February 26, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

The latest crime tinkering. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The NT Government describes as a “no-nonsense action plan” its latest dabbling in the reduction of youth crime and antisocial behaviour in Alice Springs.
But like its ill-fated predecessors over three decades, the strategy lacks the resolve to recruit, under threat of penalty, the co-operation of the people principally responsible: the parents or carers of the young offenders, or indeed, of the juvenile victims of an entrenched dysfunctional society in the town camps and mini slums dotted around the town.
Serious offences such as failing to provide the necessities of life, failing to exercise proper care and control, failing to send children to school, and maltreatment through neglect are hardly ever prosecuted, and the need to do so is nowhere to be seen in Chief Minister Paul Henderson’s latest plan.
The Member for Braitling Adam Giles pressed Mr Henderson on the issue in the Legislative Assembly last week: “Will the Education Act be enforced so that parents who do not send their kids to school will be prosecuted?” he asked.
Mr Henderson did not respond, referring only to a “trial with the Commonwealth government, regarding quarantining welfare payments of parents who do not send their kids to school” and to having asked the department “to bring forward options for other measures”.
The Family Responsibility Act, which makes parents accountable for the actions of their kids, won’t be rolled out in Alice Springs until later this year.
And even then any robust action won’t come into play until individual “responsibility agreements” are negotiated, made, possibly appealed, monitored – and broken.
The Act has been in force in Darwin since last July. In the Legislative Assembly last week, Member for Araluen Jodeen Carney asked Minister for Children and Families Malarndirri McCarthy, “How many of those [family responsibility] orders have successfully been implemented?”
The answer: Two.
The trial of docking welfare payments for parents failing to send their kids to school is, in The Centre, limited to Hermannsburg and Wallace Rockhole.
Of course the Henderson plan contains the usual sop to the “more police” clamour: the CBD security patrols will be replaced by a Police Beat, presumably doing much the same.
The increase in the force will be 12 constables, around 5% of what is already a mammoth contingent of 200 officers in Alice Springs.
Compare this to similar towns: Whyalla, population 23,000 – 66 police officers; Kalgoorlie pop 31,000 – 89; Broken Hill pop 20,000 – 61.
But NT Police Commissioner Paul White says: “Alice Springs is unique in terms of being the service centre for 280 remote communities, and its town camps issues: you are dealing with quite a large proportion of the population that are living a very dysfunctional lifestyle.”
Given the sustained incompetence of the other government instrumentalities dealing with the problems, and of a string of publicly funded NGOs, it is probably Commissioner White’s police that is best equipped to implement a coercive approach to make people do the right thing – should the government finally decide to go down that track.
If good conduct and school attendance remains optional, then what point is there in having a Youth Hub; a Middle School uniting Anzac Hill and Alice Springs High campuses; an additional safe house and additional funding to the Gap Youth Centre (having recently declined a $50,000 grant to the deteriorating Alice Springs Youth Centre – Alice News, February 5).
As the police are doing their job, as currently defined, extremely well, it’s obviously not additional police that will make a difference. For example, the national property crime clear-up rate is 17%.
It was 27% in the NT, according to the most recent annual report, says Commissioner White.
And in the past four months, in Alice Springs, the figure climbed to an astonishing 85% of villains caught violating commercial business premises.
He says local Commander Bert Hofer’s Property Crime Reduction Unit, just eight officers, since November have arrested and charged 107 offenders for 229 offences.
Several offenders were caught by officers waiting inside the Feds Club.
What happens after the police work is done, in the courts, isn’t something Commissioner White will comment on, except to say that the jail is “pretty full right now”.
That doesn’t deter police from putting further offenders before the courts: there is no pressure to ease off on prosecutions, he says.
It’s on the other end of police work where the national debate is now focussing.
National Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has called for the prosecution of parents not sending their children to school (Weekend Australian, February 21-22).
In The Centre, where the traditional agencies policing truancy are consistently under-performing, the task may well fall to the police, a large, disciplined and well resourced force commanding respect.
With luck, taking action before kids turn into criminals may well save the cops a lot of work later on.
Commissioner White is prepared to discuss the issue but it is clear that he thinks it is controversial, with especially the Stolen Generations casting a long shadow.
“To some extent I agree that we need to look at maltreatment of children, whether it’s physical, mental or health wise,” says Commissioner White.
“We have a child abuse task force.
“Principally they are looking at child sex abuse, first and foremost, adult on child sex abuse, but also sexualised behaviour between children.
“They are often coming across children who are failing to thrive, and a lot of effort goes into enquiries into the families’ circumstances.
“This is in most cases referred to Family and Community Services (FaCS).
NEWS: How many prosecutions have there been?
“I’d be surprised if there were any.
“What do you do when you prosecute the parents? Where do you send the kids?
“Is prosecuting the family the way to go? Or is it identifying those kids that are in need of care and control and making them the focus of intervention by FaCS?”
NEWS: But that clearly hasn’t worked to the extent that is necessary. For example, many kids don’t go to school.
“Absenteeism is a key issue and it’s a priority for the Education Department.”
NEWS: But it’s also a crime.
“Should the courts criminalize truancy on the part of the parents or is there another way to deal with this?
“I’d like to think the [Federal] intervention are doing their bit as well.
“The bigger picture is, we need to work towards better infrastructure in town camps ... bringing them up to a proper amenity and then holding people accountable,” says Commissioner White.
“Police have a role in crime reduction.
“The health authorities have a role to play [in ensuring] that kids are raised in a healthy environment.
“The Education Department, FaCS have a role to play.
“They are doing a lot.
“I believe the way forward is establishing a better amenity and accountability within the town camps.
“A lot of the homes are overcrowded.”
NEWS: The latest Henderson strategy provides for a new hostel. Should parents be required to place their kids there if they are not looking after them adequately?
“It’s not my bailiwick.”
NEWS: Except when offences of neglect are being committed by the parents.
“I would be encouraged, in terms of the general law and order environment, by anything which improves the supervision and care of kids at risk,” says Commissioner White.
NEWS: On an obligatory basis? With orders being made that neglected children live in such a facility, that confining them to a safe house or emergency accommodation becomes compulsory, not a matter of parents’ choice?
“You are talking about incarceration of children who haven’t committed a crime. I wouldn’t support that.
“The mechanics of all of this have yet to be worked out.
“There is no silver bullet in relation to dysfunctional families.”
NEWS: Except taking the kids away. For the sake of the children’s future, have we not arrived at that point again?
“Is that ultimately, in every case, the best solution?”
NEWS: I’m asking.
“I’m not an expert in this. I’m essentially a police commissioner who talks about detecting and preventing crime and upholding the law.
“These are long-term, problematic, complex issues around families.
“It can be unemployment, lack of housing, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse.”
NEWS: In all the cases you have just mentioned the children are the defenceless victims.
“We always envisaged that our crime reduction strategy would tackle domestic violence face-on and that we would never take a backward step.
“One of the long term strategies is to stop violence in homes to a degree where kids aren’t witnessing it and are becoming acculturated into that lifestyle.”
(Although it’s still “early days” the statistics are beginning to show progress is being made but it’s a “long term project”.)
NEWS: Haven’t we all heard this for 30 years?
Says Commander Hofer: “25 years ago I was here.
“Assaults on Aboriginal women were commonplace but police didn’t give them the attention that was warranted. If there was any reluctance by an Aboriginal woman to make a formal complaint, we moved on to the next job.
“Now, if it is clear that violence has been perpetrated, we prosecute in every case. It’s a no drop policy.”
NEWS: What about public disorder, such as offensive language. How many prosecutions?
“I couldn’t answer that now,” says Commissioner White.
Commander Hofer says foul language is mostly used by drunks. Police take drunks into protective custody at the rate of about 7000 a year Territory wide.
Infringement notices requiring the payment of fines are frequently issued.
Do they get paid?
“Some do. A lot don’t,” says Commander Hofer.
The amount of the fine can be deducted from the Centrelink payments, but only if the client agrees.
Property can be taken away.
“But if people have nothing to seize in lieu of a fine then that’s usually the end of the matter,” says Commander Hofer.

