April 23, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Council’s grog rubbish charge may be heading for the courts. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Deputy Mayor John Rawnsley has expressed his “disappointment” in Ald Samih Habib’s “irresponsible” public opposition to the council’s proposed liquor litter charge, but Ald Habib is continuing the fight, suggesting that council has “not a legal leg to stand on”.
Ald Habib, part-owner of a property that will be affected if the charge goes ahead, told the Alice News last week that he had declared his interest and withdrawn from council’s deliberations, and went on to argue against the proposal.
Now he says if the proposal goes ahead he will seek legal advice and expects that other affected property owners will do the same.
Council is proposing to levy the charge in accordance with Section 157 of the Local Government Act.
That section says in part that if council “carries out work, or provides services, for the benefit of land, or the occupiers of land, within its area, the council may declare a charge on the land”.
Ald Habib takes that to mean that the charge can only relate to work or services specifically concerning a property and not the broader public areas of the town.
“Is the Yeperenye Centre, for example, responsible for cleaning up the Todd River?” he asks.
“No, of course not!
“When this goes before the court it will be out of the public debate,” he says.
But until then he will continue to fight the proposal as “not fair, not right, and probably not legal”.
Ald Rawnsley says it is “irresponsible” for Ald Habib to publicly criticise council’s proposal and speculate about its detail.
The proposal is still being dealt with in the confidential section of council’s meetings but is expected to be made public after next week’s meeting.
The detail will have to go on public display in May as part of council’s draft business plan.
Ald Rawnsley says many of the “legitimate concerns” around the charge are being dealt with.
“Ald Habib is talking about detail yet a lot of the detail has yet to come out and what he is saying will be debunked when it does,” says Ald Rawnsley.
“The community has a right to ask whether Ald Habib is looking after his own pocket or the interests of the whole town.”
Ald Habib dismisses Ald Rawnsley’s concern, saying that of course he will defend his financial position.
He says he declared his interest as soon as it became clear in council that the charge would be to property owners.
On litter-related charges he says he would support “something fair”, he says, where “everybody is in the same boat” or a scheme which applied directly to liquor retailers who could pass on the costs.
He says property owners are often locked into long-term leases and will not be able to pass costs on for years to come.
He reiterates that council should confine itself to lobbying to ensure that the NT Government introduce a cash for containers scheme, to  which the government has made an “in principle” commitment.

Bush housing slow.

All is still quiet on the remote housing front in the Centre, while the issue of long-term leases in  communities where new houses are to be built remains unresolved.
In contrast work is going ahead in Tennant Creek where the Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation was the first to sign the landmark lease agreement.
Three consortiums were appointed Alliance Partners in October last year to work with the Australian and Northern Territory Governments on delivering the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) in three separate geographic areas – the Territory Alliance will deliver the program in the Top End, Earth Connect Alliance in the Centre, and New Future Alliance in between. 
Initial works commenced in Tennant Creek last week. New Future, working closely with Julalikari Council, is undertaking safety assessments, conducting community engagement and procuring sub-contractors with the priority being local Indigenous businesses, local business and Northern Territory businesses.
These businesses are registered with the Northern Territory Industry Capability Network (NTICN).
In  preparation for work getting underway in the Centre, local business is encouraged likewise to register with NTICN.
In a written statement Minister for Housing Rob Knight said: “Both the Territory and Australian Governments are committed to ensuring local businesses are used wherever possible to deliver SIHIP  in the Northern Territory.
“One of the key components of SIHIP is the requirement for job and training opportunities for Indigenous Territorians, and in Tennant Creek we’re seeing that commitment deliver real results with 16 Tennant Creek residents already becoming the first Indigenous Territorians to start a traineeship under SIHIP and a further 16 currently undertaking training. 
“There are also real opportunities for Territory businesses to become involved in the delivery of work in Central Australia and I strongly encourage business operators to register for work.”
A spokesperson for the Minister says “initial engagement” has occurred with communities in Central Australia identified to receive refurbishments for which additional leases are not required.
These communities included Tara, Wutunugurra, Canteen Creek, Imangara, Ali Curung, Ampilatwatja, Atitjere Engawala, Nturiya, Pmara Jutunta and Wilora.

