July 3, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Scullion ‘stuffed up’: Mills canes Senator over national parks give-away. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

“He has stuffed up. He knows that.”
That is the blunt assessment by Opposition Leader Terry Mills of his CLP party colleague, Nigel Scullion, after he voted in the Senate last week in favour of transferring to Aborigines the ownership of 13 national parks in The Centre.
“Senator Scullion not only failed to secure the support of the Federal Opposition for the defeat of the Bill, he acted against his long-held convictions.”
Mr Mills says he is disappointed that the Federal Opposition supported the Bill.
“The Coalition misjudged the issues,” he says, possibly “in the context of recently issuing an apology” to the stolen generations.
“After speaking to Senator Scullion I understood the lie of the Coalition land.”
He says the Opposition actions “created barriers and divisions in the community.”
Although the Opposition last week still had a majority in the Senate, the Bill was passed to “schedule” the parks – including the iconic West MacDonnells – as inalienable freehold land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act.
The move had been opposed for years by the CLP, local government in Alice Springs, and 75% of people answering a survey by the Alice Springs News (see extensive coverage in the Alice Springs News online edition at
The handover of the parks, following a deal principally between Ms Martin and the Central Land Council, was requested by the NT Government for fear that the parks could be subjected to expensive and divisive land claims.
Mr Mills described this reasoning as “untested”.
He says once Senator Scullion, who is the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, had failed to get the Coalition’s support, his “opposition to this Bill would have been symbolic.
“It could not have affected the passage of the Bill.”
Nevertheless, says Mr Mills, “I do not agree with his decision to pass the Bill.”
Senator Scullion is the only conservative politician from the Territory in Canberra.
He had earlier stated that Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson would have no choice but to support the CLP’s stance on the parks.
The fact that he didn’t is clearly a matter of intense discussion now within the CLP, which is going into an imminent election in the NT with just four sitting members.
The Alice Springs News put to Mr Mills that the clear message from the Liberal and National parties to the majority in the Northern Territory is “you don’t exist for us”.
Mr Mills said he “more or less” agreed with that assessment.
“How conservative politics is structured and organised is high on my agenda,” he says.
Senator Scullion drew a blank not only with the people he sits with in the Federal Parliament.
A strategy to justify his own position also failed.
He had sought an assurance from NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson that the parks – due to be leased back to the Territory Government for 99 years – would be run by a board with a majority appointed by the NT Government.
Mr Henderson did not provide that guarantee – yet Senator Scullion rolled over and supported the Bill.
Says Mr Mills: “The Territory needs more than assurances” about the running of the parks.
“We need iron-clad guarantees that management will reflect the wide Territory interest.
“Assurances made by Henderson and not backed up by law are meaningless.”
Mr Mills admits that influencing the course of events now that the last opportunity of stopping the transfer has been missed, would be like “unscrambling eggs”.
But he’s working hard to plug into the national power game. He will be raising the parks fiasco with Mr Nelson, “no doubt about that”.
Mr Mills says the planned mergers in Queensland and Victoria of the Nationals and the Liberals will givean impetus for change in conservative politics, right through to the Federal arena. “When it happens, the CLP will need to capitalise on the change.”

LETTERS: Parks give-away will hurt the very people it is meant to help.

Sir,- I am dismayed beyond belief with the current capitulation by both the major parties to the same old wealthy, self-serving Indigenous interests. 
The handover of our parks smacks of Mugabe style economics. 
Potentially those that could drive the ecological tourist industry, thus providing jobs for Indigenous people, could be driven out in favor of mates of the Indigenous hierarchy who in the past have illustrated a high level of incompetence in serving themselves and not their own people. 
These parks could echo the now deserted farms of Zimbabwe.  Who will lose may I ask? 
Yes, the very people this is purported to assist.
I simply cannot believe that we are meekly surrendering to these powerful Indigenous elites. 
The CLP, rather than pursuing a reformist agenda which could see true racial equality and integration, are pathetically trying to out-left the Labor Party, ignorant to the fact that these crazies have gone so far out to the extremities of reality that they are in fact pursuing policies that will lead to racial, economic and social segregation. 
Who would have thought, in the year 2008 we would still be placating the same few capitalist Indigenous interests who are more than happy, for their own purposes, to segregate black and white Australians by the use of the permit system and to now create their own economic ghettos that will further segregate and alienate black from white.
This lunacy has and will continue ensuring that the powerful become more powerful whilst those on the floor will continue to live in squalor, segregated and conveniently ignorant.
I am totally convinced, that if it wasn’t for the Indigenous origins of those who are manipulating this agenda, the Trish Crossins of the world would staunchly oppose this as being racially divisive and economically non-providing. 
Ald. Murray Stewart
Alice Springs

