February 19, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Grass, not trees main fire worry. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Buffel grass, not trees, are posing the main fire risk in Alice Springs, says local fire station commander John Kleeman.
He was asked to comment on a push by Deputy Mayor Murray Stewart to review the Town Council’s policy of planting two trees for every one lost.
Ald Stewart, expressing concern about the potential fire risk, says the council is due to plant 1200 trees after losing 600 in the storm last September.
He is also calling for a far better system of warning the public of imminent fire or flood danger, adding personal notification via mobile and landline phones, SMS and email to the current medium: “Unless you’re listening to a radio you are buggered,” he says.
Mr Kleeman (pictured) agrees with Ald Stewart’s second proposition: “Anything that alerts the town, delivering a message, we support wholeheartedly.”
However, he doesn’t regard trees as a major threat to the town: “Grass is more of a problem than trees, especially buffel,” says Mr Kleeman, and the major cause of tree fires are “itinerants” in the Todd and Charles Rivers.
The town has a Counter Disaster Committee, chaired by the town’s most senior police officer, (at present either Bert Hofer or Sean Parnell) who would order compulsory evacuations if necessary.
This has never been necessary in his 25 years as a fire fighter in Alice Springs, says Mr Kleeman.
Victorian authorities, in the tragic fires of Black Saturday, left it to the residents to decide whether to stay or leave.
In 2003 in Alice, when the season was similar to the current one, there were 900 grass fires in three months in the 360 square kilometers of the Municipality of Alice Springs, says Mr Kleeman.
No lives were lost but a caravan and a shed were destroyed in the farm areas.
He says the fire service will carry out some precautionary burning this year, getting rid of dry grass around trees, without implementing “a scorched earth policy”.
“Once the fire is in the base of trees they’re like a chimney and near impossible to put out.”
Mr Kleeman says this work will be done preferably with consent of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, which has an interest in sacred trees in the rivers, but in any case, the fire service will take all necessary precautions to keep the town safe.
The Town Council is now seeking expert comment on a system proposed by Ald Stewart.
Members of the public, having alerted authorities on 000, then ring another number, recording a brief message.
The computerized service will enquire – twice – whether the message should be transmitted to the people who have joined the system, and if that’s confirmed, it will go out via phone, mobile, SMS as well as email.
Mr Kleeman says the fire station in Alice Springs is “stand alone”, which means there is no nearby service with a similar capacity.
The fire stations in Yulara and Tennant Creek are small.
In Alice the “fieries” have eight major fire fighting appliances, including two volunteer units.
There are 12 volunteers, with a base on Ross Highway, and 27 full time fire fighters.
If necessary the town’s forces will be supported by Bushfires NT, which has at its disposal graders and front end loaders, and which looks after the vast outback area of The Centre, sometimes the source of fires threatening the town.
Mr Kleeman says intelligence is obtained from personal observations, satellite images and weather reports and forecasts.

$30m power  station plan for Pine Gap. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

A planned $30m expansion of the powerhouse at the Pine Gap space base could bring employment and business opportunities to Alice Springs.
A “global defence contractor” is advertising nationally for an Electrical Construction Manager to oversee the expansion, as well as for a Team Leader (Inventory Management), a Logistics Coordinator, an Inventory Management Specialist and a Logistics Team Leader. 
The advertisement also refers to “PM roles and Construction roles” as “currently required”.
The contractor has “over 75,000 employees globally and over 1200 nationally”, according to the advertisement, and claims to be “one of the most high tech organisations in the world, providing mission and military support to the Defence industry and its customers”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defence says the planned upgrades are still in negotiation with prospective contractors and the $30m expenditure cannot yet be confirmed.
If it goes ahead, the expansion will be funded through the Australian and American Governments, says the spokesperson. 
At a time of economic uncertainty, the global financial crisis will apparently not influence operations at Pine Gap, located some 20 kms south-west of town.
“The Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap is an important, ongoing commitment by both the Australian and United States governments,” says the spokesperson.
The upgrade, which will come on top of significant expenditure in town on housing for Pine Gap personnel, involves moving from diesel to dual-fuel generation resulting in “more cost effective and environmentally friendly energy services to meet the needs of the facility”.
Work will be done in compliance with stringent Commonwealth environmental protection laws, and policies are audited on a regular basis, says the spokesperson.
The base meets its own energy needs and does not draw on Alice Springs power.
The global defence contractor gives Alice Springs a good wrap.
Applicants are encouraged to come and “enjoy the sunshine in Alice Springs”.
The jobs, for Australian citizens only, will not be “fly in, fly out” but Alice Springs based “which offers excellent lifestyle advantages of living in Australia’s most famous town”.
It is “considered to be the center of Australia” and “attracts over half a million visitors from around the world each year”, says the advertisement.
Meanwhile, work continues on the relocation of noisy Taurus and Titan gas turbine generators from the power station in Alice Springs to the Brewer Industrial Estate south of town.
A site manager has been appointed and a site office established by MAN Diesel Australia, who were awarded the $60m design and construct contract.
The Taurus and Titan won’t be moved until after the high peak summer period, and “infrastructure and temporary connection arrangements are in place”.