Recession: Op shop changes in ‘landscape of need’. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Housing stress, the global financial crisis and to some extent Income Management are changing the “landscape of need” and op shops run by charities are changing in response.
The Alice Vinnies shop, which last year underwent a cleanup and quality review, will nonetheless remain a “Centre of Charity”.
“We make sure all goods are of a quality suitable to purchase or to give away through our assistance office,” says CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society in the NT, Janet Buhagiar.
“We are always reviewing our prices to ensure we are offering value for money but we are not pricing to compete with a vintage-style operation.”
She is confident Vinnies’ customers can afford their prices. 
The overhaul was in response to a Territory-wide review of Vinnies centres.  The aim was to get  the shop operating at its “best potential”, as it had in the past and compared to other Vinnies shops across the Territory.
“Times have changed,” says Ms Buhagiar, “and we need to evolve to continue to meet the needs of the community.”
She says the “retail landscape” as well as the “landscape of need” have changed, with the housing crisis, the global financial crisis and Income Management under the Intervention influencing factors.
Some concern has been expressed that the Vinnies shop may go down the path of the Red Cross shop (pictured), which relocated to Reg Harris Lane in the CBD seven months ago and is now attracting in part a different market, including tourists.
A former volunteer with both Vinnies and the Red Cross shop when it was in Elder Street, Leigh Childs, objects to the re-orientation of the charity op shops.
She feels they should remain focussed on providing poor people with the opportunity to buy second-hand clothes and domestic goods “at a very low price”, and not market to “middle class people like myself”.
The Red Cross shop is selling nicer, dressier things, especially for women.
“Where are the ordinary clothes for kids to play in, to go to school in, for men to go to work in?” asks Ms Childs. 

But the focus of the Red Cross shop has changed, in Darwin as well as in Alice, following a trend across Australia, and both NT shops are showing a “healthy increase” in returns, says area supervisor for the Red Cross’ NT retail shops, Sue Bell.  
The funds raised go into a national account from where they are redistributed according to need, “The NT is the state with the highest need, so we get our share plus more,” she says.
The shops never were seen as “a welfare program”, says Ms Bell.
“They were always for fund-raising for our other services.”
These include breakfast clubs, meals-on-wheels, Telecross (a phone service to check on the welfare of people who live alone) and a range of youth programs, especially on remote communities.
“We’ve taken away the ‘Op Shop’ image,” says Ms Bell.
The new shop strives for a “modern retail look”, with a significant improvement in quality.
Their prices are just a little higher than at Vinnies.
Ms Childs disagrees with the prices being charged now in both Vinnies and Red Cross.
At Red Cross women’s tops, for example, sell for around $7 a piece. 

Ms Childs says they should be no more than $3 or $4.
She says it is possible during sales at K-mart and other local retailers to buy brand new tops for $7.

She wonders whether a charity shop should be in competition with private retail stores and whether pricing at the shops is in keeping with the spirit of the gift from donors, “who have an expectation that their goods will be used to help people, not only make a profit for the organisation”. 

Local donations of good quality clothing, shoes and handbags are still accepted by the Red Cross but the majority of the stock, including some new clothing, is sourced from Melbourne donations.
“This takes pressure off our staff,” says Ms Bell, “and allows them to focus on customer service.”
Staff are still volunteers, and while more are always welcome, the shop is now consistently open during its advertised hours, Monday to Saturday, says Ms Bell.
Profits from Vinnies also go to supporting their services. 
Apart from the Assistance Office, these include “outreach” for homeless people, particularly during the winter months.
But Vinnies continue to see the provision of good clothing at reasonable prices as a service in itself, in line with their values – “offering a hand up, not a handout, helping and serving the poor with love, respect, justice and hope”.
At times Vinnies receive requests from remote communities for bulk clothing, which they’re happy to respond to.
And at Santa Teresa they regularly supply stock and have given training to residents who are running a second-hand shop in the community.
The Alice shop relies on local donations.
Good quality stock is held when the season changes.
“We rarely let go of coats and jumpers,” says Ms Buhagiar.
But anything torn or stained is not put up for sale.
“If you wouldn’t wear it, why would you sell it to someone with less money?” asks Ms Buhagiar.
The task of Vinnies volunteers would be lighter if donors only gave suitable items, she says, while stressing that Vinnies is grateful nonetheless for the donors’ gifts.
The rejected items are turned to rag if suitable, but otherwise, unfortunately, they go to the landfill.
Ms Buhagiar says they are looking at ways, with other agencies, to reduce what goes to the landfill, but it’s “a challenge for all of us”.