Sir,- Frank Baarda (letters, Alice News, June 26) has a good sense of humour and a clever turn of phrase.
 I laughed when I read his letter, the wooden horse is a great image, and an intervention without humour needs attention. 
Yet, it is also sad that he attacks and makes fun of, the only significant change in government policy in 30 years.
The intervention was certainly a blunt instrument. 
However, for several years before it began I had a growing conviction that only an earthquake would bring any change to the fear, violence and abuse that cloud Aboriginal living conditions.
 This unbelievably ancient, complex and beautiful culture was being desecrated and people dying mostly at their own hand so fast that friends and their children and former students of mine were dying young or fostering too many children and grandchildren and nephews of totally dysfunctional parents.
Frank sounds like the nightly news when he says “there have been no convictions for child abuse”. 
We all know that a report and conviction for child abuse are very, very different phenomena. 
He would know too that the level of child abuse by some has long been beyond description and the current government facilities i.e. FACS could get nowhere with it – the case in Queensland was not an isolated event.
Obesity in Yuendumu as in most communities, is a big problem, so are skinny children. 
Income management has not come to your community yet. Well it also needs fine-tuning and was always designed for besieged families and there are so many of those. 
Of course, many do not need it but should we ignore the plight of those who simply used all their income for grog and were living under a bridge being satisfied to survive on leftovers – or those that were humbugged to death to handover cash for grog. 
Some are now using money for a few new clothes for the first time in years and to buy food from the store. 
This is good news – 50% on food and housing: Mr Baarda, wouldn’t you spend that much yourself on food, clothing and housing? 
If this disadvantages good small stores like your own this needs to be adjusted under the review.
Is the new bureaucrat at Yuendumu useless as some in other communities are proving to be? 
Another level of government is not what was needed. 
Where could the intervention money really be helpful at Yuendumu? 
Let us know Frank, how and where do things need change? 
Don’t only be clever in columns, people like you who have worked for years with Aboriginal people and seen it all first hand can offer practical advice. 
You know that Bess Price is right that losing three brothers to alcohol is too many! 
Warlpiri people are dynamic, clever and warm, good people but all the children are not “well fed and happy.” 
How can you help Frank Baarda? Be constructive, you have a lot to offer.
Carol Sharples Muir
Alice Springs

Law into his own hands?

A man is alleged to have injured a youth fleeing after a foiled attempt to break into a woman’s dwelling on June 20.
Police Superintendent Sean Parnell says investigations are under way to establish whether the man, who came to the assistance of the woman, should be charged.
A media release by police last week said a 30-year-old woman in Telegraph Terrace resisted a home invasion in Telegraph Terrace.
“Both the woman victim and the alleged offender were taken to hospital and received treatment,” said the report.
The youth, aged 17, was later flown to Adelaide where he was treated for head injuries in the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
A spokeswoman for the Alice Springs hospital said this week it is routine for people with head injuries to be evacuated to Adelaide.
She said the youth was due to be discharged soon.
This is how the initial police report described the events: “It is alleged that a 17 year old male smashed a back window of the premises and attempted to gain entry.
“When the victim called police, he smashed another window and then tried to gain entry to the residence by forcing a back door.  
“The victim kept the offender out by slamming the door on him several times.
“He is alleged to have thrown an object at the victim causing facial injuries which later required suturing.  
“About this time a friend of the victim had arrived and assisted in subduing the offender.”
The spokeswoman, who also represents the Children and Families Service, undertook to find out whether the youth was in the care of FACS and if so, why he was in a position to commit the alleged offence.
No answer was provided before deadline.