At 16 you become a drunk. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Mark Lockyer says he began drinking at age 12.
At 17 he moved out of Hidden Valley, where he had grown up, so that he wouldn’t remain an alcoholic.
“I didn’t want to die from drinking,” he says.
But his aunty, to whom he was very close, did.
His mother, now an invalid, remained in the squalid town camp, and so he maintained a connection with this source of much anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs.
As a kid he himself was an occasional player, roaming the town in gangs of six to a dozen kids, “from the camps, the bush and urban kids” – stealing hard liquor, “bottles of grog, rum, vodka” – and food from bottle shops and supermarkets.
Mark’s mother lives in an exceptionally neat house amongst the Hidden Valley mayhem.
It’s 3.30pm on Friday.
Most able-bodied adults in Alice are still at work, but across the road, in a freshly renovated house, painted in garish blue colours, the daily drinking party is getting into full swing.
There are about two dozen young men and women, many already under the weather.
The scene outside leaves little to the imagination about what the interior would look like, recently refurbished at taxpayers’ expense.
Says Mark: “There are already graffiti, smashed doors and windows.
“It’s almost back where it started, trashed.
“There are 15 to 20 people, beds, mattresses, beer cans all over the yard, 12 year old girls drinking and smoking dope.”
Mark, now 31, has worked for 11 years in child care jobs in other town camps, employed first by Congress and then by Tangentyere Council.
He says he’s just resigned from Tangentyere.
He reported that the children’s playground he was meant to be using that day was covered in rubbish, human faeces, condoms, underwear, porngraphic material.
He was told to clean up but he said that wasn’t his job.
He recalls this was the kind of work CDEP employees used to do.
“CDEP was great when it started,” he says, “but it fell apart, not supervised.
“They’d just get them to sign the paper.”
Mark says he’d asked Tangentyere: “Why don’t you employ a town camper to clean up?”
“They don’t show up for work,” was the answer. “They have to put up with people drinking and fighting all night.”
Mark’s mum said she and Mark would go to the media.
When he complained about his work conditions he says he was told: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
He did go to the media, as he sometimes does, and he’s got another job lined up.
Mark says he is an avid reader – “newspapers, biographies, true stories” – but his writing isn’t too hot.
“I use a computer with spell-check, like most people,” he says.
He didn’t make highschool: as a camp kid he wouldn’t have fitted in.
“I had to go back as an adult to improve my education, reading and writing, to get a job.”
He’s a surviver of a lifestyle that kills most – first their spirit and then their body.
“I was six years old.
“Aunty was drinking, first flagons, then Fruity Lexia, five litre casks.
“Us kids would be playing in the creek. We did what we wanted.”
The camp houses were “like prison cells, hot in summer and cold in winter, but Auntie always had fruit in her fridge, I was her favourite, she would buy me clothes.
“She couldn’t have kids of her own but she loved kids.”
These days of innocence soon gave way to the relentless pressure of the camp.
“There is violence and drinking every night.
“You don’t go to school.
“Your uncle doesn’t work. Your auntie hasn’t got a job.
“None of your family have jobs. Most of them are drinkers.
“Men looking for young kids to break in to get grog for them.
“Once you turn 16 you become an alcoholic.
“That’s life in the camp.”
During his frequent visits to his mother Mark became aware of the huge number of savage dogs, “starving mangy dogs”, and wrote letters to the authorities.
Nothing was done.
Last year he saw the corpse of a man chewed to death by dogs in Hidden Valley.
Children on the Irrkerlantye and Braitling school buses saw them, too.
Mark says kids are still running wild, these days engaging in very explicit sexual conduct: “It’s a game for young kids.
“Children abusing children.”
Adults don’t care, absorbed in their drinking.
“I was about 17 when I walked out of the camp,” says Mark.
“I turned 18 in the refuge.”
ASYASS helped him to find his own accommodation.
Counselling by Holyoake helped him off the grog.
His life’s pretty good now.

