August 28, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Call for probe into Aboriginal TV firm. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Threat of defamation action against the Alice Springs News

Today's lead story is appearing under threat of defamation action from two Sydney law firms acting for National Indigenous Television Limited (NITV) CEO Pat Turner (pictured), deputy CEO Paul Remati and chairperson Larissa Behrendt. The Alice Springs News invited NITV to respond to allegations made by prominent Central Australian Neville Perkins. No reply was given by the deadline set by the News, and neither during the remaining five hours before the News was sent to press, although the issues raised had been the subject of an internal investigation by NITV for some time. The News had confirmation that Mr Remati had received a complete copy of our report, and offer of right of reply. Ms Behrendt contacted the News at the time the report had already gone to press, saying in part: "The article contains material which is factually incorrect and which is defamatory of NITV as well as a number of NITV staff members.
"As you would know, Mr Perkins sent the complaint to the board and I wrote to him promptly advising him of the fact that the Board was having an independent consultant look into the allegations.
"Given the complex nature of the allegations the investigation took some time and the report is still being concluded."
But Mark O'Brien, of Johnson Winter and Slattery, one of the lawyers who contacted the News on Wednesday (the printed paper was already in transit to Alice Spings), said in his email to the News: "In fact, the independent lawyers and accountants appointed by the NITV Board to investigate the allegations have confirmed they are false." If this is the case, then this is an answer that could easily have been given to us in the time allowed, and would of course have been reported by us. NITV has been told our offer of a right of reply continues.

Allegations against Alice-based National Indigenous Television Limited (NITV) of squandering public money on grog, luxury accommodation and business class travel, while treating its own board and funding bodies with disrespect, are being levelled by a senior official of the organisation whose contract has not been renewed.
The Alice News has obtained a dossier sent by Neville Perkins to Federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett, urging an investigation into NITV that was assured $48.5m by the Howard Government in 2006, and has an annual budget of $12m.
NITV’s brief is to boost Aboriginal television production, but the service runs mostly repeats of low-quality productions.
On Tuesday this week NITV screened the 2007 Indigenous Music Awards – three times.
NITV can be seen only on pay TV, and a local producer says it spends far too little on independent producers to make a difference to the Indigenous film industry.
Mr Perkins’ dossier claims that NITV executives are far more generous with lavishing money on their own perks, and on their cronies, at one time renting a luxury villa in Sydney, with a $4500 a week price tag, for a three-day “staff planning workshop”.
He says NITV deputy CEO Paul Remati hired a limousine to drive him a distance which “he could easily have walked” so he could arrive “like the stars” at the Crown Casino for the Australian Film Industry Awards – NITV did not get an award.
A consultant’s bill for a workshop runs to $7161 and includes a coordination fee of $2100 and $942.97 paid to Vintage Cellars.
Alice-born Mr Perkins, OAM, was formerly a Member for MacDonnell in the NT Parliament, a head of Aboriginal Hostels, a manager of Imparja TV, an executive director of Congress, and is a cofounder of Aboriginal Legal Aid and NITV.
He was a company secretary as well as manager for development and corporate services until March this year.
The main target of his dossier is Mr Remati who, according to Mr Perkins, does most of the running of NITV because its CEO, Pat Turner (pictured), on a salary of more than $200,000 a year, is frequently “missing in action” attending to her “outside interests” such as “opposing the NT intervention”.
Ms Turner is a former head of the failed ATSIC.
Mr Perkins says in the dossier that there is a culture of contempt at NITV towards its own senior management, with frequent use of “racially derogatory stereotypes”.
Board members had been frequently abused.
A number of Aboriginal people had been “shafted” by Mr Remati, especially those who were a threat to him.
Some were removed to make way for his appointment, although he “had no real experience, involvement and demonstrated competencies specifically in Aboriginal media.
“Moreover, we were soon to discover that he could not only not communicate effectively and sensitively with Aboriginal people, but that he was also lacking in proper people communication skills with staff generally and lacking in the relevant managerial competencies for an Aboriginal commercial company,” says Mr Perkins.
He claims Ms Turner had “shamefully and wrongfully abused Francis Tjuparula Kelly, a foundation Director of NITV, Chairman of the Pintubi Anmatyerre Walpiri Media Association, a respected Aboriginal film producer, and indeed a highly respected tribal and ceremonial leader”.
And Ms Turner had “exacerbated this serious situation when she was heard requesting advice on how to remove Rachel Perkins [a nationally known Aboriginal film maker] from the Board of NITV”.
All the while NITV reports to the Federal Government were often late, frequently misinformed, and the board is being kept in the dark.
Mr Perkins alleges NITV is alienating the very people with whom it is meant to be forming constructive alliances.
Mr Remati had damaged relationships with CAAMA (the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association), with Imparja TV, and the Indigenous Remote Communications Association – three players crucial to NITV’s objectives.
The Perkins dossier includes a detailed record of an undignified email slanging match between Mr Remati and Imparja CEO Alistair Feehan, over the production of a minor cricket event.
Mr Perkins alleges that contractors to NITV for accountancy and recruiting are inadequately skilled, are cronies of Ms Turner’s, are far too expensive, and their functions should be performed by NITV’s own  staff.
For example, between December 1, 2006 and June 30, 2007 NITV had paid its recruiting company $243,654.
NITV has a staff of just 30. 
Some of them, Mr Perkins alleges, are living the high life: “The true total cost of the rather expensive NITV launch in Sydney in July last year was not reflected in the quarterly financial statement submitted to [the Federal Government] for the first quarter of the 2007/2008 financial year and I know that an independent audit of the costs associated with the 2007 launch of NITV will reveal a true total cost in excess of $250,000.
“The costs to NITV for the business class travel, accommodation and allowances to date for senior management are excessive and likely to be over the approved revised budget allocation, according to NITV financial documentation.
“NITV senior management has already undertaken excessive travel involving expensive accommodation around Australia.
“[Mr Remati] has spent much of his time away from the NITV North Sydney office travelling and living it up in expensive accommodation in the capital cities and in Alice Springs, where he has often spent an excessive amount of time, sometimes spending as much as 12 days [and] nights at a time in motel accommodation in Alice Springs, doing the paperwork and other work for the CEO, away from his office in North Sydney.
“Without Board approval, the Deputy CEO has been travelling business class since about September last year, frequently and at great expense to NITV.”

