November 13, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Anderson wants all Centre MLAs to act together on anti-social behaviour. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“Big name, no blanket” is how Alison Anderson describes being Minister for Central Australia, a role that she nonetheless relishes.
She loves being the front person for her home region and is determined to keep the conversations direct – Minister to constituent, no spin.
But from there, she becomes simply a go-between, an advocate.
The Minister for Central Australia comes without decision-making power or processes, without a budget or resources.
“It is an empty shell,” says Ms Anderson.
This view is perhaps why she added her voice, without politicking, to the Matter of Public Importance (MPI) initiated from the Opposition benches in the Legislative Assembly sittings just concluded.
Member for Greatorex Matt Conlan defined the MPI as “the need for genuine consideration of and resources to be committed to the resolution of the many pressing social issues facing Alice Springs”.
He spoke particularly about a rise in crime since 2001, about problems with public housing, the lack of adequate land release, the loss of accommodation beds including Melanka’s, and the inadequacy of the Patient Assistance Travel Scheme (PATS).
Member for Stuart and Minister for Regional Development Karl Hampton thanked Mr Conlan for the opportunity to devote attention to Alice Springs but defended the role of his government.
Ms Anderson, however, did not. She avoided comment on what has been done or not done, taking up Mr Conlan’s theme of anti-social behaviour by public housing tenants.
She began by recalling the town of her girlhood: “Alice Springs was my home when I was a youth and is a shining example of a multicultural society which began with the traditional owners and developed over time through the hard work and cooperation of great families from diverse background like the Trindalls, the De Arnos, the Swans, the Hamptons, the Abbotts, the Kilgariffs, the Necks, the Lillises and many others.
“There were also families from surrounding pastoral stations that contributed much to the town, such as the Mortons, the Savages, the Lalleys, the Conways, the Chisholms and the Webbs and the Greens, just to name a few from outlying stations. Then there were families such as mine.”
Initially they were fringe dwellers, where the Yipirinya school is now. They had come in to town because they wanted to educate their children but also to get away from anti-social behaviour out bush, said Ms Anderson.
Then they were housed at the Lutheran Church’s Mission Block.
“The Lutheran Church helped these people live in the cottages and trained them how to clean the houses,” she told the Assembly.
“Then they applied to Territory Housing to have them put in [housing at] the Gap ...
“We had Greek people who owned their own houses right next door to us. But our house did not look like a Territory Housing house because we kept the yard clean and the house clean ...
“I think that the attitude that we have had as a society, and I have got to say this, is that we think that there is a black way and white way to do things.
“There is one way to do things, and that is the right way to do things.
“Society has taken the step to think that [there] is a black way to educate children; that is maybe why we have so much failure in literacy and numeracy.
“There is no black way or white way to educate children, but the right way to educate children.
“There is no black way or a white way to live inside a house, but there is the right way to live inside a house.”
Ms Anderson saw the MPI as “a great opportunity for the members for Araluen, Greatorex, Braitling, Stuart and me, for all of us to get together and really do something magical for Alice Springs as five members.
“We can only make Alice Springs grow better. Five of us, along with the town of Alice Springs, can bring the antisocial behaviour down,” she told the Assembly.
Her suggestion has been welcomed by Mr Conlan: “This is a great idea, very proactive and is something Alison Anderson has been saying for a long time. Now that she is in a position of authority she might be able to drive somethinglike this.
“The more cooperative we can be, the better Alice Springs can be.”
Specifically, the Territory Government should resource programs to teach people how to live in houses, she says.
Anti-social behaviour in the streets is fed by alcoholism – parents drinking and children left unsupervised.
There needs to be a greater rehabilitation effort: “These are sick people. 
“They need more rehabilitation centres.”
She sees little point in the move to extend CCTV into more streets of the CBD (proposed by the Town Council and agreed to by the Chief Minister with a promise of $1.1m in funding).
Since the installation of CCTV in the mall she has seen “a lot more activity of underage children in Hartley Street”.
“We can’t just put CCTV into every street.
“We’ve got to get to the core of the problem – why parents are drinking and why children are in the streets to one and two in the morning.”
She says an audit of youth services is needed – to make sure there is no duplication of effort and that funds go towards a “continuous service for children who are neglected”.
She says she will put a case to the government to have CCTV properly evaluated before more precious funds are spent on extending it.
She says each Minister needs to be involved in Central Australia in their portfolio area.
“They need to come here and see the problems for themselves.”
She says all the regional towns of the Territory need a greater focus.
Remote communities have received a lot of attention under the Intervention but the regional towns need help too.
“They help hold the remote Aboriginal communities together, it’s a network.
“If these links are broken then the whole lot breaks down.”

Uranium miner Cameco gets it wrong.

A professional scientist well known to the Alice Springs News, who has asked not to be named, has challenged the accuracy of part of the letter to the editor from Cameco’s Jennifer Parks in last week’s issue.
Ms Parks was responding to a number of allegations in relation to Cameco’s environment record elsewhere in the world.
Cameco, in a joint venture with Paladin, holds an exploration lease for the Angela Pamela uranium deposit just to the south of Alice Springs.
The scientist said: “I read Jennifer Parks’ soothing words (‘Cameco answers allegations’) with some concern: she says that ‘the spills [were] water with tiny amounts of uranium ranging up to 35 parts per million’.
“This is either a misprint, or a very worrying willingness to disguise the truth: 35 parts per million is 1750 times more than the upper limit in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines!  Hardly a ‘tiny amount’.”
The Alice News put this to Ms Parks, who admitted her error.
She said: “These numbers are correct – the regulatory  limit for uranium in drinking water in Australia is 20 micrograms, or 0.02ppm.
“However, as also noted in the article the spills were contained, collected and remediated, they did not escape into the environment and did not involve drinking water.
“Just to put the numbers into perspective, many granites in Australia and worldwide have about 35ppm uranium in them.
“The ore at Ranger averages about 3000ppm and the ore we mine in Canada is generally +30,000ppm.”

Storm fury.

A ferocious storm  ripped leaves and branches off a wide swathe of bushland, and hail punctured the barks of trees like a machine gun, just five kilometers north of town last Friday evening.
On Saturday afternoon local residents Roland Weber and Tamara Reudink, who took these photos, discovered one of their favourite recreational areas on the way to Wigley’s waterhole, eerily without any greenery.
The few leaves remaining on trees were shredded and the western sides of tree trunks were heavily scarred – Mr Weber suspected by hailstones the size of golfballs.
Mr Weber estimated a swathe of some seven to 10 kms had been devastated.
On Friday from 2pm the Bureau of Meteorology’s severe weather forecaster, Todd Smith, had been watching on his radar storms gathering across the Alice district, mainly in the central and eastern parts.
In the course of the afternoon the Bureau issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the town and the airport.
Then at 5pm Mr Smith saw the storm to the north “intensify quite significantly”.
He says it continued tracking east for about an hour, though not quite as severe, over a distance of some 50 kms. 
Another significant storm struck south of the airport.
And of course the system brought with it the heavy rain that caused most locals to rejoice and the Todd to flow for the first time in two years.
This is the second time a destructive storm has struck in or very close to Alice in seven weeks.
It is the season when Alice is prone to severe thunderstorm events, says the Bureau’s climate services chief, Sam Cleland.
He says the record shows that strong wind gusts can be associated with thunderstorms at this time of year.
The September 22 storm had the strongest September wind gusts recorded at the Alice airport since records began in 1941, but “only by a couple of knots”.
Although Mr Cleland is no climate change sceptic, he says it is problematic to see individual weather events as “a signature of climate change”.
Parks and Wildlife Chief District Ranger Wayne Gaskon says the eucalpypts in the area had probably already dropped a fair bit of foliage due to the prolonged dry spell. He was confident that, with the rain soaking in, they will recover from the  storm’s onslaught.

