July 10, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

‘He saved me from being raped, maybe murdered’ ... but he’s going to be charged. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Far from taking the law into his own hands, the man who came to her aid was saving her from being raped and possibly killed, says a 30-year-old woman, allegedly attacked by a 17-year-old youth on June 2.
Police have charged the youth for trying to invade the home of the woman, but the man will also be charged.
Police Superintendent Sean Parnell says a citizen can make an arrest but it is illegal to use excessive force.
“The matter will be decided by the court,” says Supt Parnell.
The severely traumatized woman told the Alice News that she rang the man – her boss – as she was desperately fighting off her attacker.
She says she had made three calls to 000, the police emergency number, without the police arriving.
However, Supt Parnell says the calls were made at 1.10am, 1.13am and 1.15am, the last one coinciding with the arrival of the police, five minutes after the first call.
She says the attacker was still right outside her door when the rescuer arriver, who then “subdued” the youth.
“The fact that I wasn’t killed or raped” was down her boss coming to her aid. The woman says he should be treated “as a hero”.
She says when she called her boss, who lives nearby, “I screamed into the phone, come, come, get him away from me.
“I had no voice for a week.
“I could not have held out much longer if he hadn’t come to my rescue.”
The woman says the attacker repeatedly told her “I’m going to rape you, I’m going to rape you”.
“He threw something at me.
“He had a shovel.”
She has a cut above her left eye and was given stitches at hospital.
The woman says she is still very frightened.
“I don’t know whether I want to stay in this town.
“I’m afraid of every Aboriginal man I see.
“I wanted to buy a house here with a friend.
“I can’t sleep, I’m tired ever single day.
“I have a knife under my bed.”
The Alice News understands that the 17-year-old is in the care of the Family and Children’s Service (FACS).
For a week the service has not responded to enquiries by the Alice News, neither confirming nor denying that FACS is in charge of him.
We asked the Minister responsible for FACS, Marion Scrymgour, for a comment.
She would not speak about specific cases but said: “Any child under the Minister’s care should be monitored by FACS.
“This includes home visits, making sure that child is case managed, and not getting into areas of strife.”
The Act requires that “any child coming under the Minister’s care will suffer no further harm”.
“If I’m taking a child into my care I’ve got to create an environment where that child isn’t going to suffer any more harm.”
Does that environment exist?
“Well, it should. It should,” says Ms Scrymgour.
The initial police media report about the alleged attack said that at about 1am that day, the youth “smashed a back window of the premises and attempted to gain entry to the premises ... smashed another window and then tried to gain entry to the residence by forcing a back door”.  
The report says the victim “kept the offender out by slamming the door on him several times” and it was alleged that the offender threw “an object at the victim causing facial injuries which later required suturing”.

The CLP has friends in Canberra, well, maybe. By ERWINCHLANDA.

CLP Senator Nigel Scullion’s failure to muster support in Canberra for keeping 13 Central Australian national parks in public hands has prompted further condemnation from prominent members of his party.
The fiasco has also raised serious questions about the influence – if any – the decimated CLP has on the Federal Opposition in matters affecting the Territory.
Former NT Opposition Leader and MLA for Araluen, Jodeen Carney, has repeated the assessment by current leader, Terry Mills, that Senator Scullion had “stuffed up” (Alice News, July 3).
And MLA for Greatorex Matt Conlan described Senator Scullion’s performance as “disappointing”.
Senator Scullion was unable to persuade the Liberal Party to oppose a Bill for the transfer of ownership of the 13 parks – including the West MacDonnell Ranges – to Aboriginal ownership.
The request for the transfer came from the NT Government following a largely secret deal with the Central Land Council.
In the end Senator Scullion, who is the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, also voted for the Bill, in defiance of a long-standing CLP policy of rejecting the handover.
The Alice News, at last week’s Alice Springs Show, asked Ms Carney and Mr Conlan what kind of power and influence in Canberra the CLP can generate for conservative voters in the Territory.
CARNEY: Issues of this kind don’t come up very often. We were immensely disappointed with what Senator Scullion did. Various conversations have taken place since last week and as a result I am confident Nigel will follow our party’s line.
NEWS: What’s the mechanism of this? What should have happened? Should you have talked to Brendan Nelson?
CARNEY: No, that was Nigel Scullion’s responsibility. Nigel Scullion stuffed up, and unfortunately, Labor’s plans will now be realised. Nigel has taken a number of lessons out of this.
CONLAN: It’s been CLP policy for a long, long time to support the parks in the guise that they are in, and for Nigel to break ranks as such is disappointing. We can only hope that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
NEWS: How can you be sure?
CARNEY: Nigel is now under no illusion. He’s made a grave mistake [but] it’s the first time something like this has happened.
One need only look at Grant Tambling. He was not pre-selected by the CLP for not doing the right thing by the CLP. It is an unwise politician who would not learn from that chapter of the CLP’s history. [Senator Tambling was denied further CLP endorsement after failing to vote along party lines on a Bill about gambling.]
NEWS: Why would Brendan Nelson take any notice of the CLP which has just four Territory parliamentarians and one Federal?
CARNEY: We are actually not part of the Liberal Party. The CLP has been independent for all of its history. We have done battle with governments on both sides of the political fence. No doubt that will continue.
NEWS: What confidence does that give us in Central Australia about being heard, through you, in Canberra?
CONLAN: I think Territorians can take enormous confidence in the Territory being represented in Canberra. This is a one-off. We are confident it’s not going to happen again.
CARNEY: There are challenges and opportunities ... for our Federal members, in terms of where they sit. I believe we have made, in the past, the best of us being an independent party.
NEWS: So we can be certain that Mr Nelson will support any issues put forward by the CLP with respect to the Territory?
CARNEY: It is naive in the extreme to say that the Leader of the Federal Liberal Party can be told by any independent political party, such as us, what to do.
What we do expect is our views to be taken into account, just like Ted Baillieu does in Victoria and Barry O’Farrell in NSW.
NEWS: The point, of course, with the parks hand-over was that Mr Nelson didn’t give two hoots about the CLP’s views.
Senator Scullion worked extremely hard to convince Mr Nelson. He couldn’t.
This is why I’m asking you, what voice, via the CLP, do we have in Canberra?
CARNEY: We do have a voice. On this occasion our voice wasn’t heard. We are seriously disappointed about that. This does not mean that we have to shut the doors and say, well, that’s the end of it. It isn’t.
Politics is a fluid work in progress, and like life, it has its peaks and troughs.

