September 11, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

KIERAN FINNANE reports on new strategies for indigenous employment.

Black jobs breakthrough?

Having short-term, skilled labour ready to hire by the hour, week or month is filling a need in the Alice Springs labour market.
A pool of 10 and 15 Aboriginal people are turning up daily at Arrernte Workforce Solutions (AWS) in McDonald Street, some as early as 5.45am, ready for work.
Following a recent burst of promotion, AWS have had 20 to 30 organisations and businesses contacting them and buying their services, according to their business consultant, Colin Cowell.
Most of the demand has been for manufacturing and construction work, as well as gardening and maintenance.  
And it is such that AWS are now taking on non-Indigenous people for temporary labour hire as well.
“Temporary labour hire gets our foot in the door,” says Mr Cowell, “like a ‘try before you buy’ scheme.
“I don’t know why this hasn’t been tried before.
“One problem might be that they’ll steal our good staff!”
He says AWS recently sent two workers to a job for two days. After the two days the workers were booked for eight weeks.
AWS has grown out of the old Arrernte Council, which went into liquidation. But the new look organisation is more than a rebadging; it has involved a complete rethink.
“I call it the ‘get real’ program – get real jobs, real opportunities, real pay,” says Mr Cowell.
The bigger part of AWS’s business is commercially viable, unsubsidised.
However they are running a CDEP program for trainees, in its current modified form, for the Alice Springs municipal area.
Mr Cowell says many employers are reluctant to take on Aboriginal trainees because of the bureaucracy involved and the uncertain result – he admits that often individuals would not turn up.
“With this system, we take care of the bureaucracy, our trainees can get out there, and the employers can see how they go.
Mr Cowell doesn’t expect CDEP to last and “we don’t want it to”, he says.
“We want to get away from the welfare mentality into the commercial mentality.
“In the past our organisation and the individuals in it both had welfare mentality and neither were going anywhere.”
With the restructure has come pride, says Mr Cowell.
“That’s our incentive, the pride of getting into the workforce, and being able to earn real wages.”
AWS has on-going contracts for cleaning and maintenance work as required with the Department of Health, Santos, Yeperenye, and LJ Hookers.
The organisation also has a mechanical workshop, staffed by three fully qualified Aboriginal mechanics, with a couple of apprentices.
They do flat rate servicing of vehicles and that also is going well. They serviced four cars last Friday – “We’d like to get a lot more of course!” says Mr Cowell.
Paul Ah Chee Ngala, prominent Aboriginal businessman, is chair of AWS.
He says the corporate sector is responding to his call to create 1000 new jobs for Indigenous people, a Central Australian contribution to the recent target of 50,000 set by businessman Andrew Forrest (Australia’s wealthiest) and backed by the Federal Government.
“The link is not formal yet, but they know about us and are excited by what we are doing,” says Mr Ah Chee.
Mr Cowell says the figure of 1000 wasn’t just plucked out of the air; the board of AWS spent time thinking about what the tourism and construction industries, as well as other projects, could maintain.
“It’s an achievable figure.”
Mr Ah Chee says the town should make the most of the Intervention money – it’s like “rain” for Alice Springs but it will dry up in four years.
It’s not the “real economy”, he says, so business, the Town Council, the Territory Government, all need to be thinking about where to go from here. 
For example, they urgently need to look at infrastructure development. 
Mr Ah Chee sits on the Alice Springs Economic Development Committee and is the Indigenous Economic Devlopment Officer with the Territory’s Department of Business and Employment. 
He also runs his own tourism business, the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre, walking the talk.
People like Robert Taylor, of RT Tours, and Jungala Kriss, of Bicycle Cultural Tours, have worked for him and are now operating on their own.
“For 13 years I’ve been giving people in this business the skills and know-how to get a job elsewhere or start their own business.”
Now Mr Ah Chee is throwing himself behind Arrernte Workforce Solutions.
“I’m working hard to get the organisation back to being treated once again with respect.
“We’ve given it a business branding – no boomerangs or spears.
“Colin Cowell  is working on strategy and developing business modelling with an accountant.
“It’s about developing a skilled local workforce, ready to deal with the real economy after the abnormal period of the Intervention.
“We want to attract people to town, see land releases acting as catalysts for business development.
“We want to do our bit for Alice Springs becoming a town people want to invest in once again.”
Mr Ah Chee is optimistic about the future – “there’s a bit of a buzz around what we’re doing” – but says it requires a “collective” effort.
“We’re on the cusp of making a difference – I’m calling for the community to come together on this.”
However he also recognises that “at the end of the day it is down to individuals to develop their own aspirations” – and AWS will be there as a vehicle to help realise those aspirations.

Some Alice job seekers live in creeks.

