ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
May 21, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
New era looms in bush. By
Aboriginal towns operating like any other in Australia, where people
can live free of permits, invest and run a business, and own their own
homes – that’s the courageous initiative of Alison Anderson, NT
Minister for Indigenous Policy, in a desperate bid to end decades of
misery for her people.
Ms Anderson’s move to bring home from Canberra key aspects of
Indigenous affairs has the support of the NT Cabinet but will almost
certainly be opposed vigorously by the land councils whose power and
influence would be seriously curtailed.
The policy announced yesterday charts a course for the NT Government
out of the Federal Intervention with a radical overhaul of the way
government does business in that half of the Territory owned by
Twenty of the larger remote communities will become growth towns open
for private investment and the subject of priority investment by
government to become hub towns in a “hub and spoke” model for service
Land title in these towns will change: they will have a head lease,
preferably 99-year, with sub-leases able to be held by private
This is very much the model pushed by former Indigenous Affairs
Minister Mal Brough and opposed by the Territory Government when the
Intervention was introduced.
Township leases exist already in Nguiu (99 years) on the Tiwi Islands
and over three communities on Groote Eylandt (80 years).
As in these cases, the head leases will be held by the Office of
Township Leasing, an entity created at the behest of Mr Brough. A lot
has changed in just two years.
The 20 growth towns will be towns “in the proper sense of the word”,
says Ms Anderson.
They include the 15 prioritised by the Federal Government for housing
and infrastructure investment.
Five have been added to increase the coverage of the “hub and spoke”
service delivery model.
In Central Australia the new towns will be Hermannsburg, Yuendumu,
Papunya, Ali Curung, Lajamanu and Elliott.
“Much like country towns anywhere in Australia, they will be the
economic and service centers for their region,” says Ms Anderson, “with
motor vehicle registries, high schools, Centrelink offices, health
services, shops, including specialty shops, cafes.”
The permit system in these towns will be “redundant”, says Ms Anderson.
It is incompatible with the development of private enterprise in the
towns, as it leaves open the possibility of people being “kicked out”.
“Open communities are essential for economic growth and development,”
“With the Indigenous birthrate increasing, if we can’t get a private
economy going on Indigenous land, we might as well start increasing
taxes right now,” says Ms Anderson.
An Indigenous Economic Development Strategy is part of the new policy,
with security of land tenure and tax incentives for remote enterprise
its key features.
Previously a lot of economic development on Indigenous land has been ad
hoc; the new policy establishes a base environment conducive to
The sub-leases available in the growth towns will have to be unfettered
enough to “pass a mortgage test”, allowing lessees to be borrow money
against them, says Ms Anderson.
Private investment in the growth towns may well take time, but “without
land tenure security” it will never happen, says Ms Anderson.
The new policy sits between the extremes of the over-stretched present,
with government effort scattered across more than 70 communities as
well as the outstations, and the decried alternative of herding remote
populations into the larger centres.
With the Federal Intervention due to end in August 2012, the Territory
Government wants to ensure that it doesn’t need to extend beyond that
The policy, announced by Chief Minister Paul Henderson and Ms Anderson
yesterday, has big ramifications for the way the Land Rights Act
operates and for the power of the land councils.
While Ms Anderson is hoping for the land councils’ full support and
cooperation, if they fight the moves it is a fight “we are prepared to
have”, she says.
“We will fight on behalf of Indigenous people moving forward and having
the best life they possibly can, like normal Territorians, given all
the choices and opportunities of a good quality education, of a good
housing scheme and land tenure scheme, rather than just having the land
to die on, land that’s not giving them anything.
“There was a time and place for land rights. We got our land back.
Where to from here?”
At present the Land Trusts set up under the Land Rights Act nominally
have the power over what can or cannot happen on their land.
In practice, this power is delegated to the land councils.
Ms Anderson says that the trusts can take their future in their own
hands by demanding those delegated powers back: it’s an option provided
for in the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act.
It’s something that would need the agreement of the Federal Minister
for Indigenous Affairs, which Ms Anderson believes would be
The only power that the Act says must be delegated to the land councils
is that related to negotiating mining agreements.
Ms Anderson says the attitude from the land councils to date has been
In contrast, the people she has spoken to at outstation resource
centres and in the shires have been “really positive” about the
prospect of change.
“The land councils are saying this is about us taking away the land.
“It’s not. It’s about having certainty for infrastructure and certainty
for business to be developed on these remote towns.”
