June 5, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Filth in town camps: Government turns blind eye. By ERWIN CHLANDA and KIERAN FINNANE.

The Northern Territory Health Department does not take responsibility for preventing health hazards in town camps, many of them notorious for mountains of litter, inside and outside of houses, many of which also have failing sanitation.
A spokesperson for the department says that responsibility rests with Tangentyere Council, whose core business is to provide municipal-type services to the camps and which is understood to have an annual budget of $23m.
The organisation’s board is made up of the presidents of the camps’ housing associations, held under individual titles.
Tangentyere has repeatedly refused to give information about its budget, almost all from government sources.
Public health hazards in Alice Springs are the responsibility of the Health Department but not if they are within town camps, says the spokesperson.
The huge quantities of uncollected rubbish in many camps can consist of more than used nappies, “green cans” and other food and beverage containers and scraps. 
The Alice Springs News reported on March 27 a local accommodation manager’s observation that two dead dogs had been “left for days” in the town camp immediately next door to his premises.
Meanwhile, his accommodation house had been subjected to repeat meticulous health inspections, taking action about a cracked wall tile.
The Public Health Act has clear provisions about keeping offensive matter near a dwelling-house and for just about any other matter relating to sanitation and the prevention of disease.
The separate standards under which  town camps are managed came to the fore again last week, following a savage mauling of a woman by dogs at Hidden Valley camp last Wednesday.
On Friday two dogs at the camp were sedated and removed by Tangentyere Council’s vet in the presence of town council representatives.
Upon Tangentyere’s request Town Council rangers had taken away 10 dogs from the camp the day before.
The town camps do not pay council rates as they are declared as charitable institutions.
As Town Council and Tangentyere personnel were dealing with the dog emergency, four officers from Tangentyere were occupied in keeping media away from the scene.
Questioned about the council’s responsibilities for dog control at the Mayor’s weekly press conference, CEO Rex Mooney spoke carefully: “We were of the belief that the dog numbers had reduced.
“Council is prepared to work with Tangentyere to deal with dogs.”
Would council be pushing for a larger scale operation than has been the case till now?
“Council has always had its hand up to assist.
“There are protocols with regard to entering the camps.”
Can council officers enter the camps at any time?
“Normally, the protocol is that council is contacted and invited to enter.
“That may have to be reviewed.
“Council is always open to negotiate with Tangentyere to improve arrangements.
“It has to be done in concert with Tangentyere Council.”
Council by-laws, such as animal by-laws, apply in town camps as they do elsewhere in the municipality.
Enforcement, however, is clearly another issue.

Court hears brawl charges. By KIERAN FINNANE.