‘Listening’ Chief Minister brings cash for surveillance. By KIERAN FINNANE.

In a first step towards winning back hearts and minds in Alice, Chief Minister Paul Henderson announced on Tuesday a $1.1m grant to the Town Council to expand the CCTV network.
This rights what the council perceived as an “unfair and discriminatory” commitment by the government earlier this year to an anti-social behaviour package in Darwin and Palmerston.
At that stage the Top End cities were to get $3.125m over three years, compared to a $150,000 grant for Alice and half the monitoring cost for the first year. 
On Tuesday Mr Henderson also committed up to $200,000 a year in recurrent funding to monitor the Alice network.
The footage from cameras in the mall has been monitored three days a week since April this year.
Council’s plans are to extend the network into the Coles complex, Wills Terrace, Gregory Terrace, Hartley Street and Bath Street.
They claim their submission to government is based on the “success” of the cameras in the mall in reducing anti-social behaviour.
However, no formal assessment or review of the system has yet been made.
On Monday Mayor Damien Ryan said a question about the success of the system should be referred to the police.
The Alice News asked Superintendent Sean Parnell if the police had reviewed the usefulness of the CCTV network. They haven’t.
On Tuesday the Alice News asked if the expansion was premature given the lack of a formal review.
Mr Ryan said he didn’t believe so. He said the monitoring had helped police.
A consultant was commissioned in 2003 by the Town Council to look at the advisability of installing CCTV in the mall as a crime prevention measure.
He advised strongly against the measure, primarily because the overall level of offending in the mall could not justify the expenditure and alternative crime prevention measures had not been attempted. (See Alice News, May 29, 2008)

Changing the shape of the town. By KIERAN FINNANE.