Buyers on the hunt for scarce cheaper houses. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

The global economic outlook may be bleak but people are still looking to buy homes in Alice Springs.
Rental prices are hitting the roof, while interest rates on loans are at an all time low and government incentives for home-owners have increased.
So house hunters were out on Saturday at a number of local property inspections.
Some were keen to purchase lower-end, affordable property, but it’s in short supply in Alice Springs.
May Leitch recently decided to buy her first home. Up until now she has been renting but with rents continuing to rise, she decided buying would be financially better in the long run.
“It’s a good time to buy, now interest rates are low,” says Miss Leitch, though she’s finding properties are moving very quickly.
She should be eligible for the Federal Government’s First Home Owner Grant (FHOG.) In October last year it was increased from $7,000 to $14,000 for existing dwellings and $21,000 for new dwellings.
Mark Scott has recently been accepted for a FHOG and is  eager to buy his first property.
“The price of renting is just as high as repayments on a mortgage, but you get no return,” says Mr Scott.
He doesn’t like to dwell on the state of the economy and continues to have an optimistic philosophy on life.
“If you don’t know about something, it can’t hurt you,” he says.
Real estate agent Joe Golotta is closing a few sales but says banks have become more stringent with lending and  worries about the future of the economy have affected sales.
The market for property costing over $400,000 is very slow, he says. However, the lower end of the market is looking “very vibrant”.
The problem is good properties below $380,000 are few and far between and are often sold as soon as they come on the market.  The continued rent increases mean “there are lots of people wanting to buy, but there are not enough affordable houses”, says Mr Golotta.
Joel Olzomer, another local agent, has also found the lower-end market responding to lower interest rates, “even before the FHOG doubled last October”. 
“The high end of the market has slowed down recently,” he says, with fewer property sales over $600,000 recently.
He suggests that investors in higher-end purchases tend to be older, many close to retirement. A large proportion may have had their money tied up in superannuation and shares that have decreased in value with the economic slowdown.
This is markedly different from early last year when high-end properties priced around $800,000, for instance around the Golf Club, were selling well. 
Fortunately Malcolm and Pam Frost’s investments are sound. They both have good jobs and already own a couple of properties.
They are considering making another housing investment.
“We have some equity and we are curious to see what is on the market,” says Mr Frost.
“We have heard that above the $500,000 market there are fewer buyers,” says Mrs Frost.
Neither is discouraged by the economic gloom.
“It is almost like Alice Springs is immune from the financial dramas.
“There is so much government money being pumped into the town, maybe this will expand the market.”
Julia Denison from Sydney is looking for investment property in Alice Springs.
She says the rental market in Sydney is slower at the moment because people are opting for the FHOG.
With its high rental prices and the shortage of affordable lower market properties, Ms Denison considers Alice Springs to be a good place to invest.