How to make remote Oz tick. KIERAN FINNANE reports from the Desert Knowledge symposium.

Local history, local networks, local relationships seemed to be the common theme in success stories about making remote governance work, heard at the Desert Knowledge Symposium in Alice last week.
How to scale up from these examples to networked models that distant governments will accept and fund remains the challenge.
And for the Desert Knowledge movement, if it can be called that, the conversation has to include non-Indigenous presence and communities in remote areas.
This last point was made by the chair of Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA), Fred Chaney AO, who recognised that most of the expertise assembled in the governance stream of the symposium was focussed on Indigenous communities.
Services and governance in a region like the wealth-generating Pilbara in WA, where the majority population is non-Indigenous, are inadequate too, he noted.
And when governance is not working in the Pilbara, governments can’t fall back on the excuses that it’s all the fault of Aboriginal people and of the lack of wealth production in remote areas.
The inclusion of areas like the Pilbara will help make the case nationally that a web of settlements needs to be maintained across remote Australia.
“This is not a settled issue,” said Mr Chaney.
On the contrary, the longer term approach from governments towards remote Australia is to “empty it out”, he said.
His view was echoed in recommendations from the forum on “Futures for Desert Settlements and Regional Services”, where “a clear statement of commitment to remote Australia” from governments was called for.
This means the continued survival of small communities and a recognition of their “value for Australia”.
Behind the statement that “the desert matters” must be a commitment to “the right decisions being made at the right place”, with “budgetary power” to implement those decisions.
There need to be specific rules for remote Australia that suit remote conditions.
Governance needs to start with local communities and build up to “a network model”.
The conference had heard about good work at the base level.
Wirrimanu (Balgo) in WA moved out of a disheartening five year period under administration just over two months ago.
This came as a result of several months of local governance “capacity building”, led by Maggie Kavanagh, formerly director of NPY Women’s Council.
Administration “by accountants in Perth” had “shattered people’s confidence”, said Ms Kavanagh.
And during that time no new resources had gone into the community.
Few Aboriginal people were employed.
There were no aged care services, no childcare, no pre-school, no after-school programs.
The condition of the housing was the “worst” she’d seen in 25 years.
There hadn’t been any representative community meeting for the five years.
She was employed by the Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation to support the community out of administration. After five months a representative body, made up of 14 people representing 14 families – no family was left out – had settled into a regular meeting schedule on every second Tuesday.
These meetings were a learning place for governance training, dealing with “real issues” – for example, with requests from parolees to return to the community.
“People gain competence through practice, practice, practice,” said Ms Kavanagh.
They developed their own “rule book” (constitution) and their own conduct code, which included a guide for visitors, asking them to speak in clear English (no jargon words) and to leave when they had finished with their specific business.
She said meetings have a warm welcoming atmosphere, with cups of tea and lunch, and an unhurried approach.
Minutes are printed in large font and also read out loud, with dictionaries to hand – “people love learning”.
Ms Kavanagh recommended this “community development” approach to governance as “best practice”.
Fly-in, fly-out approaches could not hope to match “building up relationships based on mutual respect” and on living as “part of the community”.
With a new air of confidence and purpose in the community and even though there is still a lot of catching-up to do, an immediate benefit has been an increase in school attendance, from 30% to 70%, said Ms Kavanagh.
After local controversy over the recent shire elections, it was interesting to hear about the process in West Arnhem Shire, where a reluctant Jabiru, with a majority non-Indigenous population, was  pulled into the local government reform process.
Diane Smith, of the ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy research, looked into the process over five years and presented her findings to the symposium.
A “community development” approach again got a big tick.
Two officers, trained in community development work, had been employed at the outset, one of them Aboriginal.
Working with the transitional committee, made up in part of elected members from the old community councils, they developed “trust and relationships” which allowed some “very frank discussions” about what the process would deliver.
An early development was the adoption of a logo that expressed a vision of what the shire would be about: it shows a salt water turtle and a fresh water turtle on either side of a central motif of a white hand and a black hand entwined.
It was a message that helped smooth the way when Jabiru was ordered to join the process – they felt that the process had something to do with them, that they were welcome, said Ms Smith.
The committee wrestled with roles – who was to do what, what would be the relationship between councillors and staff. They became quite clear about elected members making particular decisions, and staff providing options and advice.
They wrestled with cultural issues, eventually deciding that Aboriginal law and customs, for instance about who could speak when and in the presence of who else, were not to be applied for the conduct of local government meetings.
“This was a sophisticated way of dealing with conflict,” said Ms Smith, “it was resolved by the people themselves making new rules.”
She said the main lesson of the process was that reform must start “on the ground”, with communities and their leaders making informed decisions and following through.
To the Alice News she said there was anxiety on both sides when Jabiru was brought into the process.
Indigenous people were worried that they would be overwhelmed, that shire headquarters would be set up in Jabiru (which in fact has happened), that Jabiru would get the lion’s share of infrastructure work, which would mean a loss of jobs on communities.
Jabiru members were concerned about losing the resources they had built up, from their rate base, to a shire which doesn’t have a rate system, said Ms Smith.
They worried too about how their cultural values would fit in with the values of the mainly Indigenous population of the shire.
These concerns were worked through, step by step, by sitting down together and talking.
Ms Smith commented that there were some non-Aboriginal people involved who had “enormous good will” – “they accepted that it was going to happen, the government had said it had to, and they reached out to Aboriginal people”.
Relationships changed; Aboriginal people could see that the non-Aboriginal people were prepared to be flexible.
Although Jabiru got the HQ, there is a commitment to decentralised shire operations, with shire offices and staff in communities, and conversely community residents with region-wide roles based in the Jabiru office.
As well the shire CEO spends some time in communities each month and there’ll be meetings in communities, similar to community Cabinets, as shire business gets underway.
Ms Smith said it will be critical in every shire to work out how to maintain a strong connection between the central office and the communities, and reiterated the importance of community development work to build governance capacity.
Despite these positive stories coming out of remote communities, in discussion Harold Furber, deputy chair of DKA and a Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre board member, said he’d like “to declare war on the word ‘community’”.
He said it raises expectations of Aboriginal people that wouldn’t be raised if they were deemed to be living in a “town”. (He didn’t go into the implications that this line of argument would logically have for things like the permit system.) 
Mr Chaney agreed that the idea of communities is accompanied by “a degree of romance” and an expectation of people “that they become experts in everything”, including governance.
And he reiterated that the message to government has to be about governance solutions that are for the whole of remote Australia – “not some for Aboriginal people and some for the rest”.

