ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
December 4, 2008. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Landrush? By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Land developer Ron Sterry, through
Elders Real Estate, says he’s been paid $1000 deposits over the weekend
for each of 20 residential blocks on his Coolibah Tree Estate, south of
He had entered into agreements for three further blocks during the two
weeks before, and will “sell” five more blocks by the end of this
The Real Estate Institute’s David Forrest says the level of interest in
the semi-rural land shows “the Alice Springs market is buoyant.
“There’s been a shortage of land for some time.”
Another industry source says an announcement is imminent about
development of residential land in Mt Johns Valley, on the other side
of the range from Mr Sterry’s land.
This is expected to be developed in two lots of 40 blocks, after
protracted negotiations with native title holders.
Five builders bought, between them, nine blocks in Mr Sterry’s
development. Among them were Kylie and Michael Goryan, from Unique
Constructions, who put their names on two blocks.
They will live on one and build a “spec house” on the other.
They say the Coolibah Tree Estate is “still close to town yet
They currently live at Stirling Heights, at the western edge of town,
with its adjacent Ridges Estate the only other recent residential
development in Alice Springs.
Stirling Heights is fully sold (some blocks have their third owner),
and there are 12 blocks left in Ridges Estate.
These blocks, and those apparently soon to go on stream at Mt Johns
Valley, opposite the golf course, are 800 square metres.
The Ridges Estate blocks cost less than $160,000.
Mr Sterry’s blocks are between 1300 and 2500 squm and are selling for
between $178,000 and $240,000.
All up Mr Sterry’s development will have 250 lots.
The first parcel contains 46 fully serviced blocks.
Titles will be issued no later than September next year.
He says the price for the next batch will go up between five and 10%.
Mr Sterry says none of the intending buyers questioned the price.
About 20% of the buyers are people under 30.
Mr Forrest says the interest in Mr Sterry’s land shows “it is priced
properly – the market has made its comment”. Buyers have been
waiting for the land to come on stream.
Mr Forrest says the sales show that there is buyer interest in
different types of land, and the NT Government should bear this in
mind, not just offering one type of development at a time.
Negotiations about Mt Johns Valley with native title holders have been
going on for four years, but an industry source says compulsory
acquisition would have been no faster.
The precedent set at Stirling Heights was a 50% share for the native
“By now we’d be just about finished in the Supreme Court, and we’d be
heading for the High Court.”
The source says far from allowing the project to go ahead immediately,
compulsory acquisition would have triggered a series of “stay on
proceedings” applications, with endless – and hugely costly – appeals
and counter appeals.
On the front foot with law
& order. By
Mayor Damien Ryan and the Town Council have trumped the Territory
Government on law and order, moving to employ a security firm to
conduct foot patrols in Todd Mall, plagued by vandalism and violent
attacks in recent weeks.
The patrols began last Friday and will be trialled for a month, seven
nights a week, from 9pm to 4am.
One of their functions is to gather “solid evidence” that council can
then take to the Northern Territory Government in a bid for more
The move is costing council $5000 a week, with the money taken
from another budget area.
Mr Ryan followed up on Monday morning by calling together, for his
regular press conference, the Centre’s five MLAs to present a united
front on solutions to the town’s law and order problems.
Despite Mr Ryan’s best intentions to keep politics out of the
gathering, the Opposition Members and media generally saw the council’s
move as a reflection on the Territory Government ‘s failure to
adequately address anti-social behaviour.
Council’s action, which also includes immediate improvements to
lighting in the mall, cut through in what has been a protracted debate,
more so than Minister for Central Australia Alison Anderson’s youth
summit called for December 9.
Her purpose is to get the various youth programs in town working in
concert and to identify the service gaps, but when she said that no
more resources would be asked for, Member for Araluen Jodeen Carney
(Country Liberal) pounced. She accused Ms Anderson of doing nothing but
“We are crying out for resources,” she said – such as an increased
police presence in the mall.
Greatorex MLA Matt Conlan (Country Liberal), more conciliatory in tone,
nonetheless recalled the “six crime summits” initiated by former Chief
Minister Clare Martin, and the “documentation” that came out of them.
“I haven’t seen a lot of progress,” he said.
Moving Alice Ahead was “nowhere to be seen” 10 months on.
Ms Anderson pointed out that $5.5m is already coming into town for
youth services – she was talking about no more money going into that
area, but rather getting the existing funding to work more effectively.
The youth forum will bring together a dozen organisations, including
NGOs, the Town Council, Lhere Artepe and Territory and Federal
departments, with officers at decision-making level. It won’t include
the five MLAs.
Ms Anderson wants a one page “no nonsense” document to come out of the
forum and has pledged to act on it with a two to three week turn-around
once the festive season is over.
She also spoke strongly about parental responsibility: programs
shouldn’t be “baby-sitting” children for parents who are drinking,
gambling, taking drugs.