Shires the size of some European countries: Runs on the board with $60m total budgets. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

Now well into their first year of operation, and with a combined budget of close to $60m, the Centre’s two shire councils – MacDonnell and Central Desert – are claiming some runs on the board.
This comes as a result, in good part, of having been able to attract more qualified staff compared to the former community government councils, say Chief Executive Officers, Rowan Foley (Central Desert) and Wayne Wright (MacDonnell).
“It is the first time that we have professionals working exclusively in certain fields and in so many varied areas in this region,” says Mr Foley, while also stressing that the “first year is about laying the foundations and making sure the policies are in place”.
The Central Desert Shire lies north of Alice Springs and covers an area of approximately 282,093 square kilometres. (As a point of comparison, Metropolitan France covers 547,030 square kilometres.)
It presently caters for nine communities, each with their own local government board. The Shire is divided into four wards – Northern Tanami, Southern Tanami, Anmatjere and Akityarre – and the region includes some 60 outstations.
The shire population is estimated at 4600 in communities, and some 580 in other areas. 
The MacDonnell Shire covers a slightly smaller area, approximately 268,887 square kilometres.  It has 13 service delivery centres, including in Haasts Bluff, Imanpa, Santa Teresa and Hermannsburg, catering for a population of around 6500 people.
Shire staff for MacDonnell have increased by roughly 45% compared to council staff in the area last June.
A number of people work in coordination roles across the shire which means “they can be more focused on making sure more services are being delivered consistently across communities”, says Mr Wright. 
Approximately 30 people are currently working out of Alice Springs and the remainder, some 450 employees, are spread out across 13 communities.
Central Desert also has more staff, with 103 fulltime employees, some  25 of whom work in head office.
About half have been retained from the previous councils, while others have been recruited from interstate and overseas.
Another 168 staff are working on 12 month contracts in agency-funded positions (aged care, child care, night patrol etc).
Then there are 306 CDEP participants carrying out local government functions.
73% of all Central Desert employees are Indigenous.
Mr Foley says shire council employment conditions are much better now than under the former councils.
All staff are entitled to six weeks’ recreational leave each year, 12 days cumulative sick leave and a $3000 remote area allowance.  
And in the Central Desert Shire Indigenous employees are also entitled to 10 days’ cultural leave so that they can “maintain their traditional Indigenous obligations and a traditional way of life and law, continue their family responsibilities and hold down a full time job”, says Mr Foley. 
In the MacDonnell Shire there are 42 team leader positions working across the communities. 
A “small minority” are held by Aboriginal people, says Mr Wright.  Low levels of skills in the communities is a major factor affecting this.
However the shire council has recently engaged a coordinator for Indigenous employment and training to develop a training plan that can be implemented over the next five years.
“This should see more Aboriginal people being given the opportunity to take on leadership roles,” says Mr Wright. 
There have been some issues with people in the communities not understanding the obligations of a working environment. 
They have to grasp that it is “more than just turning up to work, it is also about doing something productive during the day”, says Mr Wright.
With boards established in the communities the first round of meetings have taken place, explaining to board members good governance principles and a code of conduct.
The initial transition period – July and August last year – was the most difficult phase, says Mr Wright. A limited amount of information had been provided about transitioning staff and a lot of time was spent repairing equipment that had been left in disrepair in the communities and registering many unregistered vehicles.
Central Desert set up eight out of their nine boards fairly easily.
Yuendumu took a bit longer, says Mr Foley. Being a significantly larger community it was a more complex situation, with lots of family groups and organisations differing over who should represent the town.
The situation was resolved via an official vote, rather than with the few raised hands that had established board members easily and quickly in the smaller communities. 
So far $2.2m has been spent on building and infrastructure across Central Desert Shire, with 640 houses in nine communties receiving electricity, plumbing and carpentry repair work.
Funding has been sought under the Rudd stimulus package for two new community centres.
A visiting vet has been employed to deal with animal health and numbers.
Work is underway to win support from all communities for sports and cultural festivals to be held in school holidays, as children are missing school to attend the festivals.
The shire council was instrumental in getting Outback Stores to set up in Ti-Tree to provide a reliable supply of fresh and affordable fruit and vegetables, as well as other healthy foods.
And an economic development advisory board has been set up to offer advice to the shire council on strategies and opportunities for economic development of the region.
The most recent business plans for both shire councils raise an endless array of issues that need addressing. One could wonder whether it isn’t all too much too soon.
“We are not attempting to be all things to all people in our first year of operation,” says Mr Wright.
The council’s first priority is to “identify” what the issues are and then work in a “systematic way with members of the community and the local boards to address them”.
One example is animal control: MacDonnell Shire will seek funding for a control program expected to cost $3.5m over five years.
Mr Wright says the shire may partner with the Alice Springs Town Council who have recently been very successful with animal control in town camps.
Where is the shires’ money coming from?
MacDonnell currently gets from the NT Government about $8m for local government service delivery and $22m for agency service delivery, such as power and water services.
Mr Wright says they require additional funding for some projects.
“When we took on Mutitjulu we were providing capital funding of $460,000 by the Australian Government and $200,000 from NT Government to purchase plant equipment and to upgrade facilities.
“One of the major advantages of the shire structure is that there has been a significant change in the attitude of Australian Government agencies to funding to deliver services on their behalf,” says Mr Wright.
Central Desert’s present budget totals $27m.
The contribution from rates to the shire budgets is relatively insignificant compared to the situation with municipal councils. The Alice Springs Town Council, for example, raises more than half its budget from rates.
Mr Wright says most of the shires in NT have very small rate bases because the majority of the land they cover is non-ratable.
MacDonnell Shire receives about $450,000 in rates equivalent from Territory Housing.
Less than $10,000 is generated from pastoral and mining leases.
And Mr Wright says it is “unlikely” that this rates income will change over the next three to five years. 
Pastoralists have been very concerned about the imposition of rates but Mr Wright says the revenue raised from them is “insignificant compared to the cost of services” from which they benefit, such as road maintenance.
He says if pastoralists were to compare their costs to those paid by similar properties in other states, they would find  “there is a huge disparity”.  
The NT Government has provided new business and financial management systems for the shires which has meant a reduced reliance on town-based accountants to provide financial reporting for each community.
And having their own internal accounts people keeps the shire councils more closely informed about their “money story”. 
Extensive travel is one impost for the shires that municipal councils don’t have.
Both shire councils are holding their council meetings every two months and have recently acquired jointly a council chambers in Bagot Street in Alice Springs (the building which currently houses the NT Department of Education).
But Central Desert Shire hope to rotate meetings across the region.
Regardless of whether the meetings take place in town or out bush there are “always going to be expenses because we need to get these people out to these places”, says Mr Foley. 
Mr Wright says in comparison to the Top End where board members have to use air travel extensively due to weather, costs are more reasonable in the Centre.  
Most board members can commute in a day to Alice Springs, although from some communities it’s a 12 hour drive, or three hours in a small plane. 
Each meeting is held over two days, first an informal meeting followed by a formal council meeting.
Board members are provided accommodation for one night in Alice Springs. To minimise costs some board members travel together and a council veichle is sometimes provided.

