ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
February 26, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
latest crime tinkering. By ERWIN
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
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
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
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
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,
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
And in the past four months, in Alice Springs, the figure climbed to an
astonishing 85% of villains caught violating commercial business
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
National Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has called for the prosecution
of parents not sending their children to school (Weekend Australian,
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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“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’
“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
“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
“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
“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
Infringement notices requiring the payment of fines are frequently
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
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
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
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,
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
“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
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
“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
“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
Nothing was done.
Last year he saw the corpse of a man chewed to death by dogs in Hidden
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
So house hunters were out on Saturday at a number of local property
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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
This contributed to racism in the town, she argued. She called
for assistance with housing costs and for a greater profile for mental
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
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
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
“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,”
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
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
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
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
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
Thornton says the film is his “good fight”, a story he “needed to
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
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
However for the sake of the argument the standard tariff will have to
Popular wisdom says money conservatively invested in a business returns
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
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
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
There were 0.7 occasions of broken windows, fights, theft, assault or
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
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
The recent announcement by Lhere Artepe that they will insist that
countrymen visiting from bush communities show respect also deserves
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
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.”
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
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
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!
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
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
• 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
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
NT Cattlemen’s Association
ADAM'S APPLE: A big day, oh well,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.