July 17, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Let’s give Alice teeth: Centre party mooted. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Tourism identity Rex Neindorf is looking to form a Central Australian political party.
He says the 500 signatures necessary could be collected easily “outside any bottle-o”. 
That gives a clue to one of his main concerns – alcohol restrictions that punish a majority and are ineffective. he says, in dealing with the 300 to 500 alcoholics who need to be put into “a facility”.
He says the solutions to the town’s problems are “simple” but “get stopped by do-gooders”.
He says a key objective for his party would be to “get these solutions, Intervention-style politics, on the record, into Hansard”.
A candidate is in the wings, someone with a long involvement in the town and the tourism industry.
Mr Neindorf says he is confident of “strong backing” from the industry and “the thousands” whose livelihoods are affected by it.
“We’re not afraid to state what needs to happen. If we lose the seat after four years, we are prepared to do that.”
He says the problem with most politicians is that they want to “keep their seat” and so they compromise on what they stand for.
Mr Neindorf revealed his plans at at a public meeting last Sunday, called by Advance Alice.
There was general agreement  at the meeting with criticism by developer Ron Sterry and athletics identity and businessman Eli Melky  of Greatorex MLA Matt Conlan for having “lost his voice” – he was a better political force on radio, they said.
(Mr Conlan says “not spending 30 hours a week on radio may have something to do with that perception”. He says he’s at the “forefront of debate” on issues relevant to his shadow portfolios, including law and order, health, and recreation.)
Both the Labor and Country Liberal parties were seen as having, in Mr Melky’s words, “lost the plot”.
The meeting was small – only eight turned up – but its goals were ambitious.
Advance Alice chair Steve Brown was despondent about the lack of “passion” demonstrated by the poor attendance.
But Murray Stewart, Deputy Mayor and Advance Alice member, was untroubled: “I wouldn’t read anything into that. When there’s a call to arms, we’ll have no trouble getting helpers.”
Forming a new party or an alliance to support independent candidates in the next Territory election, expected in the coming months, was the central subject of discussion.
Mr Stewart favoured supporting independent candidates – to avoid the inflexibility of party structures. He said having like-minded candidates contesting the election, whether they won or lost, would give Advance Alice and its sympathisers political credibility.
By participating in the campaign they would be able to influence the debate, a win “by stealth”.
There was discussion about whether the focus should be on “the regions”, the Centre, as far north as Katherine, even into Darwin.
Mr Neindorf saw the Bendigo Bank as providing the model, starting with  the community and spreading: “It’s got to be community-driven.”
Mr Melky, who is considering running as an independent in Braitling, said his candidacy would be “for one electorate, through the electorate the town, through the town, the Territory”.
He didn’t support Mr Stewart’s focus on the regions: “We are first and foremost Territorians.”
His central concern is law and order, not only the “surface crime”, like graffiti and anti-social behaviour, but also the “invisible violent crimes”, including those that impact on the vulnerable in town camps.