New burbs at airport? Huge development costs differences: will they determine where Alice grows? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Imagine a new residential development that is unencumbered by native title, not affected by the Territory’s sometimes onerous town planning controls, exempt from town council rates, and cheap so far as provision of services is concerned, the so-called headworks.
A Caribbean tax haven?
No, it’s under your nose: just 15 minutes from the CBD, between the airport and the Rangeview Estate rural subdivision.
The Alice Springs airport is, in terms of area, the biggest in Australia, if not the world.
About 10% (400 hectares – see map) of its 35.5 square kilometres has been flagged at the recent planning forum as one of the serious options for the expansion of the town, and much more of the area when one takes in possible uses for tourism and industry.
In a detailed submission on growth options for the town, consultants to the NT Government Opus Qantec McWilliam described the airport land, combined with the Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI) area, as “overall the most cost effective option”.
The larger of the two AZRI options provides for 826 single dwellings, 347 multiple dwellings and 280 medium density blocks.
Opus says the airport land has “very high yield in the long term” and “high potential for commercial land”.
The estimated yields would be 1700 single dwellings, 650 multiple dwellings and 320 medium density blocks.
Between the two of them, AZRI and the airport land could accommodate some 15,000 to 16,000 people.
Opus also says there is an opportunity for a dual water supply from the Power and Water Corporation’s sewage reuse plant.
An option to deal with more traffic through the Gap is a dual carriageway “bridge” elevating the road through the Gap.
This would increase the flow of the Todd River and reduce, to a degree, the risk of flooding in the town.
The headworks costs for the AZRI-airport option are $14,000 per block, compared to $42,000 in Mt Johns Valley, for example.
Costs would be higher still for the Undoolya option, around $56,000 per block, an estimated $210m all up, including $26m for new sewage ponds, $137m for a water supply from Rocky Hill, and $40m for roads.
Undoolya would ultimately cater for 15,000 people, but most of the headworks for the entire development would need to be done up front.
With the AZRI-airport option, Rocky Hill water is closer, the lines from the soon to be built power station at Brewer Estate will run past the front door, and sewage can be pumped up to the existing ponds.
Surprisingly, there is no talk about relocating the pongy sewage plant which, if the AZRI-airport option is adopted, will be pretty well in the middle of the town.
Soon Alice Springs will need to state its case to the government, and it may well be this: you’ve spent squillions on the Darwin Waterfront, complete with wave pool. Now it’s our turn. We prefer the scenery at Undoolya, so don’t skimp on headworks costs.
The airport land belongs to the Commonwealth, and is under freehold title, which extinguishes native title rights.
The land in Mt Johns Valley, by contrast, has a $10m price tag on it for native title holders, using the deal for the Larapinta subdivision as a guide.
The airport’s operating company, Alice Springs Airport Pty Ltd (ASA), owned principally by Australian superannuation funds, is leasing the airport land for 99 years.
Being Commonwealth property the NT Government has no jurisdiction over the airport land, and NT planning provisions do not apply.
And the town council has no right to charge rates for Commonwealth land although the airport is in the municipal area.
In reality, however, there are some compromises: the Commonwealth sometimes pays ex-gratia (voluntary) council rates.
ASA CEO Donald McDonald says the Commonwealth being rate exempt “was a suggestion at the forum but is not necessarily the view of ASA”.
Arrangements are likely to be made to fall in with at least some aspects of NT planning laws, possibly over sections of the airport land split off for residential purposes.
But one thing’s for sure: making some generous concessions here or there is a lot better than being forced into complying with demands from a string of authorities.
Mr McDonald, who’s about to embark on drawing up the airport’s third five-year plan, says his company would be careful not to offend against “acceptable” land use patterns.
This raises some questions.
The Opus plan presented to the forum shows along Colonel Rose Drive, the northern boundary of the airport, land for “single dwellings”, conjuring up anything from homes on quarter acre blocks to cluster housing.
In one place along that road there is provision even for “medium rise residential” developments.
And east of the residential areas is one set aside for “tourism” – which could mean anything from walking trails down to the Todd River to hotels and caravan parks.
On the other side of Colonel Rose Drive are long-established rural residential areas, mostly two hectare blocks (five acres).
Residents there have fought determined battles, by and large successfully, to retain the character of their area and their lifestyle.
Mr McDonald told the Alice Springs News that community wishes would be respected and where appropriate, there would be rural residential land, which would mean two hectare blocks or bigger.
Says Mr McDonald: “The airport would be bound by any constraints that the Federal Transport Minister includes in his approval of the next – and current – five year master plan.
“It will be developed with consultation with the NT Government and the Alice Springs Town Council.”
The airport’s current five year plan says: “The rural residential development will mirror the existing private development on the north side of Colonel Rose Drive.
“The proposal will respond to existing known demand for rural residential developments [and] provide a range of lot sizes which will take into account the capability of the land and other environmental or service constraints.”
But on the Opus plan there is no provision for rural blocks.
A government source says the Opus plan is merely one of a number of possible scenarios, subject to a great deal more public comment.
Mr McDonald says he understands the Opus plan to be an indication of what the NT Government has in mind.
But a high-level government source says it’s what Opus thought the airport company had in mind.
There are a couple of eccentric restrictions on the airport land: all prostitution and certain forms of gambling are banned, a legacy of the involvement of independent Senator Brian Harradine in the drafting of the lease conditions for Commonwealth land.
But there are also plans for tourism, agriculture, horticulture, commercial activities, general industry and heritage uses of the huge airport block.
This is what, in part, the airport’s current five year plan has in mind:-
• Tourism opportunities may be developed for anything from bush experiences to hotel or golf course development according to future demand. There are no proposals to introduce any form of powered or wheeled activities within this area.
• Land with potential horticultural use is between the tourism zone and the aerodrome. It will remain unused until a viable operation is identified.
• Two commercial precincts will largely be developed alongside the road access as demand requires, for airport support and following consultation on compatibility with the needs of the Alice Springs township.
• A commercial precinct adjacent to the Stuart Highway [on the corner with Colonel Rose Drive] will serve mainly non-airport users including residents and travellers on the highway. For example a service station, supermarket or catering facility would be appropriate.
• An area west of runway 17/35 – the one running roughly north-south – was identified in the previous plan as a possible transportation centre, although distant from the Stuart Highway and not near the rail line, this site does have potential to maximise an opportunity to centralise freight make-up linking both road and air transport, close to the airport. The land could also be assigned to general industry uses.
• Heritage sites include buildings within the old Seven Mile Aerodrome, the passenger terminal, control tower and Bellman Hangar.
A preservation plan is currently being prepared to protect these buildings.
• Commercial (non–aeronautical) land development [could include] retailing areas ranging from neighbourhood convenience shopping to regional centres [and] general as well as light industry.