Healing centre bungle. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

For more than a decade Intjartnama made a name for itself as a cutting-edge facility for rehabilitating drug and alcohol dependent people, and young petrol sniffers.
Today the outstation, about 100 km west of Alice Springs, is set to make headlines for bureaucratic bungling, just as governments are gearing up to invest public money at Hamilton Downs for something very similar.
Although an estimated $5m of public money has been invested at Intjartnama, “program” funding has been stopped and the infrastructure – the responsibility partly of the NT Government and Canberra – is dilapidated: the water supply is inadequate, several buildings are without electricity, septic tanks are blocked and a 200 tree orchard – an outstanding rarity in the Central Australian bush – is at risk of dying.
Elva Cook, an Arrernte woman, and her husband, Kumantjai Cook, earlier an alcoholic himself, had up to 25 clients.
Mr Cook died in 2002.
They received treatment that was as much “traditional” – with a focus on relationship to the country and its stories – as “whitefella” – with nationally noted psychologist Craig San Roque formulating the “Sugarman Dreaming”, portraying the hazards of excessive alcohol use in an Aboriginal narrative.
Says Dr San Roque: “At the time, up to 2000, the facilities were well supported by NT Health and the Hermannsburg clinic.
“Without their help it could not be maintained.”
However, Ms Cook ran the facility on her own for six more years.
But there was clearly no provision by the funding bodies to carry the “emotional burdens of sustaining a treatment facility without a family,” says Dr San Rocque, and the death of her husband was a serious blow.
The funding of programs is believed to have ended in June, 2005, but some government funded infrastructure continued, although no information about that has been supplied as yet by the Federal Minister of Health, nor the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Since 2000 Intjartnama has been assisted by the Catholic “not for profit” organisation, Cabrini Health, mainly through annual visits for a few days by about six volunteers.
Spokeswoman Jackie Meiers says “material and financial support” is being provided by the organization which has a private hospital, a rehabilitative and two acute care facilities, as well as a palliative and a residential care centre in Melbourne.
Harry Dean is a long-time volunteer at Intjartnama, the original builder of the community, starting in the early nineties, and now a pensioner in Queensland.
He built, or helped to build, a photovoltaic powerstation with 90 panels, a two kilometre trench for a power cable to the community (residents helped to dig it), equipped the bore with a windmill, helped put up two water tanks of 50,000 litres each, and erected accommodation units, inspired by an Aboriginal design, as well as a “rec” hall, workshop and toilet blocks.
He’s back now at Intjartnama for eight months as an unpaid volunteer “doing all I can do to hold the place together”.
Government money came from the NT Government (via IHANT, the Indigenous Housing Authority of the NT), and from Canberra (under NAHS, the National Aboriginal Health Strategy).
NAHS reportedly paid $250,000 a year for 10 years to run the programs, and also contributed cash for buildings.
About two years ago it all went pear shaped, just as the clamor for alcohol, drug and sniffing institutions reached fever pitch.
Meanwhile, as one arm of the Federal Government is spending millions putting photo voltaic panels on people’s roofs, with capacity to feed electricity into the grid, in order to slow global warming, at Intjartnama the panels were disconnected and are sitting idle.
Instead, a powerline was built from Hermannsburg to connect Intjartnama to the solar power station there. Yet although Hermannsburg is still partly running on diesel, no provision was made to connect the Intjartnama panels to this regional grid.
What’s more, says Mr Dean, the above-ground powerline was built without consent from Ms Cook, who regards the poles as a desecration of her country.
Dr San Rocque recalls Ms Cook saying at meetings: “I don’t want power poles going across my country.”
The line was built by the Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre, which has now been taken over by the new super shire, starting operations this month.
Jane Rosalski, Tjuwanpa’s manager and now working for the shire, says the line was built after consultation with traditional owners by the Central Land Council, whose comment on the issue is, well, “no comment”.
Because the “project” houses were funded by NAHS and not by IHANT, they are not connected to the new power system.
Rendered useless, consequently, are patients’ accommodation, three houses, a workshop, a roundhouse and a “rec” hall, according to Mr Dean.
One house with partially functioning services has 24 occupants, he says.
The community’s water supply is now no longer driven by a renewable energy pump – the windmill – but by an electric pump inside a barbed wire enclosure, inaccessible to the residents, including Mr Dean.
One of the consequences is that trees in the orchard are dying, because they can be watered only by hand.The reticulation system has been disabled.
Ms Rosalski says she recently spent $10,000 on the septic tank sewage system.
Mr Dean wonders on what: a plumber came out from town for five and a half days, but couldn’t do the work because the septic pump from Tjuwanpa hadn’t turned up.