NT Govt. shrugs off town council uranium concerns. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council will ask Territory Minister for Mining, Chris Natt, to guarantee safety for Alice Springs’ air and underground water during uranium exploration.
However, a spokesperson for Mr Natt says, in response to a query from the Alice News, that the “opportunity for the public to comment on this application [for an exploration licence] was available – that period has now closed”.
The spokesperson says Mr Natt spoke to people at the Alice Springs Show about uranium exploration in Central Australia.
“The overwhelming response was positive and in support of exploration.
“An approval to explore does not equal an approval to mine. Should any exploration prove successful, the explorer must then apply for a Mineral Lease.
“This will trigger a thorough environmental assessment process, including community consultation.
“Both the NT Government and Commonwealth Government environmental approvals must consider public comments.
“Exploration has minimal environmental impact and is strictly monitored by the NT Government.”
Aldermen do not appear to be so readily convinced.
They did not support Greens Alderman Jane Clark’s call for a halt to exploration of the Angela and Pamela deposits (25 and 21 kilometres respectively from the Alice post office), nor for a public meeting at which Federal Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and Mr Natt would answer residents’ concerns directly.
But, except for Ald Samih Habib, they did support her motion, seconded by Ald Melanie van Haaren,  asking Mr Natt to provide a report that:
• the exploration shafts and mine will not be flooded; and
• the air and underground water will not be contaminated by the substantial drilling involved in both exploration and full scale mining.
To these points for the report were added others, put forward by Ald Brendan Heenan, about measures to be taken to rehabilitate and stabilise the drilled area should the mine not go ahead, and about a financial security bond from the mining companies during the exploration phase. 
Ald Habib belives uranium is “the cleanest form of energy we can get “ and that the world “can’t afford to continue belching fossil fuel” into the atmosphere”.
He expressed confidence in the processes in place, including the eventual environmental impact study (that comes after exploration).
He says “we should be careful, keep our eyes open”, but that efforts to “stop this, stop that are in la-la land”.
Ald Liz Martin supports exploration – “we should know what’s in the land”. But she did not want to take a “premature” stand on eventual mining.
She said in her capacity as CEO of the Road Transport Historical Society which runs the Old Ghan, she is waiting for an independent  report that will guarantee the restoration of the “heritage asset” (the Old Ghan railway line) within the exploration area.
Both Alds John Rawnsley, chairing the meeting, and Murray Stewart were at pains to point out that their rejection of parts of Ald Clark’s motion did not mean that they support a uranium mine.
The council “will not be supporting an unsafe mine,” said Ald Stewart.
Mayor Damien Ryan pointed out that, once exploration finishes, the decision will rest with the Federal, not the Territory government,  though this would change with statehood.
Meanwhile, Cameco, one of the companies applying for the Angela Pamela exploration licence, announced last week that it has signed an agreement to acquire a 70% interest in the Kintyre uranium exploration project in Western Australia for US$346.5m.
According to a media release, the transaction is expected to close in August subject to ministerial approval in Western Australia and execution of certain agreements with the Martu people who are the traditional owners of the land.

New journey down the well worn path of Aboriginal advancement. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

