September 25, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Wanna have fun? Make your own! By KIERAN FINNANE.

The major events of this year’s Alice Desert Festival were all home grown, demonstrating a vitality of cultural life in this community that would be the envy of many.
Organisers reached into established pools of tradition and talent to construct a program that affirmed the best of what this sometimes troubled desert town has to offer.
The two main imported attractions, Neil Murray and Stephanie Alexander, were integrated with events that had deep local roots.
Murray’s influence on music coming out of the Central Australian bush goes back a quarter of a century. The Warumpi Band from Papunya, of which he was a founding member, recorded the first rock song in an Aboriginal language in 1983. There is now a plethora of such songs and an ever-growing number of bands, some of whom are moving beyond the dominant reggae-rock flavour.
The festival paid fitting and moving tribute to Murray when the 250-strong Super Choir, formed from all the local choirs at the “Many Roads One Voice” concert, sang “My Island Home”. This was his composition for the late Warumpi front man, G. Rrurrambu, which went on to become a national hit for Christine Anu in 1995.
The “Many Roads” concert, produced by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association, drew on the strengths of a 25 year recording history, which were shared with and honoured by choristers of all backgrounds.
Among the songs unearthed for the occasion was “The UPK Shower Block Song”, composed by Bill Davis and Suzanne Bryce around 1990. It’s a message song promoting personal hygiene, with a catchy rhythm and melody and lyrics in Pitjantjatara and English.
At the festival it was a sung by a rowdy group of whitefellers led by Davis – the MSG Boys, kitted out in boxers and bathrobes, brandishing back scrubbers and towels.
They gave a funny and impressive (given that most would not be Pit speakers) performance and were a huge hit, not least with the many Aboriginal members of the audience.
This was a noteworthy moment: there are not too many like it in the round of life in Alice where tensions in black-white relations are never far below the surface. A little more shared humour could go a long way to shifting ground in this regard.
Stephanie Alexander, renowned chef and food writer, particularly known for The Cook’s Companion, was invited to help judge the Bushfoods / Wildfoods competition.
Now in its fourth year, the competition has a loyal band of participants and supporters and a wave of new recruits. Six out of the 12 finalists in this year’s recipe competition – all local domestic cooks –  were first time entrants; and two of them went on to win in their category (see separate story this edition).
Professional chefs competed in the Culinary Challenge, more congenial to the demands of their profession. It also took the tastes of bushfoods to a wider audience.
Six different establishments put a bushfood  / wildfood offering on the menu, using wattleseed plus one other bush or wildfood ingredient, and diners were asked to rate it.
Over 400 diners took part, with Andrea Celofiga from the Jolly Swagman in Todd Mall taking out the people’s choice for her “Bushlava”, a wattleseed, date, and walnut baklava steeped in Red Gum honey syrup.
Ms Alexander was also asked to taste all of the Culinary Challenge entries and choose the one she thought best. She gave her vote to Paul Korner, head chef at the Red Sea Restaurant for his Smoked Kangaroo Fillet, served on top of a spicy tomato and wattleseed chutney with sweet potato ribbons.
An important outcome for the bushfoods movement of The Centre is that the influential Ms Alexander took away with her bush ingredients, ideas and recipes to experiment with and write about.  Speaking at the gala dinner that closed the competition, Alexander said she was “knocked out” by what she had experienced, her head was “buzzing with possibilities” although she didn’t underestimate the challenge ahead.
Alice Springs should secure for itself the reputation of being the destination people come to to eat bushfoods. She urged cafes and restaurants to serve the foods “proudly”, without disguising their names or flavours.
And she urged the community to get behind the bushfoods push with a “cooperative effort”.
The festival’s competition was evidence of a deepening local interest in what can be achieved in our kitchens with the ingredients that grow on our doorstep. Finding ways to take this to the next level – where as many locals know the taste of wattleseed as know the taste of sesame seed – is the obvious giant next step to be taken.
In years to come the competition will be recognized as having helped lay of the foundations of a true desert fusion cuisine, one that pays its respects to the native foods of the original desert peoples and is more of a feature of everyday life in The Centre.
The festival has moved beyond the fringe character of its early years, achieving strong mixed audiences for its biggest events – Wearable Arts in the lead-up, and the parade and music events of the opening weekend – while maintaining a commitment to local ingenuity and originality that resists with lots of verve the threatening tsunami of celebrity-obsessed mass popular culture.
The festival program drew to a conclusion on Sunday, but the coming weeks will continue to be busy and rich in cultural offerings, with Desert Mob and associated events this weekend, followed by art at the heart, the Regional Arts Australia conference and accompanying arts program, on the following weekend.
All of this activity draws on the creative and organizational energies of a relatively small group of people, many working long hours on small wages and many volunteering – hats off to them.

Housing land management: should it be the next job for the Feds? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