There was no spoken evidence from Owen Cole, neither in a record of interview with police nor before the court, in the case heard against him and others arising from the events following the AFLCA grand final in Alice Springs last year.
The case was heard last week in the Alice Springs Court by Darwin-based Magistrate Vince Luppino.
The other defendants were Jawoyn Cole-Manolis, David Kerrin and Geoffrey Miller. All were charged with aggravated assault.
Mr Cole, formerly chairman of Imparja, resigned from that position on the Friday before the case began to be heard.
During submissions on Thursday, police prosecutor Ian McMinn acknowledged Mr Cole’s  “perfect right” to remain silent.
“He’s innocent until proven guilty and I accept that.
“But as a consequence I suggest the court is then in the position of dealing with evidence of others.”
Mr McMinn read from the transcript of evidence given earlier by Scott Taylor: “He said, ‘I looked across about 15 metres and seen Blayne Cornford on the ground.
“I then seen Owen Cole kneeling over him with one hand (inaudible). He didn’t have a top on but it’s Cole striking him in the face.’
“Was it open-handed or closed fist?
“’No, clenched fist.’
“How many times did you observe him doing that?
“He says, ‘Three or four times’.”
Mr McMinn went on to read from the cross-examination of Mr Taylor by defence counsel, Richard Jefferis: “Do you say he used which hand to punch him, can you tell us that?
“You can’t tell us?
“It would have been his right hand.
“Your evidence is either it’s his right hand or it’s something (inaudible)...
“What do you recall Mr Cornford doing, anything?”
Mr McMinn then read from evidence given by a witness, Mr Sheridan: “[Blayne Cornford] was lying on the ground, as I said, with someone on top of him.
“Do you know who was on top of  him?
“Yes, I do.
“Who was that?
“Owen Cole ...
“What was Mr Cole doing?
“He was on top of Blayne, striking him.
“How many times, I asked.
“I wasn’t counting but I’d say four times. 
“Did you see where he was striking him?
“In the face.”
The evidence by a witness, Mr Loader, as read by Mr McMinn, included a response to a question about the type of blows by Mr Cole.
“There was a fair amount of force behind them, yes.”
Mr Cornford was asked what he was doing prior to the alleged events.
Said Mr McMinn, reading from the transcript of evidence given earlier: “’So you threw a couple of punches. Did you connect with the punches?’
“I’m not sure, pretty vague.
“What’s the next thing you can recall?
“That’s when he talks about lying on the ground with Mr Cole on top of him.”
Mr Cornford went to the hospital for x-rays “but there was no nothing damaged.”
Mr McMinn asked: “Can you tell the court, did you suffer any harm at all? What effects did you have that day?
“’I had a cut lip,’ he replied. ‘I remember my head was very sore for a few days afterwards, yeah, just fairly sore all round.’”
Said Mr McMinn: “Clearly Mr Cornford was not hit just by Mr Cole ... what part of what we say is harm – sore head, cut lip – may be attributed to Mr Cole is a matter for Your Honour.”
On the issue of whether Mr Cornford gave consent to being allegedly struck, Mr McMinn admits that Mr Cornford gave evidence against himself: “He doesn’t deny that he threw punches.
“But does that consent go throughout the entire incident that he was forced to the ground, that he was attacked by the shirtless person, Mr Kerrin and Mr Cole when he first falls to the ground.
“When he gets up he stumbles away, then Mr Cole comes over the top and hits him with a haymaker and jumps onto him and starts hitting him in the head.
“Surely not, Your Honour, consent doesn’t go through all that.
“In my submission it would make a mockery of justice.”
Mr McMinn concluded: “[Mr Cornford] is not attacking, he’s not consenting, he’s just being assaulted, assaulted in my submission in a thuggish and cowardly way.”
Counsel for the defence, Mr Jefferis, said he understood that the prosecution had conceded consent by Mr Cornford.
Mr Luppino: “The prosecution may have conceded consent to the first part [of the fight] but that was the end of it.”
Mr Jefferis went on to say that no questions had been put to Mr Cornford about what he consented to and what he did not consent to.
Considering that, the issue would became “a difficult task for Your Honour ... a task that might fairly be described as speculation,” Mr Jefferis said.
He continued: “The essential element of the offence of assault, let alone aggravated assault, is a lack of consent on the part of the person who was supposedly assaulted ...
“The prosecution have the obligation to prove that element beyond reasonable doubt ...
“There is no evidence of aggravation to meet the standard required.”
Mr Jefferis noted that there was no evidence in the form of a medical report with respect to the harm allegedly suffered by Mr Cornford, although Mr Luppino said that medical evidence was not required to prove harm.
Mr Jefferis went on: “Even if we take [the evidence of soreness] at its highest, Mr Cornford had been fighting with other people before on his own admission.
“It’s necessary to attribute the harm for the purposes of this charge to the actions of the people charged.”
Mr Luppino commented that medical evidence would have been required to attribute the harm “to one action or another”.
Mr Jefferis pointed that Mr Cornford acknowledged that “he had his arms up over his head” and that put him in “a position where he certainly believed he was able to protect himself”.
Mr Jefferis said: “And the evidence, such as there is, about what actual harm happened to him, that doesn’t support the notion that he couldn’t protect himself. He got up and walked away shortly afterwards.”
Mr Jefferis argued that “whatever the defendants are found to have done or not done has to be seen in the context of what went beforehand ...
“There is a lack of any clear explanation of what happened before the events involving Mr Cornford. Certainly there’s no possibility of tracking the evidence that was given in court as to who did what, when.”
Mr Luppino: “I would have thought the [video] footage was the best evidence.”
He predicted that he would have to watch it “ad nauseum”.
Mr Jefferis said he had hoped to persuade the magistrate “that some of that might be unnecessary”.
“I’m saying you have to be mindful about drawing inferences from what’s there, when people haven’t been identified.”
Mr Luppino: “That’s always a prerequisite, I concede that. The footage is direct evidence.” 
Mr Jefferis went on to submit that Mr Cornford’s “reconstruction of what happened has been somewhat selective”.
“There was no direct evidence and certainly not visible on the video that he was actually pushed to the ground ... there’s no suggestion that he was pinned to the ground.”
Mr Jefferis then raised issues regarding the lack of identification of the defendants by some witnesses  “at the scene” and “again in court”.
“I make a preliminary observation that ... this was a melee ... A melee is a group of people fighting each other in public usually. A melee describes one event ... Once you enter a melee and become a participant you have committed an offence ... it goes to the issue of consent ... it’s (inaudible) arbitrary that you stop consenting to what’s going on.”
Mr Luppino: “That’s a fair point. I was aware of that. I think both positions are arguable on that.”
In this context, with everything happening quickly and a lot of people moving around, “there is a larger than usual risk of mis-identification or wrong identification”, argued Mr Jefferis.
In his concluding remarks he said: “No witness could give a clear, coherent account of the event from beginning to end.
“Your Honour has to piece it together. My submission is, that is not satisfactory.”
Mr Luppino bailed the defendants until August 13, when he will next be in Alice Springs and will hand down his decision.

Council plan out of touch: Ald Habib.