Massive coal deposit claim in Simpson Desert.

Central Petroleum, which has an extensive resource exploration program in Central Australia, says an area of the Simpson Desert straddling the South Australian-Northern Territory border “promises to be a serious contender in Australia’s rapidly emerging underground coal gasification, coal bed methane and gas-to-liquids industries”.
Managing director John Heugh says a report to the Australian Stock Exchange says there is a potential for well in excess of one trillion tonnes of coal with estimates suggesting the coal seam potential is very well identified between 200 and 1,000 metres depth.
Central Petroleum commissioned the independent report.
It comes in the wake of the discovery by the company late last year of significant coal thicknesses of well over 100 metres of cumulative coal seams.
“This is a significant conclusion,” says Mr Heugh.
“The estimate is based on a realistic contribution of several factors, including a fresh interpretation of the geometry of the Basin, three dimensional data from seismic surveys, 2008 drillholes including cumulative coal intercepts of much greater than 100 metres, and supporting geophysical downhole logging data.”

Claims about Kittle earnings ahead of Centrecorp hearing. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Senate probe into Centrecorp Aboriginal Investment Corporation Pty Ltd, due to resume last week, has been postponed to – most likely – Friday, February 27, according to information from the office of NT Senator Nigel Scullion.
Meanwhile an employment website has disclosed what it purports to be financial details of the Peter Kittle Motor Company (PKMC), the flagship investment of the secretive Centrecorp.
The Murdoch operated CareerOne site says PKMC has an annual turnover of more than $129m, and has 175 employees.
“Peter Kittle Motor Company has two Northern Territory dealerships; in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and three South Australian dealerships in; Whyalla, Port Lincoln, and Adelaide,” the site says.
The head of PKMC, Peter Kittle, says the information on the website is incorrect.
He also says PKMC has no connection with Centrecorp.
Alice Car Centre Pty Ltd trades as PKMC and one of Mr Kittle’s private companies, Yaamba Pty Ltd, owns 50% of PKMC (as the News reported in April, 2006).
The other half is owned by CAAMV Pty Ltd.
CAAMV has four shares, all of which are owned by Centrecorp.
CAAMV’s address is the same as Centrecorp’s, 75 Hartley Street in Alice Springs.
A director of CAAMV is David Ross, director of the Central Land Council (CLC), which has a three fifths controlling share of Centrecorp.
That clearly is a “connection”.
In the Senate Estimates hearings Federal Shadow Attorney General George Brandis will be demanding further answers from Mr Ross about Centrecorp, which has interests in assets worth an estimated $100m.
Mr Ross declined to reply to some questions from Senator Brandis about the company during the hearings last October.
Mr Ross was required to give answers by December 12 to questions he had taken on notice, but failed to do so.
(See the archive section of the Alice Springs News Online edition, Oct 30, Nov 6 and Dec 11, 2008 and Feb 5, 2009).
It is possible that Senator Brandis will explore whether Mr Ross has a conflict of interest: the CLC is an agency of the Commonwealth Government, which makes Mr Ross a kind of Federal public servant.

Suspend funding for IAD, group demands.

The fight for the Institute of Aboriginal Development (IAD) deepened this week, with a call for the suspension of funding for the organisation.
Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, has been called on “to order the suspension of funding of IAD by the Territory Government, and to initiate an urgent independent audit investigation into IAD financial management, in particular any non-compliance by the Institute with government funding contracts and its Registered Training Organization requirements”.
The call comes from  “a prominent group of members” of IAD, including “its former Board” and its former Chairman and Public Officer”, Neville Perkins, according to a media release issued by Mr Perkins. 
The release says the group will also call on the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, “to suspend her Department’s significant funding for IAD and to initiate a joint independent audit investigation into the Institute’s financial management, with particular regard to any IAD non-compliance with Federal Government funding contracts”.