Imagine a Railway Terrace transformed by safe walking and riding paths, lined with gardens restoring the neglected plants of this area to their rightful place, perhaps with a skateboarding ground and a playground for young children, encountering works of public art along the way, including the two that already exist, and surfaces for digital story-telling, interpreting the town and region in constantly renewed and dynamic ways.
Your walk or ride begins in the environs of one sacred hill and leads to the environs of another. Though few of us think of it in this way at present, Railway Terrace is already a thoroughfare between Billygoat and Anzac Hills, Akeyulerre and Atnelkentyarliweke to the Arrernte. 
You wander past the K-Mart mural – a profile in local sandstone of the range between The Gap (Ntaripe) and Mount Gillen (Alhekulyele). 
Further along you pass the Coles mural, telling a whole lot of stories about this place – the Ghan arriving, an artist painting in the Namatjira style, the achievement of self-government, Aboriginal stockmen, aviation feats, people enjoying the outdoors, black and white alike. It was commissioned by Coles and painted by Bob and Kaye Kessing in 1981, projecting an image of community harmony before the word “reconciliation” was even being talked about.
Heading further north, you come to the old Alice Springs Post Office and on past the railway cottages, among the town’s rare built survivors of an earlier era, all protected by heritage legislation.
The street is already quite rich in local stories and art but is largely overlooked, by townspeople and planners alike.
It is ripe for a process of revitalisation, and some ideas about how to go about this will be put forward by consultant designer Paul Carter.
Professor Carter, from the School of Architecture, Building and Panning at the University of Melbourne and a key contributor to Melbourne’s acclaimed Federation Square, has been engaged by the Territory Government and the Town Council to produce a “Design Options Framework” for revitalising the CBD.
He was in town last week to brief the Town Council on his progress and to continue dialogue with them as well as key Indigenous representatives, business and educational groups and members of the public.
The framework is expected to be finished by the end of September.
It will be in part a clearly set out argument for new ways of thinking about and designing the town’s public places, but it will also contain a number of costed and “manageable projects” that the Town Council and community may choose to pursue.
Much of what is being canvassed was proposed during the workshops held in the planning forum in June, including the ideas described above.
Prof Carter said he had received “strong advice” from traditional custodians about a “different approach to the management of the sacred hills” and the desirability of “a respectful access” to their environs.
“If we achieve this, we’ll have the start of a storyline around the town,” he said, “but the community would have to take it on to make it work.” 
Another project will focus on the land around the Flynn Church, its lawn area and Adelaide House. Prof Carter commented that is is very unusual for revitalisation process to start with an offer of land. In Alice, he said, the process had begun with Rev Tracy Spencer and the Uniting Church’s desire to create a place where all parts of the community could feel they are welcome.  
The area, the heart of Todd Mall, is already a well loved, though at times difficult, focal point of a lot of community activity.
What was happening there before, during and after last week’s “community conversation” with Prof Carter told a story of this place quite well.
Outside the church, where the conversation was held, there was a lively game of footy on the lawns, between young Aboriginal boys with their older male relatives looking on and coaching.
The mall was still busy with early evening passers-by; StoryWall was being set up.
Inside the church about 25 people gathered to think about the town’s public places and how they can become more welcoming, livelier, more beautiful, safer.
Some time later the shouting outside started, women’s shouting – loud, prolonged, aggressive, in an Aboriginal language peppered with plenty of swearing in English. Eventually it died down – had the police perhaps passed by, or had it simply run its course?
Nobody in the meeting said anything about it.
The meeting wound up, ceding place to the Asante Sana choir. As final conversations took place outside, the choir were warming up, their ascending and descending scales mixed with the soundtrack of the StoryWall screening.
It was pretty vital stuff – something of the gamut of community life in Alice.
It was rounded off for me a few minutes later outside the Alice News office, when for the second time that week I saw men squaring up to one another, landing a few punches, other men trying to separate them. These were pumped up white men in their late twenties. They looked like they’d been drinking.
Some of this was no doubt the kind of behaviour Prof Carter talked about being “shamed out” of the “revitalised” public spaces that we are to create; some of it was the behaviour to be welcomed.
Prof Carter was adamant that it is beyond the task of design “to change history” but also adamant that there are plenty of examples around the world of places created that people want to be in, where design has acted as “a catalyst” to produce revitalisation and where different kind of stories start to generate.
But in the process of change, the town will need to consider who is welcome where, and who does the welcoming, complex social processes, he said.
The framework will put forward options about the evolution of an L-shaped domain connecting the land around the church through to the Yeperenye Centre and Hartley Street, taking in the Old Hartley Street School and reclaiming some of the current council carpark land for more creative community use.
It could include areas for children – “Where are the playgrounds?” Prof Carter asked – as well as areas for performance, art-making, audio-visual screenings.
Some of the loss of carparking spaces can be made up for by better management of traffic flows, said Prof Carter. Not every parking space would have to be replaced.
The initial proposal will “nibble away” at the issues; the results will be tested and if they’re successful, they will “generate the conversations to take the proposals further”.
The framework will also propose options for the northern end of the mall. There’s been quite a bit of discussion about opening that end to traffic.
Prof Carter said he’s no traffic expert but doesn’t strongly oppose traffic through the north end of the mall, coming one way through Parsons Street. 
The question is what would be done in the longer term about parking, he said. 
“At the moment we live in a carpark. 
“How do we start to segregate and cluster cars, and provide some means of public transport?”
A plus could be that allowing traffic in the north end of the mall could make it possible to eliminate traffic elsewhere.
He was asked from the floor about resistance from townspeople to not being able to park outside where they need to go.
Prof Carter acknowledged that it’s a convenience “very much associated with country towns”.
“People don’t want radical change”, he said, so “it’s going to be a slow process”.
Obviously such a change would have implications for The Sails – Prof Carter talked of options to have attractive shaded areas further north in the mall and also of linking Parsons Street to Leichardt Terrace with different types of usage, including street markets.
Talks with the Mbantua native title holder families have suggested that they are “extremely positive” about developing an “inclusive, quite manageable”  project along Leichardt Terrace, facing the river.
Including picnic areas it would “enhance connectivity, offer hospitality, radiating out” to other areas. 
There will be options put forward to link passages in the heart of Alice with the Red Centre Way (leading out to the West MacDonnells), including a passage of “programmable surfaces” connecting Leichardt Terrace to Todd Mall: these surfaces would be platforms for digital technologies telling the stories of the town and providing information, constantly renewed and updated. 
All this would depend on what is decided about the future of the mall, the markets, and other commercial opportunities.
The relationship between The Sails and the sacred tree in Parson Street is also a consideration.
At present that relationship is “not great if you want to talk about respect”, said Prof Carter. 
He will be suggesting that something be done with the brick rotunda under The Sails – possibly removing the structure but preserving the name-bearing bricks, giving them a higher profile.
Nothing will be prescribed. Prof Carter said ultimately the Town Council and the public will be making the decisions.
“This has been the originality of this process – the discussions have been really inclusive and long term and we have tried to derive the emerging options from the aspirations of the community.”

Sleepover that's not a yawn.

It’s a festival event with a difference and perhaps the first to so directly address social problems: it’s billed as a “Sleepout under the Stars” and will be held overnight in the heart of Todd Mall, on the lawns of the Uniting Church.
The publicity invites you to “become part of public art as you reclaim the beautiful Alice Springs night-time and create a vision of sleeping out that is safe and friendly in the heart of the community”. 
It also asks you to “show that concern for those experiencing homelessness lies close to the heart of Alice Springs”.
The idea for such an event grew out of the Art~Land~Culture discussions among artists and arts workers last year and has been picked up by a coalition of NGOs – the Uniting Church, the Arid lands Environment Centre, NT Shelter, NT Council of Social Services, Alice Springs Youth Accommodation Support Services, 8CCC, The Salvation Army, Tangentyere Council and others.
They are responding particularly to the current housing crisis in Alice Springs (see reports in the last two editions of the Alice News).
‘‘‘Sleeping rough’ in Alice is the only option left for a number of people, and the absence of overnight shelters leaves people vulnerable to violence, theft and exposure-related illness,” says Rev Tracy Spencer from the Uniting Church.
The Sleepout under the Stars will happen on September 13 – a family friendly, alcohol free event. Peppered Black will provide security.
An evening meal and breakfast will be served, with films shown during the night. BYO sleeping gear but not tents – the idea is to be together. 
In the lead up to the event, organisers are calling for donations of blankets. These will be sewn together into a large blanket to cover the entire area of the Flynn Church.
Afterwards they will be given to local services for distribution to people who are homeless.
Blankets can be dropped off at the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) in the Todd Mall or the Uniting Church Op Shop bin at Flynn Church, Todd Mall.