How come there is, in the availability of land and housing, a vast gulf between what’s on offer and what’s needed, namely affordable accommodation for young people on low incomes who are a mainstay of our workforce?
How come Lands Minister Delia Lawrie, through a spokeswoman, says the government doesn’t provide headworks (water, power and sewage to the edge of a development) for private developers, when in fact it has been, and currently is, to private developers who are native title holders?
How come the independent Development Consent Authority (DCA) is acting merely as a clearing house for the Town Council and the Power and Water Corporation (P&W), imposing their conditions on developers without scrutinizing whether those conditions are reasonable and necessary?
And how come the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, which “was created to enable Government to provide opportunities to better coordinate planning and development of the Territory’s economic infrastructure” (according to the government’s website), can at the same time be the regulator of private developers, and their competitor?
The government clearly has a brainlock on these issues, possibly to the extent that there is a case for the Commonwealth to become involved, as it saw necessary in matters affecting Aboriginal people.
Some say thank God we’re not a state and the Feds can still step in and fix things.
It all went from bad to worse when the new NT Labor government, supposedly committed to tackle horrendous land costs, fluffed its first major test in Alice, the Stirling Heights development of 80 odd blocks on the western edge of the town.
The Federal Court had just declared native title to exist over most Crown Land in town.
Now untried politicians, who’d clearly been in a deep slumber during their quarter of a century in Opposition, were called upon to act.
As it turned out, appeasing the vocal Aboriginal lobby was more important than providing homes for all the town’s people, including of course Aborigines.
Stirling Heights was under native title and it was necessary to pay compensation for it to be lifted.
What’s fair compensation?
As it was argued at the time by the conservative side of politics, the proper forum for this was the Federal Court, following compulsory acquisition, as is provided for in the law.
And then it would have been up to the Commonwealth to pay whatever compensation the court decided: this was a clear undertaking made by Canberra when it oversaw the native title process.
But instead the NT Government created a dog’s breakfast, the compensation came out of Territory coffers, and now apparently all is set to be repeated in Mt Johns Valley.
Cut to today.
While developer Ron Sterry in his Ragonesi Road project (pictured at right) is made to jump hurdle after hurdle (Alice News, Sept 18, the wash-up at Stirling Heights is as follows:-
The NT Government gave native title holders half the land as compensation for extinguishing native title.
But that’s not all.
The native title holders, who very quickly sold the land to a private developer, also got $1m worth of head works thrown in, the very utilities for which Mr Sterry is paying through the nose.
In round figures, these are the numbers at Stirling Heights:-
The public owned the land.
The public spent $2m on headworks.
The public gave half the land (with headworks) as native title compensation to Lhere Artepe, the local native title body.
The public sold the other half for $1m.
The public hasn’t got the land any more and on top of it is $1m poorer.
Are we going to do this again some time soon?
Watch this space in Mt Johns Valley, although government sources are quick to point out that Stirling Heights wasn’t meant to be a precedent.
We’ll see.
This situation shouldn’t invite an attack on native title holders: they have rights and they would be stupid not to benefit from them.
But the mess should invite the government to look at another option: get the native title holders to buy the freehold of the land over which they have native title rights, and then develop it, at their own expense, as any other developer would.
The decision “Hayes v Northern Territory, 2000, Federal Court of Australia” gives native title holders formidable bargaining powers.
They have “the right to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the land and waters of the determination area ... the right to make decisions about the use of the land and waters [and] the right to protect places and areas of importance in or on the land and waters”.
But the bargaining powers of the government aren’t to be sneezed at, either: there’s plenty of land not encumbered by native title, to wit:-
• The airport, privately owned, and in terms of area, the biggest in Australia. About 10% (400 hectares) of its 35.5 square kilometres has been flagged for residential development and much more could be used for tourism and industry.
• Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI) on corner Stuart Highway and Colonel Rose Drive.  (Both options were reported in the Alice News, July 3;
• And – most alluringly – the two square kilometres between two magnificent mountain ranges, featuring craggy gullies rivalling King’s Canyon in beauty, five minutes drive from the CBD; the water main runs past it, and so will the electricity mains from the new Owen Springs power station, as well as the fibre optic cable linking us to the world.
Yes, this is where our leaders have put the rubbish dump and the sewage plant that evaporates three thousand million litres of water a year in the driest part of the driest continent in a world running out of water.
For a fraction of what the Henderson government is spending on the Darwin Waterfront, we could create enough housing land for much of this century; put in place a state-of-the-art sewage and water recycling plant, like hundreds of others around the world in places not claiming to be the custodians of Desert Knowledge; and get rid of stench and mozzie breeding grounds.
This might mean legislation to drag P&W into the third millennium, but as they say, you can’t make an omelette without ...
Mr Sterry is at the mercy not only of P&W, but also a Town Council requiring drainage and road standards that are clearly in the clouds, when they should be on the ground, with people queuing for dwellings.
The current system does not provide for an independent arbitrator to mediate between developers and the all-powerful (when it comes to making the rules) Town Council and P&W.
The DCA could have that role, if it were given the power and resources to assess requirements these authorities are making, knocking them back if necessary.
“We don’t have the authority to direct P&W or the Town Council,” says DCA chairman Peter McQueen.
“We cannot look over their shoulder.”
It get worse: Alice Mayor Damien Ryan would not even comment on the very specific accusations made by Mr Sterry, who claims the standards of roads and drainage demanded will add thousands of dollars to what the public will have to pay for the blocks.
Is there a case for the government, or the council, to subsidise the higher standards?
Mr Sterry says private developers are facing competition from the NT Government acting as a developer in its own right.
Government sources say they are subject to rulings from P&W and the Town Council as is any other developer, and the decision of what land is used for what purpose is made by the independent DCA.
The fly in the ointment is this, says Mr Sterry: the DCA consists entirely of honourable citizens, but mostly they do not have a great deal of technical knowledge.
At the end of their table sit planners from the department, which may well be a competitor of the applicant.
They give advice, and a report to the DCA, on planning policy issues, including environmental matters, land capability and compliance with the town plan in force.
Mr Sterry makes no suggestion that these public servants have anything in mind other than the greater welfare of the public.
But he says it could be argued that the process isn’t at arm’s length.
Have we here a case of the police officer, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner all being the same person, he asks.
For example, says Mr Sterry, not so long ago the reports from the departmental advisors to the DCA had been withheld from him, until former DCA chairman John Pinney hit the roof and a system of natural justice was put in place.
In fact, until late 2005 these reports were withheld not only from Mr Sterry but from everyone, but now applicants can get a copy and anyone else can read them at the department’s front counter.
What technical advice other than that from the department – itself a sometime property developer – does the DCA get?
Mr Sterry says the Victorian Government, for example, has created an independent statutory body, known as VicUrban, to do the land developing for the government, on the same basis as any private developer.
Should we have a similar body here?

Mayor's openness short-lived?

Has Mayor Damien Ryan’s commitment to transparency and communication just hit a wall?
I thought the words “no comment” would never pass his lips.
They just have.
The question goes to the heart of this town’s existence, it’s the Big One.
Yet when the Alice Springs News raised it, His Worship swiftly slid behind the door for cover, and so did his officers, two weeks in a row.
The issue is affordable housing: a major developer, spending his own money on opening up 260 blocks, says the council’s utopian, unnecessary and impractical requirements are driving up costs to a point where the land is out of reach for low to middle income earners, the very people the town needs to keep its economy functioning.
Now, that developer may well be wrong. But if he is, then Mayor Ryan or senior council officers will need to give us the details.
The main questions are about the standards of roads and drainage. The difference in construction costs is in the millions.
In the mess that passes for land development in Territory, the Town Council and the secretive Power and Water Corporation have pivotal roles: what they say goes.
There is no-one with the authority nor the resources to challenge their demands.
These are automatically included by the Development Consent Authority  – supposedly the voice of the people in the process – as conditions for permission to proceed.
The Town Council may well have a good case for the conditions it is imposing.
But it has a clear obligation to disclose these reasons, in every detail. No comment doesn’t cut it.

