydney,” says Mr Feehan.
“The reality was, if you look at this place, if you just wanted to make money, you’d shut this down.
“We’d go to Sydney, to [the regional networks] WIN or Prime, and just say, here’s the programming source, here are our ads, you put the ads in, put it up on the satellite, done.”
“I went to the [Imparja] board with all that and they said, yep, we appreciate all that, but we’re here, we have a license, we should stay in Alice Springs.
“It’s important in terms of being an Indigenous business, we want it here to showcase.
“Let’s keep it here, let’s keep investing in the town, in the people.”
Mr Feehan says the Aboriginal owners “don’t take a dollar out of the business.
“All they want is putting Aboriginal kids through the business, train them up, give them an opportunity.”
He says “probably 200” young people have been trained by Imparja and taken “opportunities somewhere else”, including some 30 in his five years with Imparja.
Senator Conroy was enthusiastic about Imparja in an interview with the Alice News.
“Imparja is doing a great job,” he said.
“It is covering a landmass the size of Western Europe.
“Just to think one station could do all of that!”
He says the $2m a year and a further grant of $1.7m to advance the change-over to digital technology is “definitely money well spent.
“The people who began this 20 years ago should look on it today proudly.
“What an inspirational story.
“One of the advantages of coming into this new facility is going to be an increase in local production, and that’s got to be a good thing.”
“They were just telling me there’s going to be more.”
Isn’t it basically a relay station for Channel 9?
“Look, I think that’s unfair. I think Imparja are working to deliver more local content, local news, to the local communities.”
He says Imparja has an “ongoing demonstration about wanting more local content, and more power to them.”
Why doesn’t Imparja uplink elsehwere, achieving big savings?
“Imparja would lose its brand,” says Senator Conroy, “its viewer base.
“I mean why would you bother if all you’re watching is what we’re watching in Melbourne where I live.
“Why would you bother?”
But that’s exactly what we are watching on Imparja.
“But Imparja are taking strides to go forward.
“And this [new building] is part of a big stride forward. And that’s why it’s so important.”

Homicide returns to Alice.

After a hopeful eight months without a murder or manslaughter in Alice Springs, police are now investigating a suspicious death. 
A 49 year old man died in the Alice Springs Hospital at about 1.30pm on Sunday. 
The deceased was admitted to hospital on May 10 suffering from head injuries, believed to have been sustained during an assault on him at Hidden Valley town camp on May 9. 
The deceased was transferred to Royal Adelaide Hospital for surgery and returned to Alice Springs on May 15.
However his condition deteriorated on Sunday and he died. 
A post mortem will be conducted to determine cause of death. 
Last week the Alice News reported that the preceding eight-month homicide free period was leading to the hope that Alice would live down its unenviable reputation as “murder capital of Australia”.