Asked about the slow progress on parental responsibility agreements and
orders – just one in five months and it was in the Top End – she said:
“They are still seeping through the Berrimah wall.”
On the question of resources Member for Stuart (Labor) and Minister for
Regional Development, Karl Hampton, said regional development is an
area where “we can do something, something we can have a greater level
of control over”.
He is also Minister for Sport and Recreation and said he would be
providing a development officer for basketball in Alice Springs.
Member for Braitling Adam Giles (Country Liberal) called on the two
Labor MLAs to “vote against the government” on his proposal of a
parliamentary committee for Central Australia, also uniting the five
MLAs, which would “inquire into and report on specific measures and
resource requirements” to support the economic development of Central
Australia and to reduce antisocial behaviour.
He sees the two as going hand in hand.
Chief Minister Paul Henderson has apparently ruled out such a
Ms Anderson and Mr Hampton did not respond directly to Mr Giles’s
challenge but both acknowledged the merit of his intentions.
They also said that they would fight for resources for Central
Australia if they are needed.
Mr Hampton said the shires need to be involved in resolving anti-social
Mr Ryan said it was remiss of him not to have invited the newly elected
presidents and he would follow up immediately.
Law and order is not “a core responsibility of council”, he said, but
“urgent circumstances require urgent responses”.
He said the employment of private security guards was “not a criticism
of police”, but council wants a permanent police presence on foot in
the mall as well as a manned station.
Superintendent Sean Parnell of the Alice Springs Police agrees that
there is “no substitute for people on the ground”.
Police do have foot patrols in the CBD in the summer months when the
town “comes alive” at night.
And in the recent assault on Alderman Liz Martin in the mall, police
were in the immediate vicinity, gave chase and arrested the offender in
“That is direct evidence of the police being engaged in foot patrols,”
said Supt Parnell.
He has no problem with the council’s move – “That’s their call” – but
said the security guards will have a different role to police. For
instance, they have no power of arrest.
Meanwhile, council has also reactivated the CCTV steering committee,
made up of members of the public.
Its original members have been contacted, and council will advertise
for new members.
CEO Rex Mooney said the job of the committee would be to oversee
expansion of the system, including looking at the possibility of using
Council would not be reconsidering expansion, despite the poor record
to date of CCTV usefulness in leading to arrests of offenders.
Council continues to believe in its role as a deterrent.
Mr Mooney said council has received and is currently reviewing a
funding agreement from the NT Government for the expansion and on-going
Mr Ryan said council has called for daily updates on CCTV footage from
the night before.
Council’s action on lighting includes turning on again disused lights
around the Flynn Church. Four were turned on last week, six more this
The bollard lighting will be made less vulnerable to destrucion.
Council has recently replaced some 90 smashed bulbs in the bollards, at
a cost of $2000. There are plans also to light up the council lawns –
which Mr Ryan decsribed as becoming a “nightly war zone” – and the car
parks as well as the Gregory Terrace taxi rank.
The Centre’s beautiful
sandstone ... look again. By
Rocks alongside the recently developed Discovery Walkway, leading
from the railway station to the Stuart Highway, are painted to look
And the paint is peeling.
With a budget of $330,000, the walkway was designed to give tourists
information about Alice Springs and its attractions as well as to
provide some comfort, such as shade and water, along the way.
The Alice Springs News asked the project partners, Great Southern
Railway (GSR) and Tourism NT, if they were aware that the rocks were
If so, were they satisfied with this as an image to present to visitors?
GSR CEO Tony Braxton-Smith said, via a spokesperson, yes, he was aware
that the rocks were painted – the project had to work to a budget.
He was satisfied with the result – the walkway had been well received.
A spokesperson for Tourism NT provided a response so meaningless as to
“This is a joint project between GSR and the Northern Territory
Government; all terms are agreed between these two parties.”
Further questions to both organisations about who has responsibility
for maintaining the landscaping, full of couch grass and weeds after
the rain, were unanswered when the News went to press.
A town with an uncertain
future. By Heritage Architect DOMENICO PECORARI.
The apparent demolition of the K-Mart wall is only the latest of recent
developments that are contributing towards the continuing
“uglification” of our town.
While we all worry about the recent increase in youth-led vandalism and
lawlessness, we turn a blind eye to the ways in which some of our
town’s leading businesses and corporate bodies are undermining the
future sustainability of the place.
We don’t seem to notice the odd new building that happens to block off
a once beautiful vista of the Western MacDonnells, the odd trees which
disappear overnight, the fevered rush to demolish buildings without
well-thought out re-development plans.