The Town Council’s draft business plan is “out of touch with reality”, says Alderman Samih Habib.
He says the rates revenue increase of 8.65% is a deceptive figure, as, with the $25 waste management charge included, most ratepayers will experience a higher level of increase.
In a list of indicative rate changes only rural area properties stay under an 8.65% increase.
Rates are calculated on the basis of the unimproved capital value (UCV) of the property.
With a UCV of $119,000, a property in Latz Crescent in the Larapinta area, will be paying $966 or an increase of 10.02%.
A similar level of increase will be experienced by a property in Warburton Street on Eastside, with two bins: their UCV is $296,000; they’ll be paying $2226 in rates, an increase of 10.03%.
The lowest level of increase on the list (apart from the rural areas) is for a property on Gap Road, with a UCV of $170,000. Rates will be $2708, an increase of 9.11%.
The draft business plan is on display for public comment until June 23.
Ald Habib says he hopes people will think about the plan and have input into it.
The rates hike is not his only concern.
“The town is not doing well but there are no capital works in this budget, no new initiatives.
“It’s about maintaining what exists.
“There’s an increase on last year’s allocation for footpaths but this amount [$180,000] is not much more than was spent in other years.
“It’s peanuts.
“Stage One is almost finished and this won’t do anything to start Stage Two.”
Stage One has provided footpaths on one side of almost every street in town, says Ald Habib; Stage Two will see the program extended to the other side of the street.
He also says there is not enough money in the draft plan for beautification works. 

Boffins for a better desert. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Mustering cattle and doing bore runs online (from anywhere in the world); finding out what 4WD fans want – and don’t want; cranking up the bush foods industry; and getting “real jobs” into the desert ghettos are among the six current research projects of the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DK-CRC).
It’s worth $90m over seven years. (See below).
The most ambitious of the projects is a three year study of services which bush towns, with mainly Aboriginal populations, need, want and get, from whom and for how much. About two dozen academics and people on the ground are working with communities in four states.
The team leader is Steve Fisher, former Alice Springs resident, who worked with the Bushlight program, was a junior football coach and author of the erstwhile Alice News column, Fish Out Of Water.
This is how the DK-CRC blurb describes the task: “The Project will analyse the service delivery system, identify critical issues and strategies that provide leverage for change, design technology-based models and service delivery models with the potential to improve the system, and then trial, monitor and evaluate their success. By tackling problems at the interface between demand and supply of services to desert settlements, the Project will seek to improve consumer access to these services, and to achieve better outcomes for service providers.”
Better outcomes would be a refreshing change: the question is, will the DK-CRC team manage to end a near-perfect run of failure over 30 years? 
The Alice News put to DK-CRC managing director Jan Ferguson that no viable solutions will be found unless the study goes into the dysfunctionality of the majority bush communities, welfare dependency, the reluctance to work, the alcoholism, the vast amount of rubbish, the inability or refusal to look after housing.
We suggested the CRC research seems to be engaged at a higher level, not dealing with these massive underlying problems which, if they are not fixed, will make progress at other levels impossible.
“A CRC is a research organisation and  focusses on the issues our partners believe are important to invest in. We can’t tackle every issue,” says Ms Ferguson.
“This project was particularly focussed on how services are delivered to remote communities and how this could possibly be done in a different way.
“We haven’t gone into health issues, because there is an Aboriginal Health CRC in Darwin.   
“Our role is to look at how you get decent services into these communities and maintenance and life cycles of housing, and what you do to get a longer life cycle out of houses.
“Some of these things are big, long term research projects. 
“We come from a livelihoods basis, which focuses on health, well-being and money.
“The social dysfunction issue is not something we have been asked by our partners  to investigate, and we just haven’t gone into that.”
What then is the point of the research?
“It will help because it will look at how you get Aboriginal people more involved, to get a different economic outcome to what we’ve currently got.
“Most services come in from the outside, are determined by somebody outside.
“What we’re saying is that, if people had more say you might get an entirely different outcome.
“For instance, some houses put into Aboriginal communities are dysfunctional in themselves.
“If you don’t put good services in there then you get a dysfunctional outcome.”