Outback governance: Getting the show on the road.

Working models to be put to government of what effective governance in remote Australia could look like will be developed over the next 12 months, says Fred Chaney AO (pictured). 
The chair of Desert Knowledge Australia, former Senator, and former co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and still a member of its  board, is closely involved with the remoteFOCUS project which has dramatically described the “failed state of remote Australia” as facing an “impending calamity” (see Alice News, October 16).
Two critical areas must be covered by the governance proposals, says Mr Chaney: one is the flow of money (fiscal federalism) and the other is decision-making which should be as “low down in the tiers of government as appropriate” (the jargon word for this is “subsidiarity”).
Some decisions relevant to remote areas, such as where to put a nuclear waste dump or how to protect the Murray-Darling, need to be taken at a national level, he says, but others need to be made much closer to the people on the ground. “If this was easy, it would have been solved in the past,” says Mr Chaney.
He expects that remoteFOCUS will be able to influence the Commonwealth as they’ll be looking to ensure that “extraordinary Interventions” don’t have to be made elsewhere in desert and northern Australia.
“You wouldn’t need an extraordinary Intervention if the everyday processes of government were working.”
He sees the Intervention and the many other governance experiments conducted in the past, such as the COAG trials, as signs of the Commonwealth’s interest in grappling with the issues.
Mr Chaney says remoteFOCUS intends to consult widely across remote Australia about local decision-making models, but what form this takes depends on how much money they can raise. Mr Chaney expects that to become clear within the next month.

One community that gets it right.

A remote community that sounds too good to be true is tiny Birdsville, population 115 – presented to the Desert Knowledge Symposium as “thriving”.
With just 300 people in the whole Diamantina Shire, one third of them Indigenous, and 1600 kms from Brisbane, sustainability of the area is built on relationships, said Griffith University’s Ann Ingamells.
And these relationships have been developed over generations, accompanied by a history of strong local government planning.
This has delivered to Birdsville a town with reliable infrastructure, a diverse economy, quality governance, a good primary school with strong attendance, and jobs for everyone – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.
The surrounding cattle stations, 14 of them, provide the community’s economic base.
Initially the industry faltered until people learnt how to work with the country. Now there are seven million hectares involved in the production of organic beef and the environment is “pristine”.
“People are keen to keep it that way,” said Ms Ingamells.
The area is also the gateway to the Simpson Desert and thus adventure tourism is a source of income, although Ms Ingamells said this has yet to be quantified.
Having a near neighbour in Bedourie, some 200 kms away, is also a plus – the two communities are both inter-dependent and competitive.
The Diamantina Shire is Birdsville’s biggest employer, with 70 locals mainly doing road maintenance work.
“The people know they have capacity,” said Ms Ingamells.
Apart from doing all their own road and housing maintenance, they recently undertook their own airport upgrade with excellent results.
The council plays a central role in the community – it’s “very close to the people” and “highly accessible”.
Aboriginal women have been elected as councillors for the last three terms.
One of the council’s commitments is to “cherish the present”, which means looking after children.
Ms Ingamells said there has been “something great” happening for children every time she has visited the community.
There is a Youth Council, a mixture of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young people aged 18 to 24 – the “leaders of tomorrow”, who are paid sitting fees for attending meetings.
There is a lively social calendar, again with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people having fun together.
Accompanying all this positivity are the statistics to match: in Diamantina Shire the median age for Indigenous people is 35; for non-Indigenous 34. Contrast this with the discrepancy in median age in the Anmatjere local government area: 24 for Indigenous people; 35 for non-Indigenous.
Median income in Diamantina is $553/week for Indigenous people, compared to $613 for non-Indigenous. Again, the contrast with the Anmatjere local government area is stark: $231/week for Indigenous people; $768 for non-Indigenous.
Yet the Diamantina region historically had its share of inter-racial violence and oppression.
How is it then that people live so well together now?
There was suggestion that it may be down to assimilation and indeed all Aboriginal people in Diamantina Shire speak English at home, with only a few retaining their traditional language and their culture is lived fairly privately. But Ms Ingamells said it was more than assimilation.
Most of the Aboriginal residents of Birdsville are on their traditional country, she said, and their parents and grandparents had good relationships with the settlers – “as kids they played together”.
There are three or four Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families who are “inter-connected” in this way, through a number of generations. They are used to working together and living alongside each other even though those relationships were unequal in the past.
“On the whole people appreciate what’s been achieved,” she said, and increasingly Aboriginal residents are putting forward something of their world view into the public domain.
Artist sisters Jean A Crombie Barr and Joyce A Crombie showed the symposium a painting that did just this, that showed aspects of the cultural and spiritual inheritance of the Wangkangurru/Yarluyandi people, their historical interactions with settler culture  and the way they live now.
Are there lessons from Birdsville for other places?
Ms Ingamells thinks so, in the inclusion and the layered levels of decision-making that are practised there. “But I don’t know how you replicate decades of leadership that has insisted that local services be just as good for Aboriginal people as for non-Aboriginal people,” she said.

Getting away from the crunch. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