Remembering a guy most of us never knew. By ERWIN CHLANDA.


When riders start their bike to go on Fish’s Run they leave their old life behind, for the weekend.
At the head of the 140 bike pack was Bees, as always, brother of Terry “Fish” Gill, whose life, mateship, passion for motorcycles and tragic death is remembered every year.
This was the 10th.
Fish died on his Harley when he hit a camel at dusk, and broke his neck, some 5km from Ross River.
It’s the site of the annual service, nothing to do with formal religion, but everything with remembering and belonging.
The amazing thing is, of the hundreds of people who were there at midday on Saturday (many also came by car), not that many would have known Fish in person. 
But all of us feel we know him now, having listened to the simple words of Bees and Poodge, by the orange bike frame mounted on a large boulder, where Fish died, with his ashes in the tank, recently joined by the earthly remains of another good friend.
There were groups of bikers from interstate.
One guy had been joined by a brother from Adelaide and another from Darwin.
Ross Holmyard, better known as Mingo, came back on his old Indian. He lives in Albury-Wodonga now. 
“Dude” Greg Taylor was there on his 1943 Knucklehead Harley with a sidecar – it later
won best bike for the second time. 
The occasion is always marked by a few burn-outs, with lots of screeching and smoke, which the uninitiated would regard as a wanton waste of $100 worth of rubber on a back tyre.
One biker present, a psychologist in his other life, can explain: It’s a male mating display. Of course.
“I do burnouts, too, but it ain’t any male mating display,” says Margie Paris, drag bike racer who was down from Darwin. So there.
Displays in general get into high gear at the Ross River camp ground, where 325 adults came through the gate, many of them bringing children.
The apparel, mainly that of the blokes, is a display of carefully studied casualness – boots, jeans, sometime skimpy leather vests (the cold notwithstanding), beards, tats, theme T-shirts and caps.
You’d probably feel out of place in trail bike gear but you wouldn’t be made feel unwelcome.
I, for example, rode an orange chook chaser among the mostly black Harleys, one of a handful in the pack on an enduro.
In fact it was a very nice Austrian KTM 960, fuel injected, that handles like a dream on dirt (where Harleys rarely venture), as well as on bitumen, where it keeps up with them effortlessly.
But this is not a fact one would labour in the bar on Fish’s Run.
Another display expresses the uncomplicated relationship between bikers and their female companions.
They take the limelight in the suck the sausage event: standing on the rear pegs of a slow moving bike they try to catch with their mouths the snag dangling from a string, without touching it with their hands. Licking doesn’t count – you’ve got to swallow.
This created a problem for a tall vegetarian blonde from Scandinavia who was promised a carrot would be supplied next year.
The party lasts all night. Beer and bike yarns flow. There’s never a cross word.
People spent generously, raising money for the Butterfly Connection – $9300 in all, to help a local family with a six month old baby who already has had multiple operations and will need medical care all her life.
At the auction a mirror went for $2700, and sale of a calendar featuring naked bikers and sponsored by Minnie Maid, raised $2500.
And on Sunday, after the ride through Bojangles bar back in Alice, Bees became Bryan Gill again, stock inspector for the NT Government.
Poodge re-incarnated as Trevor Packham who works for the Town Council. And all of us are looking forward to next year’s run. Contrary to rumor, the 10th run wasn’t the last one.

Twins series made in Alice goes to air. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.


The first episode of the first children’s television series to be produced in the Territory went to air on Saturday, tucked away in a 9.30am time slot on Imparja and on Channel Nine around Australia.
Double Trouble, brainchild of former executive producer at CAAMA, Priscilla Collins, tells the story of twin girls separated at birth, who meet again as teenagers and swap places, with all the complications, funny and touching, that that entails.
Sound familiar? The basic storyline is freely inspired by the Disney film, The Parent Trap (1961), which was followed by three television sequels and a remake in 1998.
The interest of CAAMA’s production is that the twin girls were born in Alice Springs to an Aboriginal mother and a non-Aboriginal father.
One, Kyanna, has grown up on a community north of town; the other, Yuma, has grown up in a well-to-do suburb of Sydney.
The contrast in lifestyles is acute and there’ll be plenty of scope in the unfolding episodes for stories to reflect interestingly on relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia.
Much of the first episode was spent setting up the story.
Yuma arrives from Sydney with her dad who is an art-dealer. (He’s supposedly French, though certainly doesn’t look or sound French, played by thoroughly Australian actor Myles Pollard, best known for his role as Nick Ryan in McLeod’s Daughters. Perhaps some sense to his being French will be revealed later.)
It’s Yuma’s first visit to her birthplace. She’s surprised as she walks around town that people appear to recognise her.
The penny drops when she meets Kyanna and they agree to secretly swap places. 
This becomes quickly more than a prank as they fear that their mother will be thrown out of her community if it is learnt that she gave birth to twins – twins are supposedly a bad omen.
There’s a touching seen when Yuma, who had been told her mother had died when she was born, sees her for the first time.
Meanwhile poor Kyanna is facing having to sit a history exam that she’s done no study for.
The twin sisters holding the main roles, Christine and Cassandra Glen, are fresh and charming. They have no difficulty holding the viewer’s attention.
Generally the liveliest scenes for me involved Aboriginal acting talent and the Aboriginal side of the storyline.
Why is it that white Australian characters often come across as cardboard cutouts (I’m thinking of Yuma’s step-mother in her tight skirt and high heels, her bratty half brother and her bossy best friend), while Aboriginal characters, even in walk-on parts, are more distinctly individual, and above all humorous?  
You’d expect instant presence from actors like
Aaron Pederson and Lisa Flanagan (who plays the girls’ mother), but there were others too in the first episode – the grandmother, the cousin, the women sitting in the mall.
Local viewers will also enjoy seeing Alice Springs and surrounding areas on screen.
After the disappointing failure of The Alice television series to render anything like an authentic sense of place, Double Trouble already looks set to do better with this – as you would expect with a CAAMA production.
Through the NT Film Office the Territory Government invested $243,000 in the 13 episode  series.
It features nine Territory cast members and a further 31 Territorians were employed on the crew in 2006.
Total budget was $2.3 million, with $700,000 spent in the Territory.
A media release announcing the screening of the first episode and a launch involving the new Minister for Central Australia, was made only the day before.
And it came from the Film Office, not from CAAMA. Odd for this light to be hidden under a bushel.