We put to Ms Ferguson that at least since land rights in 1976, there have been countless initiatives to give Aboriginal people a say in their future, and to express what they want from the governments, through a string of highly funded forums and organisations.
Yet the results have consistently been disappointing. How will this be different?
The DK-CRC project seems not to acknowledge the “mutual obligation” principle espoused by Noel Pearson and given political traction by the now defeated Howard government, through its Indigenous Affairs minister, Mal Brough.
Responds Ms Ferguson: “First we partner very closely with Aboriginal communities, in order to understand what they see as their most important needs. 
“We have evidence, from our research into community water management, that water supplies are better managed by locals than by distant bureaucracies and, if you give local people the responsibility, they are much more involved.”
A project definitely not re-inventing the wheel aims at making life easier for pastoralists.
With the technology applied in this DK-CRC project you could be a cattle baron vacationing in St Moritz.
Between shussing down the ski runs you fire up your laptop and check the levels in the watering points on your cattle station, half way around the world.
Rather than being checked by a station hand doing a couple of hundred kilometres in a 4WD burning diesel whose price is going through the roof, the water levels are being monitored by an electronic gauge whose readings are transferred to a base station at the homestead, from where the data is emailed to you.
The wireless transfer from the troughs to the base is done by broadband piggybacking on a UHF link, developed by the DK-CRC, and much cheaper than satellite.
And that’s not all for people on the land.
New technology will bring “precision agriculture to the bush”, says Ms Ferguson.
As is already common, cattle are lured into yards where they can get a drink.
On the way out they pass through a race in which a set of scales is embedded.
The beasts’ weight is recorded, and matched to the ID on an ear tag, without human intervention.
As the animal progresses through the race, a computer, processing the information about its weight, determines that, if it’s not doing well, the drafting gate at the other end automatically opens to a paddock with better feed.
The next beast in line, if it doesn’t need fattening up, will be directed into another paddock with less feed.
All the while you’re savouring an Obstler in the ski lodge.
This process is a lot more responsive than mustering twice a year.
No longer will the vastness of properties in The Centre be an obstacle to managing livestock in the same manner as is done with pigs, chooks and cattle in feedlots.
Ms Ferguson says “it’s not yet proven technology but it’s under development”.
The research is happening on five properties in four states, including De Rose Hill, straddling the SA-NT border.
All of the staff employed on the precison agricultural components of this project live in regional centres.
Another project is to survey 4WD motorists’ expectations.  
Wouldn’t Tourism Central Australia know all about this?
Says Ms Ferguson: “Until we did this work people didn’t understand this market.
“They understand segments of other markets but not that one.”
What has been learned so far?
There are three segments, predominantly.
“There are the locals, who go out from Alice Springs.
“There are people like me who go to work somewhere else and tack on a 4WD experience.
“And then there’s the serious ones, who want to explore Australia, and it’s all about The Experience.
“We have economic models.
“You rather hope these people spend some money out here, and so it’s also about understanding what they want.
“Do they want a restaurant when they arrive in Alice Springs?
“Do they want a shower?
“Do they want a latté, a bottle of red?”
Ms Ferguson says the keenest interest in the study has been shown by Tourism NT, formerly the NT Tourist Commission, and by 4WD clubs.
It is surprising the NT Government’s tourism authority hasn’t done the research itself, despite getting public funding at the nation’s most lavish level, for three decades.
Does DK-CRC see as its brief providing to the 4WD tourists what they want, for example, visiting Aboriginal communities?
Do they advise the communities how to take advantage of tourism?
“We may take that issue further in the next CRC,” says Ms Ferguson.
“If an Aboriginal community wanted to invest in something like the 4WD tourism we could work with them to actually understand what the market they’ve got would do, and where it’s going.
“If we are about attracting this sort of investment into Alice Springs we need positive  comment, quite frankly, because negative feedback is not useful in a commercial bidding process.”
Does DK-CRC point this out to intending visitors?
They may find great 4WD opportunities in The Centre but in Alice Springs, they may be confronted by alcohol fuelled anti-social behaviour?
“What we’ve set out to look at is how many 4WD people there are, what are they doing, where are they going and what they want.
“These people don’t come here to necessarily spend a lot of time in town.
“The study is more about helping remote communities to get benefit out of [the 4WD market], because these sort of visitors are largely self-sufficient.”