Desert Knowledge picking up speed? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Desert Knowledge concept is turning 10. When is it going to turn a dollar?
When will our supposedly vast cleverness (what exactly is it?) reach the world’s markets (do they really want it?) and make us rich and famous?
Chief executive officer of DKA since August 2006, John Huigen, is jammed between huge public expectations, raised by a decade of government hype, and the fact that he’s got just four and a half staff positions – and that includes him.
They’re trying to turn 73 hectares of bush into the home of an outback think tank, while offending no-one. The DKA spiel sounds great, but if they don’t get it right, we’ll blame them for blowing $30m of public money ($9.25m of it from the Federal Government).  Or twice that, when Stage Two goes ahead.
Currently DKA gets over $100,000 a year worth of sponsorship from Qantas and Telstra.  Mr Huigen says DKA will soon seek further corporate, philanthropic and other funding: “That will be the next test.
“People have significant expectations of DKA. The reality is that we can’t do everything with the resources we have but climate change, water and fuel are likely to be on the agenda.”
DKA has just finalized its strategic plan for the next three years, to go before the Minister for the green light. The mandate of DKA in relation to the DK precinct, says Mr Huigen, is to “manage, promote, champion and facilitate partnerships of the organizations in the precinct, without controlling them, ensure they get the most value out of their collaborations.
“More generally DKA is a vehicle to create desert economies and take advantage of global opportunities.
“We’re not a research organisation but an information brokerage.  We’re across state borders, inter-cultural, not quite government, not quite not government.
“We’re closing the gaps between business, community and government.”
Tangibles are beginning to pop.
Video conferences every six weeks are connecting up to 12 regional centres across the vast Australian interior, to discuss and share ideas.
Recent examples focussed on the attraction and retention of skilled staff, and community sustainability initiatives (see
The video conferences are also a forum to identify gaps requiring resources or research and to identify opportunities for cross border projects and initiatives.
A good example of this was the development of a cross border business network in the mining services sector, connecting businesses which on their own were too small to tackle big jobs.
Those jobs would otherwise have gone to large capital city firms.
That’s no good for “capacity building” in the desert, says Mr Huigen.
A “spectacular example” was the foundation of Alliance Engineering (Alice News, Nov 9, 2005), consisting of five small engineering firms in Broken Hill which bid for a $4.5m tender and several smaller jobs.
“We connected them up with HunterNet, in the Hunter Valley, which gave the Broken Hill group a model for co-operating with each other, without losing their individual identities,” says Mr Huigen.
He articulates some refreshing thoughts about our need for the DK movement.
“Why do you need to go across borders?
“Because people who live in the deserts of the jurisdictions are inevitably the forgotten backyards, the result of the tyranny of democracy.
“Democracy works for the majority.
“People on the fringes don’t have the votes to influence the power base.”
What can you do about it?
“You build a bridgehead.
“If you believe you can change the thinking of the majority, in the big cities, you’re dreaming.
“You won’t do it.
But rather than saying “we’re misunderstood, nobody loves us, complain, whinge, whinge, whinge, whatever, you set up bridgeheads, relationships with people.
“You get them to do your arguing for you.
“You need people who can be your champions.”
So, DKA is a new way of getting our way. Fingers crossed.
Mr Huigen used to run the Ngaanyatjarra Council serving 12 communities near and including Warburton in WA.
Warburton has written the book on remote.
It’s roughly (everything is rough out there) halfway between Giles, on the NT-WA border west of Ayers Rock, and Kalgoorlie.
Says Mr Huigen: “We’re never going to have the same influence as a John Sanderson [former Governor of Western Australia] or Neil Westbury [recent co-author of Beyond Humbug] but if we can get them to actually understand the context better, we can get them to tell the story, and so help us to get what we in the desert need.
“People who make decisions about the desert, they come and go.
“Do not bash your head against the wall thinking you can change that.”
But who can make a difference are “key people of influence, who are there over time, who are the constants”.
Why would they champion the desert?
“Because they are people of good will.
“There are also expatriate desert people, like Mark Stafford-Smith [former director of CSIRO in Alice], living in non-desert Australia now, who actually understand the gig, could be our advocates and often are.”
So, what’s happened so far?
Only one third of the $30m for Stage One has been spent so far, but that’s put in place the nuts and bolts.
This is what we’ve got and what we soon will have: headworks (roads, sewerage, power, water); the headquarters of DKA and the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DK-CRC), and the temporary headquarters of the Desert Peoples’ Centre (DPC).
This building is known as the Business and Innovation Centre, a “bargain” at $2.5m, says Mr Huigen.
[The building is about 660 square meters which puts its per square meter cost at about $3800.
This is two and a half times the ruling cost for residential buildings, and nearly four times the cost an owner-builder would pay.
It is not clear why the Department of Infrastructure, which employs qualified engineers and is in charge of the DK construction, does not act as an owner-builder, “subbying out” the various trade jobs.
The Alice News has put this question to the government and will report the response.]
The DPC complex consists of buildings housing Learning, Knowledge, Sharing and Communication Services; Well Being & Human Services; Infrastructure and Technology; Livelihoods and Economic Futures (the names notwithstanding, the DPC has no links with cults nor the movie, The Truman Story).
The second stage is roughly the same size and not yet “cash flowed”. 
It includes the DPC’s residential facilities, and buildings for Human Expression, Language and Culture.
And then there are areas set aside for “future planning”.
The DK-CRC, says Mr Huigen, is worth more than $90m and has 28 partners throughout Australia (this will be the subject of a further article).
The DPC is the result of a partnership between CAT (the Centre for Appropriate Technology), the controversial spenders of tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars on Bushlight (google it on the Alice News web site); and the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, recently in the gun for giving certificates to people who can’t write.
Both of these, which are relocating from “crumbling infrastructure” in town, will be the subject of further parts in this series by the Alice News.
The precinct’s planning involved taking into account an extraordinary number of interests from a string of players.
It seems likely that private enterprise would consign to the too hard basket a project involving so many conditions, negotiations and consultations, and requiring so much time.
Before anything could happen in the Desert Knowledge precinct, native title and related issues had to be sorted, irrespective of the fact that Aborigines were to be major beneficiaries of the Desert Knowledge initiative.
This is how Mr Huigen puts it: “A lot of energy was spent on how to create an environment which reflects the core partnerships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
“This is one of the principles underlying the precinct and I think it’s unique in town.
“The idea is that this is not a black and not a white precinct. This is a place for all desert people working in partnership, both acknowledging that the other has a place.
“To do that you’ve got to do things properly.
“You’ve got to have the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA).”
As compensation for foregoing their native title rights on the land Lhere Artepe received no money, but the right to participate in the decision making “about the precinct and how it moves forward.
“They do not have a veto right, and the ultimate power to make decisions rests with the board, the precinct management committee (on which they have two members) or the Minister.
“Lhere Artepe have certain rights in terms of being able to nominate people for certain positions that DKA may have upcoming, but the final decision is made by the management.
“This is also a moral statement that this isn’t something you can do to the exclusion of people.
“There was a lot of talking between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, government and non-government.
“The way we do stuff is just as important as what we’re doing ... the inter-cultural protocols are important.”
With the master planning “a lot of time and energy was spent working with Aboriginal stake holders.”
There needed to be a “whole lot of discussions, conversations, negotiations of protocols, what compensation the native title holders would get.
“And while all that was happening there was the negotiation about the cultural protocols ... how the layout of the precinct would speak to Aboriginal people.
“People are coming in also from the bush” who don’t want to be “confronted with a massive building.
“The Desert Peoples’ Centre will have 31 buildings” avoiding the need for a big building where “everyone is always behind closed doors in air conditioning. The choice was made to have a whole lot of smaller buildings because people coming from communities are used to being able to see the bush right outside the window, to wander out of the building and go and sit under a tree.
“Every tree above two meters in the development zone has been registered and GPSed [given coordinates using a Global Positioning System] so that you can actually do your building setup [accordingly].
“This stuff takes time.”
Is the process cumbersome?
“I would say it’s complex. It is a complex environment.”
Too complex to achieve something meaningful rapidly?
“There are land issues that are just as complex elsewhere. The Mt Johns [residential] development [adjacent to the golf course] has taken quite some time because of land tenure issues.
“We have succeeded with those issues in a very co-operative way and at the end of that we still have very positive relationships with the native title holders.
“But that takes time.”
This is as nice as it gets, but is it a useful template for a commercial operator, with his eye on the bottom line?