The issues will be put to the people, though the mechanism for doing
that has yet to be determined.
“But I’m telling you, people want to move on,” says Ms Anderson.
“They are saying, ‘Give us some opportunities for our children to have
something better than what we’ve had’.”
Are people equipped with the know-how to take charge?
Ms Anderson says the government will help and the land trusts will also
be able to employ people to assist them.
Much of what is being proposed bears the stamp of the thinking of
former Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough, chief architect
of the Federal Intervention.
Says Ms Anderson: “Even though we were on different sides of politics I
totally agreed with him and I thought the guy had the guts that nobody
else had ever had, to recognize that it’s all very well to have the
land but if you are not benefiting in any way from the land, what’s the
use – just to continue the violence, the poverty and the disadvantage?”
Called “A Working Future”, the new policy’s title is intentionally
double-edged: communities need to work better, that is become more
functional, and Indigenous people need to work, that is be employed.
As well, all levels of government need to work together.
While there is as yet no formal agreement about the policy with the
Australian Government and it has not been discussed directly with
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, there are a number
of formal agreements that underpin its direction.
These include the recently signed Council of Australian Governments’
Remote Service Delivery National Partnership (with $10m attached to
help implement the reforms) and the public housing provision agreements
between the Australian and Territory Governments.
A test of the strength of support likely to be given by Ms Macklin will
come today in her dealings with Tangentyere Council over the future of
town camps in Alice Springs.
While the town camps do not come under “A Working Future”, given its
focus on remote areas, allowing existing arrangements to remain would
be anomalous in the context of the mainstreaming direction of
Indigenous affairs policy at both the Federal and Territory levels.
Meanwhile, in remote areas small communities will continue to receive
similar levels of government funding to what they receive at present,
but housing will be treated as public housing and will be managed by
Territory Housing, with allocation according to need and means tested
“With small communities, we would welcome their initiative if they want
a town lease and land tenure security to carve out a niche for
themselves as, for instance, a tourism destination,” says Ms Anderson.
The small communities and outstations will be linked to the hub towns
by a regional public transport network.
This will require a massive investment in roads infrastructure the main
area of as yet unannounced expenditure involved in the implementation
of the new policy.
There will be no new housing built in outstations and no new
The current base level of funding to outstations ($36.5m) will remain,
to cover municipal-type functions, but the maintenance of housing will
be up to the owners.
“In the Territory anywhere there are only two types of housing, private
and public,” says Ms Anderson.
“Public housing has a Territory Housing lease over it and Territory
Housing has responsibility for repairs and maintenance.
“People in private housing are primarily responsible for it. This is a
key transitional message that I will have to get across.
“I recognise the importance of people living on country but people
should not expect the taxpayer to pay for it.
“This is something that they are going to have to get used to, a
totally different working direction.
“Hopefully it will take outstation residents out of the welfare cycle.
They could be partnering with lots of people to get enterprises going
on their land.”
Like children anywhere, children living on outstations will have to
receive a formal education.
In some instances it will be feasible for them to use regional
transport to travel to school; in others, like children from remote
cattle stations or roadhouses, they will have to use distance education
facilities, such as School of the Air.
“I’m saying to these people, if you don’t take responsibility for all
aspects of your lives, you don’t have a future,” says Ms Anderson.
Outstations that have become so big that they are effectively small
communities will be taken out of the outstation funding environment.
One such is Alpara on the Plenty Highway, which cannot become a hub
town because of cultural constraints, but it will be funded to support
the Utopia homelands.
In the Centre there will be no hub town east of the Stuart Highway, due
to population numbers and lack of suitable geographic placement.
Finke, Titjikala, Santa Teresa and Harts Range will all continue to
rely on Alice Springs as their main service centre.
Between 80% and 95% of Aboriginal people live within a 50 km radius of
either the 20 growth towns or the existing towns such as Jabiru and the
major urban centres along the Stuart Highway.
Bob Beadman boss
Chairman of the NT Grants Commission and veteran Territory and
Commonwealth public servant, now retired, Bob Beadman, has been
appointed by Indigenous Policy Minister Alison Anderson to the role of
Coordinator General of Remote Service Delivery.
In this role he will have the ability to go to CEO level in the various
government departments and, if services are not being delivered
adequately, demand reasons why.
The Coordinator General will report directly to the Chief Minister and
the Indigenous Policy Minister.