Closing the gap? Dream on. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Much better national data will be needed in order to measure the country’s success in closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, says CDU’s Professor Tony Barnes (pictured).
The Prime Minister made a commitment in his “Sorry” speech to the Stolen Generations to close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation and in April committed to reporting to the Parliament each year on progress to that target.
But the target is unlikely to be reached. 
One reason is that the data around the country is not good enough to make an accurate measurement.
Only the Northern Territory has reliable data on Aboriginal populations and their mortality, says Prof Barnes.
In the rest of the country it is necessary to use indirect methods to establish life expectancy figures, which give highly variable estimates.
“There are different numbers and methods in the literature but we are convinced that there is a major quality control problem,” says Prof Barnes.
“We need to explore the range of different approaches to get better estimates. This is a long term exercise.”
Without sufficiently reliable data elsewhere, “we need to keep the focus on the NT”.
And whether life expectancy for Aboriginal people in the NT is better or worse than in other places can’t be answered with certainty. But some of the literature in NSW, for example, suggests that the gap there may be in the order of six years, while in other literature it suggests that there is a gradient between rural and urban experience.
Previous work has shown that life expectancy data in the NT is on a gradient – the figures are much worse for Aboriginal women in the Top End than in the Centre, which would appear to be tied up with smoking, says Prof Barnes. 
At the moment Aboriginal women in the Centre hardly smoke, whereas in the Top End most do smoke.
The poor quality of the data is highly significant for government and policy makers. Quality data is needed in order to be sure that money and effort is being spent in the right direction.
If Australia were to close the gap that is commonly talked about – 17 years – within a generation, that would mean an average improvement of one year every year. 
In the last 30 to 40 years life expectancy for non-Indigenous people has substantially increased, by around 15 years.
Broadly, says Prof Barnes, there have been similar improvements for Indigenous people but the gap has hardly changed, though there has been a small improvement resulting from a lot of effort in the NT.
“The PM’s commitment is to close the gap within a generation,  but we’ve been able to come nowhere near that in the last two generations. 
“We have to add to the picture the knowledge that we have yet to see the full impact of chronic diseases emerge in the Aboriginal population. For example we are seeing more and more people getting diabetes – around one third of the Territory Aboriginal population – and we are yet to see the full impact of this on their life expectancy.
“We have to expect that some things will get worse before they get better.”
Another example will come from the impact of smoking: the habit is declining in the non-Indigenous population – around one fifth smoke – while in some areas 60 to 70% of Indigenous people are smoking.
None of this implies that trying to close the gap is a waste of time, says Prof Barnes. “Many good things can and are being done.”
But closing the gap “won’t happen just like that.”

Moving from bush to town: they’re doing it everywhere. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Nowhere in the world has it been possible to reverse so-called “urban drift” – why would the Territory be any different, asks Dean Carson (pictured), head of population studies with Charles Darwin University’s School for Social and Policy Research.
He also suggests that the focus on the problem outcomes of urban drift – which he says should be termed, as elsewhere, “rural to urban migration” or  “urbanization” – risks  missing the opportunities for good outcomes.
Dr Carson was among the presenters at last week’s international population conference in Alice Springs.
“We have to be careful in our policy approaches,” he says. “Do we want to stop people coming in for health care, for education, for art, for footy try-outs?
“Telling them to go home is not the way the world works.”
Dr Carson says even in China, where the government has greater powers to force people to do things,  people are still moving in to the cities.
He asks why we think differently about Aboriginal rural to urban migration compared to, for example, the workforce that will be recruited to staff the gas plant in Darwin, which is expected to create about 5000 jobs.
They will be mostly “blokes”, many of whom will bring wives and children. It is not possible that every single one of those people will be model citizens, some may well get into trouble: “That’s what happens, whether people are black or white.”
This population will be planned for: there’ll be new commercial hubs and schools.
“Why are we not planning in this way for the increased urbanization of our Aboriginal population?” asks Dr Carson.
Cities are attractive, especially to young males.
At the moment in the NT, according to 2006 Census data,  it is mostly young men  who are coming into urban centres.
But probably, says Dr Carson, as is the pattern elsewhere, young women will follow in about 10 years’ time.
“Again, why do we think we’ll be any different to the rest of the world?”
The data shows there’s a higher proportion of non-Aboriginal people moving from the bush to urban centres, but when that happens, the majority of them are soon replaced in the bush. They’re the police, teachers, health workers and so on. When 10 move into towns, nine move out to the bush.
But when 10 Aboriginal people move to the towns, only five move back out. 
The Census data only picks up relatively long-term movements, lasting one and five years; it’s not picking up all the mobility.
Dr Carson says we need to pay attention to the impact of these longer-term movements on the origin communities. If a community is losing half its young males, that could be a real problem for that community. 
The urbanisation movement is the same across the Territory, says Dr Carson.
And the pattern is the same as happens around the world: from a tiny community to a not so small community, to a small town, to a larger urban centre, to a city.
“We are starting to see a funnel effect to Darwin.”
What will happen then?
“We don’t know for the Aboriginal population but the international literature suggests the movement keeps going. For instance, in Laos, people from the north moved to the capital Vientiane, and from there to Bangkok in Thailand.”
Is there any type of “sea change” movement in the Territory, towards a rural lifestyle? 
Dr Carson says there’s no specific information about this, but in the rest of the world people who decide on a sea change, and leave the cities for smaller communities, are not the same people who left the smaller communities in the first place.
He also says the Territory does not have the kind of properties to support a semi-retirement lifestyle choice, other than perhaps the Darwin rural areas.