Now that the economic future appears bleak in many parts of the world, will the backpacker, our bread and butter continue to travel?
Or will they hold their purse strings tight and wait to see what the future holds?  Mixed views were voiced from those visiting the Red Centre this week.
Five days into their travels, globe trotters Maarten Dhaenen and Leonie Wyffels (pictured) have just arrived from Belgium. About to collect their hire car, both “refuse to let the financial crisis stop them having a good time”.
Had they known the current economic situation before booking their month long trip back in May, Maarten insists they “would never have cancelled. You have to travel now more than ever. It’s a chance to escape reality”.
But surely they have some concerns about the future?
“Our generation are not really bothered about the crisis. We keep on with our lives.”
Owner of a successful catering company, 23 year old Thibault Fraust insists his financial position back home is so secure he can easily take six months off work to travel.
“When people want to keep their minds off a crisis it’s always food they crave. Lucky for me, I specialise in food. People are spending money on food to help forget their worries.”
But surely someone must be concerned back home in Belgium?
“My parents are worried but it’s different nowadays.  I keep my money in many banks unlike my grandparents who used the same bank their whole life. Their future saving plans may suffer, but I think I’ll be fine.”
So how do travellers from other parts of Europe feel about travelling in the future?
Mother and daughter Lucia and Stephanie Gillessen from Switzerland are enjoying their three week vacation Down Under. Yet they have contrasting views about future holidays. Mother, Lucia, has a fairly secure job in government but is concerned. 
“We booked this holiday months ago. If I had of known the financial situation then as I do now, I may have reconsidered travelling.”
At 18, college student Stephanie is not so fazed: “I’m not letting anything change my travel plans. I can’t spend all my life worrying about money.”
English retiree, Shelton Davis, almost at the end of his two month trip around Australia, is less confident.
“When I booked this trip in February I didn’t really have money worries.  If things worsen I won’t be back to Australia again.”
Shelton blames the modern ways of the world. “The problem is people want everything now, no one seems to work and save. Everything is bought on credit, leading to a collapse.”
Having recently tied the knot, honeymooners Kate and Richard Bolan have certainly felt the affect of the economic situation back home in the UK.
 “It has definitely made us more stringent with our money. We are worried about the future. The ticket for this trip was non-refundable. We had to beg for money as wedding gifts,” says Kate.
Richard sighs: “The only thing we can do is ride it out. The worst thing that could happen is that we lose our house.” 
Trying to joke but obviously concerned, Kate laughs, “We can just buy a smaller house.”
Irish backpacker Joanne has found sanctuary in her travels: “I am happy to get away from the harsh times back home.” 
Two years out of college and with no responsibilities Joanne says, “What better time to travel, than when things at home are not financially secure. If we stay home and wait, we may not be able to travel at all.”
The situation is slightly different for Patsy Wells on vacation from West Virginia, USA. “We booked our trip in March, since then the exchange rate on the dollar has risen. Shopping in Australia is a bargain.”
Cattle farmer and husband John is concerned but optimistic.
“Our retirement investments have decreased, hopefully in time things will sort themselves out. It’s getting harder to get credit back home now, but if the value of the American dollar keeps rising, we should be okay.”
Those visiting from Asia do not appear to be worrying just yet. 
“The credit crunch has made no difference at all with our plans to travel,” says Keiko Katakana, a biology student from Japan.
“I worked hard for this holiday. I will do so again, travelling is very important.”
Closer to home Chris, a teacher from Melbourne reckons “it’s too early to tell”.
“People who are travelling now have booked their travel well in advance. It’s the long term impact we have to watch.”
The majority of those in the Alice this week would have booked their trips before the economic slowdown really came to light.  With any luck, those with few responsibilities back home will continue to travel, exchange rates will continue to rise against the Australian dollar and Alice Springs tourism will have a healthy future. Only time will tell.   

Stole from employer.

The financial manager of a large organisation in Alice Springs has been sent to gaol for stealing from his employer.
It was Satnam Dhingra’s first offence but Justice Trevor Riley said that because the offending occurred over a long period of time (2004 to 2006) “that observatiion loses some of its force”.
Mr Dhingra was convicted on each count of stealing property worth in total $9369.59.
The items included a television set, a juice fountain, a tent, a swag, a trailer, which “could not be described as necessities”, said J. Riley. There was no suggestion that Mr Dhingra was under “any financial pressure whatsoever”, he said.
The offending was detected in the course of an audit and Mr Dhingra was dismissed.
He made  “early admissions” once confronted and full restitution.
There was no explanation offered for the offending, which led J. Riley to regard Mr Dhingra’s “prospects for rehabilitation as problematic”.
Said J. Riley: “Offending of this kind, where a trusted employee steals from his or her employer, is not uncommon in the Northern Territory.
“Often, as in your case, the offending is by people who have no prior convictions and are otherwise regarded as reputable members of the community.
“In my view in all the circumstances a sentence which places greater weight upon general deterrence is required.”
Mr Dhingra was sentenced to 18 months, to be suspended after four months.
His brother and wife, present in the court, wept bitterly as he was sent down.

When raging was all the go.

Historian DICK KIMBER, then a school teacher, arrived in Alice Springs in 1970 and took lodgings at Melanka Hostel. This is the second part of his account of a memorable five years at the recently demolished hostel. (See last week’s issue for part one.) 