If you don’t get this, go back to painting your picket fence! Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

How do you approach a review of a highly anticipated colossus of a film like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the latest of one of the biggest movie franchises to ever come out of the egotistical veneer that coats 80s film?
Pop Vulture has decided on a review in the key of the classic tabletop video game (that relieved us kids of our hard stolen change) – Donkey Kong!
Stage one: George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the writer, producer and director team that brought us the previous three triumphs in the Indiana Jones series. They have not let us down.  They provide a visual feast that sustains the audience for the duration of the film. All the pair`s trademark crafts are on display. Originally choreographed chase scenes, reminiscent of the speederbike epic in Return of the Jedi ... Mario jumps all the barrels thrown by an enraged Kong and makes it to the top.
Stage two: Harrison Ford still cuts the mustard as the man with nine lives.
Although he is let down by puns and clichés that sometimes give the film a comic sketch outlook that would have been better left for the cleaners of the cutting room floor.
Cate Blanchett proves why she is one of Australia’s finest exports, as she embraces the role of the film’s villain, the rapier wielding Irina Spalko.
Shia Labeouf is fitting as the adolescent sidekick, Mutt Williams ... Mario moves swiftly across the screen deft in guile as he navigates those dodgy bouncing spring things ... he chases Kong to stage three.
Stage three: Pop Vulture saw this film with a head full of 1980s nostalgia. Everything from taking your own food into the cinema, wearing no shoes (theatre carpet feels better that way – try it!) to hearing kids loudly ask “Is this it?” at the start of every preview.
In summary this film is awesome, see it in silver screen format.
If you don’t understand the phenomenon, then maybe concentrate more on a mortgage, a second coat of white paint on that picket fence, or what new bedspread better suits your personality ... Mario defeats Kong and rescues the fair haired maiden, only to find that she has succumbed to “Stockholm syndrome”.
She dies of a broken heart for her fallen love, The Kong. Pop Vulture rating 867/1000.

LETTERS: "Put camels on eBay."