Interstate visitors, Chinese may be the answer for tourism drop. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

A predicted 4.1% drop in international visitors as a result of global economic turmoil means that inbound tourism in Australia “is likely to face its worst calendar year performance since 1989, when inbound travel fell 7.5% due to the pilot strike”.
So says Tourism Australia’s Tourism Forecasting Committee (TFC), who expect the impact to be worse than those from SARS in 2003 and the Asian financial collapse in 1998.
The experience will be particularly hard for the Central Australian industry which relies heavily upon international visitors, says Bernard Salt, TFC chairman, in Alice Springs recently for a Tourism NT forum.  Businesses should respond by “trying to expand, building on relationships and developing domestic relationships”, says Mr Salt.
Visitors from Melbourne and Sydney could offset the loss of internationals.
Now that petrol prices are lower, following a 70% slump in oil prices since last July, there should be more self-drive tourists, with a bit more money in their pockets.
Now is the time to be selling Central Australia “as an exotic and sexy location”, says Mr Salt.
“Australians need to take on a new mind shift this year when it comes to travel.
“There is a cultural cringe about travelling in Australia. “Australians needs to see their own country before heading overseas.”
But Australia also needs more “irons in the fire”, says Mr Salt. 
Businesses should be looking “to make relationships with China”.
Despite a current decrease, arrivals from China are projected to grow at an annual rate of 10.3% the next 10 years.
By 2017 TFC predicts China will become Australia’s second largest inbound market, rising from fifth place in 2007.
“We know what the Germans need, we understand the Japanese market, now we need work out how to deliver to new markets,” says Mr Salt.
To establish a future relationship with China, Central Australia should begin laying the foundations during the next four to five years, he says.
Forecasting is a risky business. In its first forecast last year, released in August, TFC predicted that the Australian dollar would remain high for the rest of 2008 and early 2009 and would not start depreciating until 2010.
Within the month the Australian dollar had fallen to US$70 cents, dropping to US$62 cents in late December.
This might have helped the Australian tourism industry to be more competitive on the international market, if the economic slide hadn’t increasingly affected countries such as Germany, Japan and the UK.
Long haul flights are a less appealing option for those markets now and holidays are likely to be taken closer to home, says Mr Salt. 
The decline in international visitors will “continue through to the middle of next year”.

We’ll be a black town in 20 years. By KIERAN FINNANE.

In 2030 Alice Springs will have a population of 50,000 and 70% of them will be Indigenous; this being the case, Indigenous participation in the workforce has to be a top priority.
The population will also be older; the 50 years plus bracket will have risen by 95%; the 70 years plus, by 230%. Long-term planning, especially in the areas of housing and aged care, has to start now to cater to the needs of this population.
This was part of the picture of Alice Springs just 20 years hence, painted by around 50 residents attending the Territory 2030 vision forum held on Monday evening.
The meeting was hosted by a government-appointed committee, co-chaired by a Top Ender and an interstater. A local member of the committee, Jan Ferguson, managing director of the Desert Knowledge CRC, was also present.
The “elephant in the room” of the whole discussion was identified by Darryl Pearce, CEO of the native title body, Lhere Artepe, and “troublemaker” by his own description.
“Central Australia has no connection to Darwin,” he said, neither for Aboriginal people nor for non-Aboriginal people.
We are “governed” by Darwin but “not connected”, he said.
He said the region has been treated as a “honeypot”, with more extracted from it than put back.
It was Mr Pearce who brought to the attention of the meeting the dramatic change projected for the demographic makeup of the town, sourcing it to work done by the DK CRC.
With that sort of population, he doubted that a non-Aboriginal person would be elected in Central Australia in 2030.
This is not just the future, he said, “it is here now”, citing the recent signing of the Mt John Indigenous Land Use Agreement by an Indigenous developer, Lhere Artepe, and an Indigenous Minister, Karl Hampton.
He said Central Australia needed its own vision planning, distinct from that for the “top half”. This was greeted with applause.
The increasing proportion of Aboriginal people living in town also came up in comments from other speakers: 70% of students at Gillen Primary School are Aboriginal; 45% of students at Centralian Senior Secondary College are Aboriginal, up from 10% three years ago.
This last came from Acting Principal of the college, Eddie Fabijan, who asked how, with that changing makeup, do we “identify a cultural sense of community, how do we promote hope and well-being”, so that the students will continue their studies.
“I have some students who say they will be dead in five years,” said Mr Fabijan, clearly upset.
Peter “Strachy” Strachan, who works for Charles Darwin University, after years with Tangentyere Council and previously with the Commonwealth, said the university is also “trying to learn from the change in demographic”.
He said nationally established curricula don’t necessarily deliver to the Territory’s learners and suggested the need for specifically adapted curricula within a national framework, maintaining the quality of education.
There were a number of calls for policies to support the preservation of Indigenous languages, including mandating the learning of Indigenous languages in Territory schools.
There was less concern about law and order and anti-social behaviour than might have been expected from a public meeting in Alice Springs.
Chris Vaughan, proprietor of Bojangles, called for “Return to Country” being mandated for people who “offend” in order to “lessen the confusion and melting pot in Alice Springs”. But the taxpayer should foot the bill, he said (at present, the cost of the journey is paid by the indivdiual, deducted from Centrelink payments if necessary).
Sandy Taylor, an alderman and the first Indigenous woman to hold this position in Alice, said if Return to Country was to be mandated, it should be for all people offending, not just Aboriginal people.
She made an emotional appeal for an end to the “them and us” attitudes in town. It was not like that when she grew up, she said.
“Everybody used to be the same. What the hell has happened to that, I don’t know, but we have got to get back to it.”
She also stressed the need for non-Indigenous people to “start listening properly” and to see that Indigenous people “are not all the same”.
Uranium mining got the thumbs down at the meeting, not only for its impact on the environment, but for the likely change to the demographics of the town. This was argued by a number of women, some with children in prams, who are part of a Families for a Nuclear Free Future network.
The cause received support in an applauded contribution from Trevor Shiell, who presented a vision of the Territory as a significant contributor to the nation’s energy demands through clever exploitation of geo-thermal and solar resources.
The flag was run up for Alice as a city reliant 100% on renewable energies by 2030, but solar’s green credentials were also challenged because of the heavy metals relied on for battery storage of the energy.
Mr Shiell also wanted to see a more creative approach to the feral camel problem in the Territory.
The likely culling of 400,000 animals and leaving them to rot in the desert he sees as “morally repugnant” when millions are starving.  He said business and aid organisations should collaborate to deliver camel “jerky” – dried meat – to disaster areas.
Older forward-thinking residents were well represented at the meeting.
Margaret Gaff spoke on behalf of National Seniors, which has 3000 financial members in the Territory, 400 to 500 in Alice Springs.
It was she who pointed out the ABS projected increases in the aged population and the necessity for government planning on the issues.
While more retirees are electing to stay in Alice, without adequate services more leave than possibly should.
As a “big public service town” many are self-funded retirees and when they leave they take “vast sums of money” with them, she said.
Noel Thomas spoke of the desert climate’s advantage for older people: it doesn’t “agitate an old person’s aches and pains”.
“This is a natural resource we’ve got,” he said, noting that many retirement communities in the US have been built in desert environments.
He also pointed to the knowledge resource amongst older residents and called for greater incentives from government to get them to stay.
The only young person (ie recent school-leaver) in attendance called for better education in schools, including about history, saying that she had learnt nothing about Australian history and Aboriginal people at school.
This contributed to racism in the town, she argued.  She called for assistance with housing costs and for a greater profile for mental health services.