House prices are still going up

House prices continued to climb in the first eight and a half months of 2008 when compared to the same period last year.
Using the website the Alice Springs News checked 10 sale prices each in 2007 and 2008, in each of four suburbs, Larapinta, Gillen, Old Eastside, and Golfcourse Estate.
In the farm areas we averaged nine sales for 2007 and five for 2008.
There were increases greater than 7% in Larapinta, Old Eastside and the farm areas.
Prices climbed better than 2.5% in Gillen, but remained level with 2007 in the Golfcourse Estate.
The house prices in the five areas varied hugely.
Larapinta had the lowest average, $245,819, and dearest homes were in the farm areas, averaging $597,500.
In the Golfcourse Estate you’d be forking out an average of $482,250 for a house, with the Old Eastside not far behind at $450,300, while Gillen is a relative bargain at $286,350.

Lean living for single pensioners in Alice. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“If I wanted to run a car and go out at night I couldn’t do it,” said Grace Sanders, 87 years old.
“I need a new fridge and a new washing machine. I’ll get them when the ones I’ve got have packed up completely but I’ll have to go into debt,” said Marilyn McVeigh, 68.
“I live in a Territory Housing flat. I would not be able to do the upkeep if I owned my own home,” said Rhonda Picard, 78.
All three women live on the single pension.
None of them were really complaining. In fact they were remarkably cheerful when they spoke to the Alice News at the Senior Citizens clubhouse where they were having lunch and getting ready to play Bingo.
There was general agreement amongst the dozen or so gathered that the rate of the single pension – $546.80 a fortnight – is simply not enough, but there was also a sense of powerlessness – “What can we do about it?” asked one woman. 
And Ms McVeigh said she doesn’t like “to whinge”.
Mrs Sanders said without the concession pensioners get on their power bill they “wouldn’t be able to live”.
This amounts to half the quarterly account or $1 per day, whichever is the lesser amount. There are other concessions too, for instance on water and sewage and council rates, but this is the one that was most mentioned to the News.
“We are very lucky in the Northern Territory,” said Mrs Sanders.
She and her husband came to Alice Springs 34 years ago “to babysit” their grandchildren.
They weren’t intending to stay but they did. Now he has passed on.
She still likes to “cook a little bit for my family” – that takes her food bill to $120 a week.
She finds Alice Springs “very expensive to live”.
“The supermarkets charge what they like, extraordinary prices – they’ve got a monopoly.”
She lives in a one bedroom Territory Housing flat.
Her phone bill is the biggest she gets – over $200 a quarter.  That allows her to call her family interstate.  She judges the cost as “pretty good really”.
She doesn’t spend much on clothing as a lot of things are given to her.
She gets half price taxi transport because she can no longer use a bus – “I’ve had both hips and a knee done.”
She mentioned the free interstate airfare the Territory Government gives pensioners once every four years. Now that she doesn’t travel this can be used by her daughter to come here.
Her lifestyle may be modest but overall, said Mrs Sanders, “I live well, I eat well, but then again I can cook!”
Marilyn McVeigh is a neighbour  of Mrs Sanders. She has lived in Alice for 18 years. 
She does manage to run a car: “It’s a small old car, it doesn’t cost a lot to keep on the road. I would like a better car but, oh well. There’s a lot I need that I can’t get. You learn to live with that.”
She makes craft items and sells them at the markets. She spends what little she earns there on the materials to continue her hobby. Rhonda Picard also runs a car but the insurance, license, petrol, and medical check-ups every six months “all add up”.
Public transport isn’t an option as she doesn’t live close to a bus route.
If she didn’t have a car, “it would take away my independence”.
“I don’t want to be dependent on my family for transport – they’re all working,” she said. 
But her family do help her out – “I don’t want for anything”.
Looking around the clubhouse, she said most people there had family in Alice.
Luigia Sabadin came to Alice more than 50 years ago. She lives in her own three bedroom unit.
“I’ve got a big family – they come and go for holidays.”
She gets a small amount from her late husband’s superannuation as well as a part pension.
“When I want to do anything in the flat, I have to save hard.”
She lives close to a bus route so she catches a bus when she wants to come into town. Waiting for the bus to go home at the stop opposite the Post Office can sometimes be a frightening experience, she said, but she can’t afford to take a taxi.
A woman, who did not want to be named, in her late sixties, also owns her own home but fears that one day she may have to sell.
“Renters don’t have to worry about upkeep and insurance.
“I’ve sometimes wondered if I should sell but I don’t want to.”
She loves working in her garden, has got quite a library of books, videos and DVDs and an accumulation of archives from a busy life. She doesn’t know how she would cram herself into a one bedroom flat.
She worked all her life but didn’t start a superannuation fund until about 20 years before her retirement.
“As a younger woman, I was never encouraged to do super, it was always a male thing.” 
She went onto the pension when her super ran out.
She says without the pension she’d be flat broke but she’s not far off being broke anyway.
Weekly food bills come to about $100 – “I don’t buy extravagantly with food. If there’s a few luxuries in there I’d be lucky.”
She draws around $100 in cash per fortnight for everyday expenses.
The rest she must watch carefully to pay the bills – insurance, repairs, especially to air-conditioning, power and water (she’s grateful for the Territory Government’s concessions), her car.
She uses a bus to go to town but to get somewhere like the industrial area she needs to use her car.
She travels when she can but it’s a “penny pinching” exercise or else she relies on someone else’s frequent flyer points.
She is still able-bodied and would perhaps continue to do some work but hates the bureaucratic intrusion into her life of having to report her earnings.
On the single pension you are allowed to earn $132 a fortnight. If you earn more, you have to report it.
She recognises that there have to be rules but says the amount you are allowed to earn is too small and the way the system operates is onerous.
It can take some time before the amount in excess of what’s allowed is taken out of your pension, and it can come at a bad time. “You should have saved what you earned”, she’s been told.
You can apply for a loan against your pension when you have an unexpected expense but that leaves very little to cover ongoing expenses.
She appreciates the discounts to seniors offered by local businesses.
But supermarkets don’t offers discounts; Kmart does only one day a month – “very poor for a business of that size”.
“For the people of my age, and the work we’ve done, and the small wages we earned, we need a little more.
“Australia wouldn’t be where it is now if it weren’t for us. We paid our taxes.”
She has friends who struggle.
“Quite a few of us hate being in the situation we’re in, where we have to be careful about everything.”
National Seniors – with 300,000 members the largest consumer organisation for older Australians – 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. This has been the subject of a Senate Bill introduced by the Opposition this week.
The current couple rate, with both eligible, is $913.60 a fortnight.
National Seniors spokesperson in Alice Springs, Margaret Gaff, says the Territory Government’s election promises will help:
“In the lead up to the election, the Chief Minister promised pensioners and carers free bus transport and driver’s licences and a concession of $150 on motor vehicle registration.
“This amounts to about $100 per annum in the hand for owners of motor vehicles.
“The dollar benefit for those who use bus services is unknown.
“This is a boon for Territory Seniors, but it indicates no long-term planning.”