Sir,- Julius Butler MD here.  No, I haven’t disappeared and continue to enjoy the evolution of the Alice and the NT.
You and your reporters are justifiably proud of your reporting and keeping the “politicos” honest. Good job!
 We are about to under go a “gut wrenching” election here in the “States.”
It will say more about us as a nation, than anything that could be written.
Your apparent overabundance in camel stock.
Why not put them up on Ebay? Try to turn a negative into cash for the NT.
Other than transportation in inhospitable terrain, what use can the animal be put to?
Edible stock? Hides, hooves, and meat?
Even as dog food they might turn a profit for the locals.
What do you think?
Would they be competent beasts of burden in African countries?
If a market could be developed for your “abundance” of camels, would it not be economically of benefit to market same?
I hope to get back to Alice while I am still on this side of the grass!
Julius C. Butler MD
OB/GYN Alice Hospital 1997

Sir,- What can the NT government be up to with its last minute changes to the new Local Government Act?
For what may be the first time in the history of Australian local government, shire employees can now stand in local elections.
This raises the possibility of a CEO being elected mayor, which I guess is good work if you can get it.
From discussions in council we learn that this last minute amendment was rushed into law without any consultation or time to object.
Has it occurred to our ALP government that they have legislated an opening the size of a barn door for conflicts of interest? 
That in a region of scarce employment, two jobs can now be held by one person? 
That the way is open for powerful families to dominate local government in the new shires? 
That cronyism is almost a given?
No wonder they rushed it through without debate.
Will the CLP opposition pledge to repeal this clause?
Will our Town Council amend and renegotiate its own employment contracts to forestall any employee nominating for council in future elections?
What a dog’s breakfast this government has made of local government reform. 
First they created shires too big to ever work, such as the one stretching form Tobermory to Rabbit Flat.  Then they excused Litchfield Shire and the Belyuen, Coomalie and Cox Peninsula councils due to popular protests and a looming NT election. 
Next they excised up to 20 remote communities so they could be governed as ministerial pets well sheltered from the accountability and transparency provisions in the new Local Government Act. 
And now they seem determined to see their mates get all the jobs.
Someday the rank and file of Aboriginal Territorians will wake up to the dodgy and self-serving treatment being handed out by the the ALP and its favored few. 
Until then we are all stuck with their policy of divide the many and pamper the chosen. 
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Sir,-  I’ve only been here four years. During that time the population has declined from 28,000 to 27,000 - the highest rate of decline in Australia.
In a town of 27,000 there are 120 police, one for every 225 people.
Most cities in Australia would be happy to get one in 1,000.
We have to wait until 6pm to buy a carton of wine for next day’s picnic lunch.
We can’t go to the park with the kids for a BBQ and beer.
Yet every tourist sees the town camps or ghettos up and down Stuart Highway and South Terrace as a symbol of how attractive Alice Springs is.
Buses I’ve been driving full of tourists have been “rocked” twice - at the Gap and at Wills Terrace - other tourist buses are “rocked” regularly.
Last week, an aboriginal woman tried to stop my bus full of tourists on North Stuart Hwy - next day she was found dead.
A few months ago a group of tourists I was guiding came across a dead kangaroo in the middle of Simpsons Gap - shot and left to die, a gruesome and distressing experience for them.
Then there were the kangaroos found slaughtered at the Telegraph Station recently.
Sunday, at Simpsons Gap another kangaroo found by my passengers in the middle of Simpsons Gap - blood everywhere, some had never seen anything dead let alone a grizzly find like this. Fond memories of Alice.
But  now we have a new head of tourism in Central Australia and a new Lord Mayor but all I hear about in the news is the need for more police, more counselling, more diversional therapy for juveniles, policy reviews - all after the fact, nothing aimed at preventing these occurrences in the first place.
How about starting with a curfew for all children aged 5-15 between 9pm and 5am?
How about bulldozing the town camps and setting up another 16 new camps (one for each language) protected with strict tenancy rules that preclude the thugs and standover men that are the self-appointed spokespersons for the gangs that control them.
How about including Alice Springs in The Intervention, or would that be too embarassing to admit to.
Unless drastic action like that is taken by someone, Alice will continue on its slippery slide downhill and end up a fortress where everything is closed, locked and shuttered down at 5pm waiting for the gangs of marauding youths to come out and rampage through the streets, torching cars and schools and smashing windows.
Who cares whether we don’t have the right ratio of blacks and whites in the jails or if they’re overcrowded.
The UN doesn’t live here nor is it running the town.
It’s time Alice stood up for itself and spoke out - even at the risk of upsetting someone, somewhere and even if they control the purse strings.
Ross Pollock
Alice Springs

Sir,- As I read Alderman Jane Clark’s “reply”  (Alice News May 15) to my letter, I fail to find any answers to the questions I raised a week earlier. 
As I reread my letter, I also fail to find my “assertion that (Alderman Clark) showed blanket support for ‘user pays’”. 
But her response to this issue suggests a “have it both ways” attitude - espouse “user pays” only if it’s to council’s financial advantage.
While potentially “any pastoralist may now stand and be elected to local government” may be true, the reality of such an outcome, particularly in the two southern shires, is extremely remote, for several reasons.
So my questions still remain - what “local government services provided did pastoralists have the the opportunity to enjoy”, and what services will they receive for their future rates?
And then we could start on “taxation without representation”.
Rod Cramer
Alice Springs