Mr Beadman is known as an outspoken critic of the policy failures of
the last 30 years.
In 2004 he wrote a lacerating paper for the Menzies Research Centre,
titled “Do Indigenous Youth Have a Dream?”.
Many of the ideas in it appeared to be precursors of the ideas later
taken up by former Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough and now in
the current reforms program of the Territory Government.
Longer term funding
Funding of remote Indigenous communities and towns will be moved to a
base level methodology applied over three, five and 10 year terms,
replacing the annual grant rounds that dog remote service delivery.
This will allow towns to plan with certainty about the future, knowing
that they will receive at least a base level of funding for services,
based on their populations.
Indigenous Policy Minister Alison Anderson says there will be far
greater funding equity using this methodology.
She gives as an example of inequity, Commonwealth capital expenditure
in Indigenous communities in 2004-05, when three communities –
Lajamanu, Groote and Wadeye – received half of all the money. With
recurrent expenditure the inequity has been even more disturbing.
An in-depth analysis of funding received in East Arnhemland and West
Arnhemland over 2004-05 and 2005-06 revealed that East Arnhemland was
getting five times more per capita.
A broad brush comparison between East Arnhemland and the desert regions
showed a similar discrepancy.
“This is the result of having had a funding system based on how well
someone can do a funding application,” says Ms Anderson.
“This is the big job for Bob Beadman. He has been charged with changing
the way we do business, ensuring equity across the NT based on a
transparent methodology and on need.”
Land council’s new hurdle.
ANALYSIS by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Central Land Council has been having a rough trot lately, and it’s
getting a lot worse: none other than the Territory Government, in the
hands of the CLC’s long time ally, the Labor Party, is prepared now to
push for a curtailing of CLC power.
Alison Anderson’s revolutionary plan for her “people on the ground” can
be seen as a damning indictment – widely supported in the black as well
as the white societies – of the CLC’s catastrophic failure over three
decades (a matter to which this newspaper has drawn attention for many
It took the politicians a long time to act but last year they pounced:
Opposition Senators Nigel Scullion (NT) and George Brandis (QC, the
Shadow Attorney General) grilled CLC director David Ross in Estimates
Hearings about a string of issues including distributions of royalties.
Mr Ross, the man who earns, in addition to his CLC salary, $63,000 a
year in company directors’ fees, had little to say for himself, taking
on notice even simple questions, or refusing to answer them.
Then came a Federal Government report into Centrecorp, finally laying
bare the operations of the clandestine investment company, with
interests worth a reported $100m.
The CLC has a majority shareholding, which is possibly illegal.
The CLC has for years stonewalled enquiries from this newspaper about
Centrecorp – google 91 reports in our online edition at
www.alicespringsnews.com.au going back to 1998.
Two weeks ago came another Federal Government report with the damning
revelation that, of the four NT land councils, the CLC has the worst
ratio of administration vs investment expenditure.
Of the money received from the Aboriginal Benefit Account, the CLC
blows $9.5m a year on its own administration while just $2.4m is
distributed to Aboriginal groups.
Compare that with the Anindilyakwa Land Council, covering Groote
Eylandt and Bickerton Island: less than $1m is spent on administration
while $11m is distributed to Aboriginal groups in the region.
And now Sen Scullion has pushed through a Senate enquiry into the
“relationship and financial dealings” between the CLC and Centrecorp.
There will be hearings in Alice Springs later this year.
The Territory’s Labor Senator, Trish Crossin, opposed this enquiry, and
recently the Labor Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, admitted he had
“no interest in pursuing” Senate questioning of the affairs of
Their disconnect from reality is astounding and they bear significant
responsibility for the ongoing misery in Aboriginal society.
Says Sen Scullion about the new probe, due to report by August 11:
“This enquiry is designed to once and for all tear down the secrecy
surrounding two multi million dollar enterprises so that Aboriginal
people can finally learn who benefits and in what way through CLC and
The terms of reference include “whether taxpayers’ funds have been paid
or transferred to Centrecorp and how those monies have been treated in
the accounts of the Central Land Council and Centrecorp” and “how
Aboriginal Australians living in the Central Australia region benefit
from Centrecorp’s business and charitable operations.”
Centrecorp’s trust deed is another previously secret document that saw
the light of day a couple of weeks ago, by direction of the Senate (the
CLC is an agency of the Federal Government).