Locals turn up in droves for deeply moving film. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.

There must have been at least a thousand people at the free outdoor screening last Friday of Samson & Delilah, debut feature from Alice filmmaker Warwick Thornton, and winner of the audience award when it premiered at the recent Adelaide Film Festival.
In local terms that’s a huge audience but unsurprising given the film’s deep roots into Central Australia as well as the interest of many in Aboriginal stories told by Aboriginal people, particularly stories that go where others fear to tread.
Publicity material for the film gives it a sub-title – True Love – but at its heart this is a film about despair, and more harrowing still, about despair in a young person – Samson. 
And although it is also about the redeeming power of love, offered by the astonishingly resilient and grounded Delilah, the bigger picture of the story does not hold out much hope.
This might explain the relatively muted applause when the film concluded (although the audience were also distracted by a few fat drops of rain). Some gesture other than clapping seemed to be required to show appreciation for Thornton’s deeply moving and challenging film, for its story-telling and cinematic achievements, and perhaps above all for the riveting performances of Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson in the title roles.
There may also have been reservations held by white people about the representation of ‘our kind’ – from the mongrel carpet-bagger and rapists to the heartless priest and cafe patrons. Only the hobo under the bridge responds to the desperate young couple with any humanity.
The film will feed a view of white Alice Springs as cold and brutal, missing the opportunity to portray the more complex truth in which countless acts of compassion and practical assistance, let alone simple friendship and mutual appreciation, play their part as much as incomprehension, racist assumptions, suspicions and aggression.
Aboriginal viewers too may have felt disheartened, because despite the presence of redeeming Aboriginal characters – Delilah’s grandmother and the man who finally comes to the young people’s assistance at the end – the portrayal of community life is devastating.
Samson is shown to suffer from – at this time in his life, his mid-teens – almost total neglect. There are no parental figures – we learn towards the end of the film that his father is in gaol, we know nothing about his mother. There is an older brother who at best shows no interest in him and is otherwise rejecting, unforgiving and brutal.
Nothing is given to Samson, nothing is asked of him. It is for him alone to fill his empty days. There is no sign of school or work or cultural or communal life, other than the most fleeting contacts.
In sniffing petrol he finds an answer to physical hunger, boredom, loneliness.
The one light on his horizon is Delilah.
She lives in the same tiny community with her grandmother, an artist but old and sick. Delilah’s days are shaped by caring for her and painting with her.
There is the order of give and take, of purposeful activity, there is income and food. There is companionship, affection, laughter.
We hear Delilah and her grandmother speak to one another.
We hear Samson speak only once, stuttering his name when he is almost too far gone into sniffing to do even that.
Although Delilah spurns Samson in the way of a shy young woman, she also is the only person to show him the least kindness.
His efforts to win her are touching and funny – it’s trademark Thornton, sharp-eyed noting of the humour to be found in simple human exchanges, entirely without dialogue.
The turning point comes with one of the most beautiful scenes of awakening sexuality that I’ve ever seen, when Samson dances knowing that Delilah is watching from her refuge in a nearby car.
The soundtrack at this point is also masterful. Delilah escapes from the mundanity of her life by listening to a tape of Spanish pop; Samson is dancing to the thrash of heavy metal.
When Delilah starts to watch, the two musics are jarringly mixed but as she becomes enthralled, the heavy metal is subsumed in the swelling emotional pull of the Spanish song.
But the brutality of life in the community allows no exploration of this new feeling between them.
They come together only after each has received a savage beating – Delilah in an utterly unjust ‘payback’ for the death of her grandmother, Samson in a disproportionate response to his own aggression from his brother.
They flee to Alice Springs, but without having connections or resources, it’s out of the frying pan, into the fire.
This part of the film is quite gruelling, particularly in watching Samson in scene after scene, his head sunk over a container of petrol, increasingly cut off from the world around him, even from Delilah.
When he thinks that she is gone for good, he gives up completely, retreating under a blanket with his petrol, ready to die. It’s a long, agonising scene, in its visual composition a kind of Pieta, except that Samson is all alone.
Thornton stays with this biblical feeling for the return of Delilah – she is shown like an apparition of the Virgin Mary, her white hoody in place of the traditional veil, headlights from a car in place of celestial light.
It is a relief to see them at the end, just the two of them in an outstation, with Samson tenderly ministered to by Delilah. Her washing him in the cattle trough is another scene of great sensual beauty.
But Samson is very far gone by now – he can no longer even walk. Delilah is a survivor but this is no ‘happily ever after’ ending.
The film grieves for these young people and it will no doubt renew resolve amongst many to improve the lives of all who are like them.
As art it is another outstanding contribution from Thornton and his team and should mean resources for a next film are assured.