Sir,–  The Town Council has unanimously elected me, a Greens Alderman, to chair the newly formed Environment Advisory Committee.
Terms of Reference for the EAC are to provide advice and make formal recommendation on public policy in matters relating to the sustainable management of resources and the natural environment in the municipality of the Town of Alice Springs including:
•  Consider issues that relate to waste management relevant to council functions.
• Support council with initiatives to minimise greenhouse gas emissions.
• Contribute to the improved water usage measures of the town.
•  Ensure that council’s natural environment is protected and rehabilitated.
• Assist with development of educational mediums to raise the awareness of sustainable resource management and environmental issues.
•  Other matters referred to it by council. 
Local Governments across Australia are embracing the “think globally, act locally” approach to sustainability and management of waste.
I look forward to working on a range of issues, and to stimulating debate about ways to take action for the positive benefit of our local environment.
I was disappointed that, on the same night, council voted not to discuss my motion supporting the May 7 public meeting recommendations opposing the grant of a Uranium exploration licence less than 25km from Alice Springs Council Chambers. 
Many residents are concerned about the impact on our health, lifestyle and tourism industry and Aldermen need to make their position clear on this issue.
Jane Clark,
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: Last bastion of resistance to the Finke.

You can smell it can’t you?
The unmistakable bouquet of leather and petrol.
Top notes of winter dust and a back palate of rum and sausage sandwiches. But it’s not a fine wine.
The distant sound somewhere far off of screaming engines. Of mechanics working overtime with socket sets and spanners. But it isn’t the Formula One.
The undeniable excitement of neighbours and friends as they begin preparations, pack the eskies and load them into cars. But it isn’t Christmas Holidays.
The Finke Desert Race is on again and we’re told this year that it will be bigger and better than ever. Over 500 mad nutters on motorbikes hurtling down a track unsuitable for walking let alone riding a motorcycle at speed from here to Apatula (Finke) and back.
Then there’s the buggies. Mad Maxesque monster motors designed with the sole purpose of getting to Finke quick. Comfort and style don’t make the equation when designing these off road beasts.
I don’t mean to be insensitive or in any way rude but Alice Springs goes mental for Finke. An almost fundamentalist zeal overcomes many of our community whenever the word Finke is uttered. People here are nuttier than John Howard at a tracksuit convention when it comes to Finke.
I love it when the community comes together like this. There’s an excitement in town. People are talking about their favourite spots and why their favourite spot is better than your favourite spot. They give advice on the best gear to take and why you need one type of fridge over another.
I love it. But at the same time I feel as though I’m out of the loop. I’ve lived in the Centre for three years now and I’m really disappointed in the fact that, to be honest, I don’t get what all the fuss is about.
To me the actual experience of watching Finke is nowhere near the fun and excitement of the idea of Finke.
Perhaps it’s just me being soft. But I get up fairly early most mornings and I’ve got to tell you, I like to spend as little time as possible in the elements at four in the morning in May in Alice Springs. Don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s a bit cold.
The idea of enjoying the fun, the mateship and the experience of Finke is outweighed in my mind by the idea of sleeping in cold dirt without a proper toilet.
I’m a simple man with simple pleasures and I think we as humans have evolved past the point of needing to dig a hole when we need to number two.
In fact for me to entertain the idea of roughing it somewhere on the South Road would be to disrespect the memories of men like Thomas Fowler.
In 1828, after years of toil and hard work behind a technical drawing desk, Thomas Fowler patented the Thermosiphon.
This was to become the modern central heating system.
I’d be disrespecting the brilliant contribution to society of John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer and entrepreneur who in 1925 first displayed what would commonly be known as television. His invention has raised more children than Barnardo’s, Boystown and the public school system combined.
I’d be denying the legacy of James Harrison. The Australian that produced the world’s first practical refrigerator. He was commissioned by a brewery to build a machine that cooled beer. How can I turn my back on such genius?
Most importantly however I’d be thumbing my nose at Bruce Thompson, another great and unheralded Australian who in 1980 developed dual flush toilet. God bless you, Bruce.
So when you ask me to go camping, or to head down the Finke tack for a fantastic weekend of getting covered in dust and pooping into a hole, don’t be offended if I politely decline.
Enjoy Finke. Have a great time.
But I’ll be at home honouring the memory of Harrison and Baird with the occasional trip to pay my respects to Thompson.

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