A lot of work is being done to try to get unemployed locals into jobs and there’s some success but it’s slow in coming, says Tamara Giles, manager of ITEC Employment in Alice Springs with 10 years experience in employment services behind her.
She spoke to the Alice News on the eve of announcements by the Federal Labor Government of an overhaul of the Job Network system, a legacy of the Howard years.
Ms Giles recognises that there’s plenty of work in Alice Springs, which should mean that anyone able to work can get a job.
But she says there are very real “barriers” to employment for many of ITEC’s clients.
For non-Indigenous people the barriers are usually to do with parenting or caring responsibilities, although the official perception is that the person should be able to work.
For Indigenous people the barriers are more commonly to do with health and housing.
ITEC has about 300 clients with “a participation requirement” (meaning they have to look for work) on their books.
Ms Giles says “a lot” of them live on town camps in “sub-standard conditions”; some “live in creek beds”.
These clients arrive in the service for  “job capacity assessment”, having been referred by Centrelink.
But it may be a month before they can be properly assessed. Their circumstances may be such that they miss that later appointment and it is not easy for ITEC to find them again.
“This problem is not just in Alice Springs,” says Ms Giles. 
Another “bug bear” is not having enough services here to meaningfully help people who are eligible for a Personal Support Program (PSP).  These are people who are experiencing, for example, homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, psychological disorders, domestic violence.
The lack of capacity to help them “has left quite a few people sitting in limbo,” says Ms Giles.
This appears to have been recognised by the Federal Government.
Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor, made a speech in the national Parliament last week, strongly critical of the Job Network system, in particular for its failure to assist disadvantaged job seekers.
He said the proportion of people on unemployment benefits for more than five years has increased from one in 10 in 1999, to almost one in four today – nationally, an increase from 74,000 people in 1999 to more than 105,000 now.
And 27,000 disadvantaged job seekers have been waiting for up to two years to receive assistance through the Personal Support Program.
He announced “fundamentally reformed employment services” to be delivered from July 1 next year, and worth $3.9b.
He said in the current system job seekers were on “a production line “ – “each receiving the same assistance as everyone else, regardless of their individual needs”.
In the new system they will have assistance “tailored to their individual needs” and without a “pre-ordained fixed period” of time.
The system will be streamlined, red tape cut and there’ll be greater flexibility.
For example, an employment service provider like ITEC will be able to purchase for their clients, besides training, other services such as mental health support, counselling and rehabilitation.
The Minister also announced reform of the compliance system implemented by the former government, which he described as “ineffective” and coming at “enormous” cost to individuals, communities and the nation.
Ms Giles agrees.
She says people are “being penalised every day” but it’s not necessarily successful or fair.
“How to you expect someone to be able to get up in the morning, shower and go to work when they’re living in a house with 20 other people. 
“A lot of clients are in situations like that.
“Our responsibility is to assist them in overcoming the barriers to employment but the housing issue is beyond our control.
“Some manage to move to better housing but they are few and far between, and ‘better’ means going from a house with 20 to a house with eight.”
She says this includes people who have lived in town for a long time.
She says already service providers have been getting the message from the new government to use greater discretion with respect to non-compliance.
For example, if they are dealing with a client who usually turns up for appointments but then misses one, saying that their child is sick, the provider can use their discretion to accept that as a valid reason, rather than demanding a medical certificate.
The Minister says the new compliance regime will be “more work-like”.
Instead of a punitive eight-week non-payment period for non-compliance, “job seekers will lose a day’s income support for every day they fail to attend a required activity without a reasonable excuse, just as they would in the workforce”.
The eight-week non-payment penalty, which has affected 50,000 job seekers nationally, will now only apply to “persistently and wilfully non-compliant job seekers”.
The Minister also promised an improved focus on what employers need.
Service providers will, for example, receive increased fees when they work with an employer and place a job seeker in a job with that employer.
 Ms Giles says employers in Alice Springs could also do more to help themselves find the workers they need.
“A lot don’t want to try taking on our clients. Some have had a bad experience with an Aboriginal employee in the past and they don’t want to try again, yet they don’t have the same reaction to people from other backgrounds.
“The biggest barrier for them to overcome is to get away from stereotypes.” 
Does she see people who are motivated, work ready and have some skills but who can’t get jobs?
“Yes,” says Ms Giles, “there are motivated people who come in every day looking for work, applying for jobs.
“I’m not in their job interview with them but from what I see, I can’t understand why they don’t get a job. 
“Employers don’t have to give an explanation, but when we ask them, they often say, he or she was ‘not what I was looking for’.”  
She says local employers could also benefit from some cultural awareness training, to understand, for instance, what language might be offensive to an Indigenous person, “just as some language may be offensive to women or to people with certain religious beliefs”.
She also says the labour market could be organised more flexibly, to take advantage, for example, “of the good hours of work” that mothers can deliver during hours that fit in with caring for children.
“I recognise that some of this is tough for small business but there’s plenty of help the government can provide through wage assistance and training tools,” says Ms Giles. 

"Willing to get out there and give it a go.”

“It’s our aim to help our own people,” says Ian Stirling, who with Colin Tilmouth are the local face of Aboriginal Employment Strategy – the organisation’s “Ambassadors”.
The personable pair have lived between town and the bush.
Mr Stirling, now 26 years old, grew up in the Barrow Creek area and did cattle work and fencing across outback Australia from the age of 16. More recently in town he’s worked with heavy machinery – excavators, back hoes and the like.
Mr Tilmouth, 19, was an ambulance driver for the Urapuntja Health Service – a “24/7” job, he says.  He couldn’t even get time to enjoy himself at Christmas or at grand final time.
When he gave it away and came into town, he worked for a while at Peter Kittle Carwash and later with Tangentyere Night Patrol.
As Ambassadors for Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) they have had to learn different skills for dealing with people, says Mr Stirling.
The Ambassador Program is funded by Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
It involves some liaison work around the CBD – in the mall, at the taxi rank, in the river.
If the pair come across incidents involving drunks, for example, they’ll speak to them, tell them to go home – “if we know them, if they’re local”. 
They also act as advocates for AES employment services.
Says Mr Stirling: “If someone’s looking for a job, we drag them in here, get them signed up.”
How do people respond?
“They’re willing to get out there and give it a go,” he says. Some of them need to motivate themselves a bit more. A lot have never had anyone approach them about work and they don’t have much get up and go themselves.”
AES was founded by businessman Dick Estens in Moree, NSW, a decade ago and set up in Alice in September last year.
It aims to get Aboriginal people into the workforce, taking a multi-pronged approach, from “entrepreneurial” training for school students in Years 7 to 9 and school-based traineeships to individual placements in jobs.
The employment service at AES gave themselves a target of 100 job placements by the end of June.
Manager Debra Garrett says they’ve exceeded this – they managed 101. 
Some of these people have had “good job backgrounds, worked a lot”, says Ms Garrett, but “some have worked very little”.
“There are those with goals, who are work ready.
“They come and look at our vacancies, we go through the paper with them.
“If they like the sound of the position, we go through the selection criteria with them, get them to write an application, help them do their resume up.
“We don’t want slackers, we want people who are willing to work.
“We got five people into placements last week, we aim at five to seven per week.”
She says a lot of the clients want to work in Aboriginal organisations – “we’re lucky in Alice, there are a lot”. 
But AES is also working at getting government departments and NGOs as well as tourism operators on board for placements.
Ms Garrett says they have also succeeded in placing labourers in the construction industry.
A catch cry for AES elsewhere has been their relationship-building with “corporate Australia”, and in particular they have worked with banks.
In Alice two young women are nine months into a school-based apprenticeship with banks – one at the ANZ, the other at the Commonwealth. A third position is likely to open at the end of this year, at another bank.
The apprenticeships go over 24 months while the students complete senior high school. They work one day a week in the bank, and attend school normally on the other four days. During their school holidays they work at the bank full-time.
There are quite a few players in the employment service area in Alice – what’s special about AES?
“We’re all Indigenous,” says Ms Garrett, “from the receptionist to the manager.
“We understand how Indigenous people live, we know about the long hard road to sucess. It’s good to be relaxed with them, have a laugh, they feel good when they walk out the door.”
As well, the clients can see what others have achieved.
Ms Garrett’s own path is a case in point: “I’ve reached my goals,” she says.
“I’ve done house cleaning, worked in a bank, done administration, employment consultancy, youth work, group training, I’ve been a remote field officer.
“I’ve fulfilled my career goals and I hope there are lots of Indigenous people out there who’ll achieve theirs.
“When I won this position I felt proud, I’ve always wanted to be a manager.
“AES gave me that opportunity, I’m proud and privileged.”