Workforce stretched to the limit. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Territory’s economic boom, largely in the Top End, will add to the strain on the workforce in Alice Springs, with the current difficulty in recruiting doctors in Central Australia just the tip of the iceberg.
The recent Alice Springs Economic Profile listed workforce issues as one of the key challenges of the local economy, where there has already been “a decline in both the population generally and in the workforce specifically”.
“There is a low unemployment rate, high labour force participation, and a significant number of vacant positions at any one time,” says the profile.
Without the Indigenous population of the region contributing to the workforce at a far greater rate than they are currently, finding staff is only going to get more difficult.
Indeed there’s a question over whether the Territory as a whole, let alone Alice Springs, can sustain its workforce into the future, according to Tony Barnes, director of Economic and Social Analysis for the NT Treasury,  professor in the School for Social Policy and Research with Charles Darwin University and a presenter at last week’s national population conference in Alice Springs. 
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the Territory has put on 15,000 to 16,000 new jobs in the last three years.  Predictions for the decade 2006 to 2016 were for 10,000 to 12,000 new jobs.
Over the past 10 years local people taking up the jobs has accounted for one third of the growth in the workforce, with migration accounting for two thirds.
In the non-Indigenous population the participation rate has gone from 80% to 90%, very much higher than the rest of Australia and than other countries, except for perhaps Singapore, says Prof Barnes.
There is no further capacity within the non-Indigenous population to take up new jobs.
The NT will have to compete with the rest of Australia for skilled migrants from overseas, “but people won’t come just because we want them to”, says Prof Barnes.
Can we get them is one question.
Another is, can we tap into the human capital represented by the Indigenous population.
This seems an obvious solution, but poor health and education standards are major issues.
As a significant cohort within the current workforce retires, the situation will become even more dire.
Prof Barnes’ colleague at CDU’s School for Social Policy and Research, Dean Carson, says this is the first time that a substantial cohort of long-term Territory residents are approaching retirement age.
These are people who came to the Territory to work in the wake of Cyclone Tracy.
Apart from the impact on the workforce, there is also an issue for government around services for the aged.
“We don’t know whether these people are going to stay in the Territory or not,” says Dr Carson.
There has been some preliminary research. A survey of 1500 people over 50 years of age was conducted last year, asking the respondents when and why they would leave.
Some were getting ready to leave for either work or family reasons; others would not leave for a while yet but thought they would leave when they retired.
But Dr Carson says it is hard to know how these intentions are going to play out.
The Territory could be caught on the hop either way in terms of providing services – there’s a risk of doing too little or too much.
The workforce implications are not limited to number of positions and skill area: “Where are the next senior managers going to come from?” asks Dr Carson. 
He says recruitment strategies in the past have aimed at the 25 to 40 year olds: “We now might have to focus on the 45 to 50 year old people.”
Did Cyclone Tracy also affect population movements in Alice Springs?  Dr Carson says a lot of people relocated to Alice Springs in the immediate wake of the cyclone, but over time this effect flattened out.
But as in Darwin, there is a significant cohort of long-term residents in Alice Springs, approaching retirement age. Those that are known about are mostly in the public sector; he says the private sector is harder to track.
He says Alice Springs has the potential to host retired people, having a “more clement climate and better access than Darwin to elsewhere in Australia” but this is not yet showing up in the data.
He says Alice Springs is going to see “a dramatic shift” in age structure. The 60 year old bubble will be replaced by a 35 year old bubble. There’s a generation missing in the middle.
Again this has implications for the workforce.
Research has been done with various professional groups, to find out what their intentions are.
With nurses, there’s a group of older, very experienced nurses who will stick it out here until they retire. Younger nurses are coming and going every couple of years.
When the older nurses retire they will be replaced by these “revolving door” nurses, and “we won’t have those experienced Territory-grown people any more”.
The young nurses are great for bringing in new ideas, but there’ll be a problem in capturing Territory specific knowledge and understanding.
The researchers also found that most engineers working in the Territory don’t actually live here; they operate out of Brisbane and Perth.
Accountants are relatively stable in comparison: a lot of them run their own businesses and have got that attachment to staying. 
In the face of all this uncertainty, the researchers are predicting an outflow of retired people and an even more mobile population in the Territory than we have right now, and that the economy will struggle with a limited mid-career workforce.
There are some regions in the world with similar problems from whom we can learn. For example, provinces in northern Canada have experienced similar patterns, 10 to 15 years earlier than the Territory, and have already developed “some remarkable schemes” to attract mid-career workers.
The NT hasn’t got anything like this yet but “we’ll have to”, says Dr Carson.
There is a phenomenon of people coming to work in the Territory for several extended periods.
“We haven’t thought about this at all in a policy sense, what we could do for these repeat residents. They potentially could fill the gap that we are going to experience in middle management.” 
Overseas migration is now the biggest contributor to the Territory’s workforce, having outpaced interstate migration over the last two Census periods for the first time.
“We don’t know much about them,” says Dr Carson, “what they were doing before they came or where they are going when they leave. We need more data on them.”