“The systems of vocational training and the welfare-to-work transition system – the job network system – are very clunky.
“They don’t work well together.
“As a person in that system you can find yourself referred by a job network provider to go off to training, at a time when you’re supposed to turn up to Centrelink for a compliance meeting, and you can get breached.”
Problems like this are “tripping up mainstream people, and are more exacerbated in remote regions where there is far less personal support”.
Eliminating such absurd obstacles to advancement in the job market will be a major task for the partners in the Desert People’s Centre (DPC), according to Peter Taylor, Chief Operating Officer of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT).
CAT will soon move to the Desert Knowledge precinct and share the DPC facilities with Batchelor Institute (Alice News, June 19).
In fact the centre should more properly be called the Aboriginal Desert Peoples Centre because both Batchelor, which aspires to become a university, and CAT are both “principally” for Aboriginal people, says Mr Taylor.
To begin with the two organizations will continue with their own projects but will soon start working together.
One thin on which they won’t be agreeing is Batchelor’s race-based admission policy.
The institute, which aspires to become a university, will maintain a policy of not bringing “non-Indigenous students into programs that are running on our campuses as workshops,” says Vice-Chancellor Jeannie Herbert (Alice News, June 19). 
She says non-Indigenous students can take online courses, or courses that are delivered off-campus.
“It’s always going to be an Indigenous university.
“Our council wants cultural safety on our residential campuses,” said Ms Herbert.
CAT, by contrast, does “enrol non-indigenous students. There are no regulatory barriers to non-indigenous students,” says Mr Taylor.
The question is, how long will it take the DPC partners to drag thousands of Aboriginal people out of the welfare dependency morass, and help them become well-adjusted and productive members of a first-world society?
And how much will it cost?
CAT has a budget of $24.6m for 2008/09.
Its recent claim to fame is Bushlight (google earlier reports in the Alice News online edition), installing solar electric systems in or for 315 households across the top end of remote Australia. The cost for this was $45m from the Federal Government.
That’s $143,000 per system which you can buy over the counter for about one-third of that.
Canberra is negotiating an extension of Bushlight funding for a further five years at the rate of $5m a year.
Since the project started in July 2002 it has been carried out by commercial contractors, with Aboriginal participation limited to occasionally cleaning the photovoltaic panels and checking the acid level in the batteries.
CAT is now seeking greater participation, says Mr Taylor, and the way this is being done may be indicative of how DPC will be operating.
He says Bushlight contractors find it hard to find semi-skillled people to help with the installation and servicing of the units.
CAT, which is a registered training provider, has “re-worked the existing curricular and training methodology” of the VET Certificate II in Renewable Area Power Supply Maintenance “so that it is more tailored to Indigenous students”.
Says Mr Taylor: “We are looking, over the next few months, for probably 12 students.”
They will need to be exposed to between 500 and 700 “contact hours” over 20 to 30 weeks provided they have “substantial literacy and numeracy, with Year 10 mathematics as a core qualification”.
Many people in the bush have not reached this standard, equivalent to the lowest level of compulsory education.
Mr Taylor says applicants who can reach it “in a couple of months” with tuition from Batchelor would be considered for the scheme.
In addition to the training, says Mr Taylor, “we will have a case manager in place, on a continuous basis” to assist with Centrelink, family and a “whole range” of other issues.
“We’ll be running workshops with the solar energy installation companies to identify their needs for employees of that kind, and what type of support they as employers need to take on people who have recently completed a Cert II and probably don’t have a long history of stable employment.”
If all goes well “we will have a cohort of graduates coming thorough in probably 12 to 18 months’ time,” he says – a dozen students, providing suitable applicants can be found, and they stick with the job.
DPC Business Development Manager Keith Castle says in connection with Batchelor a “new student services process” is being developed, offering “course advice, counseling on personal issues, caring about the students, dealing with eligibility questions”.
At the same time CAT will be developing contracts with students and communities, assisting students to apply their training to jobs, dealing with “life skills and attitudinal issues towards work,” according to Mr Castle.
He says it’s not often the case that “as soon as someone is educated, they will click into the non-Aboriginal system of employment and it will just all work perfectly.
“There are many things which sit behind the way we go about getting a job”.
CAT will be endeavoring to make students understand “what’s involved in working on a regular basis, day to day maintenance of personal finances or health issues, the cultural challenges of students coming from a community and living somewhere else”.
This process involves a massive investment of public resources, and it is clear that much of what the DPC will be doing could or should be done by government instrumentalities, such as Centrelink, and educational institutions such as Centralian College and Charles Darwin University?
Says Mr Taylor: “Indigenous education outcomes are poor.
“They drop out earlier. Reading and writing skills are not at the same standards as mainstream Australia.
“If primary and secondray schools were to provide more effective education, we would be in front of different circumstances.
“And Batchelor would be spending less time on literacy and numeracy.”
Its link to “desert knowledge” notwithstanding, the DPC approach displays little of the “can do” attitude, long the hallmark of the outback.