Recipes from old Europe get bushfood makeovers. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The best of European food traditions fused with the unique flavour of bush ingredients won the day in the final of the Bushfoods / Wildfoods Recipe Competition. 
Ange Vincent’s Gravlax with Desert Lime and Saltbush (pictured far right) was judged best savoury dish, with guest judge Stephanie Alexander commenting on its potential for “serious commercial production”.
Gravlax is a Scandinavian dish of cured salmon, usually served as an appetizer. Ms Vincent used the traditional curing approach but substituted dried and ground saltbush leaves and desert limes for the customary mustard and dill flavours.
The most prolific entrant and a first-timer, Ms Vincent also had a fresh (as opposed to dried) bush tomato and date chutney in the wildcard category, adapting a traditional English chutney recipe; and in the dessert category, a wild passionfruit tart, flavouring the classical French filling of eggs and sugar with the pulp of the native passionfruit (a lovely light pumpkin-like taste). 
Also a first-time entrant, Liz Coroneo (pictured) wowed the crowd with her winning dish in the dessert category. She made a lemon myrtle and wattleseed blancmange with poached quandongs, delicately de-stoned to retain their whole round form and arranged in a cluster, with a spectacular brittle, looking like a golden tiara, crowning the elegant dish.
Local chef Beat Keller remarked on the difficulty of succeeding with a blancmange and commended its choice as a way to set off the bushfood flavours Ms Coroneo used.
Blancmange (the word derives from Old French) has a long history in Europe, reaching back to Arabic influences in the Middle Ages. Typically it is made with almond meal, for which Ms Coroneo substituted macadamia nut meal (the macadamia being Australia’s leading bushfood in terms of its commercial success both here and overseas).
With the texture of a firm but light custard, the blancmange slid down the throat in layers of subtle flavours and sweetness.
In all there were five finalists serving sweet foods, with Anna Svava’s Kalkardi Mignonnes the last to be served, in the wildcard category.
A less decisive entry at the end of two hours of tastings may have had trouble staking its claim on the judges’ palates. But this was a wattleseed innovation par excellence – you were in no doubt about what you were eating.
As Mr Keller remarked, the bite-sized Mignonnes filled your mouth with wattleseed – you could go on tasting them for an hour afterwards, as there would still be some seed there.
Ms Svava used a simple French marzipan recipe, adding whole roasted wattleseed, and lots of it, to the traditional toasted hazelnuts, and using a little mallee honey as well as sugar to sweeten.
Once the mixture had been chilled she formed small balls and dipped them in chocolate made slightly piquant with Tasmanian mountain pepper. A final touch was to crown the balls with lerp, the sweet-tasting scale insects that look like flakes of sugar, found on the leaves of gum trees.
It was what Ms Alexander was looking for, a truly assertive bushfood recipe that was also a taste sensation. Her fellow judges agreed, awarding Ms Svava the wildcard category and also the overall honours.
Although these refined recipes are very alluring, they are not what will take bushfoods to the masses. 
A driving force behind the competition and another of the judges, Peter Yates said that for this reason he rated the only bread entry highly, as bread is an everyday food – the “staff of life” and the traditional way of using grains, as Ms Alexander also remarked.
It was a sourdough rye bread with roasted wattleseed, made by first time entrant and novice baker, Nick Tyllis.
Mr Yates also provides much of the regional bushfood product that is available in town commercially (mainly at Afghan Traders, home of the competition), sourced from Indigenous harvesters.
At the close of judging he pointed out that in Europe most people closely involved with food preparation know what foods are available in what season, and in the rural areas, continue to gather wildfoods.
This kind of relationship to local seasonal foods is possible in The Centre, he said, if people take the trouble to find out about what grows where and when.
For example, Capparis mitchellii (wild orange) is ready right now for the picking. There are plenty of plants growing on the commonage and along the creeks and rivers.
It tastes “terrible” straight off the tree and needs to be pickled in salt or a brine.
Mr Yates recently used fruits he gathered and pickled last year in a cream sauce on pasta – “Delicious!”
Chef Rayleen Brown, another mainstay of the competition since its inception and a judge, grew up eating many of the bush ingredients in their raw form.
For example, the tiny red and gold berries off ruby saltbush, dredged in sugar, were served by finalist Tanya Howard as a colourful touch to her Crunchy Quandong Pie.
Ms Brown remembered with pleasure collecting cupfuls of these with other children – they’d tip their heads back and roll the berries into their mouths.
She was delighted to see the involvement of young cooks, like Sylvia Hoppe and Liz Coroneo, in the competition.
“This is our future,” she said to the finals crowd.
She would especially like to see young Indigenous kids get involved, noting that many Indigenous people are “losing touch with bushfoods”.
Ashif Mawani won the people’s choice with his Kangelloni – canelloni with ‘roo meat in a bush tomato and quandong sauce.