Council slips up on non-slip tiles.

The Town Council is looking to replace paving around the main entrance to the Civic Centre just two years after the building was opened.
The light-coloured paving is already quite heavily stained.
The problem, explains council’s director of technical services, Greg Buxton, is that the requirement by the Building Code of Australia that the pavers be “non-slip” means that they have not been sealed.
Thus they are porous and absorb dirt, and cannot be cleaned.
The warranty on the work expired two months ago, but in any case the work was done “in a workman-like manner” which complies with the warranty conditions and leaves council without recourse to rectification by the contractor.
Recent rectification work done to the Civic Centre to ensure its accessibility for disabled people was done under warranty. 
CEO Rex Mooney says council is seeking information on the best product to replace the pavers and costs, and hopes to be able to pay for the work from any money saved from last year’s allocation towards Civic Centre maintenance or operational expenditure.
Council is also hoping to beautify the entrance with the word “welcome” spelt out in local and international languages in the paving.
This project has yet to be fully detailed and costed.

Burns calls for Federal scheme to make doctors work in bush. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Health Minister Chris Burns says Canberra should bring in a system similar to the one applied to pharmacists, requiring doctors to work for some time in the bush.
He says the Federal Government could help alleviate the doctor shortage in The Centre by bringing in “if need be, location based provider numbers for the medical benefits scheme, which is something the AMA opposes”.
It would work by making the issue of a medical benefits scheme provider number subject to a doctor’s agreement “to go to a specific location”.
“At present you can go to any location, in contrast to, say, pharmacies where, under the phamaceutical benefits scheme, the Federal government can say, you can’t go there but you can go there,” says  Dr Burns.
“Society is investing a lot of money in the education of doctors, and that includes the whole of Australia, and we need to make sure the needs of remote areas are catered for.
“It’s not right that we have to [get] overseas trained doctors when there are plenty of doctors in Australia, but they find life easier on the eastern seaboard.”
Dr Burns was commenting on a report in the Alice News (June 26) that the Health Department needs up to 11 doctors to service remote Central Australia but currently only has three and a half positions filled.
The doctor shortage is “part of an Australia wide problem”.
“The AMA has signalled by its intention of not being part of the Intervention that it’s not going to be promoting the recruitment of doctors into the remote areas of the Northern Territory.
“And that’s very disappointing.
“The AMA needs to be part of the solution.”
The Federal Government can assist also with “better incentives through the medical benefits scheme, better support in terms of professional development.
“We’re at least 60 to 70 GPs short across the Territory.”
However, his department is “confident and optimistic” that they have already recruited some overseas trained doctors, starting within six weeks.
And nurses are teleconferencing with doctors: “Every step has been taken to safeguard the safety of patients.”
He says a mining camp style fly-in, fly-out solution is not ruled out but “I think the most desirable model is where there are doctors in residence in communities, or a continuity of visitation to communities”.
In the Ampilatwatje community north of Alice Springs one position for a doctor is shared by three people who work there for one month and then are away for two.
In that way the community of just 575 people, including outstations, has had doctors continuously for more than a year.
Administrator Paul Quinlivan has told the Alice News that most of the costs are recouped from Medicare.
Says Dr Burns: “In collaboration with the Commonwealth and $150m a year that’s being rolled out over the next two years, those sorts of models will be explored.”
Meanwhile the Alice News has asked Dr Burns about salaries offered to medical staff.
Last week, two positions for dentists were advertised for “culturally appropriate” services in “urban and remote” centres for between $74,101 and $102,652.
We also asked how much the government has spent on local, national and international recruitment in the last 12 months.
No reply was provided before deadline.

Council seeks town camps talks. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council wants to be at the table in talks about the future of town camps in Alice Springs. 
Mayor Damien Ryan was to meet with Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin late today, having sought the appointment as soon as the recent news broke of a Commonwealth injection of funds into the camps.
Ms Macklin was also meeting with Tangentyere Council today.
Mr Ryan says council has no information about the Minister’s plans although it could well be involved in providing future services.
“We would have to be a player,” says Mr Ryan.
Council wants to know who will be involved in consultations over the promised injection of $50m – will council be at the table? Will Lhere Artepe, the native title holder body?
What relation will new work have to the existing Connecting Neighbours program?
What standards will be applied? Council has previously expressed its views on the Territory Government’s plans for upgrading provision of power to the camps, with council insisting on undergroud cabling as would be the case with new work in any other subdivision within Alice Sprinsg.
“Our main priority is that town camps get the standard of services and infrastructure that everyone else expects,” says Mr Ryan.
Who wil provide garbage collection services?
Will the $50m cover the required infrastructure upgrade?
Will there be more money in the future?
How many people will be catered for?
“Dropping houses into the town camps without a plan isn’t the answer,” says Mr Ryan.
“We will be very happy to see town campers’ standard of living raised and we welcome the positiveness of the current government’s offer but what plan will get the best results for town camps,” asks Mr Ryan.
Ms Macklin has spoken of an immediate injection of $5.3m.
The Alice News asked whether this will be paid direct to Tangentyere Council and if not, to whom?
A spokesperson for the Minister would only say that further details will be announced “following an agreement on the work plan”.