ENVIRONMENT: Glimpse of Alice in 2030. By KIERAN FINNANE.

What will it be like to live in Alice Springs in 2030 – taking into account climate change and other changes?
A group of researchers from CDU are attempting to paint a picture, based as much on the imagination of local people as on scientific data.
In fact, information about the impact of climate change at a regional level is “very uncertain”, said Stephen Garnett, Director of the School for Environmental Research.
And he would be relying on local expertise to point to data in the other areas that will be explored in the scenario modelling exercise.
Some 30 people, mostly from environment-oriented professions, gathered for the first workshop of this exercise on Monday, convened by Rolf Gerritsen, Research Leader for CDU in Central Australia. Dr Garnett noted the lack of business people present.
The future can’t be predicted, he said, but by pulling together a lot of different ideas and using the best data and knowledge currently available, you can get close.
That knowledge is useful in talking to policy-makers and developing contingency plans, allowing communities to be better placed to respond to future shocks.
A simple example of scenario modelling is to look at relationships between possible temperature rises, population increases and the demand for electricity to power air-conditioning. At some point the demand exceeds capacity, said Dr Garnett.
Discussion began around the scale of the group’s concern: did they want to focus on Alice Springs alone? Nobody did. Areas within a 300 km radius from town were considered to be the minimal area of interest, with support for going further, to at least 500 kms.
Generally it was thought the APY Lands of the far north of South Australia needed to be included.
Tennant Creek needed its own scenario but should also be taken into account in the Alice discussion.
The eastern-most communities and pastoral lands of the NT were deemed to be more oriented to Queensland.
There was no firm data on climate change to direct the discussion.
It would be hotter in summer and slightly cooler in winter, with less frequent rainfall coming in “big lumps”.
In small group discussion these were some of the ideas canvassed:
• Economic and social factors would have bigger influences on Central Australia than climate change over the next 20 years.
High water, energy and fuel costs would drive the economy into “shutdown mode”; tourism, cattle industries would shrivel; there would be a drop in population and a change in demographic, with far more Indigenous than non-Indigenous people.
Alice under this scenario would survive “like Tennant Creek” – a regional centre to serve local needs.
Social welfare would take over the major industries.
• With small communities impacted by the cascade effect of economic change across the country, Alice Springs would become a magnet for those populations.
There was a lot of agreement around the impact being greatest for Aboriginal people.
• On the positive side, there was a lot of speculation around the opportunities for the town and the region to become more self-sufficient: to eat its own meat, grow more of its own fruit and vegetables in dispersed locations, recycle its water, take advantage of its renewable energy resources, become a model of desert living.
But the need for good information around these ideas was noted, for instance, information on the impact of using recycled sewage water on salinity levels and soil structure.
• On the pessimistic side there was gloom about the educational level specifically of the Indigenous population. In 20 years’ time the people at decision-making and leadership age would be the 20 year olds of today who are generally poorly educated.
• A town of 25,000 people doesn’t count on a national scale, but on the other hand, Alice does attract a lot of attention and “punches above its weight”.
And because it’s small and off the national energy grid, there may be an opportunity to “get it right here”.
• What happens in Alice and the region is subject to so many external decisions. For instance, the tariffs for power and water are set by the NT Government and their low level does not encourage conservation.
• Change may be driven by things getting worse: the hip-pocket will be hit so hard it will lead to innovation.
• A worst case scenario was that we wouldn’t have learnt anything. Looking at the present, what have we learnt, what are we passing on to our kids?