During an interview last week, the Alice News put to Mr Taylor, Mr Castle and DPC chairman Harold Furber an account linked to last week’s report about the substance abuse facility, Injartnama, west of Alice Springs.
According to a volunteer worker there, Harry Dean, the small community has several blocked septic tanks in need of pumping out.
Mr Dean says the nearby Tjuwampa Resource Centre has a septic pump, and undertook to send it to Injartnama, to arrive at the same time as a plumber hired from Alice Springs to assist.
The plumber came, the pump didn’t.
The plumber charged $6000 for a week and did little of use.
It’s the kind of issue for which DPC will be a “conduit for advice and technical support”.
Is that really necessary?
“You cannot have highly complex technical knowledge residing in every community,” says Mr Taylor.
The News put this to the three men from DPC: you have a truck, a pump, a container on the back of the truck, a hose that sucks out the effluent and a place where you dump it.
What’s hard about that?
Mr Taylor: “There are some complexities around it. You have to look after the effluent after it is pumped.
“It’s not necessarily a straightforward matter.
“It’s not terribly hard but people do actually call on plumbers to help with it.”
Is that not the type of thing Aboriginal people should be able to handle without expensive outside help? What is the knowledge that CAT has been imparting on communities?
Mr Taylor: “People disinfecting their rainwater tanks, monitoring their bores, making sure the bores are clear, that they are not over-infested with weeds, that they are properly fenced, that they clean solar panels regularly, that they regularly inspect the tops of septic tanks to make sure they are closed.”
Mr Taylor provided the following figure for remote areas unemployment throughout Australia:-
• The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, treating CDEP participants as unemployed, put the figure at 64% in 2007.
• In 2006 the Australian Bureau of Statistics quoted 60% if CDEP is regarded as unemployed, and at 48% if CDEP participants are excluded.
The Weekend Australian (July 12-13) quotes an “NT Government submission” that “as of the 2006 census, there were 22,055 Aborigines of working age in remote areas, 80% of whom were unemployed.
“The remaining 20% – roughly 5500 people – were counted as being employed on CDEP.”
But Mr Castle asks whether unemployment “is actually the right question.
“To say there is no employment where in some situations there is no framework for employment is a difficult thing to do.
“Every community is going to have its own issues” and we are “wanting to try to develop it, to be working with communities, individual communities, and individuals within those communities, to actually look more carefully at what are the opportunities here, how do we develop them so we can actually engender enthusiasm from those people, so there is an ownership in the outcome and the education process, so there is a commitment from both the educators and the job network.”
That, of course, has been discussed for the past 35 years.
Mr Castle: “We’ll be talking about it for another 40 years because it’s an ongoing thing.”
So what will DPC encourage students to do?
Will there be Mal Brough-style mutual obligation – we’ll spend millions on your education so long as you use it to your and the broader society’s benefit?
Mr Furber: “The specific issues will come out as we progress the detail.”
All three agree that the objective is to improve Aboriginal “livelihoods”.
Mr Furber says that doesn’t necessarily mean “nine to five jobs”.
Mr Castle rejects any notion of making mutual obligation obligatory: “It’s not our role to say to them, we’ll cut you loose.
“That’s up to the government.
“There are lots of examples around Australia where the compliance process goes only so far.”
Mr Taylor: “If people see success, why would you want to be punitive about it?”
Mr Furber rejects any suggestion to apply requirements in force at universities where students either pay or enter into the HECS agreement of paying their tuition costs once they earn an income.
Says Mr Furber: “If [a graduate] doesn’t have a job she doesn’t have to pay it back.
“It’s an onerous load that you are asking us to take on.”
Mr Castle says there will be emphasis of “continually encouraging students to take more responsibility for their own issues.
“They are very real issues but there are gentle steps.”
Mr Taylor says Noel Pearson’s Cape York Institute takes the view that there are four levels “of people’s attachment to employment, education and training”.
Mr Taylor quotes the institute as follows:-
• At the top level there are people who are close to job ready but have a range of disincentives, such as “passive welfare”, for getting work.
• People who need training but not substantial personal support.
• And people who will take a substantial effort to get close to job readiness, still needing a substantial investment.
• People who are largely dysfunctional, have major substance abuse problems, significant social and psychological problems, or major disabilities.
So what can taxpayers expect to get for their money in five years’ time?
Mr Taylor: “We should have at least half a dozen innovative strategies that draw on the strengths of Batchelor and CAT.
“The renewable energy training program is probably going to be one of the first of those, but we’re also looking around at the moment for other industry partners where we can apply the same kind of case management approach, from training through to sustainable employment.”
Mr Castle: “We’re looking at the SIHIP government housing scheme – can we apply that case management approach, leveraging the money put into housing for training and long-term job outcomes.”
Mr Castle says the Desert Knowledge initiatives are “trying to develop a new industry for Central Australia, if you like, that this place can try to build on.
“We’re actually attracting funding for new resourcing, in The Centre, for an area that’s been hugely under-resourced.”
Mr Furber: “We wouldn’t have started DPC to carry on business as usual.”
He says DPC will bring together not only Batchelor and CAT, but also Yirara College and the research-focussed Desert Knowledge CRC and Desert Knowledge Australia “to create an atmosphere of moving forward.
“That hasn’t happened here before. We’ve seen all the dilemmas in the past.
“You’ve seen it. I live it every day!”