Ryan pushes black jobs. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Mayor Damien Ryan, with the 100 day milestone in his new role behind him, was to again raised the issue of Indigenous employment with major retailers Coles and Woolworths when they met with him this week.
The main focus of the meeting was to be council’s new shopping trolley by-laws, but Mr Ryan intends to also maintain his focus on the private sector doing their bit for Indigenous employment. Council is now receiving monthly updates from CEO Rex Mooney on its own Indigenous recruitment.
The status quo is 17 full-time Indigenous staff plus four casuals. The 17 include 12 at the depot, three in the Civic Centre, and two at the library. This represents 14.2% of council workforce, slightly up from 13.6% when Mr Ryan took office. The target remains 20%.
Two trainee positions have been identified, one in IT and one in the corporate and community services division, and funding support is being sought, says Mr Mooney.
Meanwhile, Benedict Brook, a spokesperson for Woolworths Limited, says the company is looking to extend its school-based program providing on and off the job training to Indigenous students, currently operating in Darwin.
Trainees earn a certificate in retail operations.
Mr Brook says this program will be introduced in Alice Springs and other towns in Australia where there is a significant Indigenous population.
He says the company doesn’t classify its employees by Indigenous status, but the local manager estimates that around 30% of the Alice Springs staff is Indigenous.
He says the manager commented that the word seems to be getting around in the Indigenous community that Woolworths is a good place to work.
“That’s very encouraging and the store is proud that it has a good reputation  in the Indigenous community,” says Mr Brook.

Scrymgour favours getting tough with people not accepting work. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Employment Minister Marion Scrymgour says she has “no problem” with discussing a tightening up of rules requiring people to take jobs if offered.
“That’s something the Federal government needs to look at,” she told the Alice News.
Would she support it?
“I have no problem with having discussions.
“If there are employment opportunities and people simply don’t want to become engaged, well, we’ve got to look at all our systems to try and encourage that [employment] growth.”
She said the new local government shires should offer increased employment to local residents, for instance on building maintenance, so that remote communities are less reliant on “contractors coming in and out”.
More emphasis needs to be placed on VET programs in secondary colleges to train young people in these trade areas, especially repair and maintenance, for which there is a “huge need”, said Ms Scrymgour.
She said there has been a shortage of labour in Alice Springs and hundreds of unemployed clearly not interested in work for decades.
The government’s Jobs Plan 3 ($1m a year over 20 years to create employment) has a “number of incentives for employers as well as employees”. 
Ms Scrymgour also said she is working on a document that will formulate the Territory Government’s position regarding viability of remote communities.
Over the next three months, she will be engaging  in “debate with all of the stakeholders, and that includes the Federal Government, about the future of outstations”.
The document will be released by October, she said.

Back yard a paradise.

“Micro-managing” the soil over five years in what looked like an unpromising backyard in suburban Alice Springs gave rise to big changes – and a flourishing garden.
Alex Nelson undertook the work between February 2002 and January 2006.  
The yard was heavily overshadowed for much of the day but exposed to sunlight during the hottest hours.
The compacted soil was composed mostly of builders’ sand with incorporated construction rubbish.
There were nematodes and some couch grass but virtually no buffel grass.
One mandarin tree (variety unknown – late maturing), full of dead wood, was struggling to survive, and for a time also one grapefruit that was fatally riddled with a wood-rotting fungus.
Alex found one unexpected useful feature – there was a small population of earthworms surviving in the soil under the canopy of the mandarin tree.
His first attempt at trying to grow vegetables failed, so he tried a different approach based on the notion of “succession” that occurs in nature, and this largely worked a treat.
He was eventually able to create a little eco-system that allowed the mandarin tree to fully recover and become tremendously productive. From 2003 to 2005 around seven cartons of fruit, like the two pictured, were harvested each year from that one tree, after it had recovered from years of neglect.
This was achieved without digging the soil or replacing any of it.
Alex applied blood-and-bone fertilizer and occasionally liquid fertilizer, such as Thrive or Aquasol.
All dead timber was mulched, including what had been diseased material.
Composting was not undertaken as the garden literally self-composted on the soil surface.
Irrigation was by overhead sprinkler, usually once a week or fortnight in winter (about half an hour at most for each sprinkler position) to about three or four times per week in summer.
The major problems encountered were from big-headed ants (controlled by a specific bait), two-spotted mite, slaters and pillbugs, and (rather unexpectedly) snails and slugs! All were manageable with baits except for the mites, which necessitated spraying with a miticide on occasion.
The mandarin tree itself was unaffected by these pests, they were an issue in terms of maintenance of the groundcover.
 For Alex this was a small-scale observational trial (extensively photographed and recorded) which he sees as showing promise for horticulture practice in the Centre.  

LETTERS: Not rose-coloured glasses: blindness!