A major event every year was the get-together organised by Tom Flood.  Anyone who had previously lived at the hostel was invited, so that the new arrivals could meet other young townspeople, some of them married, and make new friendships. 
Hundreds invariably attended, a team of young men manned the barbecues, and a dance-band provided music for everything from waltzes to rock-and-roll. 
Old Floody, who was very keen on promoting sport of all kinds, had organised the presentation to the Central Australian Football League so well that the new Melanka team was accepted into the competition.  Although an ancient boarder named Jack Cooper, said to have played for one of the Victorian teams “before the War” (some wondered whether “before the Boer War” of 1899-1902 was meant), gave instructions for our first training night, they were limited. 
As he and Floody sat in the old John Hayes stand at Traeger Park, he ripped the top from a carton of stubbies and said, “Do a lap boys!”  So interested in the stubbies was he after we had run the lap that that was the only actual instruction that Jack gave for the season. 
By the chances of fortune I took the training from that moment on and thus became the first captain-coach from the commencement of the first game.  While we were flogged by an average of about 15 goals every game, I retain the fondest regard for those who played, and those who supported us.  (Melanka broadened its base support and became Wests in 1973). 
There was no television in Alice until nearly two years later, so radios were keenly listened to for the news, music, and the cricket and football scores.  During the Aussie Rules season barrackers for opposing Victorian teams barracked as enthusiastically as if they were at the game, and as soon as the final siren had sounded “J.B.” would be on the supposed emergency-only intercom. 
His calls of “Essendon! The mighty Bombers!” would be interrupted by surveyor Cal Raven scuffling with him and yelling, “Carlton won by 20 goals!” to which “J.B’s” inevitable response was, “But the Bombers had a moral victory!” 
By this time Old Floody, who had the only other connection, would interrupt, “Get off that intercom, J.B.!”, to which there was always one parting remark, “OK Mr Flood.  Up the Bombers!” 
It is a given that the three town pubs then in existence, “Uncle Ly” Underdown’s Hotel Alice Springs with its Madison Square beer garden, The Stuart Arms with its Bull Bar and The Riverside (now Todd Tavern) with its Snake Pit, were regularly visited (Is the pope a Catholic?).  Men, and less often women, from the cattle stations met there, particularly at the Stuart Arms. 
The Walk-In theatre, now back-packers’ accommodation, was extremely popular, and I remember one night when a fight began for no apparent reason, and as the combatants fought their way down the aisle and out into the steet, 99% of the audience followed them out.  It had been a reasonable film too. 
Hatzimihail’s Tucker-box Cafe (in the then un-named Reg Harris Lane), was also very well patronised, with fish-and-chips available and the jukebox, with a wide selection of country-and-western and rock-and-roll records, playing almost non-stop. 
However three of the most popular places in town, regularly frequented by all at the hostel, were diagonally opposite Melanka’s block four Gap Road entrance. 
Farthest away was the Memo Club, where membership was required and strict rules applied to the women, who were not permitted to approach the bar except at a highly prescribed area. 
Bob South’s The Ranch, the most popular place in town in the late evenings, had all of the robust circular white tables and chairs securely bolted to the floor to prevent their use in fights.  Here one could obtain a steak sandwich and a coffee, the latter sometimes laced with whisky, and being the only place open late at night it was bedlam after people returned from the drive-in. 
Bob also occasionally tossed a coin with his customers, to see whether they paid or he did; provided a venue on Sundays for the first Folk Club; and was a key figure in the establishment of the original old speedway track.  As anyone who knows him would say, “A good bloke, the old Southy.”  His wife attained sainthood during these wide open years! 
Almost adjoining The Ranch was The Tropical, with an aisle from the door to the counter, either side of which were bench-seats facing one another over a table.  Vince Sewell, an Italian who was such a “mad punter” that he once literally lost his shirt at the races, ran the restaurant with his wife Paula (another saint). 
Normally he had a similar clientele to Bob’s, though a more substantial meal could also be provided.  One memorable night, when a monster brawl erupted and spread from cubicle to cubicle, he came out in a rage, wielding a meat-cleaver.  As there was no point in doubting that he was going to use it, the brawlers broke all kinds of sobering-up and sprint records as they scattered outside. 
The Centre restaurant, which used to be opposite the present Council chambers, was also a favourite nearby restaurant for a flash meal.  Shane Parker, renowned ornithologist and genuine character, was known to stand on a table and recite, in impeccable voice, the bawdiest poems in the English language as part of the entertainment.  That such impromptu entertainment  was not necessarily desired by the owners or the other diners did not stop Shane. 
I can hear him now: “The lady of the manor was dressing for the ball/ When she saw a highland tinker pissing up against a wall.”  Although the tinker momentarily left town “with his prick flung over his shoulder and bollocks by his sides”, I leave it to your imagination what he and the lady of the manor did when he returned with “his dirty great kidney wiper and balls the size of three.” 
The relatively few boarders who owned cars in those days were in high demand, often to attend parties or, on week-ends, to visit such as Ellery Gorge or Glen Helen for a swim.  In addition they were required for Sunday and Monday “Yippee nights”, when Western films were shown at the drive-in, or other nights for other films. 
During the warm weather from October to April the seats were taken out of the cars and placed in front, and an Esky of stubbies drunk during the showing of the films. 
Intervals were as long as it took for everyone to be served their chips, icecream and other confectionaries, and were the occasion for friendly yarning to anyone and everyone else. 
A few years later, during the streaker craze, one streaker wearing only footy socks ambled about during an early extended breakdown in the Western, “My Name is Nobody”.  A crowd of delighted children danced behind him, while he got tangled and disentangled in the speaker cords, and had a beer and a friendly word with everyone. 
While he completed the slowest streak of 200 metres on record, the vehicles with spotlights shone them in all directions as though trying to “spot” him, thus distracting the police. 
Nubile young women joined in the act near the front, doing rapid streaks from car to car.
November 1971 saw the commencement of the new Melanka, with Tony Stephenson, an Amoonguna/ Souths footballer, wielding pick and shovel for the initial trenches. 
Within a remarkably short time the foyer and dining hall (convertible into a dance floor), and a two storey extension, were built to the south, with balcony areas being very popular. 
Television had arrived in the Alice at the time of construction, only ABC at first, and each small common room adjoining a balcony had a set.  And then the old Stott House barracks were knocked down and rebuilt as two storey accommodation too, with the exception of block four, which was only modified. 
Enclosed within the lawn area of the southern extension was an extremely popular small swimming pool. Further to this, Todd House barracks were also knocked down to make way for the new library and town council buildings. 
Tom Flood retired down South after the formal opening, and life went on much as before. 
On one memorable occasion “Iany Weenie” was pulling his prostrate, alcohol-dazed, maniacally laughing mate “Alcy Malcy” down the stairs when he slipped and staggered backwards. 
At what stage of his courting “The Shark” was up to is not clear, but it certainly very literally ended with a bang as “Weenie” crashed backwards through the door, and did a kind of bouncing ricochet from cupboard to wall to floor. 
“Weenie” only made things worse by apologising as he got up off the floor, staggered towards the door, and apologised again.  As I went to help him “The Shark” was trying to extricate himself from his unexpected predicament, and I glimpsed his bare-breasted lady, eyes like saucers, transfixed with horror. 
Although “The Shark” locked his door thereafter, it made little difference.  The air-conditioning arrangements in the new Melanka had a cooling advantage over the old fans, but had the disdavantage of transmitting the sounds of horizontal adventures, so there were no secret liaisons.  Being “sprung” might be embarrassing, but was also a common occurrence. 
However, the Alice was changing.  As the “Space Base” Americans had predicted, television, and later videos, almost overnight ended the parties at which people had gathered to play records and yarn, and the Walk-in and Drive-in theatres began to struggle for customers. 
Clubs were built which began to take over in popularity from the pubs, and Papa Luigi’s modified restaurant and bistro, and the new Overlander Steakhouse, became the favourite places for meals. 
And the units at the end of Bloomfield Street, and much other accommodation, became available, so that in 1975 I was one of the last of the 1970 arrivals to leave Melanka. 
At about that time it began to cater for tourists, and eventually became the place that most young people in the Alice remember more as a gathering place for music, drinking and dancing. 
Now that it has been demolished and the world economic downturn is putting the brakes on tourism, what, I wonder, will take its place? 

Growth in Centre as Great Depression ravages the world. By ALEX NELSON.