Macklin makes wrong start in camps, say native title holders. By KIERAN FINNANE.

No matter how many millions are spent, the town as a whole and the town camps will be where they are now or worse unless behaviour is addressed.
So says Darryl Pearce, CEO of the native title holder body Lhere Artepe.
The behaviour he is concerned about is “anticultural” – arising from a lack of respect for Arrernte country and its native title holders’ social norms (see Alice News, April 24).
Mr Pearce says Indigenous affairs Minister Jenny Macklin’s emphasis on improving infrastructure and housing hardware as first cab off the rank is misplaced without some negotiated changes in behaviour from people living in town camps, both current and prospective residents.
He is concerned that the physical improvements will only encourage a greater influx of residents and that there is no planning around this, in terms of what would be required of those residents. If he were given charge of policy in the area tomorrow, he would begin with behaviour.
Mr Pearce spoke to the Alice News after Ms Macklin’s first visit to Alice Springs last week. 
Her main focus was the town camps, with an immediate injection of $5.3 million for repairs to existing housing. In all $50 million will be made available, with town camp leases being signed over to government for 40 years and tenancy management being put in the hands of Territory Housing for an initial three years.
Tangentyere Council will be the agency for the expenditure of the $5.3 million, with priorities decided in conjunction with her department, says Ms Macklin.
She had met with the Lhere Artepe executive in what she termed as “a very constructive conversation” but Mr Pearce termed as “a meet and greet”.
He acknowledged the Minister’s prerogative to meet with whom she wished, but wondered what to make of Lhere Artepe’s absence from policy discussions.
Lhere Artepe were not invited to be part of a reference group of 20 local Aboriginal leaders that looks like it will be advising the Minister on issues in Central Australia.
Meanwhile, Alderman Jane Clark is concerned that upgrades in the town camps may not be to the same standard as would be required in any new subdivision within Alice Springs.
She says the issue was raised during the Town Council’s discussions with Ms Macklin.
She says Ms Macklin’s aide used the words “almost to the standard of the rest of Alice Springs”. 
“When I asked Ms Macklin to clarify, she said that $50 million doesn’t go far and that the need is so great that we just need to improve things as much as we can.
“I believe we may end up with a solution to fit the budget rather than a budgeted and appropriate solution designed through community consultation,” says Ald Clark. “You can retrospectively upgrade housing but it’s not so easy with infrastructure.”

More than grace and beauty. By KIERAN FINNANE.

There’s something of The Three Graces, although there are seven, in the most striking series of Henry Smith’s gum trees.
Smith’s exhibition Tree Song opened at Araluen on the weekend.
In Greek and Roman mythology The Three Graces personified grace and beauty. It’s particularly the figures as shown by Botticelli in Primavera that I’m reminded of – their pale forms languidly, almost precariously, leaning to the left and right.
There’s nothing of the precarious in Smith’s trees – his “muscular beauties” – but he tenderly renders their lovely leaning and in the series of seven, bathed in golden light, they are like dancers, their rhythm long and slow.
Up close the association with Botticelli’s idealised figures ends. There is an almost confronting level of detail, confronting at least in part because it is so suggestive of the human body and of those features that are usually covered or veiled – breasts, nipples, tufts of hair, vaginas, and the signs of age.
These are mature beauties, with unexpected extra bits, knobbles, wrinkles, sags, every one finely detailed and offered to the viewer without shame.
Smith speaks of painting portraits of the trees and in that each one of the seven is distinct, asserts its own presence, he has certainly succeeded.
But his project also brings to our attention the inexorable processes of life that go beyond individual character. A series of three, focussed on the roots of fallen trees, show the final disintegration.
Or is it final? In a sculptural work Smith presents a large fragment of burnt tree trunk on which he has drawn in fine filaments the new growth that comes even when the devastation appears to be total. 
There will be a walk through the art this Sunday, July 20, 2pm.