Desert Knowledge CRC: The money’s good, but ...

The $90m value of the Alice Springs based Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DK-CRC) sounds like a boom for the town.
It’s good but not that good.
Firstly, only $20m of the $90m is in cash. Secondly, it’s spent over seven years.
$70m of it is in kind, coming from industry partners, and participants including the CSIRO, the Federal, NT, SA, WA and Queensland governments.
Much of the “in kind” spend is on researchers who are not necessarily employed directly by the DK-CRC.
Managing director Jan Ferguson says DK-CRC is “a national organization based in Alice Springs”.
That means the resources (cash and kind) will be spent in the four states which have a significant desert inland.
However, three of the leaders of the six “core projects”, and two of the four people on the management team, live in Alice Springs – that’s half the DK-CRC’s top staff.
Around 14 permanent staff are based in Alice Springs.
The researchers can live in capital cities and across the desert including other remote locations like Port Augusta, Alice Springs and Karratha.
Since the start of the organisation in 2004/05, $7.6m has been spent in cash, on items such as wages, transport and accommodation.
$26m of the $70m “in kind” total has been spent so far.

Native title holders have no worries with uranium mine. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A senior executive from the Canadian company Cameco, which wants to start a uranium mine 25 kms south of Alice Springs, says he’s found no opposition to the project from Aboriginal people who may have native title interests in the site.
There was “no opposition whatsoever,” says Gary Merasty (pictured at right) after meeting with “at least a dozen, if not more” Aboriginal people near the site last week.
Asked whether they understood that mining may follow exploration, for which an application is being made, Mr Merasty said: “Absolutely.”
The meeting was organized by the Central Land Council (CLC) whose director, David Ross, said:  “People who have traditional rights over the area have been identified in accordance with the [Native Title] Act and are being consulted.”
The CLC declined to name the people attending the meeting.
Mr Merasty is the vice president of corporate social responsibility for Cameco. 
He is a member of the Cree Nation and grew up in Northern Saskatchewan on his home reserve of Pelican Narrows.
He was briefly a member for the Liberal Party – similar to the Australian Labor Party – in the Canadian House of Commons.
Cameco, the world’s biggest uranium miner, has three mines and two mills in Canada.
Mr Merasti says about half the staff of the operations there are Canadian Aborigines, and Cameco would have a similar target for its mine and mill in Central Australia, offering “jobs, training, business opportunities” to Indigenous people.
Jobs for them in the Canadian operations ranged from “labourers to skills and trades”.
Mr Merasti says: “We hope our major contractors in Australia would partner with an Aboriginal community and form a joint venture.”
He says in Canada, 77% of services are procured by Cameco from Aboriginal-owned companies.
Other issues discussed last week included environmental protection, and strict requirements and integrity of a mining operation.
Commenting on reports of a leak from one of the company’s plants in Canada, Mr Merasti said in the Port Hope area there had been nuclear and uranium processing since late 1800s.
Cameco had bought the plant about 10 years ago.
Ongoing monitoring by the company had found a leak, isolated and tracked it, supervised by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
There was no evidence the fluid had reached a nearby lake.
He says the company has a Q&A section at and “we are very open and transparent”.
Alice Springs based opponents to the venture, Angela Pamela, have criticized the company over the leak, and are raising concern that the mine planned here would affect Alice Springs’ artesian water supply.

Sacred sites tours slow to catch on. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Visitors to The Alice will give their eye teeth for a glimpse of authentic Aboriginal culture, right?
Wrong, says Ron Thynne, manager of Alice Springs Aboriginal Culture Tours and the local Aurora hotel.
For a year and a half he’s been running the sacred sites daily tours in and around the town, conducted by native title holder Patricia Ansell Dodds, in a 20 seater bus with a maximum to date of 10 passengers on board.
“In the first year we sometimes went with one booking.
“We need four to break even,” says Mr Thynne.
It’s not the run of the mill boomerang throwing number, he says, but visits of the town’s premier sacred sites, including Emily and Jesse Gaps, with a highly informed guide and authentic commentary.
The price is reasonable: $99 includes Tastes of the Outback three course buffet lunch.
Apparent indifference towards new tours from “free independent travel” tourists is only one half of the problem.
The other is staffing.
Guides, notwithstanding that native title holders are sure to be intimately familiar with the subject, aren’t easy to come by.
Tour guiding does not suit everybody.
One man, sent by a job agency, sat through the interview without uttering a single word.
Not surprisingly he didn’t get the job.
As it turned out, his reluctance was culturally based.
Mr Thynne is still hoping to introduce more tours which in turn will create jobs for local Aboriginal tour guides in spreading Tourism NT’s slogan: “Share our story.”

Grog down – a little.

Pure alcohol consumption in Alice Springs declined in the December quarter of last year, as it has done in the December quarters of the three preceding years, shows a graph released by the Department of Justice following last week’s meeting of the Alcohol Reference Panel.
In number of litres of pure alcohol it is a better result than the three preceding December quarters: 127,606 litres of pure alcohol in that quarter in 2007, compared to a high in 2006 of 153,762.
The quantity of pure alcohol consumed as full strength beer remained virtually static over the last two quarters of last year: 53,163 litres in the September quarter; 53, 232 in the December quarter.
These full strength beer figures are only slightly below those for the December quarter in 2006 (54,107) which followed the introduction of the current alcohol restrictions, which has seen full strength beer consumption climb, displacing cheap wine consumption.
Other alcohol products show declines on the graph from late in the September quarter through the December quarter last year, except for standard spirits.
In this form 18,008 litres of pure alcohol was consumed in the September quarter and 18,562 in the December quarter.
This is an increase on the consumption in the same quarters for the preceding two years, but a marked decrease compared to the same quarters in 2004 (26,252 and 25, 631 respectively).
The department’s graph shows that the March quarter has typically the lowest alcohol consumption for the year.
Last year’s March quarter yielded the lowest consumption figure on the graph: 112,510 litres of pure alcohol.
Alderman Murray Stewart attended last week’s panel meeting. He said fewer homicides are seen by the panel as an encouraging sign.
It’s reasonable to draw a correlation between this and the alcohol restrictions as well as improved police numbers, said Ald Stewart.  However, at the same time there’s been an increase in assaults and break-ins especially on premises where alcohol is stored.

Alice youth send message to the UN. By DARCY DAVIS.