Why are some missing the bus? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The government’s decision to provide free travel for students on public transport has – surprisingly – prompted one welfare lobby to claim the move is discriminating against some children.
“Some already-disadvantaged groups will miss out again,” says Jonathan Pilbrow, Central Australian policy officer for the NT Council of Social Service (NTCOSS).
Among them, primarily, he says are “children from the Alice Springs town camps” although generally the measure may “help some schools to reach the 90% attendance benchmark recently announced by the Government”.
While the public bus service in Alice Springs doesn’t cover a lot of ground, the town has an extensive school bus network.
It goes immediately past, or within a few hundred metres, of all the town’s 18 camps (see map).
What’s more, several of the camps are within reasonable walking distance of a school. The Alice Springs News put this to Mr Pilbrow.
He replied: “It is interesting to note that bus routes cater for students living in outlying areas of town such as people south of The Gap.
“For example, Route 1 commences at Schaber Road, some 6.5 km from the last stop on the South Stuart Highway (Radio 8HA).
“Route 3 starts at the corner of Bullen Road and Larapinta Drive, and travels the whole distance into town ending up at Braitling Primary School, some 25 km (approximately) later.
“This same bus drives down Len Kittle Drive and turns at the end – 100 metres from the entrance to Little Sisters Camp – yet there is no bus stop outside the town camp.”
Mr Pilbrow says he is not aware “if a specific request has been made” for a bus stop at Little Sisters camp, near The Gap.
John Adams heads up the family support service of Tangentyere Council.
The council is understood to be receiving an estimated $23m a year in public funding, mostly from the Commonwealth, to provide services to town camps.
Tangentyere, which has repeatedly refused to give detailed financial information to the Alice Springs News, was founded in 1977 under the name Tunkatjira.
Mr Adams says some five years ago the NT Government gave Tangentyere $45,000 a year to run one small school bus.
However, the number of camps and schools it would have had to service was too great and Tangentyere suggested to the government it should give the money to the schools.
So far as he knows the money wasn’t re-allocated to schools.
He says there were extensive discussions about school bus services to town camps but all the Government would say was they would “re-do the routes in 2010 and will include the camps in the discussions”.
Mr Adams says he doesn’t know whether a request has been made for a bus stop at Little Sisters, and suggested asking Stuart Shearer, of the NT Department of Infrastructure and Planning (DPI).
Mr Shearer offered to send a bus routes map, slightly updated, to the Alice Springs News, after the deadline of this edition, but was not available to answer questions.
Mr Pilbrow claims “school children from Little Sisters Camp would have to walk to the bus stop at the G’day Mate Caravan Park on Palm Circuit, some 1.3 km from the camp,” and they would have to cross the Stuart Highway.
Despite the comprehensive school bus service provided by the NT Government, Mr Pilbrow says there are parallel services for the town camp children.
He says: “Workers from non-government organisations are spending hours each morning, playing the critical role of transporting children to school.
“While some children from town camps are picked up by school buses run by the schools themselves, some of these bus services are stretched to capacity.
“Many families on town camps have no regular transport options.
“This has meant that non-government organisations are having to fill the gaps left by the lack of a public bus service to town camps, and the fact that not every school runs its own bus service.”
The controversy highlights not only the reluctance to mobilise self-help, but the futility of submissions to the NT Government: the Government did not provide what it was asked for, it seems, nor did it point out how the problems, clearly without great difficulty, could be fixed with available resources.
Says Mr Pilbrow: “In its last three pre-Budget submissions to the NT Government, NTCOSS has highlighted ... the need to address transport issues for children from town camps needing to get to school” and pointed out “that support organisations lack specific funds to support children and families around education issues, and to put in place creative projects which will meet identified needs, for example, responses to transport or attendance issues.
“NTCOSS also had transport as one key issue at our April 2008 Conference, held in Darwin.”
Mr Pilbrow says there has been “much conversation / correspondence” with DPI and the Government.
“Other organisations have also been raising these issues with Government for years, for example, Yipirinya School and NGOs.”
But transport, says Mr Pilbrow, is not the only problem: “It is not merely a matter of simply enrolling a child on day one and dropping them off at the front.
“To overcome the barriers to attending and remaining at school, which many children from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas face, requires varying levels of support.
“Some students may also require intensive support, every morning for an extended period of time, to help get them back to school and help sustain them there.
“Having the support of a youth or family (liaison) worker can be the difference between a young person staying at, or dropping out of school.
“Having someone to provide a link between the young person, family and the school can be critical to smooth out problems as they occur. It takes a long time to help some students re-engage with and fully settle into school.”
Mr Pilbrow makes no comment on any role the parents may reasonably be expected to have in this process, nor their legal obligations. That, Mr Adams says, may be opening a can or worms.
He says we need to look at the way the government pays kids’ money: “We need to make sure carers get the money.”
And these are quite often grandmothers, even great-grandmothers.
“If the parents are picking up the money, and haven’t been seen since Adam was a boy, it’s very difficult.
“If a parent is drinking and doesn’t care for the child, a grandmother may not cause a fuss about the kids’ money, because the parents may take back the child.
“The day will come when those old people are no longer around.
“This is the biggest issue of my family support service,” says Mr Adams.