Police seize huge grog running hauls. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A police blitz on grog running has revealed massive law breaking in the bush, in the face of liquor restrictions escalated under the Intervention.
One car en route from Alice Springs to Hermannsburg was caught with 14 cartons of VB beer, four bottles of sweet liqueur, one bottle each of vodka and whiskey, four bottles of rum and assorted alcopops.
But it’s not all bad news in Hermannsburg.
Police station OiC, Sgt Gert Johnsson says locals are increasingly cooperating with police, identifying grog runners and tipping off when stashes are on their way.
It is not yet clear whether more booze is being smuggled into the “dry” communities, or whether the increased policing is revealing more of the endemic offences.
Police Superintendent Kym Davies says the focus of law enforcement is on the road to Hermannsburg and the Stuart Highway to Ti Tree – both frequented by relatively heavy general traffic.
“Grog seizures now occur all the time,” says Supt Davies.
They mostly happen at random breath stations set up following tip-offs and other police intelligence.
Information collected by licensing authorities through recording the names of buyers at bottle shops generally does not lead to immediate action.
However, details of repeat buyers of large quantities are passed on and used for special surveillance.
Having federal police deployed in remote areas under the Intervention is “extremely beneficial”, says Supt Davies, but still more police are needed.
For example, it’s not unusual that one of the first cars stopped at a roadblock contains a driver over the limit, or alcohol contraband.
This means the officers have to arrest the suspects, shut down the roadblock, and take them into town for processing.
This leaves the way clear for any other grog runners.
On the positive side, a lot of alcohol is intercepted these days close to town.
For example, a stash found near Nyirripi, west of Yuendumu, was comparatively small.
Supt Davies says unlike some years ago, taxi drivers are no longer involved in the illicit trade.
Most of the runners are locals of the communities. They often get their booze from a string of “cockies” making individual purchases.
As the locals don’t need entry permits the planned re-introduction of the permits is going to make no difference to the problem, says Supt Davies.
OiC of the TiTree police station, Justin “Sydney” Harbour, says virtually all problem grog in the area is sourced from Alice Springs, and is almost always the fuel for domestic violence and crime.
TiTree has no take-away outlet, but a beer garden opens for on-premises consumption between 1.30 and 3.30pm.
The Aileron pub has a sixpack per person take-away limit applying to everyone.
But booze comes from Alice in quantities, and recently 61 litres were confiscated.
Several $100 infringement notices have been issued.
In a joint action by TiTree, Yuendumu and Willowra officers, a vehicle was confiscated.
The court will decide whether the car will be returned, auctioned or destroyed.
Sgt Harbour says winter is usually quieter than the hot months.
Income management has been introduced only recently at Aileron, TiTree Camp and Six Mile, and its effect isn’t yet known.
At times police activities have unexpected results: This week a car belonging to a contractor at Hermannsburg, Community Enterprise Australia Ltd (CEA), was impounded because 13 cans of beer were found in it.
The company’s CEO, Andrew Nolan, says he is taking decisive action: “We have strong vehicle policies.
“NTER [Federal intervention] regulations are taken into our rules which include zero tolerance policy on alcohol.
“No CEA staff member has been charged.
“The vehicle was parked at a house, a female was in the vehicle which was found with a quantity of alcohol,” says Mr Nolan.

LETTER: National Indigenous TV replies to allegations by Neville Perkins.

Sir,- On 28 August 2008, the Alice Springs News published an article entitled “Call for probe into Abor.TV firm”.
The report raised allegations made by former employee, Neville Perkins, against NITV and senior management. Mr Perkins left NITV in March 2008 at the end of his employment contract.
In response to the article published on 28 August and a subsequent article publishes on 4 September, the Board of NITV would make the following comments:
• The Board of NITV became aware of Mr Perkins’ allegations in June 2008 and promptly instituted an independent investigation into the allegations. We are awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
• Prior to the publication of your story on the 28 August, we responded promptly to your article, as it contained both inaccurate and defamatory information about NITV an its officers.
• The Board of NITV is very proud of NITV and what it has achieved.
• NITV was formed in 2005 as a result of the hard work of indigenous media organizations around the country such as Indigenous Community Television, Walpiri Media, Ernabella Video and Television and CAAMA. NITV is a not for profit company that provides television and multi-platform content that strives for excellence and relevance. We are committed to working towards the objectives for which our organization was formed.
As an independent investigation is currently being concluded, the Board does not believe it is appropriate to make any further comment at this time.
NITV Chair
Larissa Behrendt, on behalf of the NITV board