Young people from Alice schools, 40 of them all up, told United Nations Youth Association (UNYA) reps on Monday about what they saw as the big issues – locally, nationally and internationally.
They also got the chance to write their views in a book that will presented to Senator Kate Lundy in Canberra when the UNYA reps, Melanie Poole and Elizabeth Shaw, have finished their five-month nation-wide journey.
More importantly perhaps is that they’ll take what they learn to the UN, spending eight weeks working as fully accredited members of the Australian Delegation to the UN General Assembly.
So what was the message from Alice?
“I really think a youth forum should be established for ongoing consultation with young people,” said Claire Ryan.
“The forum would celebrate youth in Alice Springs and their diversity. The group should bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people together and build a community to minimize the prevalence of gang violence.”
(I think Mayor Damien Ryan was also thinking of a similar idea – gee, these kids must be up with politics.)
“Everyone should have the right to feel safe and respected by all, everywhere they go,” said Lara Wood.
(Perhaps the use of force fields could be implemented, or maybe a “befriend a gang” policy could be introduced.)
“Freedom of expression is a major issue of our generation,” said Sylvie Huigen. “Instances such as the Bill Henson photographic exhibition of nude 13 year olds show that is difficult to make an informed decision of consent at such a young age.”
“There should be a nationwide education curriculum and education system, that provides a diversity of subjects, including arts and music that would result in a universal Tertiary Entrance Ranking (TER) and university admission system,” said Lara, “because all students need to prepare for entry to university with some sense of certainty.”
“We need to meet our obligations to international agreements,” said Claire, “particularly the MDGs [Millenium Development Goals] to reduce poverty and promote equality across the world.”
I took part in the forum too and my major concerns related to our need to start meeting our global carbon emissions targets.
And with regards to a local uranium mine, well, like Sylvie said, the town needs the appropriate information to make an informed decision about the matter.
Other issues raised included Alice youth feeling under-represented at both a national and Territory level (below the Berrimah line), a general opposition to the uranium mine and nuclear waste dump site, as well as sustainability and the effects that today’s actions have on the people of tomorrow.
Gang issues came up as well as lack of entertainment, and there was consensus that being a Dry Town is somewhat of a bandaid solution.
Lara and I were selected to attend the United Nations Youth Conference in Hobart in July to further the discussion on youth-related issues.
Trouble is for now, plenty of people got problems. Not many got solutions.

From town camp to the MCG.

Raised at Hidden Valley town camp, Selwyn Anderson is going from strength to strength.
He graduated from Year 12 last year at St John’s College in Darwin and was nominated for Young Achiever awards in four categories: Community Serrvices, Youth Leadership Award, Arts and Sports.
He always loved AFL and is a keen player.
His ambition to one day play at the MCG came true recently when he was chosen to play with the Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) team in a curtain-raiser match.
He’s a well-known face around town, having played the character Charlie in Us Mob, an adventure series involving kids from Hidden Valley – a film and an interactive website.
He often gets called “Charlie”, says Harold Nayda, a former Hidden Valley resident who has been involved in Selwyn’s upbringing.
“He’s a role model for a lot of kids in this town,” says a proud Harold.
Selwyn is pictured with his grandmother, Jane Young (at top). His great-grandmother is Agnes Abbott. Both women supported Selwyn all the way through his schooling, says Harold.
Selwyn’s not the only source of pride for Harold.
He’s also been watching over Dion Neil (above), who’s boarding at St Philip’s College. Dion grew up at Sandy Bore, and spent time at Mt Isa before coming to live with his grandmother, Dorothy Neil, at Hidden Valley.
After two years in bridging courses, Dion is now into mainstream at St Philip’s, says Harold, getting Bs and Cs.
He’s also a bit of a star in athletics at the college, and has been selected to play on NT U18 soccer side despite being only 16.
“He has the talent to become a Socceroo!” declares Harold.

Time travelling. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

Rendering in delicately drawn miniature a form that concentrates in itself explosive, often deadly force has the effect of getting you thinking about received understandings.
And for most Australian viewers of Andrew Moynihan’s elegant exhibition, Lava lava, this would be doubly so, as volcanoes on this continent are experienced as relic forms from another era.
Moynihan’s series of miniatures (monotypes) resemble one another, as our vague apprehensions of these natural phenomena do.
They are also subtly but distinctly different in action, line and particularly mood, with a theatrical character – settings for a vast drama, or rather many, across eons of time.
The central sculpture in the show, which at first glance seems crude alongside the miniatures and too literal in its representation, has a similar scene-setting character – it’s like an object from an ancient place of worship, with its simple, primal symbol of concentric circles.
Moynihan’s reflex to surround the sculpture with potted chrysanthemums, like offerings to placate the elemental forces, emphasises this.
This show takes you travelling, deep into collective memory and natural history.
At Watch This Space, till June 13. – K. Finnane

A garden of delights. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The opening in the dark of the sculpture show at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden was an event in itself: a rare opportunity to venture into an unlit public place, following the warm glow of candles along meandering paths, between shadowy bushes and trees, and here and there picking out in the beam of your torch works of art and fancy, or the delighted faces of other people doing the same thing.
Apart from looking in a quite different way, you also found yourself listening: to the murmur and laughter of the big opening crowd drifting across from the visitor centre, the appreciative soft talking of other explorers in the dark, the crunch of their steps on the gravelled paths, and, unfortunately and very noticeably, as you headed toward the farthest reaches of the garden, the roar of the Titan generators from the power station over the hill.
The work that was seen best in these conditions was Franca Barraclough’s Apparition. This beautifully conceived homage to that feisty spirit and founder of the garden, Olive Pink, was perfectly lit by a single storm lantern, placed inside the white muslin suggestion of a tent.
Going back the next day, this piece was just as poetic in the late afternoon light.
It works best, I feel, as a minimalist form. The tea table, travelling chest and other props placed there by Barraclough, in costume at the weekend adding a performance element to her homage, are all part of an on-going endeavour, but felt extraneous.
A few other works stand out with minimalist force: Al Bethune’s White Gate, with its crucifixion resonance; Steve Anderson’s brilliant male and female vessels, fashioned from discarded dripper line and heads; and Henry Smith’s boat, And a time for every purpose, under heaven.
I head one viewer laugh out loud at what he saw as the mocking tone of the little boat, full of holes and stranded high in the fork of a tree; it prompted another to think of the desert’s memory of the inland sea; and someone else, of the vulnerability of Alice being on a flood plain.
An art work that tells a story or many with a single, simple form is a powerful thing.
But this show is also about participation and there are many delights at this level: I’ll mention young Clancy McLeod’s herd of camels, sculpted in wire, with its title a pithy comment on their place in the environment (Locusts. Cute, but!); Frances Martin’s clever Recycleascope (kids will love having a go); and Carol Adams’ endearing Olive Pink Flora Appreciation Group.
Visiting this show is one of the loveliest things you will do this fine June.