Soon, our interstate and international visitors won’t need to leave
town to see the “wide open spaces”: they need only look at the former
Melanka site, which recently joined the former Aboriginal Art Centre
next to KFC, the former Pizza Hut site next to Yeperenye, Lizzie
Milne’s old block next to K-Mart, the former Service Station site on
Wills Terrace and several other flattened building sites in our town’s
centre, in presenting the visitor with an image of a town with an
Sadly, the latest Melanka re-development fiasco is symptomatic of the
fundamental problem which our town is facing: that of not having any
real “Town Plan”.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen this town’s development determined by
the “bucket of money” mentality.
Developers have decided what and where they develop, based upon nothing
more than opportunism and with little or no regard as to to how their
development fits into the broader, longer-term picture. If their
plans do not fit the zoning regulations, there’s always the re-zoning
As a result, our town is developing into an inefficient, costly
town, almost entirely dependent on imported goods and seemingly with
little concern for whether this direction can be sustained into the
Our community leaders continue to pin their hopes on “growth”, at all
costs it would seem, while ignoring the fact Alice Springs is really an
island, surrounded by seas of sand.
No town is “too small” to begin planning its future. The best
placed authority to manage the development of a well thought out and
viable Town Plan is the local Council.
There is no need to look to the outside for consultants as we have all
the expertise we need in this town.
Long-time locals with a wealth of knowledge in a diversity of fields
from geology, energy and water management, flora and fauna to arts and
culture, social services and planning/building for our local climatic
Local experts with a willingness to share their time in the development
of a “road map” for our town’s development in a world that is changing
with increasing uncertainty.
What better incentive could we offer intelligent developers than a town
that plans for its sustainable future rather than just “leaving it to
The K-Mart wall should be seen as more than just an isolated
incident. It needs to become a turning point in our town’s
development, a point when the town’s citizenry realises that every
individual action has an effect on the collective whole.
The Alice Springs Town Council, as the elected voice of those citizens,
needs to take control of the town’s future.
If they don’t, tell me – who will?
Note: Domenico Pecorari is an architect with expertise in heritage
matters and 24 years of local knowledge.
Kmart mural: no guarantees. By
Owners of the Kmart building in Alice, Centro Properties Group, are
giving “no guarantees” about what will happen to the sandstone mural on
the building’s west-facing wall, damaged during the September 22 storm
and now being demolished.
According to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, “the owners
will be required to rebuild the outer wall in accordance with the
Development Permit or seek a variation through the appropriate planning
The Development Permit says in part that the “sandstone wall ... will
at all times be maintained to the satisfaction of the Town Engineer,
Alice Springs Town Council”.
Mayor Damien Ryan says he will settle for “nothing less than full
replacement of the stone mural”.
He has told the owners this, pointing out the above condition in the
He was incensed when state manager for NT and SA of the Centro Property
Group, Mario Boscani, told him that the condition does not say anything
about a “mural”, it refers only to a “sandstone wall”.
Mr Boscani reiterated this when he spoke to the Alice News, saying that
he is seeking advice on what the condition “really means”
Mr Boscani told the News he understands the importance of the wall to
the town, but the solution “needs to be reasonable”.
He said his company’s primary concern is with the “safety of the
occupants of the building and passers-by”.
He is happy to work with the council in “resolving the issue” but
expects “some movement” on what the reinstated wall will look like and
what it will be made of.
Reinstatement of a “full sandstone wall may not be appropriate”, he
Mr Ryan, through CEO Rex Mooney, threatened to again issue a “cease
work” order on Tuesday if council did not receive information about the
owner’s intentions. Till then council had only had contact from the
builder carrying out the demolition.
It was subsequent to this that Mr Boscani finally spoke to Mr Mooney,
despite the clear identification of the Town Council as the overseeing
authority in the development permit condition relating to the
The News asked Mr Boscani if alternatives to demolition of the wall had
been explored, for instance, bracing to make it safe and then repair.
He said the engineering report (provided to Centro by Project Building
Certifiers in Alice Springs) had said the wall was beyond the point of
The Alice News asked the Department of Planning and Infrastructure if
it was appropriate, in a case such as this, involving a building of
significance, to accept only the advice of a company being paid by the
Ray Smith, Regional Manager, Lands & Planning, replied: “The advice
was given to the building owner by a registered structural engineer. In
accordance with legislation, the owner was obliged to act on that
“The certifier and building owner are responsible for making the
The News also asked if the department had required options other than
demolition to be explored.
Said Mr Smith: “The Planning Scheme cannot be used to prevent making a
What processes are in place to protect the town’s built environment, if
buildings are not heritage listed?
“Individual building owners can deal with their own properties within
the planning and building requirements of the day.”
Mr Boscani says he is not aware of having dealt with the Department of
Planning in relation to the wall; his dealings have been with WorkSafe
Heritage Minister Alison Anderson had explored issuing an Interim
Conservation Order, which would have halted demolition, but the advice
from her department was that the most appropriate course of action was
through the Planning Act.
