December 4, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


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 The Gap.
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 week.
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 semi-rural”.
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 title holders.
“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 KIERAN FINNANE.

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 effective interventions.
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 talk.
“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 committee.
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 behaviour issues.
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 the river.
“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 mobile cameras.
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 monitoring costs.
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 week.
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 KIERAN FINNANE.

 Rocks alongside the recently developed Discovery Walkway, leading from the railway station to the Stuart Highway, are painted to look like sandstone.
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 painted.
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 be insulting:
“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 uncertain future.
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 process.
 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 future.  
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 conditions.  
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 chance”?
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 KIERAN FINNANE.

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 process”.
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 Development Permit.
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 said.
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 wall. 
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 repair.
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 owner?
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 advice.
“The certifier and building owner are responsible for making the building safe.”
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 structure safe.”
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 NT.
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 News.
“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 first place.”
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 industrial area.

When art becomes part of every day.

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 lives.
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 white toddler.
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 photographs.

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 Willshire? 

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 more, really, 
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 be called.
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 Willshire’s presence. 
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 shifted. 
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 KIERAN FINNANE.

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 familiar.
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, she said.
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 himself.
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 country”.
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 company”.

Bush cures. By KIERAN FINNANE.

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, scabies, burns.
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 generations.
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?
Of course.
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 Pastor Paul.
“When I saw him here I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to run and hug him.”
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 restored building.
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 language groups.

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 is different. 
Third, how does the uranium in water react with rock, or with changes in water chemistry (e.g., acidity, oxidation, other elements and compounds)? 
Uranium can precipitate or dissolve depending on the conditions and surrounding rock and soil, which affects how much can remain in the water. 
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 cattle yards.
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 hydraulic gradient”.
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 future.
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 Rocky Hill. 
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 ago.
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 environmental impacts. 
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 tomorrow's prisoners.

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 responsible parenting. 
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 “paid carers”. 
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 learn. 
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 out!
Steve Swartz
Alice Springs

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?
Richard Kinsel
Alice Springs
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.

Protecting children?
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 effect.
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.
Jodeen Carney
Shadow Minister for Child Protection

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