Landscape of neglect. By KIERAN FINNANE.

If something isn’t done soon about maintaining the landscaping at the Discovery Walkway, between the railway station and Larapinta Drive, work will have to start again almost from scratch.
So says Tony Parkyn of Ilparpa Nursery, who completed the $60,000 landscaping contract in May last year after six to seven weeks’ work.
The walkway, designed as an introduction to the Centre for rail passengers, is a joint project by Great Southern Rail and Tourism NT, funded by the NT Government (to the tune of $330,000).
The Alice News has previously reported on the use of rocks pigmented to look like sandstone as well as the infestation of weeds at the walkway.(See our web archive, December 4, 2008 and, for Great Southern Rail’s response, February 5, 2009.)
Now, after summer rains, some – thistles, and fur bushes which when they dry out become a tumbleweed – are over a metre high.
Couch is as thick as ever though it has dried off.
Clusters of paddy melon are bursting and scattering their seeds.
There are clumps of buffel grass.
The general appearance, despite some flowering native plants, is one of neglect.
Across the tracks, along the feature fence, native trees have been planted and are doing well, with the immediate area around them maintained.
Apparently that patch is the responsibility of the Department of Transport and Works.
Mr Parkyn says he stressed from the start the necessity of regular maintenance (not part of his contract) and has made repeated contact with the powers that be, urging that it be undertaken.
A rescue effort now would probably be able to salvage about 30% of the original work, says Mr Parkyn.
He says big weeds should be first removed by hand – carefully so as to limit the spread of seeds – and spray used to control any regrowth.
If spray is used first up that will leave ugly dead weeds behind – hardly better than the present look.
It will take two to three years to get on top of the weeds “there is now so much seed in the ground”, says Mr Parkyn.
“The big thistles have seeded tenfold by now.”
Contrary to his expectation, there is not much evidence of vandalism to plants.
“There’s the odd plant broken, but it’s not too bad,” he says.
They are suffering more from the competition of weeds.
As part of Mr Parkyn’s contract he supplied a number of large genuine sandstone boulders for the landscaping. He was not responsible for the placement of the pigmented quarry rocks, made to look like sandstone.
On the cause for their deterioration (the natural blue colour of the rock is showing through), he says “it’s called rain”.
The Town Council has been approached to maintain the site, and while they have the workforce with the skills, they are unwilling to take it on without a fee for service.
They estimate the work would cost them around $40,000 a year.
A council spokesperson says a meeting of all players, including GSR, NT Government, Tourism Central Australia and the council, is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Looking on the sunny side. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