Aurora may buy into a ‘broken up’ Ayers Rock Resort. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Aurora Resorts, whose efforts to expand their already considerable Central Australian interests to Ayers Rock and King’s Canyon have been frustrated for years, won’t be making a bid for the Ayers Rock Resort.
But Aurora chief Ian Drummond says his company would take a hard look at buying one of the hotels at The Rock, if the resort were to be broken up, as has been suggested by the industry lobby, Tourism Central Australia (Alice Springs News, August 21).
For now, after fruitless talks about getting land near The Rock and King’s Canyon, “trying for years but not getting any traction,” Aurora is looking elsewhere to expand, and has bought for $15m the biggest hotel on Kangaroo Island, the Ozone, with plans to grow it from 63 to 100 rooms.
The company’s plans for The Centre have “all gone into the too hard basket, not forgotten, but they’re in the too hard basket”.
Mr Drummond says “it always struck me as outrageous” that servicing tourism at The Rock was given to a single operator.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s like giving the Barrier Reef to one company.”
But Mr Drummond says “if the government could facilitate” the resort being offered for sale, in a broken up state, this would “overcome the big blunder in the past of creating a monopoly at the Rock.
“I guess the operator who’s got the monopoly is going to make plenty of cream.
“But if you’re looking for the good of tourism at Ayers Rock, and in Australia, I would say competition would be excellent.
“It would give people like us a chance at Ayers Rock to compete in various ways.”
However, it is clear the NT Government isn’t going to be involved, the resort’s cornerstone role for the local tourism industry notwithstanding.
“It’s a commercial decision for the current and the possible future owner to negotiate,” is all Minister for Central Australia Alison Anderson would say.
Mr Drummond is the executive chairman of Australian Property Projects which owns Aurora Resorts.
In Alice Springs the company developed the North Edge and the City Edge apartments (formerly Red Centre Resort and Cawood Court), and owns Heavitree Gap Outback Lodge and Aurora Alice Springs in Todd Mall.
Mr Drummond says his company is looking for 3.5 to 4.5 star hotels “in or at the gateways to the great eco destinations, to supplement our properties in Kakadu and Alice Springs”.
Cairns, Broome and Tasmania are destinations of interest to Aurora.
It has been looking to set up around the Rock and King’s Canyon for years, says Mr Drummond.
“I don’t want to be pointing the finger at anybody but in years of talking we never got past the discussion basis.
“There are just too may complications with ownership, everybody’s having some sort of a say in it.”
Aurora wanted to do a joint venture with Aboriginal interests on land adjacent to the Ayers Rock Resort which owns a 100 square kilometre block just outside the Uluru National Park.
And it sought to get a foothold at King’s Canyon as well, also a stronghold of Voyages, part of the troubled General Property Trust which has put up for sale all its tourism assets around Australia.

Adam Giles: Maiden speech vision.

Alice’s new man in Parliament, Adam Giles, outlined his vision for the Territory in his maiden speech on Tuesday.
Alice Springs would become “the Cultural Capital of Australia”, Tennant Creek “the Golden heart of our Territory”, Katherine, the “Centre for Medical Training Excellence”, Nhulunbuy a “thriving mining and tourist destination, and the Tiwis would become “the industrial innovators we know them to be”.
This would be the “vibrant bush” to Darwin’s growth and prosperity “as the gateway” to Australia for “our Asian neighbours”.
Mr Giles, who returned frequently to the phrase, “politics is the art of the possible”, also called for large communities to “become satellite towns for servicing, enticing people back to those towns to renew and reinvest in their culture”.
Tax incentives should provide for business development to create employment; welfare should be tightened up to encourage economic participation; private sector housing investors should be invited into the bush to fill the housing gap.
Teachers, nurses and the likes should be sufficiently resourced to make remote communities places where people want to be.
Living with alcohol should be supported through wet canteens.
Economic growth should be supported by sealing roads, building bridges and installing telecommunications access.
Why can’t we do these things? Mr Giles kept asking.
He spoke with feeling of his Indigenous heritage, harking back in his opening sentences to “what the land must have been like all those years ago before settlement”, imagining “the owners of this country watching as its new visitors arrived”.
His father’s mother was a Gamilaroi woman born in the Pilliga Scrub in NSW and is still alive. 
His father, Robert Graham Romer, who died 20 years ago, was a union man, a fighter within the Builders Labourers Federation, “who gave me character, larrikinism, intellect and intent”.
“He was as hard as nails but only when he had to be. I love him and I miss him,” said Mr Giles. 
His parents broke up and his mother, Jan, remarried and was with Jim Giles in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. 
Mr Giles paid tribute to the love that flowed to him from his mother, and to his step father, saying “he supported the principles of family and hard work and encouraged me to be all I could be”.
They lived in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, working hard and making sacrifices to buy their own home.
Mr Giles countered criticism “in today’s society” of materialism, saying that “without the want to improve one’s well-being ... we lose the sense of hope, of purpose and reason for going on”.
He and his wife Tamara moved to Alice Springs for work.
He said their family would be “similar to many other families in the electorate and across Alice Springs and the NT generally”.
“Both parents work, juggle a mortgage and a car loan, have a couple of dogs and a child, Tahlia, to school.”
He referred to his “steely determination for change” and said he would “seeking action on Indigenous issues”. 
It is a matter on which he intends to be heard. 
“All levels of government have been part of what is systematic failure, and the monuments to this failure are everywhere to be seen.”
He challenged those who criticise “a tough love approach in these communities”.
“Take yourself out [there], see the level of capacity within these communties.
“Look at what needs to happen and ask yourself this – would it be acceptable in Malak, Fannie Bay, Driver or Anula? No it would not!”
He asked what it would take “to get people to stop playing politics with this issue and embrace the need to extract Aboriginal people out of the too hard basket”. 
It would take more than money, said Mr Giles.
“Maybe we can all take out our budget papers and read the line that says half the budget is spent on Indigenous affairs, and maybe for some that gives a warm feeling at night. 
“For me that means nothing. Tell me, where are the outcomes. “
He said “very few” in former CLP administrations and the current Labor Government “have shown the commitment and leadership required to address these very long term issues”.
The exception has been “the Member for McDonnell” (Alison Anderson, now Minister for Central Australia). For too long the issues have been seen through the prism of the Left, “where governments solve everything and do everything”.
“Well, let me say the problems haven’t been fixed and at the current rate they will not be fixed.
“It’s time for a change in thinking, it’s time for some new reality.”
He called for “firm but fair” approaches in dealing with crime:
“If getting up out of bed tomorrow does not offer people a reason to contribute and to enjoy life, then they will have no hope in their lives.
“Too many slip through the cracks, too many go through the revolving door and too many have no hope ...
“The only way forward is to grow, not at the cost of the environment or loss of culture, but to grow as a state, to grow as a people, reinvesting in the lands, protecting our environment and enriching our culture, black and white ...
“The role of government is not to do everything; we are merely the masters of the plan, the generators of frameworks.
“Remember, politics is about the art of the possible. And there are plenty of possibilities in this great land.”