‘New settlers’ in paper chains and flesh. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Sue Richter’s New Settlers series, the second of which went on show at Watch This Space last Friday as part of the Space’s offerings for the Alice Desert Festival, seems almost a custom-made reflection on aspects of the festival.
The reflection is thoughtful and thought-provoking.
With typically immaculate execution, Richter has created a maquette of a composite Central Australian landscape rendered as a theatrical space. 
The proscenium arch that frames the scene suggests the neo-classical edifice of an institutional building, adorned by kangaroo and emu in their emblematic form – making perfectly clear that this is national history and culture that Richter is talking about.
But instead of telling her story with figures like explorers Burke and Wills – whose fate is almost synonymous with European ‘disconnect’ from the land – Richter turns her attention to … ballerinas.
Richter has her ballerinas strung as a chain of paper cutouts across the gap between rising steep walls of red sandstone ranges.
There are also live models, young girls in leotards, photoshopped into the landscape.
Other models, adults, appear to be acting in a drama, frozen in moments of high emotion and romance.
There’s a threatening male figure, with gun raised to shoulder.
And then off-stage – in the wings and overhead –are another set of figures, modeled in plaster of Paris, like those of the first in the series, shown at the Desert Park last year.
These skillfully reference figures by Degas, famous French painter and sculptor of ballerinas. One pores over a book of Degas reproductions; others appear to also be purposeful – but are they, or if they are, to what avail?
Balanced on rafters above the stage a puppeteer has lost control over what he is doing – a figure on a string plunges towards certain death. But this drama is without dimension, the figure another paper cutout.
This is all done with a playful touch, making its fundamental points lightly– that Europeans came into this country not only with guns and all they represent, but also with the alluring trappings of cultures that have their roots on the other side of the world, and that, in the context of this place we live in, these are somewhat two-dimensional, paper thin.
Richter is not on a soapbox about this; there’s a certain tenderness for these “new settlers” but there’s also clarity about how they are situated in the national story and about how that story sits with the land in which it has been enacted.
After the Richter opening I went on to Witchetty’s for “Bon Voyage”, presented by the Cats Meow Cabaret.
This was a high energy, fun-filled couple of hours of cabaret-style performance, with a loose narrative woven through it around a girl’s voyage into the desert.
It was a huge crowd pleaser (except for those who were turned away on Friday after standing in the longest queue I’ve ever seen in Alice Springs – even longer than the Target queue on opening day). 
It showcased an impressive depth of performance talent, from the chaotic slapstick of Circosis to the lyrical shadow puppetry of Frances Martin, via the dancing and musical flair of a whole host of people.
There’s no “but” to my comments except to say that here we all were, Richter’s “new settlers” in the flesh, with our hunger for a light-hearted innocence, reaching for the threads – the delightful threads – that connect us culturally to people like ourselves, however removed from them we may be geographically and in much of the matter of our everyday lives in The Centre.

Journey to the limits of endurance. By R. G. (Dick) KIMBER. Part 3.

The story of surveyor-explorer F.R. George. Part 3.

We left Frank Rees George last week on January 15, 1906 as he and Hatton were setting out to look for water that would allow them to travel northwards. Two of their party had been badly injured in an attack by a Pitjantjatjara group and all had been exhausted by many months of travel during a period of fierce heat and drought. See first and second parts in our web archive September 11 and 18.

Days later, having failed to find water, George and Hatton returned to camp, where they found that the other men, who had also been searching for water that had been reported by earlier explorers such as Giles and Tietkens, had found all of the rock-holes dry. 
With the camels now in ever-weakening condition, and no known prospects of reliable water on the route which they had to follow to do useful exploration, George reluctantly decided to return to the Telegraph Line. 
However, before the return began they met a solitary Aboriginal man, whose physical condition was “very poor”, indicating that he was “evidently having a bad time”.  When he showed them a close to inaccessible small water in a gorge on January 22, George gave him food in return. 
After a further week, during which time the loading was recovered by one group while George and everyone else rested as much as possible while still doing necessary tasks, they began the return. 
Pitjantjatjara men acted as guides to occasional rock-hole waters for a time but, while assisting in the George party’s return, they were not of use for a new start on the intended travels. 
The weather remained so extremely hot that night travel was used whenever practical, and George’s references to “another scorching day”, then a day when even at sunrise it was so hot that he thought it “must have been nearly a record”, indicate the privations that were part of the job. An account of a rest day on February 5 gives some idea of one of the most pleasant days experienced:
“Making waterbag and mending clothes.  Had novelty of a cool breeze last night, but by noon a real hot gale was blowing from east.  Shot a crow, which cooked for dogs, who refused to eat it.” 
There are hints throughout that George was driving himself to the limits of endurance, one such reference late in the journey reading: “Lack of sleep is very trying, and whilst travelling I and others of the party used at times to see visions. 
“Once I saw a tiger come out of the scrub; at another time some sheep; and also fancied I was guiding my camel through a lot of camp equipment and camel kegs, which appeared to be scattered about the ground.” 
They eventually reached the George Gill range and Tempe Downs station, then travelled via Glen Helen station into Alice Springs, so that Hall could “catch coach to Adelaide and get medical advice, his eye giving him much trouble”. 
George, in considering his men’s well-being first, was acting as any leader should, yet it was in the end to his detriment.  His own troubles caught up with him, and the following  note was added at the end of his published journal: 
“Alice Springs was reached on March 31. Unquestionably he was worn out with anxiety regarding the safety of his party and the hardships they had undergone; but he was in no manner daunted, and was full of hope that their troubles were past and success still lay before them. 
“As is so often the case after a hard trip, the change of water and diet induced inflammation of the bowels, and caught him so run down and unfitted to withstand further stress that it had a fatal ending, and he passed away quietly in his sleep on the morning of April 4. 
“Being in the prime of life, but 32 years of age, a promising career was cut short, and the Government lost a servant than whom no-one was more zealous and enthusiastic in his work.  It was a great shock to the other members of the party, who all spoke of him in terms of high affection, and paid tribute to his unfailing courage and indomitable energy.” 
His grave is at the old cemetery in George Crescent.  The drought period of 1905 to 1906 had claimed his life, and virtually as he died Professor Gregory’s book of the south-eastern section of the Centre was available in the book-shops. 
Its title was “The Dead Heart Of Australia”, and it was an apt title for the country as it was then, and as a eulogy of a kind for “The Surveyor.”  For the next 30 years, although the book’s major focus was the Lake Eyre country, its title prevailed as the image of Central Australia. 
The Dead Heart. 