After four and a half months under the Central Australian summer sun, some technologies at the $3.1m Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre are standing up better than others.
Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) and Amorphous Silicon Panels – both thin-film technologies – have performed consistently well, says the Centre for Appropriate Technology’s Lyndon Frearson, who has worked closely with the Solar Centre and Solar City program.
An advantage of thin-film technologies is that they consume less photoelectric material and therefore production costs are lower.
An alternative thin-film technology, the Copper Indium Galium di-Sellenide (CIGS) array, has not performed well in this initial period.
The supplier is working on improving the performance of this array, watched keenly because of its versatile application.
It can be incorporated into building materials, such as roof tiles, windows and commercial building panels.
The efficiency ratings of the thin-film technologies are all lower than that of the roof-mounted arrays used in urban household applications like those of Alice Solar City.
CdTe has an efficiency rating of 10%; Amorphous silicon, 6%; and CIGS, 7%; compared to 13.1% for the roof mounted array.
The highest efficiency rating for any of the technologies at the Solar Centre is 17.3%. This is for the Back Contact Silicon array, in which the electrical connections have been moved to the back of the cells, allowing the module’s surface to absorb more sunlight. This is the technology being used at the Crowne Plaza hotel, launched this week.
Solar Centre has an online website where anyone (after an application and approval process) can log on and view how the systems, 16 in all, have been operating and draw their own conclusions from the detailed data collected.
Once 12 months of data from the systems has been collected, the centre wants to undertake or manage a thorough review of the performance of all of the systems. However, Mr Frearson says this will require significant skills and resources, which will need further investment.
Meanwhile, the solar farm project in Ilparpa Valley, whose 26 14-metre high mirrored dishes tracking the sun are costed at $6.6m, is expected to produce around 1800 Mega Watts (MW) each year, which is about what 210 average Alice Springs households consume.
The 35 photovoltaic systems (making electricity from sunlight) installed in Alice Springs households during the first year of the Alice Solar City project generate around 110 MW hours per year.
Several of these households with low energy consumption are on track to being self-sufficent and therefore energy neutral. Larger households may only be 25% self-sufficient. Air conditioning and swimming pools, for instance, can greatly increase the amount of energy used. 
These figures give an idea of the extensive infrastructure and investment required to make the town substantially reliant on the sun for its energy production.
A further 10 to15 PV systems are planned to be installed each month in town this year.
A revised total of 150 PV systems, down from 225, are eligible for subsidies through the Solar City program. The revision down is because of the greater than expected take-up of larger units. 
Depending on demand the majority of the 150 PV systems should be installed before the end of June.
Some 600 households and 32 businesses, including notably the Crowne Plaza hotel with its massive rooftop installation, have registered with Solar City’s Commercial Services program.
Data on energy consumption is collected before and after registration. 
Figures on energy savings achieved so far are not yet available.
Energy auditors have conducted around 500 voluntary home energy surveys over the last year. The initial survey target for the five-year duration of the program was 1500 homes, so progress to date is good.
The surveys have shown that a lot of energy is unnecessarily wasted.
For example, around a third of those households surveyed using solar water heating were not using the boosters on their systems properly. The switch, drawing on mains power, is designed for use on cloudy days when the solar system will not work as efficiently as on sunny days. If the switch is left on, energy continues to be consumed, thus adding unnecessary expense to a household’s energy bill. 
Air-conditioning units are also not always used correctly. A “swampy” needs to have windows and doors (facing away from the wind direction) open, allowing the air to circulate and cool.  In contrast, a refrigerated split-system works most efficiently if doors and windows are shut, not wasting cool air on unused rooms or letting it escape outside.
As well as offering subsidies for insulation and lighting, the Alice Solar City project is subsidising solar hot water systems replacing conventional ones, with over 90 installed so far and a target of 1000 to be installed over the life of the project that will run until June 30, 2013.

Ayers Rock resort is still up for grabs. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

The Ayers Rock Resort, owned by the billion-dollar GPT Group, is still for sale.
GPT is one of Australia’s largest property groups. Its whole tourism and hotel portfolio, 7% of GPT’s total assets, is on the market. The portfolio includes the high-profile Voyages empire, of which the Ayers Rock Resort as well as the Alice Springs Resort are part.
GPT’s spokesperson for tourism and hotels portfolio, Bruce Morris, says there are “no further updates” about the portfolio.
“We have various parties interested but it’s too early to tell,” says Mr Morris.
In the next month or so GPT will release their accounts, which should confirm the current sale price for the tourism and hotels portfolio.
GPT have considered dividing the properties in order to sell. 
The company stands with its decision to sell, as it is keen to refocus on its core retail, office and industrial sectors, says Mr Morris.
According to The Australian (December 11, 2008) the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) last year approached a number of large hotel chains to purchase the Ayers Rock Resort in a joint venture with Aboriginal landowners at Uluru (Ayers Rock).
The Alice Springs News asked the ILC about the current situation. Eric Robert, Manager of Public Affairs, says: “ILC has no comment to make.”
Voyages spokesperson, Louise Longman, says occupancy figures for Ayers Rock Resort month to date are 50.11%, up on what they budgeted for but down on last year’s figures. 