Twisting, moshing and writhing. By Pop Vulture.

Hello from the trenches of Alice Springs.
Once a moon, a sub-culture that is hundreds strong claws its way out of the local woodwork.
I speak of the heavy metal army that has remained a thriving extended family for many of the Centre’s born and bred youth.
This power-charged genre, that enthuses predominantly the young, has a miraculous following in Alice, although for most of our town’s population, this scene is invisible. 
Last Saturday evening I attended the metal extravaganza at the Todd Tavern, which I’m led to believe occurs around once a month.
I arrived under the impression that I was to attend a “This is Spinal Tap” parody of the post-pubescent disaffected.
What I did receive was re-education in a rock and roll sub-genre that once upon a time I knew a great deal about, a type of music that you either understand or don’t, an aggressively raw energy you either absorb or reject.
But there is definitely no ignoring the legion of revellers and followers, all twisting, moshing and writhing like an epileptic lawn under strobe lights.
Two years ago I bore witness to a similar show. Back then it was dubbed Malice in the Alice and it was grinded out nearly every Friday evening.
Presently there are five bands that have replaced the original line-up, and along with this change, a fresh maturity has blossomed within the ranks of two bands in particular – beyond the shattered skies and the fearsome stage presence that is Miazma.
On Saturday the latter showed a musical tightness and gelling that resonated beyond their years. They have a stage prowess that could easily survive in a market place that weeds out the weak – in cities like Melbourne and Brisbane, where there are entire clubs and pubs devoted to showcasing this type of music.
This could be a destination point for quartet Miazma, a word which means a harmful or poisonous emanation, especially one caused by burning or decaying organic matter, or an unwholesome or menacing atmosphere.
The name alone conjures the evening had by many, except all the punters resurfaced from this sea of raging angst with glowing smiles, and a look of release beaming from their faces.
A shining example was a non-smoking, vegetarian friend of mine who is usually quite reserved.
I watched with jovial pleasure as she smoked, viscerally devoured a cheap meat pie from the 24 hour shop, and “thrashed a bit” as she put it.
Death, grind, black, speed, and battle, are all off shoots of the ever expanding heavy metal tree, and these branches generally give birth to people that tend to keep to themselves, an opinion underlined by the fact that I saw only two poorly produced flyers in town all week.
They apparently feel no need to market themselves – if nobody new watches on, then they’re not bothered, given that a battalion of followers are all riding the crest of a beautiful, tattooed and pierced undercurrent gushing through the veins of the town.