Will the kids see the error of their ways? By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

By Youth camps at Hamilton Downs, announced by Chief Minister Paul Henderson at the end of 2007 as a way to get “kids off the street and back on track”, will run again this year – for much longer, three weeks per group.
Three four-day diversion camps took place last year, involving 29 youths, two for males and one for females.
Tangentyere Council were contracted to run them, with funding from the Department of Justice.
The plan this year is for two longer camps, the first coming up on March 21; the second for mid-year. There will be 10 to12 young people in each camp and the two camps at this stage will be mixed. The four days last year did not allow enough time for a good rapport to develop between the mentors and the youth.
Nonetheless, Tangentyere reported, according to a Department of Health and Families (DHF) spokesperson, that Alice Springs experienced “a six-week period of improved behaviour from some of the young people around the town”, following last year’s camps.  They also said that “school attendance had increased”, says the spokesperson. The spokesperson was not able to be more specific.
The program was intended to develop “future options, challenging tasks, re-engaging with education, and development of life skills”.  There were follow up enquiries with “some” young people after they attended the program but again the DHF spokesperson could not be more specific, except to say “long-term clinical follow up of individuals was not included in the program”.
 The spokesperson says DHF are unable to access any “client data” because the department was not involved in the delivery of the camps last year.
Tangentyere are now in the final stages of negotiation with DHF about funding for the camps this year. Costs associated with each young person are “still being determined”, says the spokesperson. Parents of the youths will not be asked for any contribution towards the program.
The youths will be selected by a panel including representatives from DEET, Police, Tangentyere, Family and Children’s Services, Corrections and Department of Justice, says a spokesperson for Tangentyere.
The participants will be indigenous and non-indigenous.
Suitability will take into account their history of truancy, anti-social behavior and their future risk of offending.
Assessing whether the young person will actually change behavior will also influence the panel. 
The camps will be run once again at Hamilton Downs Youth Camp, some 100 km north west of Alice Springs. Ren Kelly, chairman of Hamilton Downs, is a strong supporter of the program as a way of encouraging some discipline and structure in the young people’s lives.
“It’s the last step that stops kids get themselves into strife,” says Mr Kelly.
“The funding for the program has been quite generous.
“Yet it’s a bloody sight cheaper to do that than have them spend six weeks in jail or doing community service.”
 The youths involved in the program “will be kept active from dawn until dark and privileges will be taken away if the youths misbehave,” he says.
They learn how to wash their own clothes, cook their own meals. There will also be a focus on literacy and numeracy.
A five-kilometer walk along the Larapinta Trail to Jay Creek, as well as more sporting activities, are planned for this year. The youths will be greeted by Mayor Damien Ryan and family members at the end of the walk.
A new weather station has been built at Hamilton Downs, and taking weather readings every three hours during the day and throughout the night will be among the youths’ duties.
 “Even at three o’clock in the morning,” says Mr Kelly.
Apex Central Australia has been restoring the heritage-listed buildings at Hamilton Downs over the past 12 months. They’ve installed more fire detectors and worked on re-tiling, painting, adding extra fly screens and on the grounds.
 “The place is in really top nick,” says Mr Kelly.
At last year’s diversion camps three police officers were involved as volunteers, talking with the youths about crime. However the program has nothing to do with the Youth Diversion Scheme run by the police.
All young people attending the program this year will undergo a general health check. Tangentyere staff are making arrangements with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress for this, says the DHF spokesperson.
A local psychologist will also “provide clinical services”, a key element for the camps this year, as will be  “follow up once young people get back to town”, says a spokesperson for Tangentyere.
The spokesperson describes the camps as “more circuit breakers than boot camps”.
Physical challenges, when accomplished, will give the young people a sense of achievement, says the spokesperson.
Hard work is part of the program “for a reason”.
“Getting up in the morning to clean the camp site is about learning responsibility for yourself and others in your community.”