Feds get behind top chef to put kitchens
and food-producing gardens in schools

Renowned chef and food writer Stephanie Alexander used her visit to Alice as guest of the latest Bushfoods / Wildfoods competition to promote the work of her Kitchen Garden Foundation which aims to bring pleasurable food education to primary school children.
Ms Alexander and a growing number of supporters, from governments to individuals, want to see a healthier, happier generation of Australian children, who have a more balanced approach to life – enjoying fresh foods harvested from gardens they have created and tended.
She recognises children aren’t interested in what’s good for them and not good for them.
“They only care if it’s fun, exciting and tastes good”, which is what the program aims to provide.
The Federal Government has allocated $12.8m to support the work of the foundation, which has called for expressions of interest from government schools around the nation.
Some local schools have responded to this call, Ms Alexander told the Alice News.
Up to 190 schools will be supported, with infrastructure grants worth $60,000 available progressively over four years.
The grants will be used to develop a productive kitchen garden in the schools as well as a home-style kitchen, where whole classes of children will be able to cook together and sit down at table to enjoy what they have made in each other’s company.
Schools will be encouraged to grow what is appropriate for their environment and climate so in The Centre bushfoods would be part of the repertoire, says Ms Alexander.
A Kitchen Garden Program is already underway in Victoria, partly funded by the Victorian Government. There are 27 schools involved, with 22 more coming on board in 2009.
The program grew out of a pilot established by Ms Alexander together with Collingwood College in 2001.
The pilot explored “whether learning to grow food, cook it and eat it as a regular part of the school curriculum could have a positive and lasting effect on children’s attitudes to food”.
The whole school community has to get on board for the program to succeed, says Ms Alexander.
The federal grants do not cover the cost of salaries to employ part-time specialists in kitchen gardening and cooking, so schools have to work out how they can come up with these resources.
As well the program will affect time-tabling – with children in Years Three to Six attending weekly classes in the garden (45 minutes) and the kitchen (90 minutes).
It will also divert fund-raising efforts and change the playground – but “in the most positive way!”,  says Ms Alexander. 

A Molotov cocktail of musical genres. POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Something for fans of music, fans of theatre, fans of the cultural injection and fans of just being seen out – this event may swing and hit like a homicidal metronome.
From swimming in silver strings, and rolling with the rhythmic punches of electro to floating in the liquid silence that lives in between and feeling the intramuscular tones of bass and treble clef as you exit the amphitheatre, the deep blue orchestral experience is a must for any sensory addict.
This Queensland based production company offers a Molotov cocktail of musical genres. The mix of both, past and contemporary sounds, laced with original pieces, contributed by composers living all over the world is an opportunity for the audience to take an armchair ride into a realm where sound and timing are the rule. 
deep blue also comes to Alice Springs bearing the gift of tuition. The company has a junior program aptly named young blue. It involves getting local primary school students, with a passion for the lure of singing strings, to contribute to a set piece that will be performed on the night. 
deep blue has been penned as having the rich sound of an orchestra, with the presence of a rock group. Accompanying this party to be held in your eardrums is a light and picture theatrical set that will aim to bring the viewers into a void that will check your day to day problems at the door.
It’s just your being versus the yield of the music, no body blows from the mosh pit, no sticky club floors, not even a conductor writhing like a possessed TV evangelist preaching that every baptism has a “use by date”. 
This night is truly shaping to be a sell out, so make like a worm in need of soil and go. Because the sound of people talking about it will be at the opposite end of the scale as to how good this will make you feel.

Festivals to solve climate change? SPECULATION  by DARCY DAVIS.

There’s been a suspicious link this year between Alice’s rain fall and our big community events. In fact our only rain this year has come with The Fink Desert Race, Henley on Todd, Bush Bands Bash and last Saturday a storm was brewing all day for the High Voltage Love Parade.
Then I heard that the choir and crowd at Trephina just missed a shower out there on Sunday and then wind and threatening showers forced the Bushfoods gala dinner to move from the Olive Pink Botanic Garden to Witchetty’s.
At the High Voltage Love Parade, the end for me of the Alice Desert Festival, one of the best in its existence, Sam Chen got the crowd crooning into their schooners and pretty soon the liquids in the room turned to condensation, and the clouds swirled outside.
Johnnie Skid and The Chanfloozies brought the doowop before the storm.
The Human Canvas Project summoned thunder with keys, drums, belly dance and picture percussion, an engaging mix of art forms – what more could you ask for?
There was some light rain during The Moxie.
Then, the thunder bellowed a drum roll as Dr Strangeways took the stage, and as they started to play, the crowd were induced into a kind of reggae rain dance.
Rain poured, lightning struck and the crowd quenched their thirst for the high voltage party they saw on the back of a truck.
In this time of climate crisis, Mother Nature offers salvation in celebration and a replenishing incentive to sing and dance while we have the chance.
Do you think the river will flow for Bassinthedust or there’ll be a flood for The Regional Arts Conference? Vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to 0432 031 540 (text messages are charged at 50 cents per vote).

LETTERS: Intervention: stemming the carnage in the bush.