Tangentyere answers questions on Barb Shaw’s money raising. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Tangentyere executive director William Tilmouth has disclosed details about money being raised by Aboriginal activist Barbara Shaw (pictured above) for children in need after a member of an Aboriginal family in Alice Springs, who asked not to be named, claimed the funds were not accounted for.
The man said $40,000 had been raised in one year in an appeal supported by the public broadcaster, SBS TV.
But Mr Tilmouth says: “Barbara Shaw is an active member of the Tangentyere Executive Council.
“All donations to the Tangentyere Gift account are administered by the Tangentyere finance division in compliance with government regulations, strict internal controls, and are audited annually.
“Barb, in her efforts to lobby for safe environments for indigenous children, has attracted donations of $2,275 to the Tangentyere Gift Fund. 
“None of these funds have been accessed.
“Donations to the Tangentyere Gift Fund are used to benefit people on all 18 town camps,” says Mr Tilmouth.
“The Council does receive very attractive donations to our gift fund. 
“Recently the National Australia Bank provided a generous donation, with funds used to purchase a second-hand coaster bus for the Drum Atweme program.”
About a year ago SBS screened a report about Ms Shaw on the program Living Black.
The station’s website says “Living Black would like to thank all those wanting to help Barbara Shaw (aka Aunt Ginny) – who’s opened her doors for as many as 20 children living in Alice Springs.
“Currently a great need exists for funding to set up more safe houses like this in Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory – to ensure children have a safe place to go if needed.
“If people want to make financial donations, they can do so through the following account – Tangentyere Council Gift Fund” and cites bank account details.  
The appeal is still on the SBS website.
Living Black executive producer Karla Grant says the report had generated a “huge response from viewers who wanted to send donations” but what Ms Shaw does with the money “is not our concern.
“As far as we know the money is going to safe houses.”
Ms Grant says Ms Shaw has four children of her own and is looking after “many, many more children. I can’t put a number on it.”
Ms Grant says SBS frequently publicises, in their stories about charitable initiatives, ways in which donations can be made.
Ms Shaw is currently seeking support from the United Nations in the blocking of the Federal Intervention on grounds of racial discrimination.
She lives with her extended family, including her father, Geoff, in the Mt Nancy town camp which is supported by Tangentyere.
Mr Shaw is the organization’s vice-president and its former executive director.  The Alice Springs News has raised the question whether Mr Shaw, given his employment background, would ordinarily qualify for public housing.
Mr Tilmouth said: “Geoff Shaw is a Vietnam Veteran on a pension and qualifies for community housing.”

See how your garden grows. By guest writer JIMMY COCKING.

A community garden isn’t just a garden – it is also a place where art shows, community events, celebrations and workshops can regularly take place.
And Alice Springs is one step closer to having one, pending a decision by the Town Council this Monday.
Community gardens are well-recognised by social commentators, governments and communities all over the world for cultivating healthier, happier and more vibrant places to live.
A community garden in Alice Springs could become a catalyst to reviving the self-sufficiency the town had in the 1940s.
Growing food locally would help buffer the town from some of the impacts of climate change, with recent floods and fires in food producing regions predicted to affect the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables across the country.
Using Town Basin water efficiently, a community garden will demonstrate a productive use of groundwater that needs to be sustainably managed to maintain water quality and salt levels.  
It will provide space for cultural exchange with local bush foods being cultivated and opportunities for educational projects and programs in partnership with local schools and community organisations.
The Community Garden Steering Group has proposed to the  Town Council that a section of Frances Smith Park in Eastside be set aside for the development of a community garden.
The council will make its decision on Monday. We are hopeful that Council takes this opportunity to set Alice Springs on a path towards sustainability and improved community vitality by supporting this exciting new development.