Ovation for heartfelt film.

Samson & Delilah, the debut feature film of Central Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton, received a standing ovation from the Adelaide Festival crowd at its world premiere last Friday.
Thornton, who started his career as a cinematographer and still works as one, also made a name for himself as a director to watch with short films Nana (2007), Greenbush (2005), as well as Mimi and Payback.
Greenbush and Nana both won awards at past Berlin Film Festivals, among others.
An Alice Springs launch of Samson & Delilah is planned for April – an outdoor, free screening and celebration before the national release of the film on April 30, says distributor John Maynard.
The film tells the story of two Aboriginal teenagers who live in an isolated remote community where “nothing changes, everything stays the same and no one seems to care”.
Samson escapes with petrol sniffing; both take off for real when Delilah is given harsh payback for the death of her grandmother (played by artist Mitjili Gibson).
The pair fall in love – “They don’t say it but they feel it. Aboriginal people don’t say very much, we just use body language,” says Marissa Gibson, who plays Delilah.
They head into town with no money and nowhere to stay – readers can imagine the long hard road they travel but their love saves them in the end. 
Thornton says the film is his “good fight”, a story he “needed to tell”.
His characters’ “challenges and struggles are inspired by what I see every day as I journey through my own life here in Central Australia. It is real”. 
Gibson says: “I hope the film teaches people who don’t really know Aboriginal people that it’s different here, compared to other places, it’s hard to explain, we just live in a different world.”
Thornton made a commitment to work with untrained  first-time actors, valuing Gibson and Rowan McNamara as Samson for their “life-long experience as community kids”.
He worked with a small crew “chosen for their hearts, not their CVs”, no trucks, just the bare minimum of gear.
The shooting style is “hand held, raw, real”, with nothing between Thornton and the actors but the “beautiful 35mm Panavision camera”, which he operated himself.
– Kieran Finnane 

Crowne Plaza solar plant: What about the money? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Last week’s media hype about the photovoltaic electricity system on the roof of the Crowne Plaza hotel omitted some sobering details of cost.
Nearly half of the $3.08m price tag for the “nation’s largest building mounted” solar system, $1.5m, came from the Federal Government.
The system will produce 531,000 kilo watt hours (kWh) a year, about two percent of the town’s demand.
At the “standard commercial user” rate of 18.01 cents per kWh, what the Crowne gets from the sun would be worth $95,952 a year.
Senior Project Manager for local CAT Projects, Lyndon Frearson, says the Crowne is not entitled to standard commercial tariffs because of their size; their tariff is negotiated with Power and Water and is not public knowledge. 
However for the sake of the argument the standard tariff will have to be used.
Popular wisdom says money conservatively invested in a business returns you 10%.
So if you have $3.08m, that’s $308,000, or well over three times the amount (based on the standard tariff) Crowne would make from its investment in renewable energy, at least so far as cash is concerned.
Calculated in this way, even with the subsidy from the public purse Crowne appears to be kicking in a very publicly minded $90,000 a year, considering only 40% to 80% of the hotel’s electricity requirement will be met by the sun.
The point being, that even with significant government subsidies conversion to solar energy faces considerable financial challenges. 
Mr Frearson says: “The project included a rigorous economic evaluation taking into account interest, depreciation and taxation effects as well as the guaranteed performance of the system.  The owners of the Crowne Plaza required the project to meet minimum investment criteria as is usually the case in all commercial investment decisions.”
Some other facts and figures released by the project’s promoters:-
• Crowne’s PV system will displace 172m3 of natural gas per annum.
• Within Alice Springs, at least seven different sub-contractors are engaged for different portions of the project.
• The project will result in the reduction of approximately 420 tonnes of CO2-e per annum upon the initial commissioning.
• Sunpower Corporation Australia Pty Ltd in WA is the major supplier.

Sharp eye on what’s on in Todd Mall.