Sir,– I want to set a few things straight for Marlene Hodder and the merry band of  “Indigenous leaders” and brave culture warriors she and her group have invited to “invade” our town.
To begin with my “nastiness” was not meant to be “underlying”, I meant it to be right up front – in your face, so to speak. I have obviously been too subtle. Hopefully the nastiness of this letter will be an appropriate response to the poor attempt at a nasty little sting in the tail of her own letter.
First there was a survey recently conducted by the Central Land Council, an organisation that cannot be accused of being biased towards the Intervention, that showed that the MAJORITY of Aboriginal people, especially women and those most vulnerable to violence, in remote communities and town camps actually supported the objectives of the Intervention and felt that life had improved because of it. That is the ground swell that I sense and have always known existed.
I will tell you very plainly and unequivocally why I support the Intervention, while at the same time being critical of some aspects of its implementation. I thought I had done that before, but here we go again.
My wife of 30 years is Warlpiri and also supports the Intervention, that in itself gives me confidence to agree with her.
I have been involved personally and professionally in what could be called “Indigenous affairs” for over 30 years in Central Australia. All of my descendants can legitimately claim to be Indigenous and I am deeply concerned for their welfare.
We lost 30 friends and loved ones in a 12-month period a couple of years ago. They were all Aboriginal and most of the deaths were totally avoidable; some were the victims of homicide; the perpetrators were also Aboriginal.
Most of these deaths were associated with alcohol including that of a 21 year old and a 26 year old niece.
My wife’s life has been directly threatened on a couple of occasions by armed men.
I have personally been forced to walk the streets of this town with a police escort because I did what I could to support my in-laws through legal means during a feud they were involved in that lasted almost eight years.
My grand-daughter was knifed to death by her ex-husband who got off on manslaughter rather than murder because he “only stabbed her once”.
Two of my preteen female relations have been raped. I could go on and on but maybe that’s enough.
I have an aversion to such behaviour even if some try to justify it on the basis of culture and traditional law and I am accused of cultural genocide because I object to it.
But Marlene’s little group will try to convince us that the Intervention has nothing to do with any of this, it’s actually a cynical and racist land grab by an immoral government to open the way for uranium mining.
Marlene should have tried linking it to Japanese whaling as well, that would have brought even more southern culture warriors to her cause.
But OK I’m sprung, you’re on to me. You’ve let out our guilty little secret. Yes, we sometimes take work from the Commonwealth of Australia.
We actually make a living as independent consultants. We give cultural and language training to Government agencies at all levels, private industry and Aboriginal organisations working with Aboriginal people in Central Australia and beyond. Yes, we’re in thrall to the forces of evil.
We do this because we want our kids to be educated, healthy and safe, because we want Aboriginal people generally to take their rightful place in the economy and our society. We want them to get off the grog and the dole. We want the killing and dying and chaos to stop.
We are immensely proud of our work.
In relation to the Intervention, we have had the privilege of working with some of the most decent, experienced and committed people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, we have ever worked with and we certainly hope to do more to help make it work.
My wife has been working with her own people, in her own community, in her own language. Part of her job has been to make sure that they really know what is going on and actually have the ability to make informed and effective decisions in relation to the Intervention. A whitefella with views like Marlene’s called her “a fifth column”. We are used to being insulted.
Yes, you’re right the people on the ground have never had a real voice. They have been manipulated and lied to by those who have a political and economic interest in the continuation of the murderous chaos that provoked the Intervention.
My wife was coping with a situation so eloquently described in that incredible full page ad placed by the board of the IAD in the same edition of this newspaper that carried your letter: “… a short period of poor management, mismanagement, poor performance, some unprofessional staff conduct, some breaches of the code of conduct, vandalism, theft, and criminal damage of vehicles and property”. That sums it up well though, in this case, the word “short” may not be entirely accurate.
You see even Indigenous “leaders” are now willing to admit that not all is well in the Indigenous paradise of Central Australia.
But Marlene wants you to believe that my wife and I are entirely cynical and thoroughly mercenary as well.
Along with Langton, Pearson and Mundine (I presume that’s Warren and not Anthony) we’re only interested in the money.
I thank her for associating our names with those brave and intelligent fighters for their people’s welfare. But she forgot Yunupingu, another one who is not afraid to engage with those who produce jobs and wealth to get a better deal for his mob. Is he a bit too close to home for her?
Another one of the poor miserable souls whose country was invaded and whose land has been grabbed.
No folks, it’s not because of the grief and pain we’ve felt at the graveside of so many we’ve loved who shouldn’t have died. It’s not because we think that human beings of whatever race should not suffer the indignity of being mauled to death by dogs or burnt to death unattended in an old people’s home in the bush. We do it for the money.
But then such a view makes as much sense as the unconscionable lies I have found in the literature put out by Marlene’s group.
Maybe Marlene’s loved ones sleep more safely at night than ours in the town, that before the Intervention, had the world’s highest stabbing rate.
Maybe she’s not too concerned that all of the stabbings were black on black, therefore somehow acceptable.
Oh and one more thing. Exploration for uranium does not go ahead on Aboriginal land without the agreement of the traditional owners.
Is Marlene telling us that those who have agreed are too stupid to figure out that they’ve been duped by the forces of evil or are they just thoroughly mercenary like we are?
And are the voters of Western Australia equally duped, stupid or mercenary? I would like to hear Marlene’s responses to these questions.
Your literature tells us that your little band of culture warriors who are going to save us all from the twin evils of the Intervention and uranium mining will have the chance “to hear the point of view of effected (sic) peoples”.
Well, that’s us Marlene, and we will be very happy to give our views to your mob free of charge. I was a little miffed not to get a personal invitation. I’ll see you at the demo.
Dave Price
Alice Springs
Postscript: It was because those who fought for Mandela’s freedom did not speak against Mugabe that he managed to destroy Zimbabwe’s economy and murder, brutalise and deliberately starve his own people. The job wasn’t finished with the end of Apartheid or minority white rule and the job here didn’t finish with the granting of land rights.
Sir,– I want to encourage Marlene Holder and friends from the Intervention Rollback Action group to take another look before they take any action to roll back the Intervention.
The women and children from communities which have been subject to the Intervention are much happier and look decidedly healthier. The women are clearly happier, now that part of their money is guaranteed to be available for the essentials of family life.
Many of the men I have spoken with are also glad of the income  management. 
Previously they were unable to control their spending (as is often found with addictive behaviour) and they left their families with insufficient funds for healthy living.
My many friends from these communities tell me that they now have respectable pay packets for the work they do.
They feel much better about their work roles in their communities now that “proper”pay is available for the many new jobs which have been created. 
It is my belief that the Intervention has restored dignity to many and will continue to do so for many others.
Let the Intervention be fine tuned, but let it roll on.
Allen Steel
Alice Springs 

No need for nuke
dump now

Sir,- Plans by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to construct a new radioactive waste storage building at Lucas Heights mean there is no need for the federal government to push ahead with a nuclear dump in the NT.
This development is a welcome acknowledgement of the continuing deep concern and opposition to the current NT dump proposal and provides a clear circuit breaker in a long running debate. 