LETTERS: Opal fuel saved 13 lives.

Sir,- Opal fuel saved $100 million and 13 lives in two years.
Remote community members and agencies working with them are united in supporting the fuel, developed by BP.
It has been a crucial weapon in the fight against petrol sniffing, which fell by 90% after Opal was introduced into the region in 2005.
Before Opal was rolled out, there were more than 500 petrol sniffers in this region, with seven deaths every year from sniffing.
The health and social problems caused by sniffing in the region cost the taxpayer an estimated $78.9 million per year.
When Opal replaced ULP fuel in the region, the residents of remote communities in the NT and Alice Springs took the opportunity to stop their young people sniffing and have so far kept it out of their home communities.
We estimate that thirteen lives have been saved by the introduction of Opal and through community actions, as well as saving the taxpayer an estimated $50 million per year in health, police and other costs since the sniffing virtually stopped in early 2006.
Susie Low, manager of Mt Theo Yuendumu Substance Misuse Aboriginal Corporation, says: “The young people of Yuendumu, Nyirripi and Willowra are much safer because of Opal.
“It made it possible for parents to control the minor outbreaks of sniffing that happen in our community.”
Says Gus Williams, Western Aranda Health Board chairman: “Before Opal it was impossible to control sniffing because intoxicating petrol was in every car.
“Now we parents have a much better chance to keep our kids alive and well than we did before.”
Says the NPY Women’s Council: “Opal coming in has meant that petrol sniffing in our communities has just about stopped.
“Life is much more peaceful.
“We are not kept awake all night by people who sniff and upset the whole community with their bad behaviour, and we are not watching our young people become disabled or die from petrol like they used to do for so many years before Opal.”
You can reach us at CAYLUS on 8951 4236.
Blair McFarland
Tristan Ray

Sir,- I own a business in Khalick Street.
Opposite my gate is a stretch of salt bush that is littered so badly that I can smell it from my gate.
My clients, most of whom come from abroad, are truly flabbergasted by this litter and ask me how it is possible that … etc.
I keep my gates closed at all times otherwise my dogs go walkabout in the salt bush.
I can’t blame them, the grounds are covered in bones: rotting chicken, kangaroo tail, what not.
Whenever someone drunk opens my gate and leaves it open my dogs are off.
They come back happy as Larry and smelling like an ordeal.
The rangers are quick to let me know having one’s dogs roam free is not on in Alice. I am threatened with big fines.
However, whoever litters this piece of salt bush is not fined.
Neither are the people who open my gate and leave it open while drunk.
Neither are the people who leave shopping trollies in front of my gate, or run half naked through the street, or shove their children through my gate to check out if there’s any booze on the premisses (the kids are as young as three and fit through tiny holes in my gates).
Whenever a guest of mine is missing a purse or a bag, I go and look in the salt bush.
I have brought these items back from the salt bush several times, without the money but still containing papers, credit cards and so on.
I have covered my front fence with chicken wire from the inside, but still, now and then, a little kid is on the roam in my kitchen.
The noise at night from the salt bush is appalling.
Whenever I call the police they look in the street, not in the bush.
At one time there were about 30 people in the salt bush while the police were patrolling the street!
I could see it all from the window of my second floor apartment that overlooks the bush.
When the police was tired of my calls (every night), I tried the council. The answer: What do you want us to do?
I said: cut down the salt bush and put grass.
The answer: it is a sacred site.
Sacred? With all that litter?
Any other town would be ashamed of itself.
What do I say to the young people from all over the world that ask me questions about this?
That this is just the way it is in Alice?
Suzanne Visser
Alice Springs