What’s going on with anti social behavior in the Mall? The town council can tell you exactly.
They hired, with matched funding from the NT Government, security personnel to keep their eyes peeled and their ear to the ground between 9pm and 4am on 54 days between November 28 and January 21.
On average every day, five marked and 0.7 unmarked police cars drove through the mall and 0.6 foot, bike or mounted police were there.
Police were called 0.3 times and took 12.3 minutes to attend, with the longest response time being 45 minutes and the shortest, three.
The night patrol was the 0.3 times, the youth patrol, 0.6.
1.4 people were taken into custody and 10.6 kids were in the CBD after 10pm.
There were 0.7 occasions of broken windows, fights, theft, assault or alarms activated.
Council’s director of Corporate and Community Services, Craig Catchlove says patrols in cars “do not address” the security situation in the mall; the patrols must be on foot or bicycle.

LETTERS: Alice just another dysfunctional community?

Sir,– I think everyone in Alice Springs supports the new initiatives announced last week to tackle youth crime.
Unless something happens to stem the tide of acts that are often criminal but are just as often simply disgusting, Alice Springs will become one more dysfunctional Centralian community.  Or a ghost town. 
The recent announcement by Lhere Artepe that they will insist that countrymen visiting from bush communities show respect also deserves everyone’s support.
But for either of these initiatives to be successful two parties will have to join the effort.  Legal Aid lawyers will also have to show some respect to the town they live in and stop finding perhaps legal but without question irresponsible loopholes to have sociopaths and the occasional psychopath released back onto the streets.
And sitting Judges will have to get over their inability to see the wood for the trees.  If there is a higher rate of incarceration among first Australians than among other Australians, that could be because there is a higher rate of criminal activity among first Australians. 
And why is it that for a supposedly non-racist society we use so much newsprint designating the race of every criminal or suspected criminal?
Around five o’clock one morning late last year I turned up Gap Road after coming across the Stott Terrace Bridge.  There was dust in the air, no one and no other vehicle was in sight, Melanka had become our latest vacant lot, even the 24 Hour Shop looked abandoned, and I thought, “Bloody hell! This town is dying.” 
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Aging rock stars defended

Sir,– I am writing in regards to Adam’s Apple on February 12. As a regular reader of Alice News, I found myself a little “blown off my seat” with Adam’s Apple that week.
“Aging rock stars”, why do they need to still perform with all their hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank!
Aging rock stars don’t just sing for the “Baby Boomers”, a lot of younger people still do listen to the 60s, 70s and 80s rock.
Now with all the money the rock stars do have, a lot of them do fundraisers, donate their takings to charity, some special donations they like to contribute too.
It’s not always about the money, it’s about the hearts, the souls, the reaction they still get from the public.
Gee, if it were me that was an “aging rock star”, mate I would give it up for no opinion, no matter how wealthy I was.
To see the faces on the fans, it’s well worth getting back up on the stage.
My parents are in their sixties, they may not be major rock stars, but they dont want to be sitting around watching their life go by, like many others.
Yeah, they can retire, to sit at home watching TV, doing the gardening. Mate you can only do so much gardening, and watch so much TV.
Most baby boomers have not given up, gees they are making the next generation look like “failures” – we don’t fight back, we don’t protest, meanwhile the government is still keeping us quiet by turning a blind eye to our major drug and alcohol problems, whilst spending billions of dollars on unrelated makings.
Don’t stop Jimmy, you still give spirit and hope to some!
Jessica Rankin
Alice Springs

Claypans cleanup

Sir,– Come and join the re-formed Alice Springs Landcare group on Clean Up Australia Day at the Ilparpa Claypans this Sunday from 7am to 11am.
The claypans still have plenty of water in them and are beautiful, except for the rubbish that is sitting around the place!! You can help fix that. Bring long pants, covered shoes, a hat and sunscreen. The Landcare group will provide a BBQ lunch afterwards.
Ilparpa Valley is unique in Central Australia, it is only 25 square kilometres but has more plant and animal species than Kings Canyon National Park because of its diverse habitats.
There are shield shrimps and frogs in the claypans at present, surrounded by shady coolibahs, but at risk from buffel grass fires. As a community, we can help to maintain these unique areas. Come along this Sunday, 8km along Ilparpa Rd after turning off the South Stuart Highway.
Alice Landcare

Roads to ruin

Sir,– Northern Territory roads are falling apart and putting the lives of Territorians at risk.
It is also having far-ranging, detrimental effects on the economy, community health, animal welfare and the environment.
The NTCA calls for funds to be committed to the restoration and improvement of road infrastructure, and in particular, recommends:
• The NT Government implement a program to seal the secondary road network; and
• The NT Government establish an industry and government working group to identify the emerging infrastructure and policy needs of the NT to maximise long-term efficiencies.
Poor roads damage equipment, stress livestock and operators and lead to delays and economic losses. There are increasing requirements for rest areas and facilities for the staging of livestock, drivers and equipment.
I congratulate the Government on its work in trying to secure Infrastructure Australia funding to seal the secondary network but in this tough economic climate, there must be a plan B should federal money not come through.
Investment in quality infrastructure is a lasting stimulus for the economy.
Luke Bowen
NT Cattlemen’s Association

ADAM'S APPLE: A big day, oh well, fairly big.