These girls are ‘buffled’. By DARCY DAVIS.

Buffel grass has been described as the botanical equivalent of the cane toad and a group of 20 students from St Philip’s College  think we should get serious about it.
They are are entering the Wakakirri National Story Festival, to be held in Adelaide in October, to tell the story of buffel grass and the ecological imbalance it has caused in Central Australia since being introduced.
The Wakakirri festival is all about telling the stories of our world and who we are, through song, dance, film, play or piece of writing.
Each year there’s a different signature item which must be used in the telling of the story. This year the item is “tap”.
This could mean a water tap, tap-dancing or in St Philip’s case, a tap on the shoulder from the evil buffel grass.
Buffel grass arrived in Central Australia with the Afghans and their camels in 1860s. In the 1960s seeds were sown around the NT to keep the dust down and feed cows, but the seeds spread rapidly, particularly after the big rains at the turn of the century. Buffel grass has caused bushfires and sucks the nutrients out of ground – a nuisance all round.
The St Philip’s team have used all recycled materials in their production and removed buffel grass to use with the costumes.
However, the music has not been recycled, it is all original and composed by Bill  Davis specifically for their story.
“The story starts out with nature before the arrival of buffel grass – the eco system is balanced, the species are in harmony,” explained Kelsie Kahl, one of the students taking part.
“Then the camels arrive and leave the buffel grass seed everywhere. There’s a big fight and the native species start turning into buffel grass.”
“Buffel grass is a big problem” said Caroline McCluer, another of the students. “It’s wiped out a lot of local plant and animal species and our dance is symbolic of all introduced species in Australia, like rabbits or cane toads.”
The St Philip’s team will compete against schools from all over the country at the festival.
Rehearsals will be open for viewing as part of the Alice Desert Festival, at 1-1.30pm on Monday, September 15 through Wednesday, September 17 at St Philip’s.

LETTERS: When is news not fit to be told?

The following letter was sent to the Centralian Advocate as well as to the Alice Springs News. The Alice News offered the Advocate right of reply, but none was to hand at the time of going to press.
For Alice News reports on the matter referred to see last week’s edition and June 5, 2008 and September 13 and 20, 2007.

Sir,– Can someone explain the inconsistent nature of Centralian Advocate reporting on a particular local news story, that being the assault charges resulting from the brawl at the 2007 CAFL grand final?
Who could possibly forget the front page headline and 3/4 page colour photograph of a prominent local businessman / media executive, when he was charged by police?
Early court proceedings were also reported upon in detail until the two most recent court hearings, the second of which concluded with a guilty verdict.
Strangely, the two most recent court hearings haven’t rated even a single mention.
Coincidentally, when the first of those two court hearings was not reported upon, the Centralian Advocate did however feature a report on the local businessman concerned, in regard to his resignation from his media executive positions.
This feel good story highlighted a legacy of achievements and personal endorsements for a list of replacement candidates that included his de facto partner, without disclosure of that status. 
When and why did Centralian Advocate editorial staff decide that this matter had made a sudden transition from being a front page headline-making news story, to a matter of such newsworthy insignificance deserving of no mention whatsoever?
Our other “local” News Ltd owned newspaper, the Darwin based NT News, considered the guilty verdict newsworthy enough to report upon it, and the other credible local news services have continued to consider the recent court hearings newsworthy.
The inconsistencies of the Centralian Advocate reporting on this matter are so extreme that it actually raises some serious questions regarding the newspaper’s editorial standards and/or editorial integrity.
The more quizzical among us may very well wonder if the newspaper’s editorial content has been tailored to minimise risk to advertising revenue, through its leniency in (non) reporting on a matter concerning someone with substantial local business influence.
Based on the evidence presented so far, by the Centralian Advocate itself via its own coverage of this long running news story, thorough and adequate explanation is required from editorial staff before such an allegation can be dismissed.
I look forward to that explanation accompanying publication of this letter.
L. Hampton
Alice Springs