Pilgrims heading out from Alice. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Catholic Church was packed on Sunday morning for a multi-cultural celebration of World Youth Day.
Close to 90 pilgrims from the diocese of Freiburg in Germany joined 40 local pilgrims, most of whom were young Arrernte people, before leaving for Sydney on Monday.
The choir was in full voice, backed by African drums and on occasion by Aboriginal clapping sticks, for hymns of praise in English and Arrernte.
The Gospel was read in German as well as English, and the Prayers of the Faithful were in English, German and Arrernte.
The German pilgrims were applauded for their rendition of a hymn in their language, taking inspiration from Irish lyrics and melodies.
Pilgrim Serena Edwards translated and everyone laughed at the very Irish sounding line, “May you be in Heaven for four years before the Devil even notices you’re dead”.
The presence of the Germans prompted a couple of jokes from the lay leader of the service, including  an allusion to Basil Fawlty’s “Don’t mention the war” (I’m not sure that the Germans got it and perhaps that’s just as well).
Parish priest Father Jim Knight spoke about the long tradition of pilgrimage, across faiths and through the millennia.
It offers an experience of community, on the journey and especially once arrived at the “sacred site”, when the experience will become one of the “universality” of the Catholic Church and sharing in the presence of Christ, coming to a climax at the Mass with the Pope.
However, the real success of World Youth Day “will not be the numbers who gather at Randwick”, said Fr Jim.
“It will be what happens when the pilgrims come back to parishes around the world” with “recommitment and new energy”.
He made the point that Jesus of Nazareth was a man “of his own culture” who used that “to challenge his own people to live up to the call God had given him”. 
After Communion, the local pilgrims were “commissioned” to represent Our Lady of the Sacred Heart parish and Central Australia at World Youth Day.
Fr Asaeli Raass, who will travel with them, invited Margaret Kemarre Turner (MK) to speak  in Arrernte – “to encourage the pilgrims to be strong”, to come back “enlivened and uplifted in their faith”.
Finally Father “Joe” from Freiburg thanked the host families for their warm welcome of the German pilgrims, for the space in their houses, for the program of activities, and “for the internet, the soft drinks, the beer, the kangaroos”.
And he thanked the Aborigines for inviting them to their country.
He presented Fr Jim with a small piece of stone from the church in Freiburg, built in the Middle Ages, as well as a CD of the church choir and a souvenir pilgrim’s hat.
Outside the church, Serena Edwards spoke to the Alice Springs News, describing he pilgrimage  as “one of life’s highlights”.
“For me there’s a special sense between people [on the pilgrimage], you can see it in their faces, there’s a glow about everybody.”
Gathering in Sydney would be an opportunity to pronounce her faith, to renew and celebrate it, and from there to go and “spread the good vibe”.
She said she had met “lovely people” in Alice, had the “best host family in the world”, was looking forward to going to the Desert Park.
“They’ve treated us like VIPs, it’s overwhelming.”
She saw her journey as a combination of “the spiritual with sight-seeing” (after Sydney the pilgrims will head to Cairns).
Young Arrernte pilgrim Matthew Furber said he was looking forward to “seeing the Pope”.
Alison Furber was to travel with the young people.
“These kids grew up in the bush,” she said proudly, “this will be their first time in a big city.”
She said they were all looking forward to meeting with other pilgrims and to “representing our church”, referring to the small but vibrant Aboriginal church, Ngkarte Mikwekenhe, which has its base at 40 South Terrace.

Around the traps: First crossing of Oz by car.

An exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first crossing of Australia by a motor vehicle opens at the National Road Transport Hall of Fame next week.
Presented by the National Motor Museum, the show is a photographic record of the 1908 feat by Harry Dutton and Murray Aunger, who drove from Adelaide to Darwin in a Talbot at a time before there were roads, bridges, service stations or detailed maps.
Shows until July 28 to August 3.
• A touring commercial exhibition of Indigenous Australian art is showing at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on July 26 to 27, 10am-8pm. The show launches the Reconciliation Action Plan of Engineers with Borders, a non-profit organisation that empowers communities to improve their quality of life through education and sustainable engineering projects. The exhibition celebrates the diversity, cultural richness and achievements of Indigenous Australia.
• Nominations are open for the 2008 NT Indigenous Music Awards  recognising excellence, dedication, innovation and outstanding contribution to the music industry by Territory musicians. Nomination forms are available from - closes 25 July.
• The Alice Springs Turf Club is fund-raising for a new children’s playground at Pioneer Park Racecourse. Join them at the Alice Springs Cinemas to view the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight, and afterwards at the Todd Tavern on Monday, July 28, 6pm. Bookings 8952 4977.
• There are two more Sundays left for young people, eight to 13, to join in Dance and Movement for Performance  with Kristy Schubert. The sessions combine music, movement and imagination to develop a dance piece for performance. July 20 and 27, 10-11am. 89522392.  
• Age is no barrier at circus skills workshops to be run by Circosis duo, Sarah Mason and Andrew Cook, as well as Rui Harrington Pinto   on August 10, 17, 24 and 31 as well as September 7, 12-2pm.
Experienced in teaching circus skills they create a safe  environment for participants to explore their own abilities in circus  manipulation using diverse circus props. 89522392,
 • And one for the kids again: Aerial Circus Performance workshops will show eight to 13 year olds how to use trapeze, tissue and  aerial rings to create  performance pieces for the Alice Desert Festival Children’s Hubspace. Book soon. 89522392.

LETTERS: Million dollar a year dentists?

Sir,- Some of our local dentists are raking in an estimated million bucks a year.
Do the maths! I just paid a dentist $400 to fix a couple of fillings.
While most dentists charge for procedures, it actually took 28 minutes.
That’s $800 an hour, $4,800 a 6 hour day or $24,000 for a 30 hour week or $1,080,000 a year (with 6 weeks off plus public holidays).
Sure, the cost of the assistant, shared receptionist, equipment, dental materials and overheads would swallow the 80 grand but that still leaves a cool million.
These figures reflect the new fees.
There are no “standard” dental fees in Australia, it’s a free for all and in Alice Springs we are vulnerable. That’s very evident now as some of our local dentists have simply decided that they deserve more money.
I always thought our local GPs were good, they seem community-minded, but our dentists make them look like saints.
Who hasn’t spent half an hour with a caring local doctor and paid about $50 even before the rebate? $50 would be the cost of sitting you in the dental chair, reading your notes and asking where it hurts.
To be more precise, as a proportion of the $800 per hour, $50 buys you less than 4 minutes.
Don’t think that dental health insurance will rescue you, there are no insurer approved dental surgeries here because approved surgeries are ones that offer fees in line with the insurer’s idea of reasonable charges.
Our local dental fees are so out of whack with the “reasonable” fees that you will pay for the insurance and after that you will pay the bulk of the dental charges.
In other words there is a massive gap.
Approved surgeries also have to offer some free services such as dental examinations. Can you imagine dentists in the Alice doing that?
Our dentists are quite secretive about their charges.
Whereas our doctors openly display their modest charges at a dental surgery you find out the cost after the treatment.
You have to feel pity for the receptionist who reads the computer screen and has to tell patients just how much they have been charged.
You can see their embarrassment when they are asked to repeat the amount and are then greeted with stunned disbelief or outrage.
Receptionists are not trained for this, our dentists should at least employ social workers to comfort their distressed patients.  
Why don’t they avoid the payment trauma by displaying their charges?
Their fee structure is just too complex is the response I received to a query about this.
The lengthy waiting time to see a dentist bears out the fact that our dentists are correct in their heartless estimate of what the Alice Springs market will bear, how much people in pain will pay.
Of course, they would defend their charges with talk of rising costs, their expensive training and the shortage of dentists.
But it is about time they started considering the costs to the people in our town.
It is the costs to those who will suffer constant pain and risk their health because they cannot afford treatment, to the families who will do without some of the essentials of life.
They should consider what dental work at $800 an hour means in the lives of those who earn $20 or $30 an hour and are raising children.
And if this is lost on them, we need Government to rein them in while training more dentists with units on “social responsibility” and “ethical behavior” included in the curriculum.
Lena Milich
Alice Springs
The Alice News gave a right of reply to Justin O’Loughlin, from Alice Springs Dental Surgery, which employs three of the four private dentists in Alice Springs. He says: There is a fees survey done every year by the Australian Dental Association. Our fees are only marginally higher than the national average fees. The most recent survey was done on July 1, 2007. $800 an hour is not right. There is not a set rate for anything. Specialists have hourly rates.