There was some big news announced for Alice Springs last week. Ok, when I say big, I mean in an Alice Springs way.
Have you noticed that the really big news in Alice Springs isn’t all that big? We never win the rights to host the world cup of anything, instead we get the Australian widget manufacturers conference.
Instead of welcoming the rock and roll super group of the day, we tend to welcome a delegate from the parliament of Papua New Guinea. A nice enough bloke, but he’s no Bono.
Instead of the government planning to revolutionise the public transport corridors of the city, our government announces another 200 meters of bitumen on the Mereenie loop.
Our big news is generally a bit of a disappointment. This week’s big news was no different.
The government has told us that Alice Springs will never be the same after the Alice Springs Youth Action Plan was released.
An action plan. It sounds impressive, does it not? It sounds like we need to call in the A-team or at the very least the Domestic Blitz crew.
It took them months of policy planning, feasibility studies, budgeting meetings and general flying it up the flagpole to see who salutes it, in order to finally decide on the make up of the plan.
In order to stem the flow of anti-social behaviour, youth crime and family dysfunction, the parliament of the Territory have come up with an action plan so active it resembles a Steven Segal movie minus of course, the gratuitous nudity. That might offend some people.
Basically, the government will build a Police Youth Citizen Club. They’ll also combine two schools to make a middle school and (and here’s the real kicker) they will fund a 30 bed boarding school.
I say well done. If you could see me now, you’d see a man standing and applauding in front of a computer screen.
Nice one, you democratically elected representatives of the people. Well done indeed. Instead of doing what us mere citizens might have done – actually thought about the root of the youth problems in Alice Springs – you’ve realised that finding an actual solution is too darn time consuming and not nearly as cool as opening another sport centre in Palmerston.
Instead of fixing the problem of youth homelessness, youth criminality and youth disenchantment, you have cleverly designed more institutions to house them. Top work.
In fact, so inspired am I by this big news, this awesome action, I have decided to take a leaf out of the Northern Territory Government’s book. I have given this a lot of thought (at least 35 minutes) and have come up with my own personal Adam Connelly Action Plan. The personal policy version of Under Siege 2.
I have noticed two distinct areas of concern in my life and have initiated proactive solutions in order to achieve positive and dynamic outcomes in these key indicator areas.
Firstly I have recognised a deficiency in the cosmetic branding of Adam. Members of the opposite gender (or the key market demographic) have responded poorly to the current branding campaign. Intensive pointed surveys have indicated that a majority of potential consumers would prefer a smaller serving. They also find my initial recognition points (ie, my face) to be overly squinty and far too follicular in the lower facial zone.
Furthermore, my research has suggested that the Adam to woman interface, otherwise known as my personality, may require some adjustment. Some 56% of those surveyed find my personality to be 10 to 15% too grumpy. 28% find me too acerbic and 22% think I am, in general, a total wanker.
After consulting the Northern Territory Government on these issues of concern, I have decided to initiate the Adam Connelly Action Plan. Using the NT Government model as my guide I have decided to propose free fried chicken will be available throughout Alice Springs. In keeping with the government’s philosophy, this will fatten the entire population. Once everyone is the size of Helm House I will look pretty darn good.
I have also decided to enact a negativity campaign. It’s quite complex but what it boils down to is annoying the bejasus out of everyone, thus making me appear saint like.
It’s bound to be a success. If it got 25 people elected into the NT parliament then it has got to work for me.

Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY: Tsunami of pretentious political correctness?

Pop Vulture eaves-dropped among the sell-out crowd at Araluen responding to British filmmaker Kim Kindersley’s Whaledreamers, which opened the Sydney Travelling Film Festival on the weekend.
She said: The only award it should have won was for “most spectacular disappointment”.
He said: I actually liked it, despite what she said.
Someone said: Just when you think that documentary filmmaking is reaching new heights,  being accepted, and as a result of technical advances, viewed and appreciated by larger numbers, crash! comes this tsunami of pretentious political correctness, flooding the sand dunes of our thoughts with unwelcomed celluloid sea spray.
And what is it with Q & A time at the end of a film that some people in the audience feel it is their time to jump on a bandwagon and talk about themselves.  Probably a more entertaining thing this time seeing that the people with the answers were only responding to certain questions.
They said: I think you need to look at the idea behind the doco and what it’s transcending rather than the vessel it is sent to you in.
Margaret said: Amazing and moving moments, a film for our much troubled world.
David said: A very, very beautiful film.
John Q said: There’s a scene that involves the congregation of some 85 indigenous tribal elders from all corners of the globe. This happening is a momentous event in itself. I think this needed more attention,  and sadly a massive opportunity was missed.
Jane Q said: And what was with those constant flashes of the dolphin’s eye?
Pop Vulture said: Even when you see something that makes you feel as though you were just made part of some massive experiment to see whether the human race can actually de-evolve,  you will still leave the theatre with thoughts evoking.

Back to our home page.