She was assured that the conditions on the Development Permit would be
sufficient to ensure that the wall be reinstated in its original form.
Her advice was that the permit condition was suspended while the
building was made safe, but will apply again once it is safe.
“We are not walking away from the issue,” Ms Anderson told the Alice
“All the appropriate people in Darwin are aware of the situation.
“Our office has been told by the builder that the wall is being removed
in such a way that it could be replaced,” she said.
“I would hope they are numbering the bricks,” said Mr Ryan, steeling
himself for a fight.
“The only variation I would accept to the original mural is to the one
metre that extended above the roofline that caused the problem in the
He says he told Mr Boscani that the community only accepted the
building in the first place because of the stone mural.
Otherwise the “big grey box” would have had to be built in the
When art becomes part of every
In a first for Alice Springs, a local business has commissioned a work
of public art to occupy its shop window for the foreseeable future.
Photographer Mike Gillam has produced a series of large scale black and
white photographs for the Alice Springs Pharmacy, to be displayed in
their window fronting Hartley Street.
After six months of design and negotiation, the photographs will be
installed over the coming days, providing “a gentle counterpoint to
some of the social behaviour and violence that taints the surrounding
area”, says Mr Gillam.
The series will also act as a rhythmic backdrop for the pharmacy’s
products displayed on brightly coloured plinths.
He says the project’s aim is to “raise the morale of those who make a
daily investment in social unity in Alice Springs”.
And he also wants it to speak to “a large number of Aboriginal people,
quietly getting on with their lives, who are demoralised as well”.
He wants them to look into the window and see an affirmation of their
The five images show a positive engagement with life in Central
Australia and are book-ended by simple close-ups of hands.
Near the entrance, a young child holds out her cupped hands to offer us
a gift, a view of the hawkmoth that produces Yeperenye caterpillars.
At the opposite end, an old Aboriginal hand provides guidance to a
This image will be repeated inside the shopping centre and reversed to
show a tiny child helping an old person.
The local people photographed for the project will not be identified
because Mr Gillam wants everyone to look at the pictures and see “my
sister, grandfather or child”.
Through the centre of the display, a pillar will be converted into a
community directory for those in crisis with after hour contacts for
clinics, rehabilitation services and shelter. The image of a gum tree
that has toppled into a gorge and re-grown provides a visual example
for those who need to turn their life around.
While the body of the display will be completed soon, simple and
understated messages that will accompany the photographs will be
refined and added to over the next two weeks.
For instance, a statement of the simple fact that “for every year of
education our nation can provide to a young mother, her children may
live up to four years longer” will accompany one of the images.
While most shop front banners are only expected to last a season, a
quality UV laminate should see the images last at least five years,
despite the strong morning sunlight they receive through the summer.
This however has meant some compromise to the resolution of the
Accused murderer MC Willshire:
how would you have judged him? Part
3 of an interview with historian DICK KIMBER.
Part 3 of an interview with historian DICK KIMBER about Mounted
Constable Willshire, accused but acquitted of murder in 1891. The trial
was conducted in Port Augusta. (See Parts 1 and 2 in our issues of
November 20 and 27.)
ERWIN CHLANDA asks Mr Kimber about the feeling in Port Augusta during
the trial – was it neutral, a lynch mob mentality, or supportive of
KIMBER: Generally speaking it was highly supportive of Willshire. He
would have been reasonably well-known there because of the visits while
escorting murderers and cattle-killers down from the Centre, and to a
fair few he would have been considered an heroic police officer on the
dangerous frontier. There is evidence, though, that there were
also those who remained neutral, and wanted a fair trial.
An important further point is that he received almost universal
support, including considerable gifts of money to help him in his
defence, from Central Australian pastoralists and a few others.
There is no doubt that many held him in regard for the genuine hard
work of his patrols and arrest of cattle-killers, but there would have
been some who were protecting their own hides too, for numbers had gone
on patrols during which Aboriginal men had been shot.
There would have to have been a chance that, were Willshire found
guilty in the trial, there would have been a demand to check what
really happened on some of his other patrols.
NEWS: What happened at the trial?
KIMBER: Well, I recommend that anyone who wants to read the
detail should read Peter Vallee’s recent book, “God guns and government
on the Central Australian frontier”. I do not agree with the book
in its entirety, but the trial is excellently considered.
The prosecutor, barrister James Stuart, did what he had to, but no
In contrast, the crucial figure for the defence was barrister Sir John
Downer, grandfather or great-grandfather of our recent Foreign
Minister, who was quite brilliant of mind and also cleverly theatrical
in court (as well as expensive).
The jury was also widely, and probably correctly, believed to have been
12 men who, however impartial they might have attempted to be, were
likely to be inclined to support Willshire.