Footy trip to Alice was best weekend of their lives.

The Kintore Hawks travelled to Alice for the Lightning Carnival over the Easter Weekend. Their sport & rec officer TOM DUTTON writes about the team’s passion for footy and their momentous visit to town.

As the sun begins to make its descent to the west and the temperature drops from a blistering 42 to a mere 37 degrees, footprints can be found leading towards the heart of the community, the football field. 
Enter the Kintore football team and junior hopefuls.
At the southern end the young ones chase the oddly shaped ball around for hours, as though it holds the meaning of life.
At the northern end, the older players stand huddled around an apparent art work. In the centre the artist has created a mosaic with rocks and a Coke bottle on the red dirt. 
The artist is more than a visionary, he’s the football coach and his art work is the team’s next set play.
Out here, like many remote communities, football is more than a way of life, it is life.
For too long Aboriginal culture has been stuck in the middle of traditional ways and western policies and control.
But culture remains strong on the football field. It’s a place where the community comes together as one.
On a typical weekend a visiting community will arrive on Friday and leave Monday in an attempt to play as much football as the sun allows. 
Families surround the field in the ‘cool’ of car shadows or the real lucky ones sit beneath one of only three  trees. 
Ullas (boys) run water and watch on in awe as the men go about bringing pride to the community.
Forget Buddy Franklin and the Hawthorn Hawks, these kids want to grow up and play like their dad, uncle or elder brother for the mighty Kintore Hawks.
The idea of playing in Alice for many players of the team has been nothing more than a dream or story older players have passed on.
Situated 530kms away and over roads that take life at will, transporting 22 players and a coach to town is not an easy task.
Then there’s the temptation of alcohol which makes returning all 22 players almost impossible.
These issues in the past have meant that the Kintore football team has stayed home while the majority of communities go in for the Lightning Carnival – a weekend of fun and lifelong memories.
It wasn’t until the football coach, Michael Gallagher, got the opportunity through the MacDonnell Shire to attend a Level 1 AFL coaching course at Traeger Park, did the community once again re-ignite the passion and possibility of playing football in town. After Michael’s return to the community you could sense a more professional and focused community team.
The talk of playing on green grass, in front of grandstands under lights, is almost the equivalent of city kids dreaming of playing AFL at the ‘G’.
It’s the ‘palya linku’ in Luritja, the ‘Holy Grail’ in English. However you label it, the significance stays the same.
But even with all the excitement of making the long-awaited trip, the harsh reality of it remained.
The journey would still be a potentially deadly day’s drive and the temptation of alcohol would still be present.
Step in leaders of the community and captains of the football team. A team policy of no alcohol, no gunja in town, just good hard football became the new team rule.
Those who abided by the team rules were available for selection. 
Training sessions were now not solely designated for the football field.
Players could be seen helping to fix and wash the community bus, organising band night fundraisers and parading posters of the Kintore Hawks in the local shop for all to see and gain a sense of community pride.
Papunya Tula Artists, the Kintore shop and all community members all gave us their support.
With the local bus clean and ready to go, players fit and keen to make it on the big stage and a strong sense of community behind them, some even going the distance in their own cars, the time was right for dreams and future stories to be realized.
The going was as tough as expected. We ended up blowing both spare tyres before the bitumen.
But we also managed to touch the souls of a Sydney couple travelling out there.
They fell in love with the lads and followed us into Alice, printing off photos from our time with them at Ellery for inspiration before our first game.
We won that first game by 10 goals and were undefeated in all round robin games, kicking easily the most goals by any team in the competion and having the most fun.
After every goal the team and 60 odd supporters that made it in, cheered like we had won the premiership.
For this reason most town supporters adopted Kintore as their community team.
But we did lose to Papunya in the quarter finals – such is life!
We were one of the teams to travel the greatest distance to Alice for the carnival.
The men told me they had the best weekend of their lives and now hope to make the trip east every year. Go the Kintore Hawks!

Get out your art diaries!