• Another was that the town would become a fly in, fly out mine, “China’s quarry”.
Drawing from the discussions, Dr Garnett identified the following as the areas in which to develop models: population change; tourism; fuel costs; urban drift; water use; horticulture; energy; skills and education; health services; infrastructure and its sustainability; transport; federal policy (and other external influences); outstation support; the federal Intervention in Indigenous communities; energy efficiency policy; an emissions trading scheme; a sustainable pastoral industry; food self-reliance; morale and social function; feral animals; eco-system health; desert knowledge; mining; fire; wealth and benefit distribution; the desert as dumping ground for waste and prisons;  migration (bringing skills and refugees); disease (bio-security); governance (including the case for a separate territory of Centralia); creativity and innovation; opportunities for cohesion; opportunities for positive adaptation to climate change.
The models developed will come to the group for further refinement before a report is drafted.
“Ultimately that is the purpose of the process,” said Dr Garnett, “to get people thinking hard about how they might adapt to climate change when it happens.
“The worst disasters are those that take you by surprise.”

ENVIRONMENT: Solar City alone won’t get Town Council to 2010 greenhouse emissions reduction target. By KIERAN FINNANE.

More than a year after the Town Council was taken to task over failure to implement its own plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and 10 years after they signed up to Cities For Climate Protection, an international campaign to involve local government in greenhouse gas emission reduction, they are again considering how to go forward.
As part of the campaign, council’s local action plan (LAP) aimed to reduce its own and community greenhouse gases by 20% by the year 2010.
A recent report by council’s environment officer, Reinier Laan, takes stock of where the LAP is at, which is well short of the target despite the Solar City project.
“It is not enough to rely on a few projects like the Alice Springs Solar City Consortium to reach the LAP goal,” writes Mr Laan.
Through that project the community sector greenhouse savings are expected to be some 12,900 tonnes, while the LAP target is 65,080 tonnes.
Mr Laan urges council to show leadership by further reducing its own emissions from sources such as water, energy and waste.
He makes a range of suggestions for action including a green procurement policy; encouragement of home composting and future kerbside recycling; reducing park lawn in consultation with residents; implementing policy to further reduce vehicle emissions; encouraging greater use of public transport by private vehicle users.
He says a feasibility study is necessary to prioritise actions.
His analysis shows that just over half of the LAP’s recommendations for council’s operations “are being completed”.
These included energy efficiency and lighting retrofit of council buildings; reduction of water consumption in parks; and waste reduction, all of which are ongoing.
A start has been made on further improvements in streetlight efficiency (this is being researched) and on research into energy efficient technology and alternative fuel use in council vehicles (the mayor drives a hybrid car).
In the community a cycle program managed by council’s sport and rec officer, management of the landfill tender to achieve waste reduction, and a public library reference section on energy efficiency are likewise ongoing.
The NT Government is extending the local bus routes, but a start has yet to be made on encouraging more people to use the busses instead of their cars.
Mr Laan gives these initiatives in the community, together with the Solar City project, a 62.5% completion rating.
He comments that the weakness of the LAP is that it concentrates on council operations and the residential part of the community, while it is business that will be responsible for 80% of emissions in Alice Springs in 2010.
Mr Laan says council needs to seek extra funding of $150,000 a year to help implement its LAP goals.
And he recommends that council’s new Environment Advisory Committee, chaired by Greens alderman Jane Clark, evaluate all LAP actions so that the reduction target of 65,0000 tonnes is reached more economically.
He writes that the council is in “high danger” of not reaching its 2010 target.