The deed was touted as laying to rest persistent allegations that the
CLC, through its investment in Centrecorp, is in breach of the very Act
under which it operates.
This is how the argument goes:-
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act says the land council can “assist
Aboriginals ... to carry out commercial activities ... in any manner
that will not cause the Land Council to incur financial liability or
enable it to receive financial benefit”.
As the owner of three of the five shares in Centrecorp the CLC seems
most decidedly exposed to financial liability or benefit.
Not so, says a highly placed source, speaking to the Alice Springs News
on the condition of not being named: “The Trust Deeds [of Centrecorp]
expressly prohibit any benefit to shareholders.”
However, it seems that should be tested rigourously.
This is what the Centrecorp deed says (please don’t blame us for the
language): “The income and property of the Trust Fund shall be applied
solely for the promotion of the Charitable Objects in accordance with
the provisions of this Deed and no portion thereof shall be paid or
transferred directly or indirectly by way of dividend bonus or
otherwise howsoever by way of profit to the shareholders of the Trustee
provided that nothing herein shall prevent the payment in good faith of
remuneration to any officer, servant or shareholder of the Trustee in
return for any services actually rendered to the Trustee or reasonable
and proper rental for any premises leased to the Trustee” [our
One’s head spins imagining the “financial benefit” the CLC could get in
the form of “remuneration” for a multitude of services and
consultations it could be providing to Centrecorp and the companies
linked to it.
As the majority shareholder, all the CLC would need to do is snap its
fingers and Centrecorp would have to comply.
The CLC, it seems, is clearly “enabled” to “receive financial benefit”
from Centrecorp, even if it does not do so at the moment, and that, it
would seem, is against the law.
Could it be that as an organisation staring redundancy in the face,
because its sustained incompetence is finally becoming notorious, the
CLC was trying to set up a nice little earner for when the taxpayer
finally gave it the heave-ho?
Who should occupy the CLC building nearing completion on the North
Stuart Highway, at a cost to the taxpayer of $16m?
History will tell, but if reason reigns, it could well be a team
turning Alison Anderson’s dream into reality.
Remission for footy brawlers.
By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Two key offenders in the notorious 2007 football grand final brawl,
Owen Cole and Geoffrey Miller, have had their league penalties
drastically reduced by a tribunal independent from the Central
Australian Football League (AFLCA).
Both, on charges of aggravated assault, copped suspended jail terms in
the Magistrate’s Court.
Mr Cole’s actions were described by the magistrate as “savagery and
thuggery of the worst order”.
But the league-imposed punishment has been reduced from life bans to
six years, with three of the six years suspended indefinitely. This
will see both men back at the footy grounds in 2011.
The reductions were granted by an independent panel consisting of Alice
Springs identities Bruce Deans, a businessman, and Paul Fitzsimons, a
public servant, and Darwin lawyer Tom Anderson.
AFLCA says the panel was convened “pursuant to the deed of release and
indemnity” made between AFLCA and Pioneer Football Club in March 2008.
Two other brawlers had their penalties reduced: David Kerrin (kept his
four years suspension but two of them were suspended) and Jarwon
Cole-Manolis (seven years down to four years with two of them
The incident attracted world wide attention to Alice Springs when more
than 70,000 people watched footage of the melee, uploaded on YouTube by
the Alice Springs News.
It was accompanied by one of the most poisonous public exchanges the
town has ever seen, with hundreds of racial slurs posted on the
website. The News pulled the posting off YouTube after two weeks.
The decisions about the penalties were made on April 21 and are
reported here exclusively, after a tip-off from a football fan.
AFLCA has made no public announcement but all the local clubs have been
Main street art: How the
galleries survive the recession. By KIERAN FINNANE.
For one Alice art business, after almost 20 years in the game, now is a
time to consolidate in face of the uncertain economic climate; for
another, born in the teeth of the downturn, now is a time to hold their
Gallery Gondwana was established in Alice in 1990, in the wake of a
previous economic slump caused by the pilots’ strike of the year
Peta Appleyard Gallery opened in November last year, just a month after
massive credit losses around the world put the words “Global Financial
Crisis” on everyone’s lips.
At the time Arts Minister Alison Anderson acknowledged the courage of
owner Peta Appleyard given the economic times.