Sir,– So, yet another rant from Mr Anti-Intervention Frank Baarda in your letters column of June 26. There is so little logic in his letter that I find it hard to start to logically address the issues he raises.
I would like your readers to know that my wife Bess and I are part of what he calls the Wooden Horse.
Yuendumu is Bess’ home community. We are determined to do whatever we can to improve the lives of the kids of Yuendumu and all of the other remote communities and town camps for that matter and if we have to throw a few proverbial grenades to do that or to build a few wooden horses then that is what we will do.
But you see, Frank, there’s no wooden horse. We are doing things all in the open and on the up and up. We have nothing to hide.
We have been warned off by some of those in the trenches with you. That hasn’t worked. We’re too worried for our kids.
You and I both know about the sexual abuse of kids.
Two of our pre-teen female kin have been raped. One of our own relatives raped and murdered a child on another community. With your ear so close to the ground out there you can’t help but know about these things, it looks like you just choose to ignore them.
You also know that teenage sex, very often wrong skin sex, and often rape, produces children. Kids are having kids. You know that those babies are being handed over to aunts and grandmothers because boys don’t know how to be fathers, and girls don’t know how to be mothers, and grandmothers can’t say no.
When it gets too hard they go to the grog and the gambling.  Or they join up to one of the Aboriginal Law-condemning Christian groups that have grown up to satisfy their needs. Aren’t you worried about what that is doing to culture and language?
You know that many kids are malnourished and chronically sick. If you don’t know then it is not rose coloured glasses that are the problem – it’s complete blindness.
Is it in the interests of the preservation of culture and language that we ignore the avoidable sickness, early death and self destruction?
Is it because Yuendumu is a paradise that so many of its citizens now live elsewhere?
You can hear their voices in the long grass at Nightcliff and Katherine as well as in the streets and town camps of Alice Springs.
This is what is going to destroy language and culture, not the Intervention.
Where did the large amount of money come from that you used to prop up the shockingly managed shop out there?
We are pretty keen on public accountability and feel that all of the people at Yuendumu should know these things, not just those who sit on both the shop’s management committee and the mining company’s management committee,  basically the same people.
We’d also like the readers of this paper to know that your “fifth column” are the women of Yuendumu who are sick to death of being ripped off by the old shop, who want good food at reasonable prices and don’t want their kids to be continually sick.
The “fifth column” who despite threats and intimidation had the courage to act for their kids.
Why are you still there Frank?
We don’t live at Yuendumu but a lot of our loved ones do and we won’t let your nonsense go unanswered.
Dave Price
Alice Springs


Sir,– My wife has for some time made jars of marmalade, neatly labelled with the ingredients, that are sold by charity. 
Recently a health inspector complained that the labels did not show the maker’s name.
A telephone call to Health and Community Services confirmed this and elicited a garbled explanation about allergies to nuts.
This would appear to be another case of HCS harassing law-abiding citizens about trivialities while ignoring the unsanitary conditions that prevail in parts of the town.
Robert Read
Alice Springs
ED – See our web archive for reports on this subject, June 5, March 27.

Gutless on Barkly

Sir,–  The Territory government is culturally insensitive and politically gutless for forcing Barkly women to travel great distances to Alice Springs to give birth to their children.
The government has ignored residents, health experts and independent consultants in forcing mothers to leave Tennant Creek unnecessarily and its actions are literally sucking the life out of the Barkly.
We’re right behind the Anyinginyi Health Service on this one – mothers have the right to give birth on their own country, to bond properly with their partner and their midwife, and to involve all their family and friends in the celebration of birth.
That can’t happen if they’re getting bundled off to Alice Springs.
The government response to the independent NT Maternity Review is pathetic and will force heavily-pregnant women into a patient travel service that is infamous for its insensitivity and lack of essential comforts.
High-risk mothers should be directed to Alice, of course, but low-risk mothers must be given the option of delivering their child in Tennant where they can share that special moment with those who love them.
Perhaps of equal importance, the mother can then be guided by the midwife in the important clinical issues of ante-natal, birthing and post-natal care.
The government is failing all Territorians by not appointing a Senior Medical Officer for Tennant nor allocating sufficient funds to provide best-practice birthing services and staff for the mothers of the Barkly.
Once again, anyone living outside of Darwin or Alice is being treated like a third-class citizen, purely because the government hasn’t got its act together and refuses to respect the women and the families in our remote and regional areas.
John Paterson, CEO
Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory

Back yard a paradise.

“Micro-managing” the soil over five years in what looked like an unpromising backyard in suburban Alice Springs gave rise to big changes – and a flourishing garden.
Alex Nelson undertook the work between February 2002 and January 2006.  
The yard was heavily overshadowed for much of the day but exposed to sunlight during the hottest hours.
The compacted soil was composed mostly of builders’ sand with incorporated construction rubbish.
There were nematodes and some couch grass but virtually no buffel grass.
One mandarin tree (variety unknown – late maturing), full of dead wood, was struggling to survive, and for a time also one grapefruit that was fatally riddled with a wood-rotting fungus.
Alex found one unexpected useful feature – there was a small population of earthworms surviving in the soil under the canopy of the mandarin tree.
His first attempt at trying to grow vegetables failed, so he tried a different approach based on the notion of “succession” that occurs in nature, and this largely worked a treat.
He was eventually able to create a little eco-system that allowed the mandarin tree to fully recover and become tremendously productive. From 2003 to 2005 around seven cartons of fruit, like the two pictured, were harvested each year from that one tree, after it had recovered from years of neglect.
This was achieved without digging the soil or replacing any of it.
Alex applied blood-and-bone fertilizer and occasionally liquid fertilizer, such as Thrive or Aquasol.
All dead timber was mulched, including what had been diseased material.
Composting was not undertaken as the garden literally self-composted on the soil surface.
Irrigation was by overhead sprinkler, usually once a week or fortnight in winter (about half an hour at most for each sprinkler position) to about three or four times per week in summer.
The major problems encountered were from big-headed ants (controlled by a specific bait), two-spotted mite, slaters and pillbugs, and (rather unexpectedly) snails and slugs! All were manageable with baits except for the mites, which necessitated spraying with a miticide on occasion.
The mandarin tree itself was unaffected by these pests, they were an issue in terms of maintenance of the groundcover.
 For Alex this was a small-scale observational trial (extensively photographed and recorded) which he sees as showing promise for horticulture practice in the Centre.  