ENVIRONMENT: Uranium, Timor gas ‘our hope’. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Territory’s uranium resources and Timor Sea gas are identified as “substantial greenhouse-friendly energy resources” with “strong potential” for expansion in the NT Government’s discussion paper on Climate Change Issues.
They head the paper’s list of “strategic opportunities” for the NT presented by climate change.
If uranium and gas were used to replace coal, says the paper, they would lead to the avoidance of around 200 million tonnes of carbon annually, equivalent to nearly 15 times the NT’s own emissions.
Moving agricultural production to the north is mentioned as a possible opportunity – yet to be studied in any detail.
Emissions from the land clearing involved would be offset by reforestation in the southern regions of the country, suggest the paper.
Savannah burning, which substantially contributes to the NT being one of the worst per capita carbon emitters in the world, is also presented as an opportunity, with improved fire management practices culminating in the ability to create carbon offsets.
There is no mention of renewable energy under the “opportunity” heading, though elsewhere it is suggested that “renewables” will be making an increasing contribution to our supplies of energy.
The paper is also upbeat about standards of living.
Costs are listed as higher prices for air-conditioning, fuel, air travel and a vast range of goods and services.
But this doesn’t mean necessarily that our living standards or economy will decline, it is suggested.
Using energy more efficiently – doing things like switching off lights to switching over time to more energy efficient buildings or sometimes walking to the shops instead of using the car – “should have no negative impact on our standard of living”.
Revenue from an emissions trading scheme (ETS), if recycled, would ensure a minimal negative effect from the ETS on economic activity, says the paper.
It goes on: “The NT Government is determined to ensure that no actions will be taken that threaten the continuing development of the Territory’s economy in a carbon-constrained future.
“Ongoing economic growth will continue to deliver higher incomes for the NT community. With higher incomes, energy costs become a smaller proportion of the household expenditure.”
In its conclusions, however, the paper does recognise the need for: “enhanced data and information” to plan for the impacts of climate change; an examination of “the risks and vulnerability” for a range of “human and natural assets”; and to build “adaptive capacity” for ecosytems, communities and industries.

‘The nuclear non-solution’.

The NT Government’s discussion paper on climate change has an inappropriate focus on uranium exports, environmentalists have charged.
Justin Tutty, from the No Waste Alliance, says the discussion paper fails on three counts :
• it is preoccupied with the “nuclear non-solution”;
• it argues for some of the dirtiest polluters in the Territory to be exempt from the anticipated emissions trading scheme;
• and, disappointingly, the significant potential of proven renewable energy options is discounted and dismissed.
“We were shocked to realise the paper erroneously lists nuclear power as renewable, and promotes expansion of uranium mining,” says Mr Tutty
Nat Wasley, from the Beyond Nuclear Initiative in Alice Springs, says the paper is a throwback to the Howard government’s pro-nuclear agenda.
“In 2006, the Liberals defied public opinion to propose 25 unwanted nuclear reactors in Australian cities,” says Ms Wasley
“They failed, because the evidence was stacked against them.
“And Territorians still have the proposal for a federal radioactive dump looming, and there is strong concern that with increased uranium exports, international pressure will see any national dump expanded to house international waste.”