It’s getting to that time of year again when the Alice arts calendar goes hectic.
Here’s just a smattering:
• A narrative poem, titled “The Prisoner”, by Alice Springs writer Kieran Finnane, will be read by Ksenja Logos on Radio National’s Airplay on Sunday, April 26, 3pm, repeated the following Thursday, 7pm. Airplay is a weekly program of new Australian radio writing and performance.
“The Prisoner” is about the rise of cruelty in an ordinary person, set against the backdrop of armed conflict between people of different ethnicity.  It forms part of Airplay’s contribution to the Anzac Weekend, Bringing the War Home.
• Enjoy a visual feast of local landscapes in pastel and watercolour by a master of tonal realism 40 years in the practice, Ray Lodge (example pictured above).
The show opens at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens this Friday at 6pm. Closes May 17.
Trained at the South Australian School of Fine Art in the early 1960s, Lodge was inspired by Heysen, Streeton, McCubbin and Roberts.
He came to the central desert four years ago for a painting expedition, spending time in the small opal mining town of Mintabie as well as Alice Springs, painting the desert’s grandiose landscapes as well as intimate studies of trees and the scrub.
• The ever-popular Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow comes to Araluen next Wednesday and Thursday.
Billed as 25,000 miles of smiles, it stars Greg Flet (MC), Kitty Flanagan, Anthony Menchetti and Rich Hall.
• A new anthology of works by 32 Central Australian writers will be launched next Friday, May 1, as part of Eye of the Storm, the NT Writers Festival being held this year in Alice Springs.
Titled Fishtails in the dust, it includes short stories, essays, articles and poetry by established as well as upcoming local writers, including Ali Cobby Eckermann and Jennifer Mills, both recent winners in the NT Literary Awards, playwright Michael Watts, novelist Jo Dutton and poet Carmel Williams.
The book will be launched by Peter Bishop, Creative Director of Varuna, at a new venue, Storylines – a writers’ space, 2 Sturt Terrace, at 7pm.
• On the same night, Friday, May 1, at Araluen comes a highly anticipated new show of photographic and sculptural work by Alice artist Pamela Lofts. It will be opened at 6pm by Russell Goldflam, with a performance by Alistair Noble (piano) and Nicholas Hempel (cello). Shows to June 14.

LETTERS: Filth in public places: Is this place for real?

Sir,– I have only lived in Alice Springs for about 18 months and I just can’t believe what people get away with here.
I was outraged to read (‘Kids’ garden toilet, dump’, April 16) that parents and teachers are cleaning up rubbish and HUMAN FAECES!  Is this place for real?
I’m sure that a grounds keeper doesn’t want to do it either. It just shouldn’t be allowed to happen. I see mobs of people getting dropped off at the river by taxi vans where the people then start a fire and camp for the night. They squat in plain sight to urinate and / or move their bowels with no regard for anyone walking or driving by. I’ve even seen tourists stop to take a photo.
I can’t imagine this sort of behavior being tolerated in any other state. Isn’t it against the law to urinate in public? I know that I would never get away with half the things these people do.
If there is anything I can do to help the parents and teachers at the pre-school I will BUT I don’t want to clean up crap either.
 Darlene Skinner
Alice Springs

Teen sex laws

Sir,– The NT’s peak Aboriginal health body says that the new Care and Protection of Children legislation will create a major barrier to young people accessing health services, resulting in an increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and early teenage  pregnancies.
It will also be a barrier for young pregnant women accessing antenatal care.
This will lead to untreated life threatening infections, more infertility, more teenage pregnancies and poorer birth outcomes due to lack of antenatal care. These severe consequences will fall unequally on Aboriginal young people; it makes a mockery of the NT government commitment to Closing the Gap.
AMSANT has called on the NT government to urgently amend the legislation so that it is no longer mandatory to report all sexual activity in people aged under 16 years to the Department of Health and Families (DHF) and the police. So far this has fallen on deaf ears.
If the NT government continues to fail to act then AMSANT calls on the Australian government to intervene and override this legislation in the same way that they did with the Care of the Terminally Ill Bill. The health and well being of the young people of the NT is too important to let this go.
Australian-wide surveys have consistently shown that a significant proportion of young people are sexually active under the age of 16 but that’s no reason to involve ‘welfare’ and the police every time. It is a concern to AMSANT that too many young people are becoming sexually active at an early age but this problem cannot be dealt with in this way without causing even greater harm.
Most sexually active young people are in consensual relationships with other teenagers, so they need confidential primary health care and sexual health services so that they can access antenatal care, counseling, prevention and treatment of STIs and prevent unplanned pregnancies. That’s not going to happen if FACS and the police get involved.
Of course it’s crucial that clinicians report to FACS any young person that may be being sexually abused or exploited, but this was already mandatory for health professionals under the previous legislation, so why change it now? There is a need to ensure that all health professionals are well trained and supported to identify the early warning signs of abuse. However, if there is any evidence that some health professionals have failed to report clear signs of sexual abuse then they should be prosecuted appropriately.
As far as AMSANT is aware the NT Government enacted this legislation, which has profound public health consequences, without seeking public health advice, even from its own health department or the views of the community. This is an example of very poor government.
The NT government has clearly not thought through the issue properly and needs to amend this legislation immediately, and to adequately resource primary health care services, supported by child protection agencies, to better respond to child neglect  and abuse under existing guidelines.
Stephanie Bell