Work is not out of reach. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

There are 90 workers, mostly Aboriginal, on the books and two to three more coming in search of work each day, says newly appointed CEO of Arrernte Workforce Solutions, Geoffrey Doyle.
However 52 of the workers are CDEP (Community Development Employment Project) participants.Arrernte Workforce Solutions (AWS) grew out of the old Arrernte Council, which went into liquidation.
The new look organization, overseen by a board with respected Aboriginal businessman Paul Ah Chee at the helm, offers training for those looking to get into or return to work.
It also fills a niche by supplying short-term skilled labour, in demand in Alice.
Mr Doyle says AWS aims to get 10 people a month into full time, mainstream employment: “Over the past year we have successfully achieved just over half this number.
“We have to make sure they are ready for work.” 
If people don’t have the correct training, they are more likely to leave the job, he says. 
At the company’s McDonald Street office Anthea Tucker is training to become a receptionist.
Ms Tucker was born in Alice Springs but has mostly lived in communities out of town.
“I never thought I would get a job like this,” she says.“I am learning a lot, I will have a new skill.
“You can still have your culture. “If you are willing to work, look clean and presentable, you can have a job and earn money.
“I am so happy that my life is changing for the better. I made that change.
“I made it happen.”
Mr Doyle says AWS is getting more ground maintenance and construction maintenance contracts. Like any other business AWS faces challenges but on the whole workers are doing “a great job”, which includes turning up promptly at 5.30am each day.
AWS is also placing some workers with contractors. “If we continue to mentor and monitor their progress there is a high probability that they will succeed and become long term, valued employees,” says Mr Doyle.

ADAM'S APPLE: A sound I’ll never forget.

There is a sound I have heard but once. A sound that I will never forget. So loud and so unlike any sound I’d heard before or since.
It’s a sound that gave me nightmares for weeks. A sound that I now associate with fear and panic and death.
I had been staying in the small New South Wales town of Muswellbrook for a couple of days. I was there to do four school holiday shows at the local shopping centre. Not the most glamorous gig but during the school holidays one must make the most of it. Plus it’s always nice to get out of the city for a couple of days.
It was a Friday lunchtime when I packed the car to leave Muswellbrook.
I had organised a couple of days in Canberra, staying with a good mate. I was going to help him and his then heavily pregnant wife do some yard work on their newly purchased home.
Steven had just discovered that he was allergic to the quite large and invasive Wisteria that was taking up most of the front garden.
The trip from Muswellbrook to Canberra is about seven hours.
It was a ridiculously hot day. So hot in fact that I stopped at the roadside just past Newcastle and removed my pants for the rest of the drive.
Wearing nothing but boxers and a t-shirt, I arrived in Canberra as the sun was setting over the beautiful Brindabella Ranges. The tops of the hills flickering as they so often did in summer with the far away bushfires.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast it was straight to the yard work. A glorious, warm day and that tricky Wisteria was not going to beat me.
Just before lunch I was sinking my mattock into the woody root of this plant (by then only to be described in expletives) when a police car stopped in front of the driveway.
A young police woman told us that our day of yard work might want to come to an end so that we could prepare the house for what everyone now knows as “ember attack”.
The change in wind direction was moving the far away fire to not so far away.
By about 2pm the sky was so black and the air so thick I couldn’t see where the patrol car stopped at the front of the short driveway.
My friend’s brand new home was under attack from the most Australian of menaces.
We were told to go now or stay. Collectively we decided to stay as many of the new neighbours were elderly and needed their gutters plugged and filled with water.
I was filling the bath with water when the power went out. A couple of seconds later I heard a massive explosion. An explosion that shook every cell in our bodies. Minutes later we realised that the boom was the gas bottles exploding at the petrol station at the end of the street.
This was the first time we were really scared. The fire was just down the road and any idea of getting out now was dashed as to get out meant going past that petrol station.
Moments later we were all standing outside, wet t-shirts around our faces, hoses wetting whatever they could reach.
And then I heard that sound. It was the sound of the fire. Actually, not so much the fire but the oxygen being sucked from the air. A whoosh unlike any whoosh I have ever heard.
Fortunately for us the fire chose the street next to ours to scorch its name onto the lives of the residents there. Houses were lost in that street but not in ours.
Above me, almost directly, the rotor blades of the giant Elvis helicopter swirled in the darkened sky, as its wet cargo was dropped.
The Canberra bushfires rank right up there with the most terrifying moments of my life.
I can’t comprehend the enormity of what occurred on Black Saturday in Victoria. Every television news, every national paper, every news web site shows the anguish on the faces of thousands and thousands of people.
The Red Cross has raised almost $100 million. A massive contribution from the nation. Yet we all know that $100 million just scratches the surface when it comes to rebuilding such a massive loss.
Alice Springs has been incredible. The amount of generosity this town has shown to people we don’t even know swells the heart and cleanses the soul.
The most Australian menace is one we all know. One to which we can all relate.
But we look at those directly affected by the February fires and we see their despair, their anguish and their pain.
We see it in their faces – stoic men with tears in their eyes – and we wonder how anyone comes back from such an ordeal.
But the answer is also written on their faces.
We know that humanity can be frail and weak and cruel and uncaring and selfish and vulnerable. We know it because sometimes we all are those things.
But we also know that in times of great tragedy, when normality is a distant memory and trial and strife are the norm, when the chips are down, humanity’s capacity may well know no limit.

Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY: Darling beats of May.

They say that the number one killer of old people is retirement. Folks tend to live just a bit longer when they have something to work on when they wake up each morning.
The idea is relevant for young people too: being tied to a comfort zone is a natural enemy of your own ambitions. Stagnation can easily set in when your day-to-day rituals become a shrine as opposed to just being second nature.
Central Australia is like a giant burning lamp that draws the most eclectic of moths, and when creative minds band together, around the cooking centre of our continent, suddenly dreams can begin to take shape.
So when a small band of Alice Springs locals – Desert Doof Productions –take it upon themselves to step outside the skin of their everyday, and set the wheels in motion to give the town a new music and cultural festival, there’s excitement in the air.
Watch as a new festival enterprise for the Centre comes to fruition. The three day event has been scheduled for the first three days of May.
The location is yet to be announced, and the mystery of what headline acts that will be travelling north to Alice will be revealed over coming weeks.
One thing we know for sure is that  this event will offer local musicians and bands a chance to showcase their talents in front of what will potentially be a very large and enthusiastic crowd.
The long term goal of the event is to fill a musical void in the opening months of the Alice Springs calendar. When other places have their festival season – Big Day Out, Falls, Homebake, The Fringe, Womad and many other lesser known musical outings – we in the Centre need to take flight if we need “musical soul restoration”.
Now our southern kin will be able to head to the desert to capture the same experience.

LETTERS: Grog down the drain is a waste.

Sir,– I was heartbroken to read that the police throw out 3000 litres of alcohol each month (see last week’s issue). What a waste!
Couldn’t we auction off blocks of alcohol that is unopened and suitable for resale and use the money earnt to fund drying out centres or some other activity related to encouraging responsible drinking?
And is this figure deducted from the amount of alcohol that Alice Springs residents are said to consume annually?
Robin Henry
Unfinished business

Sir,– [Following] the first anniversary of the historic apology to the Stolen Generations, Amnesty International is calling for the Federal Government to deliver full reparation to affected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, using internationally-agreed upon human rights standards.
Last year’s apology was a truly significant first step and we acknowledge the development of some government initiatives in this area such as the Link Up program, which attempts to reunite Indigenous people with their communities. However, Australia still has a long way to go.
Denying justice for these acknowledged victims of gross human rights violations cannot be excused.
In 2005, the UN General Assembly adopted guidelines on the right to remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law.  These guidelines include the five components that constitute reparation – restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and the guarantee of non-repetition.
Using these UN guidelines as a framework, it’s clear that that Government needs to give priority to a lot of unfinished business.
Restitution, or restoring victims to their original situation, is obviously only partly possible in this instance. However, a compensation scheme like Tasmania’s should be rolled out across other States and Territories.  
Rehabilitation, satisfaction and non-repetition are achievable but ongoing human rights violations and a lack of entrenched protection against discrimination, as we are currently witnessing in the Northern Territory, are serious barriers to progress.
Implementing the 54 recommendations in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 1997 Bringing Them Home report would amount to appropriate reparation. It is very disappointing that they remain largely unfulfilled.
Amnesty International urges the Government to deliver justice to the Stolen Generations by implementing outstanding recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report in consultation with affected Indigenous individuals and groups.
Rodney Dillon
Indigenous Rights Coordinator
Amnesty International Australia


Sir,– Thanks for the info on your weather. Sure sounds hot, translates to about 99F here.
Very sorry to read in the newspapers here about the terrible wildfires you are having in your country.
Rich Shaneberger
New Jersey, USA

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