The Great Depression was catastrophic for Australia – in relative terms it was one of the most severely affected countries in the world – but paradoxically it was a stimulus for growth and development in Central Australia.
The effects were both immediate and long term.
The national economy had collapsed like a house of cards – unemployment shot to 19% in 1930, peaked at 35% in 1932 and gradually declined thereafter.
In The Centre initially the signs were not promising.
The hapless Scullin Labor government had to cut costs wherever it could, and the Northern Australia Act 1926 was repealed in 1931 as an economic measure. Thus did the separate administration of the Territory of Central Australia come to an inglorious end after five short years.
Despite this apparent setback, Alice Springs (as it was popularly but informally known) had been firmly established as the major regional service centre for Central Australia.
The second immediate effect of the Depression was cessation of all major public works, which meant that the north-south transcontinental railway stopped firmly in the Alice – not to be completed to Darwin for more than 70 years.
While a railway that ends in the middle of nowhere is not a viable economic proposition in its own right, nevertheless it converted Alice Springs as a railhead into the region’s dominant transportation hub.
In 1934 the first roadtrain was trialed on the Centre’s rough bush tracks to great success. The railway and advances in road transportation brought to an end the career of the cameleers in servicing the needs of the outback (to the great relief of some).
The camels were set free, thus establishing in Australia’s interior the world’s last population of wild camels – and ultimately the cause of a major feral animal problem that remains unresolved to this day.
Welfare was the province of the states during the Depression (the Commonwealth gained responsibility after the referendum of 1946); this meant varying and generally very poor services were available for the many in need. Consequently many people were forced to seek work or make their fortunes wherever they could.
The Northern Territory is the “land of the last resort”. Ordinarily most people would not contemplate moving to this region to live but when times are desperate and all options elsewhere are exhausted, the Territory suddenly looks a more attractive place to come.
As in the 1890s depression, prospectors made their way to Central Australia in the Great Depression, to make their fortunes on the minefields. Harold Bell Lasseter was the most notorious of these, gambling away other peoples’ finances and his own life in 1930 in pursuit of a fabulous imaginary gold reef near the Petermann Ranges.
Alluvial gold was discovered at the Granites, 600 kms northwest of the Alice, in mid-1932; by October some 200 gold-diggers were trying their luck in one of the most remote and inhospitable regions of Australia. The rush collapsed in November – the rich gold province of the Tanami was not to be for several decades.
A very different story emerged early in 1933, when encouraging discoveries of gold were made near the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station.
These proved substantial, triggering another rush – by mid year there were 300 miners in the district, and 600 by 1935. The site for a town was surveyed in 1934.
Just as the 1890s depression-era gold rush at Arltunga led to the establishment of Stuart (the Alice), the Great Depression gold rush prompted the foundation of the Centre’s second major town.
This was a major boost for the Alice, as all the supplies and most prospectors made their way up via the Ghan.
The Central Australian administration, the railway, mining ventures and the Depression combined to attract a pantheon of legendary characters to Central Australia, many of whose names are famililar to this day: Ly Underdown, Pop Chapman, the Kilgariffs, DD Smith, Jim McConville, and the formidable Miss Olive Pink, to name a very few.
In 1933 officialdom finally acknowledged the inevitable – the town was officially renamed Alice Springs.
There were many significant developments in the Alice during this period that influenced the character of the town and the region – the first banks, aerial services (including the Royal Flying Doctor Service), the Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches, and much else.
Yet, in economic terms (and placing it all in perspective) the single largest industry in the region remained the original – pastoralism, mainly beef cattle. And for all the development that took place, the pastoral industry right across the NT struggled to survive.
Vital to pastoralism’s ability to do so was the low cost labour of Aboriginal people – without them the industry would have failed. But Aboriginal people were not officially counted as citizens of their own land.
The white population of Alice Springs grew quickly and substantially during the Great Depression. Whereas the whole of Central Australia was estimated to have 400 white people in 1927-28 (a tenth of these in the town), by 1933 the figure was 526 for the Alice alone and it remained stable for the duration of the 1930s.
CORRECTION: In last week’s article I mistakenly referred to Canberra as the seat of the federal government during the First World War. In fact the Commonwealth was based in Melbourne at this time. The federal parliament first sat in Canberra in 1927.

Mitchell grass tunes. By RUSSELL GUY.

Harmony James is a Tennant Creek based country singer / songwriter who released her debut CD two years ago. 
It contains only four songs, but they were all originals and quickly established her as “a rising country star.” Her website  tells the story (google her name).
Her self-confessed decision not to cancel the Darwin concert last Saturday, based on low ticket sales a few days out, was brave.  
I’d say fairly typical of Harmony’s resolve, but “there was a guy coming from a long way using frequent flyer points” and she didn’t want to do it to him. 
As it turned out, the intimate studio space at the prestigious DEC filled with an appreciative crowd as she accompanied herself, backed by a drummer and an electric double bass.
Working her way through a collection of new songs soon destined for recording in Sydney and a sprinkling of tasty covers, her affection for the Barkly was obvious.  She talked of its Mitchell grass, her life as a “ringer” and how she drove over from Queensland to find herself immediately “at home”. 
Curiously, another radio friendly tune, “Tailwind”, describes what’s moving her down the highway and away from here, but you can be in love with a place and want to get away from it at the same time. 
This restless tension is a friend of mine and one of the reasons why her songs caught my attention.  
“Somebody Stole My Horse” is a classy metaphor about being shy in the face of romance.  Some of these songs have gained international and national focus which is proof that great things can come out of anywhere.
Harmony has a voice like blue metal gravel mixed with sweet spring water, but it’s the song-writing which has brought home the bacon. 
She opened with “The Next Big Thing”, a song which first alerted her to the fact that she “could write”.  
I can hardly remember how the words go after being bowled over by its strength, but like many of her songs, it has a catchy hook and chorus and could even be a touch ironic.  It deserves a place on the new album.
She was a little nervous at certain places as she opened her heart but, perhaps inadvertently, what was on view was her soul.  I kinda wanted her to bare more of it.  In these days of passing clouds, it’s the ones filled with rain that we need so badly.

ADAM CONNELLY: Short back and sides.

Until I was about ten years old my grandmother was the only person to cut my hair.
We’d go to Nan’s place every fortnight or so and every other trip would incorporate a haircut.
There was no old magazines or young men with faux mullets.
No, Nan’s haircuts were delivered in the old kitchen of her 1950’s fibro home.
Nan would sit me on an old laminate stool and place an old sheet around me like a hair dressers smock. From the bottom drawer would come a small leather tote, full of scissors and combs and an old but immaculately maintained Bakelite electric shaver.
I could see every snip and every brush of hair from the reflection of the well-utilized but always sparkling oven. Nan kept a tight ship.
But as the years moved on and Nan’s poor hands became more arthritic my Mum and Dad thought it prudent for my filial free ride to finish.
I remember my first commercial haircut with fondness. It was a rite of passage. My father took me to the place he had been getting his hair cut for 20 years. A father and his son sharing a manly moment and setting a course for a lifetime of manly moments to come.
One of many rites fathers share with their sons. Like teaching him how to ride a bike and bowl a cricket ball. Like having “the talk” and learning to drive.
The barbershop was in a service lane behind a strip of shops in the main street. Out the front was the old fashioned red and white pole and a chalkboard upon which was written Haircuts $5. What a great sign.
While the days of the $5 haircut are over, a good barber shop is a jewel in the rough of life. A manly oasis in a world of mousse, foils and tints.
Tony’s was the quintessential male oasis. Tony was a short Italian immigrant with a thick unapologetic southern Italian accent and sported a shock of black, Grecian 2000 laden hair.
When Hollywood thinks of the stereotypical barber, they hold up a picture of Tony. His shop was just as perfect and filled with men and their sons.
When Tony retired he closed the shop. I was sad and my father, while never showing it, was just as devastated. A refuge from a changing world was shut.
It took my father and I a good couple of months but after Tony’s we found Guido’s. Guido welcomed Tony’s customers with open arms.
I have since tried living in the world of the salon.
The seductive mistress of the world of hair. I was sucked in by the beautiful people, the up to date reading material and the complimentary lattes you sip while having your hair playfully jostled.
I have lived in the heady world of the salon and I was sucked right in. Like Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate, the world of the salon looks so terribly inviting yet under the gloss, under the exotic machines and creams, there is a sinister world.
No man should pay $60 for a haircut. Especially with hair like mine. My hair is a perfect symbol of my working class roots. It’s industrious, aspirational and since about the year 2000 it has been in a slow decline. My hair isn’t suited to the world of the salon.
It wants Tony’s with its sterilizing jars and pictures of the 1987 Italian Soccer team on the walls. My hair doesn’t want the chill out CD playing at slightly louder than background levels. It wants TAB radio.
My hair doesn’t want “fabulous” and “Oh, my, god!” it wants talk about footy and politics. 
I sometimes think Alice Springs finds itself in a similar predicament. Alice is a town for the making.
The only way to survive in this isolated neck of the woods is to make your own fun. Get proactive.
I think that sometimes we try however to be something we aren’t.  Or more to the point, something we feel we should be rather than something we want to be.
Who cares if we are a bit rough around the edges or that some aspects of the town aren’t up to “Darwin standard”.
I don’t want to be up to Darwin standard with their beach side nightspots and their fashionable avenues.
If I wanted that I’d go to Darwin.
I want Alice to be the Tony’s of towns. Accepting, comfortable and ours.