Lost relatives

Sir,– I am trying to find my long lost ex-sister-in-law.  I hear she is living on a ranch near Alice Springs, Australia.
Her married name was Donna Robinson (maiden name Roulston), her birthday January 8.  Donna went down to Australia on a teacher exchange from Barrie, Ontario, Canada in December 1979 or December 1980.
She did not come back to Canada after her one year term but stayed in Australia and married a man with a young child. 
Her mother Betty Roulston used to go down to visit from London, Ontario around Christmas time for two to three months every year.  
Donna is an only child and had open heart surgery since she went to Australia.
If anyone has any information about my sister-in-law I would like to hear from you.
Larry Robinson,
166 Bay Street
RR 1, Box 530, Victoria Harbour
Ontario, Canada,  L0K 2A0

Sir,– I wonder if you could help me in my effort to trace a cousin whose name is Jim Littler.
He was born in Manchester, England, served in the Royal Navy in WW2, was torpedoed three times, on the third occasion was adrift in an open boat for six weeks.
Immediately after the war he met an Australian lady who was visiting England.
They married and moved to Australia in the late 1940s ( probably 1948).
I do not know the lady’s name but apparently her parents were sheep farmers in the Alice Springs area.
I would like to trace him or his descendants to forward old family photos, plus a summary of family history. Thank you.
Dennis Littler
14 West Street
North Lincolnshire
DN15 9QQ. UK

ADAM'S APPLE: What kind of men do Alice women want?

Every so often, we hear of a phenomenon that is spoken about as a plague, a Moses-in-the-wilderness type of calamity.
It is bemoaned alongside pestilence, global warming and the continued success of reality television.
It is a phenomenon thought of as a potential disaster for the Alice Springs economy and community as a whole.
Media across the Territory as well as some interstate have featured the problem with dire warnings of its potential harm.
Even this publication has from time to time warned of the consequences.
The chronic “man drought” of Central Australia, if unattended, could well lead to an exodus on an Israelite scale.
The issue boils down to the fact that there simply aren’t enough men to satisfy the emotional needs of the women in town.
The overarching theme propagated by this coverage is that without suitable male populations, the entire single female quotient in town could be forced to flee in order to find happiness.
It sounds terrible. A shocking consequence of events that have lead to poor love-longing ladies being left as high and dry as the desert in which they inhabit.
I don’t want to sound as though I’m being insensitive. But I simply don’t think that the man drought is as cut and dry as the stories suggest.
In fact, upon further study of the articles past, I have come to the conclusion that the man drought may well be a Marxist conspiracy. It sounds a tad dramatic but hear me out.
You see, the further you read through the articles and interviews relating to the man drought the more you find that there are actually plenty of men in Alice Springs. The problem seems to not be the numbers of men in town but indeed their calibre.
The authors of these exposés get around to suggesting that the majority of single, heterosexual women in town work in white-collar industries while the majority of single, heterosexual men work in blue-collar industries.
This theory suggests that Karl Marx was correct when he said that there is no such thing as a classless society and that the classes cannot mix.
It suggests that white-collar women and blue-collar men have nothing in common.
It suggests that the female receptionist is brighter and more cultured than the male diesel mechanic.
I don’t buy it. I’ve met some hyper bright truck drivers and some incredibly dumb truck drivers. I’ve met some hyper bright office workers and some incredibly thick ones too.
In my opinion the man drought is not a class struggle. It’s more insidious than that.
In my opinion the reason women in Alice Springs can’t find a suitable man is that most men don’t quite know how to be one and most women don’t quite know what they want their men to be.
Is it me or is gender evolving as fast as technology?
In the good old days men were men for good or bad, and women were women. Sure you had the occasional dandy but that’s as diverse as it got.
Now with every change of season it seems men are changing. To be honest it’s hard to keep up. First there was the snag and then the metrosexual. Rebelling against the metro was the retrosexual and now we are meant to be the neosexual. Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig are the paragons of attraction now. Goodbye Johnny Depp. Goodbye Brad Pitt.
Manly softies are the new hot. The media tells us that women want a man who can shower them in flowers, cook eggs benedict for breakfast, then wrestle a crocodile before lunch.
The problem is twofold. We blokes don’t know if that’s the man we want to be and if a bloke is that perfect, chances are ladies, he’s probably taken.
Is the man drought a conspiracy to get people to buy into the Cosmo / Sex In The City / Manolo Blahnik lifestyle? Or is it a product of the fact that although we can invent the internet, the International Space Station and the cure for cervical cancer, we actually find understanding the opposite sex a bit too tough?

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