Furthermore, those citizens who attended the trial were undoubtedly on
Willshire’s side. And the presiding judge, Judge Henry Bundey,
gave highly questionable advice about the legal definition of
“accomplice”, which resulted in most of the witnesses not being able to
Sir John was in his element. Willshire’s statement of what had
transpired was read out to applause from the public gallery. He gave
generous praise to Willshire as a man who often faced danger.
He also made much of the fact that the evidence indicated that
inter-group feuding was the reason for the murders, independent of
He was also fortunate that, because of Judge Bundy’s decision, he only
had to question the Native Constables. As they gave some
conflicting evidence in their witness statements, he exploited these
differences by his questioning, and the jury had their attention drawn
to the increasing points of disagreement in their responses.
Judging well, I preseume, the mood of both the jury and public gallery,
and being highly skilled as a barrister, he effectively ignored any
suggestions that Willshire had lusted after one of the murdered men’s
wives, and that the bodies had been burnt.
Instead he spent much time lauding Willshire’s heroic work, pointing
out that he had not done the shootings, drawing attention to the fact
that the Native Constables had shot Donkey and Roger despite Willshire
telling them to arrest them (meaning that the Native Constables were
murderers), and stating that the case would be “humorous” except that
“a man’s life was at stake.” He concluded:
“[Mounted Constable Willshire] was put to the risk of being hanged on
the testimony of two self-convicted murderers, whose statements were of
the most extraordinary contradictory character.”
The jury retired for just 15 minutes and delivered its verdict:
“We find the prisoner not guilty, and would add that we consider there
is not a tittle of evidence incriminating the prisoner.”
The public gallery were called to “Silence” several times, and then
Willshire was cheered by his many supporters as he walked out of the
court a free man.
NEWS: Many people today think he was guilty and should have been
convicted. Where did Gillen and, indeed, Mounted Constable South
and the Attorney-General go wrong with their prosecution?
KIMBER: I don’t think that they did. The judge erred in his legal
point over the word “accomplice”. Had all of the women witnesses
been able to be called too, the weighting would have dramatically
However, it is also certain in my view, on the basis of the way that
Downing was able to question the Native Constables, that he would
similarly have been able to question the women and direct the jurors’
attention to their conflicting statements. Therefore, although I
believe that he was guilty, I think that the jury would have given the
same verdict – “innocent”.
It would be interesting to know how you would have judged him if you
had been on the jury back then.
NEWS: Did anyone in South Australia have other views?
KIMBER: A couple of people questioned the trial result in the
newspapers. However, I think the most telling comment came from the
Minister Controlling the Northern Territory, F. W. Holder. In May, 1895
he wrote to the South Australian Premier, C. C. Kingston as follows: “I
earnestly request that M. C. Willshire may be immediately removed from
the Northern Territory.
“His reputation is such that, in my opinion, he is the last man in the
world who should be entrusted with duties which bring him in contact
with the Aborigines.”
Book sings about country. By
The annual Papunya Tula show which openedlast weekend was also the
occasion for the local launch of a major work by scholar and curator
Vivien Johnson, titled Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists.
Johnson, who has had more than 20 years’ engagement with the Papunya
Tula movement, said she didn’t set out to write its history in this
form but came to see that it was the best way to write it.
It offers readers “a way into the movement”, starting with the artists
themselves, understanding where they are from, who they are connected
to, who and what has gone before, all of which gives insight into their
development as artists, creators of works with which the reader may be
For the artists themselves, to whom Johnson has gifted her royalties,
she hopes the book makes a “small contribution” to their sense of
ownership of and belonging to a great and historic movement.
This, she said, can be lost sight of in “the daily wrangle for
money and cars”, the book serving as a reminder of what has been and
can be accomplished.
Johnson spoke of the “storm gathering” – the global economic slowdown –
that will have repercussions for the artists, but described their
company as a “sturdy ship” able to weather that storm.
It may be a time for people to get back in touch with the deeper
reasons for why they paint, what it was all about in the early years,
At the launch Dick Kimber recalled the first show of Papunya paintings
held in Alice Springs, where only two out of 45 sold, one of them to
Once that changed though and people discovered the dollar value of
certain paintings, there was pressure, including from themselves in
response to the market, to operate more and more as contemporary
artists – quite different from the way ‘art’ had been produced
traditionally, yet still distinct from the ‘Western’ model.
Johnson spoke of “almost a torch that gets handed from one artist to
another” and of a “collective creativity” that has nourished the
cultural outpouring that has been and is the Papunya Tula movement.
Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists is published by IAD Press, whom
Johnson couldn’t “praise highly enough” for their determination “to get
to the end of the road” and “to get it right”.
Publisher Jill Walsh described it as “the greatest challenge” the press
has had, while Kimber hailed it as “a singing book” – “it sings about
Its success is due to the way people have “worked together”, said
Johnson, “one of the messages of the book and of the Papunya Tula
Bush cures. By
Lena Pwerl is a force of nature in a room already filled with laughter
and excited talk.