Fuel prices won't kill car rally sport, but red tape may. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Red tape, not fuel costs, is likely to sound the death knell for car rallies such as the Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial which is bringing an estimated three quarters of a million dollars into Alice Springs this week.
“We’re bombarded with more and more regulations,” says competitor Denis Baker.
It’s taken organizers two years to put together the event which is, in essence, a drive through the nation’s most remote regions, a far shot from the Redex and Ampol trials of the 50s and 60s which the current event commemorates.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to run these events, getting permits and approvals from police, council, parks.
“Just to organise it cost half a million dollars.”
But none of this dampens the enthusiasm of Mr Baker, 55, and navigator David McAdam, 51, who says: “This is the Everest. We’ve been hanging out for it for 10 years.”
They say the 7000 km event over 10 days will “demonstrate vehicle capability, strength and crew performance.
“It’s a full-on rally, not a bash. Teams are competing, there are time constraints, over distance.”
Mr Baker and Mr McAdam are competing in a 1979 VB Commodore, six cylinders, one of 15 GMH built for the 1979 Repco round Australia trial. There are only three left.
In 1995 Mr Baker took it into the Mobil One Round Australia rally, 22,000 kms in 19 days.
He came 21st outright out of 160 entries.
“I’ve been competing continuously since 1979,” he says. “I drive the VB all the time.”
The support crew, Bob Westwood, 65, and David Brown, 69 (“He does an awsome wheel alignment. He’s on first name terms with every nut and bolt in that car!”) drive a vehicle no less remarkable.
It is a Valiant 1965 AP6 Wagon, “a long distance outback car” they built from the ground up.
They take it to The Centre from Melbourne four to five times a year.
Says Mr Westwood of The Centre: “It’s the heartland and heartbeat of the nation.
“It’s exciting and relaxing at the same time.”
High fuel prices are no deterrent, says Mr Baker: “You’ve just got to do it.”
And Mr McAdam: “We’ve got to make sure that when we die we’ve ticked all the boxes.”
The trial has brought 70 competition vehicles to The Alice, and 500 people including some 80 officials.
They peg out the track and monitor progress.
The overnight stops are known in advance “but we don’t know how we’ll get there” until they start in the morning.
The trial will leave town today for Mt Isa after completing a series of sections near Alice Springs yesterday.
Most people associated with the event were in town for about a week, staying in caravan park, cabins or motels.

Clare Martin will head organisation that damned her government. COMMENT by KIERAN FINNANE.

An announcement by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), the country’s peak welfare lobby group, that former Chief Minister Clare Martin will become its new Chief Executive Officer cites her “highly successful political career” but completely overlooks her political failures.
And the organisation is also ignoring the attacks Ms Martin (pictured at left) suffered from the NT Council of Social Services which condemned her government for underspending funds recommended by the Grants Commission for children and families.
ACOSS mentions Ms Martin’s historic election wins but makes no mention at all of the fiasco that led ultimately to her resignation – her prolonged incompetent management of Indigenous affairs, and particularly her slow and inadequate response in the crisis area of child safety and protection.
The latter predated considerably the release of the “Little Children Are Sacred” report last year.
Ms Martin’s government never provided satisfactory answers to a September 2004 investigation by the Alice Springs News into lack of action and underspending on child abuse and neglect, nor the failure of her then Police Minister, now Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, to instruct police to act. 
This lack of action would come to haunt them.
Ms Martin also ignored the invitation in May 2006 from Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney to have a bi-partisan approach to the issue, which came with the warning that the Territory risked losing considerable control over what was happening in its jurisdiction if the Territory Government failed to act (Alice News, June 28, 2007).
Which, of course, is precisely what happened.
Ms Martin’s rehabilitation now by ACOSS would also appear to fly in the face of criticism of the Territory Government by NTCOSS president Barry Hansen for the under-spending of Commonwealth Grants Commission funding.
He has described the Territory Government’s practices as “unethical and unaccountable” (The Australian, July 16, 2008).
But this under-spending did not start after Ms Martin’s departure form the scene.
Mr Hansen’s criticism echoed that made by former NTCOSS president Geoff Harris, reported by the Alice News on May 12, 2004 (see our web archive).
Mr Harris said in part: “Over the past two years the Labor Government has invested additional budget resources for social development primarily into addressing law and order and anti-social behaviour issues and into tertiary response services.
“It has not however invested the same level of resources into community based prevention and early intervention services and strategies.
“If the government is serious about addressing children, families and youth at risk as well as chronic disease and long term health problems, then the Government needs to significantly invest in community based prevention and early intervention services.
“The government over the past two years has invested significantly in economic development and business.
“It has not however invested the same level of commitment to the area of social development.
“Currently there is no social development strategy in place and there is no equivalent whole of government social policy forum for the social and community sector.
“As a consequence the area of social development lags well behind.”
These are matters that go to the heart of ACOSS’s concerns and surely also go to the credibility of the appointment of Clare Martin as their CEO.
ACOSS did not respond to an invitation to comment.

Journey to the limits of endurance. By R. G. (Dick) KIMBER.