Sir,- To have a mirror held up to us can be beneficial. Carol Sharples Muir did just that in her letter (Alice News, July 3).
She quite rightly implies irony and sarcasm are a cop-out and suggests my wit and experience would be better applied to offering constructive advice.
Yes indeed Carol, I agree that people like myself that have seen what works and doesn’t work, whilst far from claiming that we have all the answers, can make a useful contribution.
Problem is that when the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) was announced it was made very clear that the “time for consultation and discussion” was over.
The very first recommendation of the Children are Sacred Report was thereby ignored.
Senator Heffernan during the debate on the NTER legislation cried crocodile tears and under the protection of Parliamentary privilege told monstrous never retracted lies about the Mt.Theo substance abuse programme and the Yuendumu School.
All Aboriginal males were stigmatised by this campaign.
The Intervention is based on lies, exaggerations, distortions and propaganda. I don’t apologise for sometimes embellishing the tale in my Dispatches from the Front. Consider it counter-propaganda if you wish.
Major General Chalmers dusted off that old furphy, that whites on remote communities are “misfits, mercenaries and missionaries”. Thus another group of people could be dismissed and ignored.
On the Major General’s second visit to Yuendumu, I got the opportunity to “offer practical advice”.
When I told him that Mr Brough should be ashamed of himself for accusing Aboriginal Australia of sexual depravity, the Major General said: “… he’s a politician. If he hadn’t presented it that way, we wouldn’t have got all this money …”
In a response to a second letter Mr Baarda wrote:- Many years ago my brother wrote a several pages long fan letter to Spike Milligan.
Spike wrote back:
Dear Ted, Thank you for your long letter.
This is my short reply,
(signed) Spike
Dave Price’s letter (Alice Springs News, July 10) isn’t exactly a fan letter, but this is my response.
Frank Baarda
Sir,- Wake up Australia and read what Prof. Garnaut has written about climate change. Our children will respect us and other countries will respect us for taking a united stand to the Government.
Don’t let the Government back away from their responsibility to stand up against huge Corporations.
Florence Willliams
Alice Springs

Penis jokes and vile product placement: The Love Guru. Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Pop Vulture eavesdropped on a conversation between three henchmen about The Love Guru.
Niknak: Writer, star and Canadian, Mike Myers, has taken his penis jokes and vile product placement obsession way too far this time.
Jaws: Even though the origins of my birthplace are somewhat hazy, I grew up watching a lot of old British comedy. And Mr Myers has come to the garden of Eden, baring daggers, if he thinks he has produced anything original and funny this time around.
Miko: We waited five years!
Niknak: That’s right! Too long to be subjected to wanting to gouge one’s own eyes out rather than sit through this cultural raping of the soul.
Jaws: Ooooohhhh! Surely it’s not that bad! There were a few laughs.
Niknak: The only thing I found funny was something no one else understood.
Miko: To his credit, Mike Myers does like to put his hand to every aspect of the filmmaking process.
Niknak: That’s true. But in this case it just seemed to amount to the regurgitation of “once upon a time effective clichés”.
The cast involved  Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake and the little circus champ who played Mini Me. Seem to be around for their face value, rather than their ability to act.
Jaws: Marco Shnabel has done well, making his directing debut. It is good to see him break free from the shackles of his former line of employment, playing second fiddle to the director’s chair.
Niknak: Not really!
Miko: Maybe this film is better left to the “group guffaws” of the holiday season.
Niknak: Anyway. 321/1000. Generously! And that’s only because Ben Kingsley was in it!
Miko: Yeah …

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