Sir,– As a passionate supporter of the Intervention I have seen and heard through the media a great deal that has disturbed, angered and offended me.
I feel that I am fairly thick skinned. Having worked with and for Aboriginal people for almost all of my working life and being married to a Warlpiri woman for 30 years with direct descendants who will forever be able to legitimately identify as Indigenous, I have taken a deep personal interest in the issues that most impact on my loved ones.
I am also a history teacher with a passionate interest in the subject. I am especially fascinated by the ability of my fellow human beings to survive unimaginable suffering.
As one of the terms we use to refer to the industrialised slaughter of six million Jews of all ages and both sexes by the Nazis and their accomplices, the word “Holocaust” is sacred. It should be spoken and written with reverence for the millions murdered.
The mis-use of the term in Dr Hirary Tyler’s letter, Alice Springs News August 21, deeply disgusts me.
My wife was born on a remote Aboriginal community. I lived on remote Aboriginal communities for over seven years.
We have both spent most of our working lives visiting and working with remote communities throughout the NT, South Australia and Western Australia. We have been in continuous contact with relatives living on these communities. Neither can recall hearing the word “Holocaust” used by anybody we have had contact with.
We know many people on the remote communities and the town camps who are opposed to the Intervention. We know at least as many who support it.
None of the ones we know are accusing the government of systematic genocide though they can get pretty cranky.
There are plenty of things to criticise in relation to the Intervention. Governments never get things exactly right. They are made up of people after all.
In a democracy we have the right to criticise and governments need constructive criticism to get things right. Our government regularly asks for such criticism from its citizens and the present government is giving us plenty of chances to do that in relation to the Intervention.
However to use the word “Holocaust” in relation to what the Australian Government is trying to do to address the profound crisis that has killed dozens of our close loved ones is not only totally inaccurate it is nothing short of a gross obscenity.
If Dr Stephen Foster has actually heard people in remote communities refer to the Intervention as “our holocaust” then I believe that he has the duty to challenge the use of that word.
If it was in fact used, its use would have been based on either a profound ignorance of its meaning or on a cynical attempt to manipulate the truth for political purposes. Either way it is still a gross obscenity.
Dr Tyler tells us that her colleagues are demanding an end to any measure that is not “evidence based”. Has Dr Foster seen any evidence of death camps, armed guards, industrialised murder or gas ovens? I would ask those in the medical profession to choose their words as carefully when they are trying to play politics, however ineptly, as when they are practicing their profession. They too would obviously benefit from a little constructive criticism.
Dave Price
Alice Springs


Sir,– Regarding Sara Hudson’s article “Work is the best cure for violence” (Alice News, August 14), it is truly too simple a solution to a complex problem.
Her article contains sound logic but to conclude that “having a job is more likely to make men feel better about themselves, and to lower the instances of domestic violence, than any number of anti-family-violence programs will” shows little knowledge of the success of indigenous family violence programs in communities in Central Australia.
Having employment and reduction of alcohol and substance misuse will always assist in lowering the number of incidents of family violence.
However unless the perpetrator understands the effects of their violence and is made accountable for their actions, very little will change.
Organisations in Alice Springs and Mt Isa facilitate very successful programs that are making significant changes in Aboriginal communities.
These programs are making a real difference in reducing family violence and improving family relationships of people living in communities.
Gaining knowledge of these programs would assist Ms Hudson to arrive at a balanced conclusion instead of a simplistic blanket statement. Good family violence programs do good work.
Graeme Pearce
Cross Border Programs
Alice Springs

Sir,– We write in response to former ALP President Warren Mundine’s statement to ABC radio on Friday August 15, “I’ve not heard one woman complain about the intervention on the ground because they find themselves safe”.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has recently been referring to Mr Mundine, along with a small select group of men, as “the indigenous leadership of Australia”.
But as women who are living under the NT intervention, he is no leader of ours and has no right to speak on our behalf.
Leadership means consultation with communities you represent. It means taking direction from your elders and working with all affected people to determine a way forward.
Who does Mr Mundine think he is to be making such statements? Where has he got his information on what people think of the Intervention? How many women has he been talking to who are directly affected?
This policy has not made us “safer”. It has made fulfilling our responsibilities to our families and to our country much harder. It has subjected us to punitive controls.
If Mr Mundine had any meaningful connection to our communities he would know that women have been leading the fight against this racist policy.
The 500 strong rally in Alice Springs in July 2007 was led by Aboriginal women who burned a copy of the Intervention legislation.
In August 2007, also in Alice Springs, there was a 100 strong meeting of women from “prescribed areas” that voted unanimously for repeal of the laws.
In surveys carried out by activists in Darwin and Alice Springs of more than 150 people under income management, more than 90 per cent of women opposed the measures.
Barbara Shaw, an Aboriginal woman that lives on a ‘prescribed area’, has been strongly speaking out about the Intervention around the country and at the United Nations in New York.
What part of our demand “stop the Intervention, human rights for all’ doesn’t he understand?
Now many women from across the NT are preparing for a big protest rally on September 30 in Alice Springs to demand an end to the intervention.
Barbara Shaw, Mt Nancy town camp
Eileen Hoosan, Mt Nancy
Margaret Finlay, Finke
Jeanie Egan, Yuendumu
Kathleen Martin, Irlpme
Elaine Peckham, Iwupataka

Sir,–  Got a media release about Barbara Shaw’s “stop the intervention, human rights for all” campaign through one of my group networks. 
Did a google on Barbara Shaw and came across your interview with her.
Keep up the good work.  Those who have grown fat and corrupt on the Aboriginal industry should be called to account. 
Barbara Shaw protests too much about government wanting to come into prescribed communities to see what’s happened to all of their housing, night patrol and employment services program money paid to Tangentyere over the years.
Tangentyere Inc gets millions of dollars from the feds but how many of those on their payroll are living 10 to a house in one of the town camps? 
C. Saunders
Cairns, QLD