As she talks about the bush medicine her people have always used and
continue to use, her rich voice vibrates with energy and she strikes me
on the leg repeatedly to make her point.
While I may not understand all the words, a mixture of English and her
Aboriginal language, I get the message – the profound conviction of the
rightness of this way.
Rubbing sick bodies with emu fat, or goanna, perentie or kangaroo fat.
Gathering and boiling up the strong-smelling native plants – a
favourite is ilpengk (gidgee fuschia) – for drinking, washing or mixing
with the fats for rubbing.
These things are good for colds, headaches, aching limbs, skin sores,
Mary Kemarr Morton is a different presence, softer spoken, twinkling
eyes, soft laughter, but just as fervent.
She speaks of another practice – drawing her own blood and rubbing it
into the bodies of sick babies, onto sores, infected eyes.
This medicine is a “quick one”, she says, though it is not done so much
any more as people’s blood is not so good.
The women, from Utopia, are gathered at Araluen where their art and
language show, Intem-antey anem, meaning “these things will always be”,
opened on the weekend.
It was put together in response to the desire of the women to
document bush medicine knowledge in order to pass it on to younger
Batchelor Institute lecturers and youth media trainers from CAAMA
worked with the women on the project.
The exhibition includes etchings, grass sculptures, stories in
Alyawarr, Eastern Anmatyerr and English, videos, and, of course, for
the opening, song and dance.
At the media preview, young girls from Utopia were taking photos of
each other in front of the etchings and sculptures they had done. They
were shy in the way of young girls, but proud.
Had they known about these treatments before?
Yes, they said, “from [when we were] little kids”. They themselves had
been treated this way when they were sick – this way and the clinic.
And did they know about which plants were good for medicine?
Oh, yes. They’d been learning this all their lives, going out bush.
Who had taught them?
Shows at Araluen until February 8.
Recalling the days at the old
Mission Block. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.
For Jackie Okai seeing Pastor Paul Albrecht return to Alice Springs for
the 70th anniversary of the old Lutheran Church last Sunday was a
“tearful” moment: she remembers his visits to Jay Creek Mission when
she was young.
“I used to clean the kitchen when I was a little girl. I remember
“When I saw him here I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to run and hug
Lutheran missionaries began preaching gospel at Hermannsburg, west of
Alice Springs in 1877.
Pastor Paul is the son of the greatly respected Pastor FW (Friedrich)
Albrecht, Superintendent at the Hermannsburg Mission from 1926 to 1962,
who purchased for 25 pounds the original six acre block of land at 49
Gap Road, known as the Mission Block.
The old church was built on the site in 1938. Before then services took
place in various locations, including under the huge gum tree on the
south-east side of the block.
The anniversary service, led by Pastor David Kuss together with Pastor
Paul, was held under the towering tree.
The old church building has been heritage listed and the NT Government
has helped fund its restoration.
South Australian Mr EAA Materne donated the materials to build the
church when he heard from his son Erhardt that the Alice Springs
congregation had no fixed shelter and had to worship outside.
Three generations of the Materne family were proud to attend the
service. Milton Materne from Greenock, South Australia said, “Services
would take place during dust storms and freezing cold weather.”
Milton’s son Chris moved to the Territory in 1991. Now here with his
own family, his children attend the Sunday school held in the newly
Olga Radke, one of the co-ordinators of the celebrations, enjoyed
gathering together photographs about life at the Mission Block for the
occasion: “It has been like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. It’s been
a lovely process. People have been able to see themselves as children
in the photographs we have collected.”
Posted in Alice Springs 12 years ago, Pastor Basil Schild serves
Aboriginal Lutherans, visiting the 18 town camps in and around Alice
Springs as well as the hospital and prison.
He said the 2006 census recorded 1808 Lutherans in Alice Springs, with
many of them Aboriginal and “living below the poverty line”.
There were many Aboriginal faithful at the celebrations last Sunday.
William Armstrong, a Southern Arrernte man, was sent to Alice Springs
as a boy. He recalls enjoying the “change of scenery”.
The mission offered variety and change compared to life at the
community out by the Finke River.
“The new changes made life interesting. I was able to find parallels
within my culture and the Lutheran church. We had to find a way where
groups could fuse and walk on common ground.”
William and Mary Wolski shared stories and remembered having “a lot of
fun” at the mission – raiding the rockmelons and swiping oranges from
the nearby farm after Sunday school.
When the Mission Truck arrived there was more mischief to be had.
“We didn’t have cars around much in those days, going for a ride was a
form of entertainment, we used to sneak on the truck and see how many
times we could get away with it,” says William.
Both have a “strong bond” with the old church.
Mary has lived for many years in South Australia yet, “My heart is
still in Alice Springs”, she says.
The church in its early days was used by Western Arrernte people and a
small congregation of European settlers.