Sir,- Beautiful, marvellous Todd River, along which tourists and townspeople walk, enjoying nature and looking at plants and animals.
But what have some people (white persons and Aborigines) done to the beautiful nature along the river?
Some people, when they have had a gathering, should remember before leaving: CLEAN UP after you, so that nature will look alright again.
Other people will come after you have left, and they of course want to see nature undisturbed and not in a mess.
Beer bottles, aluminium foil, paper, card board and plastic are left behind by some visitors.
Another location is at the former army camp, 600 meters north of Shwartz Crescent, on the east side of the river.
That’s where the army forgot to clean away the heaps of barbed wire, lying there from 1942, days of defending Alice Springs against the invaders.
Two months ago, I talked to the Town Council about it, telling that the rock wallabies and other animals could get in there and not get out again, breaking their legs against the barbed wire.
But when apparently nothing happened, I got some thongs and went there and removed the barbed wires myself.
It was fairly easy to do it.
I removed part of it to some refuse-cans lying 500 meters to the south, at Chewings Street and Sturt Turn-pike.
I have now cleaned up the Todd River all the way from the Telegraph Station down to the Heavitree Gap.
May I suggest that the fines for littering nature be increased 10-fold; then the vandals who do not clean up after them will notice it, and take heed.
Svend Henriksen
Alice Springs

Sir,- Adam Connelly (Adam’s Apple, May 29) on the Finke desert race says, among other things, that “…it’s not a fine wine.”
With respect, what would your columnist know of both fine wine and off-road racing?  
How can Adam say that the Finke race is no fine wine when he refuses to even taste the offering? 
For all he knows, it could be a Henschke “Hill of Grace” that he is missing out on.
 Most off-road racing takes place far away from the capital cities and suburbia for obvious reasons.  
Understandably, many of those involved in dirt racing have a country or regional background.  
The real measuring stick for all these long established endurance events like Hattah and Maffra is the old 24 hour solo and sidecar format established in 1924 which was known as The News 24 hour held annually in South Australia.  
To have man and machine finish 24 hours of racing is no mean feat mentally or physically.  
The preparation, the spirit, the skills involved and the dedication could indeed be compared to the finest of wines. 
The Finke race is still in its maturation phase and best appreciated in a few years time.
Adam goes on to say that he doesn’t get what the Finke fuss is all about. 
That’s OK Adam. Vive la difference! 
You would not appreciate the mind-numbing cold of a Barossa Valley winter in mid July which soon sorts out the pretenders from the contenders. 
The same could be said for the wombats, the roos, the ice on the saddle, the pea soup fog, the rain and hail, the Eudunda ruts and the chilling Kapunda winds.  
 Each off road event has its own demands on the competitors and support crews.  
Our Finke event is no different in that respect. 
I wish all involved the best and safest of weekends.
David Chewings
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: The global village just got bigger.

In a couple of hours I’ll be on a plane on my way to Sydney for a week of family, friends and frivolity.
It is always good to get home, and a recharge of the old batteries is in order.
You can tell when it’s time for Adam to get out of Alice for a spell.
My regular jovial self is slowly replaced in a Jeckyll and Hyde style.
The words happy, funny and kind are replaced with tetchy, grumpy and annoyed. And I don’t think I’m Robinson Crusoe on that one. 
I am a firm believer that for the mental health of the town, everyone in Alice Springs needs to leave it at least a couple of times a year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking down the town, I’m simply saying that due to the isolation of the town, it is worth reacquainting oneself with some of the other six billion humans about the place.
I think we can get so caught up in the goings on around Central Australia, it’s easy to forget that there are other people out there somewhere.
In fact I reckon that as citizens of remote Australia, we should have a couple of airfares each year made tax deductible or subsidised. Can we write a letter to the treasurer? They surely have a surplus they can spend.
Mind you, after the week we’ve just witnessed, subsidising one person’s air travel might send the Territory broke.
I remember the outcry when a barrel of oil broke the $100 mark. People were saying that the world would need to find alternative energy solutions and find them quickly. Do you remember that?
Of course you do, it was last year. This week a barrel of oil will set you back $170. I heard a rumour that oil companies are trying to save money by buying barrels on ebay.
Airlines are starting to look down the barrel (pardon the pun) of massive fuel costs. CEOs and boards across the globe are wondering what it’s going to take to make a buck flying people across the globe. A lot of different measures have been undertaken. In America some airlines have stopped handing out bags of peanuts to passengers. We are about to have to pay a fee to have our bags checked in. QANTAS is set to lay off jobs and cut regional services. Ironically the first services to go will be from the airline’s birthplace in regional Queensland and Northern Territory. 
I wonder if the CEO of the multinational QANTAS sees that irony.
If the price of oil gets any higher, the entire air travel industry is going to become unviable. We’ll be forced to regress a couple of hundred years. Here in Alice Springs we’ll all be riding camels across the desert. Now I know we romanticise our history but to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think riding a camel for a couple of weeks to get to the coast is all that romantic at all.
The musical stylings of Chris De Burgh might be romantic. A night by the fire with food and wine and Puccini on the stereo might be romantic. Sitting on the hump of a beast uglier than soccer hooliganism is definitely not romantic.
There’s a revolution coming people! You heard it here first. Oil prices are making our global village a bit bigger. A bit harder to get around. And people will only take it for so long.
I don’t know what the answer might be. Is it a hybrid engine airplane? Is it solar powered flight? Is it letting airlines make millions of dollars profit instead of billions?
Do we need another war over oil? I don’t know. But sooner or later the revolution will come.
So fasten your seatbelts and place your tray tables in an upright and locked position.

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