Sir,– Where to with the CBD?
This was the question being asked at the Uniting Church last Thursday evening.  If I understand it correctly, the Uniting Church has made an astonishingly generous offer to use the land it owns in the centre of the Todd Mall to create an enhanced public space in the centre of Alice. 
There was talk of combining the car park between the Hartley Street School and the land owned by the Uniting Church into one open pedestrian area.
There was the perennial question of how do we include the Todd River?
Can we create cultural and botanic walkways radiating from the town centre to Annie Meyer, Billy Goat and Anzac hills?
There was acknowledgment of the need for a parking strategy to replace our current parking tragedy.
And can we do all this without knocking down what we have to start all over again?
The future of The Sails and the north end of the Todd Mall was discussed.  Since The Sails are a Town Council asset and are due for replacement during the life of this council, it would help if we knew what our council is thinking. 
I know they were recently handed a petition of several hundred signatures asking that The Sails remain.  I have also learned that the replacement cost is several hundred thousand dollars.
Is there scope for local artists to create something truly spectacular if council opts for replacement? 
Will we dismantle the largest canvas in Alice Springs in favour of one-way traffic? 
Has council considered the surge in foot traffic that will start flowing in and out of Alice Plaza when Target opens?
There was also talk of keeping the Winnebagos out of the middle of town by directing them to a parking area and consigning our too-large busses to school runs. 
We could replace them with smaller, friendlier and more frequent busses; ones locals and visitors alike could board without feeling like they were getting on a ghost train.
There was also talk of how to get train passengers into the CBD.  As it is we offer them a short lovely walk straight to the busiest intersection in Central Australia.  We then offer them a longer walk along our new sculptured fence straight to our second busiest intersection.  There’s only one leg to go, the one that includes jumping the highway.
Options for CBD development and direction will soon be presented, and public comment will be invited.  It’s worth jumping in.  It’s our town.
Hal Duell 
Alice Springs

Sir,– Greetings from Latvia. It has been a big change for me, having missed observing an entire NT election campaign from go to woe for the first time in my life.
I was informed about the election campaign soon after it was called, and then heard no more until the Monday following the polls.
One hears very little about Australia over here in Latvia, let alone anything to do with the NT.
However, as is my wont, I have a few comments about the result – the first is that it is consistent with the history of NT politics. There have been five occasions when a political party has overwhelmingly dominated the election results for the NT Legislative Assembly.
These were in 1974, 1983, 1994, 1997 (all CLP) and 2005 (Labor). All, with the exception of 1994, were followed by swings against the incumbent party in subsequent elections, and all for the same reason, namely the arrogance of the party in power.
It came as no surprise to learn that Labor has suffered a swing against it but I admit the scale of it (especially in the Top End) has caused my eyebrows to rise.
It is worth dwelling briefly on the two big results for the CLP in the 1990s. 
In 1994 the CLP won 17 seats (under CM Marshall Perron) mainly by recovering the support it had lost to the ill-fated NT Nationals in the late 80s.
The CLP then improved on this by winning 18 seats in 1997 (under CM Shane Stone, a behind-the-scenes political master if ever there was one) but it was after this that the NT political cycle kicked in with a vengeance – the CLP lost office for the first time in 2001.
The fate that has befallen Labor this year shows that nobody has learned the lessons offered from the past. 
Now that displays real arrogance – as the old saying goes, those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
This is shown by the articles in your online edition (Alice News, August 14) which demonstrate that very little has changed over a very long time.
For example, I lived for eight months at a house on the Iwupataka Land Trust in 1997-98, and the issues concerning the double-dipping of people occupying houses in that area and in town – all at taxpayers’ expense – was as much to the fore then as it is now.
The fact that nobody in positions of authority, in the NT and in Canberra, and regardless of which party is in power, is prepared to investigate these issues is nothing short of damnable.
But of course Central Australia is a place out of sight and out of mind, and so it is easy for authorities to ignore what is happening.
 Who gives a damn about corruption in the NT?
The stock standard response of all appropriate authorities is “there is insufficient evidence”.
I’m not making this up, one has only to peruse the record published in the media for many years to find this historical pattern.
The article about the “brain drain” from Alice Springs, with young people leaving town – most never to return – is an issue as old as the hills.
This problem was actually one of the first issues that the first Chief Minister, Paul Everingham, specifically addressed when the NT gained self-government – he specifically ordered the NT Public Service to make work positions available for youth from the NT.
This was why I was offered my first job, entirely unexpected, at the Arid Zone Research Institute in the summer of 1978-79.
In fact, this effectively happened for the first five jobs and positions I had, all in the NT Public Service or the CSIRO (and no tertiary qualifications of any kind), between 1978 and 1983 – exactly the period when Everingham was in power.
It was a major influence in my choosing to stay for the long-term in the NT.
It is patently obvious we have gone backwards since that time. There is plenty of change but no progress.
Well, for the first time I’ve made a break from Australia by traveling to little Latvia, and here I find a real lesson to learn.
It is simply this; all the problems we face in Australia are of our own making – we have only ourselves to blame for any mess we find ourselves in.
Yet nothing compares to the pain and suffering that has been endured in the Baltic states – still ongoing, to a large extent – which was imposed upon this region by outside forces. We really have no idea how fortunate we are, and what a fools’ paradise we live in.
I find myself in a very beautiful but deeply troubled part of the world. Yet I have to say that for the first time in my life I feel no home-sickness away from Alice Springs and, given the opportunity, I reckon I might finally join the “brain drain” exiting my life-long home.
Aleks Nelsons
Riga, Latvija

Sir,- The CLP’s Terry Mills is correct: Fixed terms would improve voter confidence in the parliamentary process.
Four years between elections may not be so popular.
NT elections on the first Saturday in July each year still leaves politicians better security of employment than most voters.
Paul Parker
formerly Kintore