LETTERS: Uranium, shire polls.

Letter from the Editor to Hal Duell

Dear Hal,- We welcome your thoughtful Letters to the Editor on a wide range of subjects important to our community.
We gave you space to raise a string of questions about the Cameco uranium mining proposal south of Alice Springs (Oct 30), and we obtained and published the answers from Cameco (Nov 6).
But in order to remain the medium leading the debate on the issue, we need contributions to be focused and of clear relevance to the local project.
We have neither the space, nor would the readers have the patience, for a complete chronicle of mishaps that may be occurring in uranium mining anywhere in the world, no matter how minor.
As we see it, debate here takes place against a backdrop of absolute certainty that the current level of fossil fuels use, especially coal, will soon kill a vast number of people around the world. We have an opportunity to make a difference.
We know that renewable energy is still falling way short of meeting reasonable demand.
Even Tim Flannery asserts that nuclear energy must be part of the mix of solutions.
And the economy of Alice Springs would get a much needed shot in the arm if the uranium mine were found to be safe, and went ahead.
On what expert evidence do you “question [Cameco’s] explanation of the cleanup at their Rabbit Lake uranium processing facility [in Canada]?”
You say in your latest letter: “Routine spills are dismissed as essentially groundwater with ‘only’ tiny amounts of uranium ranging up to 35 parts per million.
How many parts per million were in that water before Cameco started operations?”
Why don’t you ask Cameco? They have shown themselves to be very free with their answers.
Just putting alarmist questions out into the public arena without seeking the answers, which seem to be freely available, smacks of fear mongering, a troubling aspect of the current anti mining campaign here.
Why should the Alice Springs News endorse, by publishing it, emotive language such as when you accuse Cameco of “environmental ravages”?
How would a disinterested expert source judge the company’s performance, compared to others in the industry, and assessed on the gravity of health and other effects of the incidents to which you refer?
The Alice Springs News is now seeking ongoing advice on the issues from an independent expert – ideally an academic person or institution.
We’re sure this will raise the level of the debate currently skewed by the profit motive of Cameco and the NT Government, and the often emotion-charged positions of the opponents to the mine. The silent majority, oddly, seems to remain silent.
We’ll keep you posted, and look forward to future letters from you.
Erwin Chlanda
Managing Editor
Alice Springs News

Pastoralists not only ones peeved at poll

Sir,- Pastoralists are not the only voters to feel disenfranchised after  the MacDonnell shire elections [Alice Springs News, Oct 30).
I don’t know if any formal complaints have been lodged from Ltyentye  Apurte, but many residents have told me that they believed the  television advertisements which told them the election would be on the Saturday, and went shopping in Alice Springs on the Friday as is  the local custom. 
They were then very disappointed to discover that  they had missed their opportunity to vote as the local poll was  actually held while they were away.
The Electoral Commission tells me that posters had been distributed to alert people to the polling times, but clearly this was not an  effective mechanism.
The Rodinga ward, in which Ltyentye Apurte is the largest community, is reported as having a voter turnout of only 35%. 
Surely such a low vote is a mockery in an election where voting is compulsory, and  should initiate at the least an investigation, and probably a new  election.
While responsibility for the latest fiasco may be shared between  the Electoral Commission and the Shire, it seems to be par for the  course for the latter, which four months after its creation appears  to be shaping up  as generally incompetent.
It will be very interesting to see if the new shire councillors have  any more luck in bringing their bureaucrats to heel than the Alice  Springs Town Councillors. 
Unfortunately this seems unlikely, and we can expect to see the tail wagging the dog throughout local government in the NT.
Alex Hope
Alice Springs

Train danger

Sir,- Following news of the train derailment and subsequent fire near Katherine we need an environmental impact studies on uranium exploration and mining projects to include the implications of spills and hazards caused by transportation of radioactive substances through the Territory.

With BHP’s intention to send one uranium train EVERY day of the year from one end of the Territory to the other, through Alice Springs, right up to Port Darwin, news of derailments makes me very nervous. 
These trains will be carrying radioactive uranium oxide across the entire NT. Once mining commences the complexities of transport, handling and spillage come into play. 
For this reason environmental impact studies need to be stringent, independent and comprehensive.

What if the train had derailed in the Gap?
The railline comes within 100 metres of the Alice Springs CBD.
The risk of derailments on the railway line and resultant fires and bushfires is serious and more than probable.
No amount of spin can push this risk aside.

After four months Alice Springs Town Council is still awaiting a reply from the mines minister regarding water quality and protection of our air from the Angela Pamela Exploration and Mining project. 
We should also call on the NT government for information about the safeguards being considered against transportation hazards and spills and I will ask Alice Town Council to request thorough responses from the NTG on these issues.
Ald Jane Clark
Alice Springs
Sir,- The Health Minister Chris Burns must explain how his department managed to record a budget blow-out of almost $50million in the last financial year.
In the 2007-08 budget, more than $837million was allocated to the Department of Health and Community Services.
But in the annual report, tabled last week in the Territory Parliament,   total expenses were more than $885million – a substantial cost blow-out in anyone’s language.
How does the Government expect to cope when GST revenues dry up next year as a result of the financial crisis?
The annual report also shows the Government has been paying lip-service over  response times to allegations of child abuse: 27% of Category One abuse notifications, which require a response within 24  hours, were not investigated on time.
“Category Two notifications, which require a check within 3 days, were responded to within recommended time-frames just 38% of the time and just 14% of Category Three notifications, which require checking within 5 days, were checked on time.
These outcomes are unacceptable and make a joke of the Government’s claims to be acting on child abuse in light of the Little Children are Sacred Report.
Matt Conlan
Shadow Health Minister, Alice Springs

Zip the Lip

Sir,- Successive Labor governments have banged on incessantly over the past eight years about being open and accountable. The facts, however, tell a different story.
The latest statistics relating to complaints made about the release of information under Labor’s own Freedom of Information laws are an absolute disgrace.
The latest annual report from the Department of Justice shows that just 8% of all FOI complaints were finalised within the agencies own time-frame of 120 days.
This is clearly an unacceptable outcome and one that cuts to the core of the Government’s commitment to openness and accountability.
As a footnote to the figures, the Information Commissioner puts the blame fairly and squarely on the Government for a failure to co-operate: “The office has limited control over the timeliness of complaints and has recommended a legislative amendment to require organisations to respond within a given timeframe.”
The Opposition repeats its call for the Henderson Government to allow MLAs to access FOI without charge, so the prohibitive cost associated with applications doesn’t stop the flow of information.
Jodeen Carney
Shadow Justice Minister, Alice Springs