It is now very much “for all” language groups.
“Translation is a big thing at the church,” says Pastor David.
Indigenous followers have insisted on using their own languages.
Over the last few years a bi-lingual service has started and bibles
have been translated and services conducted for various Indigenous
An expert’s take on uranium
worries. By Dr D. C. “Bear” McPhail, of the
Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University.
The Alice Springs News put some key issues raised about the Angela
Pamela uranium mine, proposed by Cameco 20 kms south of Alice Springs,
to Dr D. C. “Bear” McPhail, of the Research School of Earth Sciences,
Australian National University.
He has kindly accepted our request to provide unbiased expert advice.
Here is his first batch of answers.
THE ISSUE: In our edition of November 6, Cameco geologist Jennifer
Parks replied to letter writer Hal Duell, saying: “The spills referred
to are essentially water with tiny amounts of uranium ranging up to 35
parts per million.” On November 13 we quoted a scientist: “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’.”
BEAR: The issue of big or small, as well as the environmental impact,
depends on several factors.
First, what is the concentration of uranium in the water, and how much
water is involved? 35 ppm of uranium in water is much higher than
the guideline value of 0.02 ppm, but if the total amount of water is
small then the concentration will be diluted if mixed with other water
(surface, ground or otherwise).
For instance, if a 100 litre spill mixed with 100,000 litres of water,
the concentration would be diluted by 1000 times.
The actual dilution can be much higher in many natural systems.
Second, you need to be careful when comparing the uranium
concentrations in water, rock or other materials. Uranium ore has
high concentrations, such as the values Ms Parks mentions, but they are
different materials, and the impact of uranium on the surrounding areas
Third, how does the uranium in water react with rock, or with changes
in water chemistry (e.g., acidity, oxidation, other elements and
Uranium can precipitate or dissolve depending on the conditions and
surrounding rock and soil, which affects how much can remain in the
This is complex so it depends on the actual situation to understand how
the uranium will react.
THE ISSUE: The aquifer close to the proposed uranium mine is protected
by a barrier of low permeability rock some hundreds of metres thick.
This is the same barrier that protects the aquifer from the Brewer
Estate (or Noxious Industries Area), 10 kms to the north-west of the
mine prospect, which includes an oil loading facility, an abbatoir and
There is no such thing as zero permeability but for all practical
purposes there is no permeability in this barrier. There is shallow
saline water sitting over it which “tends to prove the point.
If there were significant permeability the saline water wouldn’t be
sitting there, it would be leaking into the aquifer and it would show
up as increased salinity.
But fears continue to be expressed that this protective rock barrier
could be fractured, for instance if explosives were used during mining.
It was suggested you’d need an impact of something like the comet that
hit Gosse’s Bluff to disturb this barrier.
BEAR: It’s always possible that the groundwater situation can change,
including fracturing. One of the difficulties with many
groundwater environments, though, is that waters move slowly
underground, and that means it can be a long time, e.g., decades and
much longer, before any impacts are seen.
THE ISSUE: Furthermore, mining would take place “down the natural
BEAR: I think this means that the mining would take place downstream
along the groundwater flow.
If so, this would mean any impact on groundwater quality would be seen
farther away from the town. A good argument, if the hydrogeology
is known well enough.
THE ISSUE: You’d have to pump for thousands of years to pull the
hypothetically contaminated water through the sandstone, and the
borefield has only a few hundred years’ life.
BEAR: True, but I’m sure nobody would want to leave any “hypothetically
contaminated water” without knowing where it might show up in the
THE ISSUE: At the Finke Start / Finish line and the Drag Strip, there
is separation of as little as a 30 metre thickness of permeable gravel
between the developments and the recharge area for the aquifer.
The greatest risk in the area is from a road or rail transport accident
leading to spillage of fuel or other contaminants.
Diesel fuel is a greater risk than yellow cake. Yellow cake is
transported in secure containers. A spill would be relatively
easy to clean up.
Diesel fuel is more mobile, transported in greater quantities in less
secure containers, and more difficult to clean up.
But Angela Pamela’s tailings dam would be in the catchment area for
We would have to know what would happen in the case of a mega flood –
we know these have happened in the past, around 1200 and 2000 years
BEAR (who specifies that this comment relates only to tailings
impoundment, not to spills): Your source is right to mention any
tailings or other mining products that might lead to adverse
The possible impacts depend on the nature of the tailings or other
products, the prevailing climate, and the methods used to isolate or
otherwise dispose of them.
LETTERS: Today's truants are
Sir,– I am somewhat bemused (at the very least) and outraged (at the
very most) when I read of someone in the Education Department
responding to a query by Christopher Raja that, “... it is not possible
to ‘force’ students to be at school.”
I would ask, at what level is it not possible to do this?