ADAM CONNELLY: I’m not a drunk.

This week marked a significant milestone in my life.
We all have those days. Those days that will be looked upon in years to come when we are old and grey and surrounded by our grandchildren and we will say that was the day when …
Life is full of those days. The day we first went to school. The day we first understood long division. The day we forgot how to do long division. The day of our first kiss. The day we first fell in love. The day we graduated high school. The day we first made it to third base. The day we first had our heart broken. (Those last two happened remarkably close together for yours truly).
Our car license, our first move out of home. Wedding days, turning 30, and the list goes on. They all form significant points in our life and last week I had one.
For the first time in my life I had to show photo id to buy alcohol. I know! I feel… special.
I was big for my age and so even when I was 18 I didn’t have to show id to get into pubs and clubs. It was my first time and it was everything everyone said it would be!
My driver’s license was handed to the woman behind the counter and she placed it gently on a little black box. Without hoopla and a big song and dance the little black box did its job and my license was passed back to me. The woman gave me a knowing look and said, “That’ll be $22.50”. It was a moment I’ll never forget. 
The alcohol id system has been implemented here in Alice Springs and in a couple of other places in the Territory and unlike many I wish it all the success in the world. I really do hope it works.
If an extra four seconds of my time in a bottle-o helps curb the alcoholism problem and all the other associated problems in town then that is four seconds I don’t mind giving.
I can see about a dozen holes in the legislation and the execution of the initiative that will probably see it go the way of the dodo pretty soon but I hope I’m wrong.
Photo identification seems to be invading our life more and more. It’s not just alcohol but a swathe of other actions and transactions that require me to show someone a piece of plastic with my photo on it. To prove I’m not a terrorist I have to show id to get on a plane. To prove I’m not going to ironically rip off my telco I have to show id to buy a mobile phone.
Pretty soon I’m certain we will have to show 100 points of identification to fill up at the petrol station. All of which is no great impost however there is one aspect of the system which needs to change.
You see to prove I’m not a drunk or a terrorist I need to show people a photo on a card specifically designed to make me look like a drunk or a terrorist. No one takes a good photo id photo. I either look as though I’m about to murder children or I’ve just gone 15 rounds with a bottle of Bundy and lost.
Clubs are now requiring membership cards have a photo on it. Libraries will not be too far behind and pretty soon everyone will require photo id. Your coffee club card will require id to prove you ordered the 10 skinny lattes you need to get the free one. Honestly I don’t mind.
But if the world needs to see that I have a card with my face on it, then the world needs to take a better picture. I’m sick of carrying around 10 cards from the “serial killers who look a bit like Adam” series.

Not left to fate. Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Ninety per cent of Hollywood-produced films target one specific demographic – the 16 year old boy! 
Hancock is keenly focused on that field. Every year there is a whole new production line of underage filmgoers, so these types of movies will always have a captive audience. Pop Vulture brings you a a txt msg conversation between two members of the MA15+ crowd.
TXT1: I cnt blive dey xpect us 2 keep going 2 deez flms (upside down smiley face).
TXT2: Putting aside da gr8 action scenes, and famus cast, der wsnt much by way ov plt & storyline (upside down smiley face).
TXT1: Yeh! it was like kikass fites n stuff, but left me feeln intellectually baron (upside down smiley face)! Coodnt get in2 anyting outside da freshly choreographed destruction sequences (smiley face).
TXT2: Wot!! Dd U swolow a book or somthin (hee hee).
TXT1: I jst feel dat wiv actual writers, assisting wiv wot is already gd, like da acting, dirction & idea bhind da story it wood wrk 2 a better dgree & appeal 2 a wider audience. I mean it may B a fun thing now. But we wont remember dis film in 10 yrs.
TXT2: U mean, movies like dis dont seem 2 resonate much further beyond our bleek imagations?
TXT1: Yep! Will Smith has risen beyond da beleef dat he is a stereotype performer & he duz play da “hobo angel” well (smiley face).
TXT2: Yeh. I thnk Charlize Theron (so hot!) found herslf in a role she may even forget.
TXT1: Fully! U often get a performance dat wooden wen U spend 2 much time acting in frnt of a blue screen (upside down smiley face).
TXT2: Anyway. 538/1000 is wot id giv it.
TXT1: Yep. Im going now.
TXT2: ok c ya!
TXT1: U go first!
TXT2: nah U!
TXT1: U go den I’ll go.
TXT1: Have U gone?

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