Lots to learn

Sir,- Adam Giles demonstrates that he has a lot to learn (Alice News Nov 6, Federal Labor gets it half right). 
Where’s the sense in spending $2 million on a review into the Intervention and then ignoring its recommendations and the other 220 submissions?
I have witnessed Macklin’s manipulation of media and her discourse with Aboriginal women.   
Her recent example at Yuendumu highlights her shortcomings in cross-cultural communication and cross-cultural understanding.Given the current economic climate it is hard to envisage how the government can justify continuing this expensive and invasionist intervention. 
Macklin’s desperate haste to have all the prescribed area communities sign over their land before Christmas must make it all worthwhile.
And, by the way, the permit system has not been reinstated as Mr Giles seems to think.
M. Hodder
Alice Springs

Park fees

Sir,- The justification offered by federal environment minister Peter Garrett for reinstating access fees at Kakadu National Park that only tourists and not Territorians should pay, raised the legitimate question of arrangements for Uluru-Kata Tjuta.
If locals are not required to pay an entry fee to visit Kakadu and only pay for the services or activities that they utilise, then why must Centralians still be required to pay to enter Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park?
The entry fee for Kakadu was abolished as it was a deterrent for visitors.
Labor have not only reintroduced it, but increased it by a massive 40%
I have to question the motives of this especially when the Henderson Labor Government has said they do not support the entry fee either.
It smells of another Labor Party money grab with the free entry to locals just a cynical attempt to save the political hide of impotent Territory Labor members Warren Snowdon, Trish Crossin and Damian Hale,.
Nigel Scullion

Classic movie

Sir,- Araluen and the Central Australian Food Group Inc are combining for a very special film event.
The rare classic film “Like Water for Chocolate” will screen at Araluen at a matinee showing commencing at 3pm this Sunday, 16 November.
The movie has not been released on DVD in Australia so this may be your one opportunity to see this beautiful film about love and food.
The film will be followed by a cocktail reception and drinks in Witchetty’s with the food being prepared by the Food Group’s chefs.
Tickets at $27.50 for adults and $20 for children are available from Keller’s Restaurant or by telephoning 0418 525723.
Proceeds go to the Chefs’ Encouragement Award Fund which has been established by the Food Group to promote the training of local chefs.
What a great way to enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon and support a great cause.
Lynne Peterkin
Alice Springs

Rose back home

Sir,– A few weeks ago you kindly published my letter regarding a metal rose (from an artwork that consisted of three metal roses in a metal vase) stolen from Alice’s Secret.
I had bought the roses from the Silver Bullet two years ago and I went back there to find out who the maker was (I had shamefully forgotten his name) and found the Silver Bullet closed down.
I had also shamefully forgotten the name of the owner of the Silver Bullet, but I seemed to vaguely remember where his wife worked. So I went to the wife’s workplace, but she was not there that day.
This is how far I had gotten in my little Sherlock Holmes Metal Rose Investigation when your reporter Kieran Finnane visited me to give me a NEW METAL ROSE! The rose has been added to its new family of two and they seem very happy together.
These apparently are the facts: Mike Gillam, the owner of the Silver Bullet, read my letter regarding the stolen rose.
He contacted the maker of the roses, Simon Holding. Simon Holding made a new rose, gave it to Kieran to give it to me. He has offered to weld the roses to their vase so they can’t be stolen again.
Thank you Simon Holding, Mike Gillam, Kieran Finnane and the Alice Springs News!
Suzanne Visser
Alice’s Secret

Growing old disgracefully

Sir,– The Ulysses Club for older motorcyclists is now a familiar part of the motorcycling scene, with over 28,000 financial members in Australia alone.
The national committee of the club sanctioned our Central Deserts Branch on August 25, 2007.
Recently, our AGMs have attracted 4000 to 6000 registrants to the hosting town, a significant event for sure.
In 1994 the club held its AGM here in town – the largest ever.
I believe it could be again, if we are successful with our bid. Our purpose is three fold:
• To provide ways in which older motorcyclists can get together for companionship and mutual support.
• To show by example that motorcycling can be an enjoyable and practical activity for riders of all ages.
• To draw the attention of public and private institutions to the needs and views of older riders.
Any lady or gentleman over the age of 40, who holds a current motorcycle licence or is a regular partner of such a person and over 40, is eligible to join, online (at 
Raymond Jones
Ulysses Club Inc.
Box 4890 Alice Springs 0414 833 089

Looking for Dad

Sir,– I’m looking for my dad also called Peter Doran.
He came out to Alice Springs in 1982 and nobody has seen him since.His date of birth is June 4, 1946.
He came over from Carnew in Ireland. I have never meet him but met his brothers and sisters. He was last seen at his brother Martin’s wake in 1982. I just found out that he came out.
I’ve been looking for four years but not having much luck.Is there any help you could give me?
Write to c.rebal@
Peter Doran
United Kingdom

Baby migrant

Sir,- I am trying to trace a Tim Rogers (son of Liz and Ted Rogers) who when he was a baby lived in Cosby in England in the late 60’s, early 70s.
Before he started school his parents relocated to Alice Springs but havenot been heard of since.
Can you help?
Louise Badcock

Irritating words

Sir,- This letter is all about words used constantly on radio and TV.
The word ABSOLUTELY is so irritating coupled with the word FANTASTIC which according to the dictionary is “extravagantly, fanciful, grotesque, quaint,
A fantasy.” But the most useless words are “you know” followed by “I mean” ALSO “and er”.
And as for catch phrases: “The end of the day, take it on board, roll up our sleeves” etc.
Interviewees and interviewers please try to avoid this repetition and improve your vocabulary!
Thank you.
No doubt once we tame these words, a new lot is on its way with “interests rates, petrol prices, got us over a barrel and CHINA’S next move!”
Teddy Peterson-Cairns, Alice Springs

Watching nature

Sir,- In 1998 I wrote a book “Nature’s Weather Watch” - a guide to predicting the weather by observing the activities and changes in behaviour and / or growth of animal and plant life prior to changes in the weather.
I initially had the help of hundreds of folk across Australia in collecting the signs and observations that were reliably used in forecasting the weather.
This was done mainly through ABC local radio and regional newspapers.
As this is an ongoing research, I am once again asking for help as I continue to seek observations / signs that are reliably used.
I would like to hear from people of all ages and all walks of life, of any unusual behaviour and activity or other signs that can be linked especially to changes in weather patterns, but also to any natural phenomena.
I can be contacted at, PO Box 1345 Gympie Q4570 and all relevant mail will be answered.
Glenda John
Gympie, Queensland

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