By R. G. (Dick) KIMBER

In 1905 drought took hold across central Australia: from Charlotte Waters, south of Alice Springs, east into the Simpson Desert (at that time yet to be named) and west into the desert country of the south-west of the Territory, rain was rare and summer heat intense.
Observers used to travelling in that country over decades noted the filling up of riverbeds and waterholes. 
This may have been caused by a change in the nature of floods, sand-loads and droughts between 1877 and 1906.  This is a genuine possibility, yet it is also reasonable to assume that in the same period the tens of thousands of head of stock eating and trampling their way along the banks, and particularly about the natural waterholes, of the central Australian rivers, creeks and tributaries, had had a major impact. 
After scattered storms had partially filled some of the waterholes in mid-year 1905, surveyor-explorer F. R. (Frank Rees) George and his small prospecting party began their trek out into this “howling wilderness” in September, on behalf of the South Australian Government.  They travelled from Oodnadatta to Indulkana, almost due south of the Alice, where it will be recalled that surveyor-explorer Hubbe had found the water to be a soakage rather than the spring of a decade earlier. 
Here George observed that rabbits were “fairly numerous”, and was to find this so almost all the way along the SA-NT border country. 
Since they had first arrived in the Charlotte Waters area in 1894, rabbits had not fared well in many parts of their initially exploding spread, for as Gregory and Gillen had both reported, they had died off in most of the country they had “invader-colonised” by 1901.
However, along the limestone, loamy soil and ranges of the SA-NT border country of the Antekarinya, Yankantjatjarra and Pitjantjatjarra peoples they had survived in favoured pockets, and found the country a paradise for breeding again after every rain. 
Indeed, by this time they had entrenched themselves, in small and greatly scattered numbers, much further north, apparently following the lake and river systems about the Simpson Desert to reach both the Arltunga region and the Barkly Tablelands; and via Lake Amadeus (where they were first reported in 1896) and other lake systems into the south-west of the Territory. 
Some may have been carried young and alive by cameleers and other travellers, or by Aborigines as novelty animals, or by miners, to allow their release as a breeding food-supply, for by 1908 they were to be seen in small numbers in the Alice and to the far north-west at Tanami. 
George and party travelled west along the SA-NT border country, in very hot, often thundery, and exceedingly dry conditions in September  to December, 1905.  On December 6 they were in their second day of camp at a water at the western end of Ruined Rampart in the far south-west of the Territory, when, as George recorded, life became even harder for them. 
“Attacked by natives about 10:30 p.m. last night, Hall being seriously and Fabian less seriously wounded.  Hall received a spear in the eye, which penetrated to below the barb to a depth of about [eight cm], the point being downwards towards back of neck.
Fabian was wounded in the chest just below the breastbone, the spear entering one and a half inches [nearly four cm].” 
After firing shots to drive the attacking group of Pitjantjatjarra away, and mounting a patrolling guard, George attended to the injured men by the light of a lantern.  He was not a doctor and there were no manuals for extracting a two metre long spear through the eye, or a spear which had apparently punctured a lung, so readers can imagine how they would have coped.  George did very well under the circumstances – and so did the patients! 
“Hall having the spear imbedded in his head, gave him first attention.  He was in great agony, and kept asking us to pull the spear out.  Found it had sunk into the eye socket, right below the barb. 
“At first I thought the spear was not barbed until I found, after pulling it [almost right] out, about 1 in. [2.5cm] was over the eye and through the top lid.  The attempt to cut the barb gave so much pain that I had to release it by cutting the eyelid with a razor. Although in great agony, he bore it manfully. 
“On reaching Fabian I found he had fainted.  He complained [upon being revived] of severe pain in the left side, and had difficulty in breathing.  Bathing with hot Condy’s fluid gave Fabian some relief, but Hall was in great pain.” 
Today, with modern communications, they would be helicopter-lifted out to Alice Springs hospital within 24 hours.  In 1905, since Alice Springs had no doctor, they were weeks away from the better option, the rail-head at Oodnadatta, and at least a couple of days of jolting train travel down to the nearest doctor in Port Augusta.  The thought of travelling there for treatment never entered their heads. 
They had a job to do, and the wounded men could take it easy while they recovered – white sugar sprinkled on the eye-wound was Hall’s main treatment –  then join in the work again. 
After a fortnight they were all travelling again in “fierce heat” in the Petermann Ranges, and it is clear that George was worried about both the condition of the wounded men, who were still in fairly constant pain, and the fact that the whole party was not progressing north as had been hoped. 
“Had no sleep myself last night, and feel completely knocked up”, he noted on December 21.  In such a situation, camped at a remote waterhole in which the water was “evaporating fast”, Christmas Day was not the best one the men had had, though George tried to make it so. 
“Christmas Day broke clear and hot, and no prospect of a cheerful time.  After 3 p.m. very cloudy and thundery, and I would be pleased with a Christmas box of several inches of general rain.  Celebrated the day by making a plum pudding, which was not an entire success.  Fabian still complaining of violent headaches, and his stomach is also upset.” 
They travelled from the Petermanns to South’s Range and continued north north-west towards Warman Rocks, near present-day Kintore homeland community.  From December 28 they had almost daily brief thunderstorms which necessitated covering stores and equipment, but were “too light to be of service” and did nothing to relieve the constant oppressive heat in which the men were working. 
One of their Aboriginal assistants, Barney, knew of a rockhole which, while off their direct line of travel, he and two other members of the party, Hutton and Treloar, located on December 31 while George and the others were at a dry camp. 
On the basis of their reports George decided it could be a fall-back water if Warman Rocks’ rock-hole waters were dry.  There were no celebrations on New Year’s Day, for they had travelled from dry desert camp to dry desert camp in the sandhills. 
George, with the responsibility as leader, daily exhausted himself, but the other men and the camels fared little better.  On January 2, 1906, after another brief shower of rain which was simply annoying rather than a benefit, they left another instantly dry camp and he noted:
“At six miles cow Eba had to be left, as she had fallen several times, and was with difficulty got on her feet.  I was loth to leave her, but she has been a hindrance for some time, although only carrying an empty saddle.  The camels have had a bad time since leaving Livingstone Park.  Their loads are still heavy, and the travelling [through sandhill country] has been exceptionally so, and the heat very oppressive, whilst they have had no water and but scanty feed.” 
NEXT: The party struggles to return to Alice Springs.

Weekend for music of all genres. By DARCY DAVIS.