Sir,- I have conflicting responses to two issues re the Alice Springs Town Council.
On the one hand they are to be heartily congratulated upon the realignment of the cycle / pedestrian path underneath the Stott Terrace bridge.
Previously the path at that point had been a distinct safety hazard.
The engineering was all wrong. Due to  community concerns the ASTC have righted that wrong and the path now could not be safer.
However, on another issue the ASTC does come in for a huge raspberry.
Last year they were the catalyst for the Alice Springs community in being involved in a nation wide Ride To Work Day.
It was the inaugural participation of the Alice community in the event.
Riders gathered at the council lawns for a snack breakfast before pedalling off to work / school or to just back home.
ABC radio did their morning broadcast from the event with presenter Stewart Brash decked out in lycra!
This of course (not the lycra) really helped in developing a community flavor.
I have just received an email which informs that the ASTC will not be organizing it this year.
An excuse offered is that it clashes with the Masters Games.
I would have thought that that would have been a wonderful opportunity to include visitors for the games and show them what a progressive community Alice is.
Furthermore, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is giving away nationally, through their regional networks, over 500 bikes on the Ride To Work Day. Alice Springs 783 ABC is one of those networks. 
What slap in the face the ASTC has given them.
C’mon ASTC, where is your green footprint? There is time between now and October to reverse your decision.
Get pedalling on it!
Graham Tjilpi Buckley
Alice Springs

Sir,- I would like to commend the Alice Springs News for their article “Sleeping Rough in the Alice”, (14/8/08), which described the difficulties experienced by people sleeping rough in Alice Springs, especially over winter.
The article provided a balanced perspective on the complexities of the intersection of “move on” laws and the lack of viable accommodation options for many people in Alice Springs.
Well done on the article for highlighting these issues.
Hopefully this will help in a whole of community push for an improved response to the homelessness situation in Alice Springs.
Jonathan Pilbrow

Sir,- We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for the article you published in the Alice Springs News (Aug 7) regarding help for our son Shane and his sisters to attend Camp Capacity in Adelaide in January 2009. 
There has been an overwhelming response from the whole community. 
Without the article published we would still be struggling to raise funds to get us all to Adelaide in January 2009. Shane and his sisters attended Camp Capacity in January this year and had a fantastic time and are eager to go back again next year. 
There were many activities that the children enjoyed. The most memorable for Shane was going out in a small boat on the ocean and seeing the dolphins.  The most memorable for Shane’s sisters was going for a ride on a Harley.
It was also great for Shane’s sisters to be able to do things without having to worry if Shane was going to be able to do them or watching out for him all the time. We would like also to send out a very big “thank you” to everyone who has offered assistance to Shane and his sisters in fulfilling their wish to return to camp again next year.
As parents you always put your children’s needs before your own. 
With the help of the Alice Springs News and the public of Alice Springs we will not need to struggle to make their wish at attending Camp Capacity next year happen.
Steven, Alison, Courtney, Kylie and Shane Healy
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: OiOiOis have had their day.

The Olympics are done and dusted for another four years and we can now all get back to doing the things we normally do of a weeknight – the ironing and watching the 11 Gordon Ramsay shows on at the moment.
It is amazing how quickly life goes back to normal. Soon names like Eamon Thingybob and Stephanie Whatsherface will fade into the memory vault, useful to us now only at trivia nights.
But there are a couple of lessons I’ve gleaned from the sleep deprived hours watching the telecast.
Firstly an observation about modern sport and the way we see it. I remember as a kid thinking to myself how cool it was to be able to buy a hamburger with the Olympic rings on it. Los Angeles 1984, the first time merchandising really became a gold medal sport.
Nowadays of course all the big companies shell out massive amounts of cash in order to be aligned with the Olympic movement. A company that pays a billion dollars to the IOC affords themselves the right to align their products with the Olympic ideals.
I’ve got a real issue about this. How on earth can we correlate the ethos of higher, faster, stronger with a small tin of black caffeinated fizzy water?
But during the Beijing Games I realised that I couldn’t really tell you the names of the companies sponsoring the event. I’m assuming the carbonated beverage people were there and I’m guessing there was an athletic clothing company of some description but I really can’t put my finger on the specifics.
Could it be possible that even from the remote vantage point of Alice Springs we have become immune to the brands and catch phrases of big business? Or is it that we have just become so accustomed to their presence that we fail to see them?
The other observation is that patriotism can be really tough on you sometimes. Australians are a proud people for the most part and as low brow as it might seem to some, we enjoy nothing more than watching fellow Australians win on the sporting field. I love it.
But it can be tough sometimes. Many a time during the coverage I picked up the remote, wanting to change the channel because of the nail biting nature of the play unfolding.
I also get a little suspicious around sporting events of a style of patriotism that often makes me a little ill. It’s the rum drinking, flag around the shoulders, Cronulla riot-inducing patriotism that just does my head in. The “Love it or Leave it” philosophy.
What makes me dislike it so much isn’t the bogan element. I like drinking rum, wearing my flag and going to Cronulla. None of these things by themselves are evil. It isn’t even a cultural cringe. I particularly enjoy the broader Australian accent and think that all the quintessentially Aussie things are a wonderful part of what it is to live and love this country.
No, what really angers me about the OiOiOis is that criticising something in Australia means you aren’t as patriotic as they are.
Strange when you remember that in every country you look at, even here in a nation built on a peaceful referendum, the patriots were the people saw what was wrong in their country and decided to change it. 
God forbid I am ever unable to criticise my government or public opinion.
The ability to openly discuss that which we find in error is only possible due to the work of patriotic men and women from times past.
I hope one day to see a ute drive past without a “Love it or Leave it” sticker. In its place I dream to see a sticker which says “Help it or Hop it” or “Get Involved or Get on the Plane” or “Fix it or F@#k off”.
Alice Springs has its fair share of problems. Talking about them doesn’t mean you are talking down the town. If you love it enough to fix it, then you are a patriot.

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