Where have all the young ones gone? By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Youth Centre on Wills Terrace looks uninviting from the front – high cyclone wire fence, security screen right around the front building – but it has a committed board of volunteers running it, a new friendly youth worker, and some great facilities.
Where else can young people play pool for free? Or do a workout for free? Or just hang out together without being asked to move on?
“The kids know it’s there, but they think it’s never open,” says president Marie Petery.
“I was at the recent youth forum and what did they say they wanted – a youth centre in the middle of town, with pool tables, table tennis, where they can go with no charge. That’s what we’ve got!
“But it needs a new face.”
The board has applied for the second time for capital works funding from the Department of Sport and Recreation (they were knocked back last year).
Their plans are to open up the centre at the front with decking, so that kids can walk into the “teenage room” straight off the street.
Sport and Rec has a limit of $50,000 for capital works and the board’s plans need at least $100,000.
If successful with the first application, they’ll go to the Federal Government for the rest, says Ms Petery. 
This amount would not take care of the other repair and maintenance requirements.
“The whole place needs a coat of paint and there are cracks in the hall – you’re talking about a 50 year old building.
“Our canteen and the kitchen in the hall also need upgrades to bring them up to scratch with health regulations,” says Ms Petery.
The facility is “owned by the community”. If you’re a Youth Centre member (for a mere $10 a year) “you’re a part-owner”.
It’s on land leased from the NT Government for 99 years. Beyond the physical upgrade, the centre also needs more paid staff.
At present Julia Valentin is the only staff member but the board is hopeful of engaging another if funding comes through.
But to get the centre operating at full capacity and staying open later at night it needs three staff, says Ms Petery.
It has been able to stay open largely thanks to the volunteers who run the various structured activities – gymnastics, various martial arts, boxing. At present hours are 1pm to 7.30pm.
Julia, originally from Germany where she trained and worked as a youth worker, is focussing on the teenage room.  
She’s dubbed it the Cool Cats’ Cafe but recognises that it’s not very funky or cosy.
She plans to turn it into a more welcoming hangout for young people aged 13 to 19, and has a donation of $300 to make a start.
“I’ve been told this place used to be buzzing – that’s what I want to get happening,” she says.
During the school holidays she’s promoting the cafe as a hangout from 2pm to 4.30pm, Monday to Thursday, and on Fridays to 5pm.
There’s a sound system (youth can bring their own CDs); board games; magazines; the canteen.
They can watch a movie, and Julia will open up the well-equipped gyms if they feel like a workout.
Outdoors there’s a roller-blading area, a basketball court and a trampoline.
And indoors a number of studios for the different physical activities as well as the hall, which is sometimes used for concerts.
The centre is a place to be if young people don’t want to be at home, says Julia, and much better than them being on the streets.
It offers the opportunity of being social and entertained, while Julia is there as a point of contact if they need help in any way.
Julia’s approach is low-key, friendly, respectful: “If you show them respect, they show respect for you.”
While there was no-one using the facilities when the Alice News was there, there had been groups in through the week, 10 earlier that day, eight the day before, mainly boys in their mid teens.
Julia hopes they’ll spread the word.

Licence to buy gun not good enough to buy grog.

A man who showed an NT firearms licence at a liquorshop had it knocked back as suitable form of photo ID.
Customers have been required to show photo ID when buying alcohol since June 23.
Grant “Roadie” Cawthorne  also had rejected his contractor’s licence issued by the South Australian Office of Consumer Affairs.
The firearms licence and the contractor’s licence are both government issued and show Mr Cawthorne’s photo. Mr Cawthorne does have a driver’s licence but did not want to show it for privacy reasons – because it discloses his address.
Chris McIntyre, regional executive officer of Licensing, says the problem is simply one of the software not recognising every last form of photo ID.
The templates of the most common forms are “keyed into the system,” says Mr McIntyre, so that the computer knows where to “read” the photo and details such as name and date of birth. The computer does not store any of this information.
The forms of ID recognised are: drivers’ licence;  passport; 18+ card; and cards issued by Tangentyere Council, Julalikari Council in Tennant Creek and the Larrakiah Council in Darwin. 
“These cards are not primarily for buying grog,” says Mr McIntyre.
“They’re used for Centrelink, Return to Country and at some banks.”
On complaints such as Mr Cawthorne’s, Mr McIntyre says: 
“People have been demanding that we target problem drinkers.
“Well, scanning photo ID is one way we can do that.”
He says that if a significant number of people were using others forms of photo ID and “we were satisfied with the integrity of that form”, its template would be keyed into the system.
But this is not warranted by a few instances.
Mr Cawthorne says he bought a cask of port for a tourist who was attempting to buy two (only one a day is allowed). The tourist complained about not being made aware of the liquor restrictions when he made plans for his trip, says Mr Cawthorne.
Mr McIntyre says his department is trying to work with the tourist industry, and has distributed some 10,000 postcards to tourist accommodation in Alice.
“We are trying to portray our laws in a positive light,” he says. 