Home Brew – on this Sunday, starting 5.30, at the festival HUB Space – is Alice’s biggest, local music festival with an eclectic mix of bands from around the Centre, demonstrating the diversity and talent of the local music scene.
Aboriginal heavy rock band South East from Santa Teresa love driving around in their ute listening to Sepultura.
They recently performed at the Garma Festival in North East Arnhem Land and will be gracing the Home Brew stage on Sunday.
“I really love heavier music,” said South East songwriter and lead singer Chris Wallace. “It’s got so much power and energy.”
South East are really going against the mould of popular Aboriginal music.
“I wanna show people there’s lots of good styles of music,” said Wallace. “All the Central Australian bands just play desert reggae … we’re doing something different.”
As well as rock there will be local, national and international hip-hop. The Apostles are coming out to The Centre for what’s expected to be a ‘rap clinic’ from the home of Hip Hop – the Bronx, New York.
Melbourne Hip Hop group Yung Warriors will also be performing and have been described by worldly connoisseurs from a Melbourne Ladies College as “the first cool Indigenous people we met and heard songs from and now we are fans too”. 
Local “spell bound hell hounds”, Lil’ J and Otis Ooruck, will be “busting in surround sound” alongside the interstate and international acts.
Human Canvas Project will make the transition between metal and hip hop with their mix of electronica, belly dancing and “photo jamming” with a pleasing mash of arts for all the senses. Other special guests include Tennant Creek rockers Unbroken Expanse and up from Melbourne, Clare Younis (pictured top left) who’ll rock it out, solo acoustic style.
New generation of Alice rockers Numb With Fear (pictured above right) have started making their mark on the local music scene and will be capping off the night. Guitarist Michael Joseland and Jesse Jackson have been “jamming for years together” but recently adopted bass player Evan Smith and second guitarist Simeon Shepherd.
One day lead singer Jack Hooper “just grabbed the microphone and started screaming and they said, ‘right you got a job’”.
Jack is known around town for his “pig squeals” – a screaming “oink” noise unique to Numb With Fear’s song “Flute Salad”, named after the St Philip’s school band.
Numb With Fear’s music is thrashed, squealed and screamed out with such intensity you can’t help but respond.
Rob Collins from the Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) will be at Home Brew, organised by Music NT, to help songwriters sign up for membership and know their rights as a performer.
It will be a climax to a festival weekend full of music at the HB Space.
The Festival Parade down the mall on Friday night will feature the penetrating rhythms of Weapons of Mass Percussion, followed by the Bush Bands Bash at the HUB.
The Bash is a rare opportunity to see the best bunch of bush musicians from Lajamanu to Titjikala, from the Barkly to the Western Desert.
The bands all sing in their native language, a healthy way to keep language and culture alive and strong through music.
Triple J’s JTV crew is currently out at Papunya doing a feature on the Tjupi band and will be recording the concert, to be aired late September on ABC TV.
For the 2008 Bash there has been professional development from musicians like Neil Murray in preparation for the gig, and bands will have the opportunity to record their material as part of a compilation CD. The night is a grog free family event.
And Saturday night’s special treat will be the CAAMA-produced Many Roads One Voice, featuring local and remote choirs with Emma Donovan, Rachel Hore, Kavisha Mazzella and musical director Kutcha Edwards. Community Choirs from Titjikala and Areyonga and school choirs from Living Waters, the Steiner School, Yirara and Yipirinya will entertain the crowd along with the Alice Springs Choral Society, the Divas, Asante Sana and a first appearance of the MSGs.
Symbiosis will take control of the main stage later in the night, with their big dub roots grooves, ripe for dancing the desert evening away.

LETTERS: Intervention: is it time for an anti anti rally?

Sir,- I’m quoting from the blurb promoting the “Convergence on Alice Springs”: This is a great opportunity to support Indigenous peoples in their struggle against the Federal Intervention, and to hear the point of view of effected [sic] peoples.
The findings of the Federal Senate Enquirey [sic] into Remote Indigenous Communities as well as the Independant [sic] Review of the Intervention are due at the end of September, and so are the voices of the oppressed sovereign owners of this land we call our home.
There are things people in ALL states / territories need to start doing to show widespread solidarity on this campaign. End of quote.
And so the spoiled “activist” children of the pampered urban middle class are going to flock to Alice Springs to teach us meatheaded rednecks and dumb bush blackfellas what our problems really are.
They are delighted to have the opportunity to use the sufferings of the Aboriginal people in Central Australia to promote their own political cause, that is opposition to uranium mining.  
You see we’ve all been too stupid to see that the intervention wasn’t about bringing law and order and protection of the weak and vulnerable on Aboriginal communities.
It was really a smoke screen to cover the taking of Aboriginal land for uranium mining. They will use any lie to promote this point of view. This sort of bullshit outrages me.
I am cranky enough to organise a counter demonstration and maybe that’s what the good citizens of this town should do.
Maybe it’s about time to counter activism with activism after all it’s a free country isn’t it?
It’s just that I’m not sure that I’ve got the time or the energy. My wife and I are organising yet another funeral, attending meetings relating to real community development, helping family members too distressed and in too much trouble to worry about the intervention or uranium mining and incidentally trying to earn a living.
David Price
Alice Springs

Sir,- There has been some interesting speculation as to why so many voters turned their noses up at the last NT election. 
Some in the Labor Party are implying that John Howard is to blame. 
Next we’ll be hearing it’s Mal Brough’s fault.
I think in Alice Springs the low ALP turnout can be put down to a sense among the  faithful of having been replaced in their party’s affections by Canadian uranium miners. 
Many seem to have gone either Green or informal. 
Another reason is that for the first time I can remember, the Indigenous vote in the Northern Territory was not fully rusted onto the ALP. 
Perhaps the voters could not quite overcome four decades of grooming and vote for the other mob, so they just stayed away.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Sir,- About the “listening Chief Minister” – but is he hearing?
It may be the first step to recovery by the current government.
Listening to the voters that is, not half baked minders.
Continue to listen and hear for the next four years.
Time will tell!
Gavin Carpenter
Alice Springs

Sir,- Just wanted to thank you for the great article and pictures of this year’s wearable arts.
Kieran Finnane’s comments were on the money, she obviously knows her history with these awards and gave recognition to all winners and those concerned in making this such an enjoyable event.
I for one think it just keeps getting better and I’m already looking forward to 2009!
Thanks for the colour pictures, your coverage was so much better than your opposition’s.
Keep up the good work!
Bath Guest
Alice Springs

Sir,- The current lessee of the Council “Tip Shop” has achieved a new benchmark for Alice Springs by offering a collection of trashed items in disgusting conditions.
We regularly see photos published of the town camps; well, go no further than this location, take photos and try to spot the difference.
Perhaps management enjoys seeing people picking over heaps of clothes thrown onto the ground; Subloo, substandard.
Patricia Pate
Alice Springs
ED – The Alice News offered Subloos right of reply. We were referred to the Town Council. A reply was not to hand at the time of going to press.