Apparently the public has not yet had enough of a gutfull not only of
juvenile truancy and crime but also of ever-increasing rates of
incarceration of, and I will say it flat out, Aboriginal young men ...
the ultimate product of school truancy.
It must surely cost $60,000 plus per year to incarcerate someone in
prison. How about the government allocating a half-million
dollars for six or so full-time truancy officers to police the streets
during daytime hours and “forcibly” take them to school ... even
a specially set up classroom designed specifically for truant students
of all ages and staffed by the very best educators.
And when the parents are located, ensure that their Centrelink payments
are fully quarantined until they can demonstrate anything resembling
And if they cannot achieve this minimum goal, then remove the children
and place them in foster homes and, for once, fully resourcing and not
abusing or neglecting foster parents (through a corrupt and / or
incompetent FACS system) rather than engaging the services of full-time
These kids need families, and I don’t particularly care whether they
are black, white or brindle!
I am a late-in-life adult educator, specialising in remedial literacy
and numeracy, and I will argue vociferously the case that, current TV
ads notwithstanding, it IS definitely and OFTEN too late to
The optimum age for learning to read and write and do maths is between
the ages of 4 to15.
It is not when one has turned 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60. This isn’t
rocket science! We have a seven and a half year old Aboriginal
foster son who has been in our care for most of his life. And his
current reading level exceeds the reading level of over 50% of the 100+
adult Aboriginal men (and to a far lesser extent, women) that I have
attempted to teach to read over the last four years. Perhaps I am
not all that good of a teacher! But my grand educational theory
is summed up in the formula: “Educational Success is achieved by
having Bums on Seats over Time!”
God help us if we as a society and culture(s) cannot figure this matter
Is mural next?
Sir,– Here I go again, but it was with shock that I noted the decision
of the K-Mart building owners to demolish the sandstone mural.
What about the painted mural done by the Kessings? Will that also go?
I wouldn’t go as far as calling it heritage but it is significant in
the town make-up. It is a legacy to Alderman Smith who was on the
Planning Authority at the time and strongly objected to the enormous
blank wall to be erected facing West. The compromise accepted by all at
the time was the sandstone mural.
Many is the time I spoke with tourists taking photos and commenting on
this beautiful work.
It is a great pity that decisions being made today take no account of
the hows and whens of the past.
It is a great pity that when you can shift Abu Simbel [ancient Egyptian
temple] and restore the great Buddhas we are being told ‘well it wasn’t
done properly and a brick might fall off, so let’s knock it down.’
What a lot of rot and shame on the Department of Planning.
Don’t let it happen!
Hermann Weber AM
Ex-Alice, now in Clare, SA
Uranium in local water?
Sir,- I’m writing about the front page uranium article (Alice News,
November 20), “How ‘tiny’ can become big in the nuclear heat”.
Uranium in the local water supply would no doubt be a bad thing.
I for one could not think of a worse situation for a town like Alice
Springs, being in the position it is.
I also fully agree with Ms Parks, if a scientist would like to venture
an opinion, stand up and be counted, don’t hide behind anonymity.
Uranium ore has a decay rate (half-life) measured in millions of years.
When uranium ore has fully decayed, it is lead.
Mining the uranium ore does not increase the radioactive strength.
I can safely assume the uranium ore in the ground at the proposed mine
site was once much more radioactive.
I can also assume the water seeping into the catchment area through the
uranium ore has been doing this for millions of years.
Yet the water is not polluted with uranium at this time.
Now a mining company wants to take away the uranium ore, so preventing
the possible pollution of my water.
The problem is?
ED – The scientist is well known to the Alice Springs News. We accepted
the reason for anonymity, and chose to publish the information because
we consider it authentic and in the public interest. This is
established practice in media organisations around the western world.
Sir,– The Government’s claims to be committed to child protection
in the Northern Territory are in tatters.
The Health Minister’s disgraceful mismanagement of the installation of
security cameras at Royal Darwin Hospital after the rape of a
five-month old baby there in March 2006 is just part of the story of
this Government’s systemic failure to protect children.
There has been a totally unacceptable delay in the implementation of
the Government’s Care and Protection of Children Act.
Amid great fanfare by this Government, the Bill was introduced into
Parliament in August 2007 – 15 months later it still hasn’t come into
And when it does finally become operational next month, the November
26th edition of the Government Gazette shows great slabs of the Bill
are not even going to commence.
This delay – and the missing chunks – shows child protection is
tragically low on the Government’s list of priorities.
When the Government introduced the Bill in August 2007 the then
Minister, Marion Scrymgour described it as: “A comprehensive approach
to prevent harm and exploitation to children”.
After revelations in May 2006 on the ABC’s Lateline program of the
shocking levels of abuse of children in Aboriginal communities, the
Government pledged to lift its game.
Sadly, in a practical sense, the Government has done very little to
prove that commitment.
Shadow Minister for Child Protection