Go-ahead for Civic Centre art.

The public art project planned for the corner of Todd Mall and Gregory Terrace will go ahead, with the Town Council’s $150,000 being matched dollar for dollar by the Territory Government.
The project is called the  “gathering garden” and features seating in the form of upturned coolamons cast in bronze and a central water feature, also in the form of a coolamon, within colourful and shady native-species landscaping.
The concept is the work of Melbourne-based sculptor Julie Squires and Central Arrernte / Warlpiri artists Marie Elena Ellis and Roseanne Ellis, daughters of renowned Papunya painter Michael Jagamarra Nelson, who created the design for the forecourt mosaic at Parliament House in Canberra. They are pictured above with Geoff Miers who has done the planting design, Bess Price who worked on the project development as a cultural advisor, Ms Squires and her uncle David Price, who helped provide local knowledge. Marie is at left, Roseanne, right.
• A mother and young daughter collaborative exhibition, KID, is showing at Watch This Space.

ADAM CONNELLY: ET – go home!

I’d never heard of Marlinja before last week.It has a population of 112, the same amount of people who watch Battle of the Choirs.
I can’t point it out on a map. Partly because my knowledge of NT geography is embarrassingly poor but also because it isn’t on many maps. Regardless, the town of Marlinja made news across the globe last week.
Late on a Sunday evening, four Unidentified Flying Objects were seen to fly around the town. Apparently bright lights were first seen accompanied by a noise so loud it made the earth shake. The lights hovered above the basketball courts before flying off into the outback.
Maybe we were visited by a species of life from another planet.
But by definition, UFOs are tricky things to identify. In fact, apart from a few grainy black and whites and a conspiracy theorist’s imagination, there really isn’t much in the way of hard evidence.
Not for want of trying. There are people on this planet, closely related to those who talk about secret societies based in the Vatican controlling the governments of the world, who dedicate their lives to proving extra-terrestrial life exists.
They use sophisticated satellites listening for anomalies in radio waves in outer space. They read books and surf the internet for articles written by others equally committed to discovering life from other planets. They talk about Roswell and Area 54 and now Marlinja, Northern Territory will also be a part of this select group’s vernacular.
I know people who are very interested in this field of endeavour. (I suppose it might be a little difficult to just have a passing interest in alien life. It seems to be an all or nothing kind of thing.)
I don’t tend to invite them to dinner parties to be honest. They seem to only really want to discuss their latest theory. I know a bloke with an exhaustive (in more ways than one) theory about crop circles. My attention during the explanation waned somewhat a couple of minutes in, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with electro-magnetic lines, interplanetary road maps and druids.
There is also a particularly virulent breed of bar fly in Alice Springs convinced that deep within the bowels of Pine Gap there is a spaceship or two. They talk of the big white globes as giant radio transmitters to communicate with aliens. “I mean, why else would they build it in the middle of nowhere? No interference you see?”
I really couldn’t be less interested. Maybe it’s because I really didn’t think Close Encounters of the Third Kind was that great a film. Maybe it’s because I have enough trouble keeping my own life in order.
But mostly it’s because if aliens turn up unannounced, the place is a bit of a mess. Think about it. If alien life lands in the middle of New York or London and announces to the world that they are from a planet like ours and they come in peace, how does that really help us?
Europeans nearly killed Indigenous races across the planet because someone on the boat had a cough. Can you imagine what funky alien diseases these space travelers might bring? 
As if we don’t have enough problems of our own. Now we have another six billion beings with their own issues. We can’t even look after ourselves.
Imagine if they want a tour of the place? We’d be like the host that quickly shuffles guests past the main bedroom because that’s where they threw all the junk 20 minutes before the guests arrived.
“And here we have Africa, moving on… have you seen Europe?”
To be honest I don’t think aliens are very congenial anyway. They cross the galaxy, travelling light years in small space ships and then only get sighted in places like Marlinja before scooting off again.
You never hear of people from Paris being abducted by aliens, do you? Mostly it only happens to those living in rural communities in the middle of the Louisiana bayou or Wycliffe Well. 
“Alright Gwarx, ready for our big journey? Let’s travel 240,000 light years. I can’t wait to get to earth and check out their barren deserts.” 
No, bugger them. If aliens want to come to earth, they should do the right thing. Call before you turn up and stop being the moody bloke in the corner at the party.
Introduce yourself.

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