Sir,- Senators on the cross-benches should consider the economic reality of most remote indigenous communities. It’s misleading to think about remote Aboriginal Australia as a failed state.
It’s more instructive to think about remote Aboriginal communities as failed economies within a prosperous nation.
One reason remote Aboriginal communities remain mired in economic deprivation is that the permit system has isolated them from the wider Australian economy.
We should be removing economic barriers that restrict growth and development in communities.
Economic growth through private sector investment in Indigenous communities will create local jobs; local jobs for local people.
When the Prime Minister is talking up 50,000 jobs for Indigenous Australians, he obviously isn’t talking about it for the Northern Territory.
The permit system reinforces the almost universal welfare dependence of many remote communities.
Without the free flow of goods and people into remote Aboriginal communities there will be no breaking the chain of welfare dependence that binds so many.
Keeping these communities cut off from the wider society will keep them poor and disadvantaged.
Nor does the permit system protect remote communities from exploitation.
The Little Children are Sacred Report exposed the shocking levels of abuse that existed behind the veil of the permit system.
The permit system has failed in its stated intentions.
In public policy good intentions are not enough – the actual impact of the policy needs to be carefully assessed.
Any reasonable assessment of the permit says it has failed and I urge the  Senators on the cross-benches to act on that reality and keep these communities open.
Adam Giles
NT Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

Sir,- Where does Clare Martin get off complaining about the mess she created in the first place?
She failed Territorians while in office and now she is sniping from the chattering classes.
The Federal Labor Government continued the work of the Howard Government because it was blatantly obvious the Territory Government were too incompetent to do it themselves.
Clare Martin sat on the “Little Children Are Sacred” report for months and tried to hide it, hoping it would just all go away.
She accuses the Howard Government of political games with the NT Intervention and yet she was quite prepared to allow the terrible things from the report to continue in communities rather than stand up and do something because it was bad for her politically.
If there is anybody who should be ashamed over the Northern Territory Intervention, it should be Clare Martin, because of her inability to provide the basics of law and order, housing and education to those people who it was her responsibility to serve.
The Country Liberals has been calling for a Joint Office of Indigenous Affairs and Clare Martin’s comments simply confirm the need for it.
The only way to avoid the continual waste and duplication of spending is to have a Joint Office.
Nigel Scullion
Senator for the NT

Sir,- Federal treasurer Wayne Swan’s admission on Sunday that he could not survive on the single age pension of $273 a week has provided further ammunition for seniors in their fight for an immediate pension increase.
I am urging the government to step in now to alleviate the pressures on vulnerable older Australians struggling under the weight of soaring food, rental and fuel costs.
These people built this nation, lived through depression, fought in the Second World War and, through it all, never complained. Now they deserve some dignity in their old age.
They walk past the meat in the supermarket, struggle to feed their pets and can only dream of going to the movies.
With Christmas approaching how will single pensioners fare with buying presents for their grandchildren and what else will they have to do without in order to cope?
Earlier [this week] Deputy PM Julia Gillard also acknowledged the inadequacy of the single age pension.
What Ms Gillard may or may not realize is that the majority of these single age pensioners are women.
They either raised families or were paid significantly less than male colleagues and never had the chance to build superannuation.
National Seniors is calling for an immediate $30 a week increase in the single age pension by raising it from 59% to 66% of the couple rate in line with other OECD countries.
Michael O’Neill,
National Seniors Australia

ADAM CONNELLY: Grand final headaches or not: Alice and sport go hand in hand.

If you ever get a column of your own might I suggest you try not writing it the day after your team wins a grand final. It is not a prudent decision.
I am writing this at one o’clock on the most perfect of Sunday afternoons. My teammates are however still celebrating their victory and quite possibly will be doing so as you read this on Thursday. I am in a small dark room, typing away in solitude.
I really enjoy writing this column and the hour or so each week I take to type it in this small dark room is an escape from the very interactive life I lead. It’s an escape into my own head for a little while and it helps recharge the mental batteries for another week.
Today is a bit different. Today I would rather be with a sensational bunch of Centralians, the Memo Bulls Rugby League Team.
We all know the intrinsic nature of sport in this town. Alice Springs and sport are like lamb and rosemary, like peaches and cream, like a politician and a 10 second sound bite.
The reason behind this symbiosis eluded me for a long time. Why are we so into running around a field or a court or a pitch? I put it down to the fact that there isn’t a whole lot to do in Alice Springs. But that’s far from the truth. There are plenty of other things people could be doing with their time. 
Playing Rugby League taught me the real reason. Today as I write this column, the real reason is on display somewhere in town on this most perfect of Sunday afternoons.
Somewhere in town a group of men and women are celebrating. Men and women who would have never met without Rugby League. In this group there are people from every walk of life Alice Springs can muster. There’s the Federal Police Officer, the electrician, the emerging artist, the youth worker, the student, the pastor and in about half an hour, the radio guy.
All of them right now have no place they’d rather be than in each other’s company. Because on Saturday they won the local Rugby League Grand Final.
It was the most glorious victory.
For the past three grand finals this team had tasted defeat. On Saturday victory was like honey. This group of disparate men and women from every corner of Central Australia celebrated as a team.
I am not a very good Rugby League player. I love it but if I’m frank there’s no fear of being pestered by phone calls from talent scouts. I was not an integral part of the victory on Saturday but as a member of the team it wasn’t about me. It was about seeing the men who turn up to training every Tuesday and Thursday achieve a goal and attain a level of satisfaction you can’t buy in a shop. It was about seeing the joy on the faces of the players, the coaches, the administrators, all the people who dedicate time apart from their families, time away from leisure to give to their club.
There won’t be a ticker tape parade down the main street of anywhere for the Bulls. There won’t be a reception from the Prime Minister. There won’t be a lead story on the National News. But it isn’t about that either. It’s about being part of a team consisting of some of Alice Springs’ finest.
And on Saturday we won.
That’s why Alice Springs and sport go hand in hand.

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