The Rudd government should now honour its commitment to repeal the highly undemocratic Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act, which allows a dump to be imposed on the NT community. 

ANSTO’s application states the planned new facility will “enable appropriate storage, monitoring and inspection”. 

It seems logical that these ongoing operations should occur close to the site of production, where most of Australia’s nuclear trained scientists are located.
Why truck waste thousands of kilometres when the majority of the waste earmarked for the NT dump is produced by ANSTO at Lucas Heights?
Natalie Wasley

Beyond Nuclear Initiative
Alice Springs

Nepotism in NT sport?

Sir,– Nepotism is alive and well in athletics in Alice Springs. 
My granddaughter won six gold medals in the recent Northern Territory Athletics Championships in Darwin and brought home the hurdler of the meet trophy. 
Has she been selected for the Pacific School Games?  No.
A girl in the same age group has been chosen who just happens to be the selector’s daughter. 
Has she been able to win a race against my granddaughter?  No! 
You will never convince me that the most talented athletes are chosen to represent the Northern Territory interstate.
Barbara Geraghty
Alice Springs

ED – The Alice News offered the organisers right of reply. Helen Taylor, Manager School Sport NT provided the following:
All students who nominated for the Pacific School Games were considered at the recent combined School Sport NT and Athletics NT Championships held in Darwin.
Only students who had completed a nomination form for the Pacific Games prior to this competition were able to be considered.
A Track and Field team of 86 students has been finalised to represent the NT at the Pacific Games, including 16  students from Desert Storm cluster schools in Alice Springs.

Unhealthy work ethic?

Sir,– Racial prejudice was one of the main themes of Story Wall on Thursday, September 13.
The Australian Government was blamed for perpetuating such an injustice, but racial prejudice is just one of the outcomes of being in a society that expects us to earn our living from inequitable, discriminatory, hierarchical, exclusive and competitive workplaces.
The Australian Government is not the only government that upholds such an unsustainable system. Historically, many societies have been structured in such an inhumane way.
To remedy the breaches in human rights that have been occurring for centuries, it is necessary to remedy our unhealthy work ethic.
Currently, the purpose of our work is to prove our worth and value to society by earning as much money as we can so that we can afford to pay for the ever-increasing cost of our basic human rights.
To bring about real and lasting positive change I suggest that the purpose of our paid work ought to be to strive to learn how to live co-operatively, and to seek to live in as unified, egalitarian, just, sustainable and healing way as we can.
How is this possible? The knowledge is within our selves.
We need to be empowered, heard, trusted, encouraged, supported and guided to live in a way that is meaningful and healing for us.
Kristina Mackey
Alice Springs

Thanks for paper

Sir,– You guys have a fine paper – it lets me know how life is on the other side of the world.
Sugar Grove,
Ohio, USA

ADAM CONNELLY: What do we believe in, what do we know?

I am often taken by surprise at the pace of the world. Even here in Alice Springs where the pace of life is positively pedestrian compared to places with skyscrapers and light rail networks, sometimes I feel as though I’m running at full stretch just to keep up.
Every so often one is forced to stop, to let the world with all its narcissistic zeal, speed past like a Japanese bullet train. Stop and to think.
I get so caught up in keeping up that sometimes I wonder if I really know myself.
Take the stock market for example. Last week we saw mum and dad investors as well as retirees spanked to within an inch of their bullish lives. Commentators and economists alike were foretelling the end of capitalism.
Twenty four hours later everything is back to normal and as far as I can tell the spark that caused the correction was George W. Bush telling people to calm down. One news bulletin tells of the end of the world as we know it, the next says we are saved by a bloke who can’t pronounce nuclear.
We are being asked to act on climate change and I think we should but with terms like carbon capture, clean coal, offset carbon trading schemes and alternative energy strategies I wonder if anyone will have the time to think of a plan.
No wonder I find myself unsure of what I actually think.
I know the difference between right and wrong. I also know the difference between right and wrong isn’t always that much.
I know that sometimes wrong can happen, even with the best intentions.
I know that it is harder for me to be good than it is to be bad, but I’m working on it.
I know that despite climate change the world can be a cold place.
I know that passionate people are more important than much anything else.
I know that more respect should be given to those that have been rather than those that never will.
I know art and I know what I like. I know I like people who have an opinion.
I know I like people who aren’t afraid to argue.
I know that people who read are more interesting than people who look pretty. I know that I am not good at first impressions. I know that people generally have to warm to me. I know that I always have to warm to people.
I know that everyone has a skeleton in their closet.  I know that imperfection is more interesting than perfection.  I know I don’t like lemongrass and cheesecake. I know I do like meat.
I know that I don’t like country music and I know it’s nothing personal.
I know what is good for me. I know that what is bad for me is always more enticing.
I know I like to dance even though I’m not very good. I know real men cry and not just when their team loses. I know that great men aren’t always good men.
I know that what politicians talk about and what is important are rarely the same thing.
I know that life is full of irony. Why do CEOs make more money than scientists? I know that advertising is the art of turning clichés into money. I know that’s also the definition of current affairs programmes.
I know I’m not good at fixing things. I also know that I will pretend that I am good at fixing things.
I know I should be better prepared. I know I should read maps, read recipes and read instruction manuals. I know I should think before I talk.  I know I should not fall for the wrong women.
I know that the type of government doesn’t really matter. Capitalism, communism, socialism, hell, a theocratic oligarchy, none of it makes a difference if the leaders don’t care about the people.
I know that most leaders start with great intentions.
I know that spin is a necessary evil. I know that spin happens every time a politician opens their mouth.
I know I’d jump at the chance of voting for a person who shuns that notion.
I know a fair bit. But still I find it tough.
Maybe this week we all need to reflect on what it is we know, what we believe and what we want to know. Maybe we need to collectively have a big deep breath. I know I could use one.

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