Founder and owner of Gallery Gondwana, Roslyn Premont, says the
circumstances of her early years were “not as hard as they are for
“It was a very different landscape – much less competition, and I had
fewer expenses, with just myself and a partner running the
Since then Gallery Gondwana has established a solid reputation for
quality work and ethical dealings with Aboriginal artists and has also
undergone various changes and expansions. At one stage there was a
Gondwana II in Alice, focused on decorative arts and furnishings.
In more recent years there has been a Gallery Gondwana in Sydney, in an
operation similar to its sister gallery in Alice, focussed primarily on
Aboriginal art (though not exclusively work from the Centre).
Common to all has been the driving energy of Ms Premont, who arrived in
Alice in 1987 and ran the government-owned Centre for Aboriginal Art
for three years before branching out on her own.
Now she is closing the Sydney operation and will return to Alice to
focus on “the main game”.
The lease for the Sydney premises is up for renewal.
With the economic climate as it is, she feels it is “not sensible” to
This time of year is always slower, says Ms Premont, so it is hard to
know how much is due to the economic downturn.
“We are feeling it in Alice as well. When the tourist season starts,
we’ll see more clearly.
“My main priority is to keep everyone employed and to stay buoyant.”
However, in the show just opened in Sydney, honouring the work of
Mitjili Napanangka Gibson, who plays the artist grandmother in Warwick
Thornton’s acclaimed film Samson & Delilah, the signal seemed
More than 250 people came to the opening, which featured cast and crew
from the film and also marked the occasion of the final Gondwana show
in the Sydney gallery.
Says Ms Premont: “Two years ago all the work of an artist of Mitjili’s
calibre would have sold on opening night.
“This time, while all the small works sold and a few of the larger ones
went to big collectors, the medium-sized works have not yet moved.”
In Alice Springs the gallery continues to sell works priced under $5000
and occasionally “amazing pieces” to special collectors, but these
larger sales are “few and far between”.
“We are definitely feeling the crunch but we just don’t know to what
Ms Premont says she can’t remember a comparable period in her two
decades in the industry.
She believes a market for excellent quality work will always survive,
as will, to some extent, a market for work by which to remember one’s
experiences in the Centre – “this market makes up part of our turnover
But she will be looking for opportunities to diversify, “to tap into
another income stream”.
The local market will be important for this.
Gallery Gondwana already caters to locals with their jewelry lines, and
occasional fashion parades.
“That’s not our main income stream but it’s important and it gets
people into the gallery who otherwise might not come.
“We get a lot of first time art buyers that way.”
Peta Appleyard’s approach has been to diversify from the outset.
While the fortunes of the gallery are underpinned by its exclusive
representation of Watiyawanu Artists, whose leading painters are much
sought after, it is committed to displaying a broad spectrum of
contemporary Australian art, not only Indigenous art.
“Much as it is loved, there is a saturation of Indigenous art in Alice
Springs,” says Ms Appleyard.
The gallery’s showing of a selection of work by the late Halcyon Lucas
marks a first: there has not previously been a solo show for a
non-Indigenous local artist in a commercial gallery in Alice (Gallery
Gondwana has also shown work by non-Indigenous locals, an innovation at
the time, but not as a solo show).
Art lovers have responded.
Peta Appleyard Gallery manager Nathan King, born and raised in Alice,
says so far the show is covering its costs and if a couple more of the
larger works sell, “we’ll be in front”.
But he also says “this show was never about profit”.
“Everything was priced very modestly. We and Halcyon’s daughters wanted
to make the work accessible to the people who knew her – to provide the
opportunity for a redistribution of her work back into the community.
“The main reason we would class the show as successful is that has been
good for our general PR.
“A new group of people are becoming aware of our existence, a mixture
of young and old, and some visitors, including four Belgian
The Belgians pooled funds to buy the excellent painting featuring on
the show’s invitation, intending to share it, with a handover once a
year on the anniversary of their acquisition.
Another work went to a significant private collection in Victoria.
Mr King, who has a degree in business with a major in marketing, knows
that most new businesses go broke within the first 12 months.
“Our first goal is not to go broke,” he says.
“We’re realistic. We won’t make a lot of money this year, but we’ve
“Just when things have been looking dire, when a big bill has been
coming up, sales have gone through.”
This has been particularly the case with work by Watiyawanu artists,
but a showing of the “collectable” British-born, Melbourne-based artist
David Bromley also had good returns.
Only three works were sold, but two were for in excess of $10,000. All
buyers were local.
Were they surprised to find this demand locally?
“We were relieved but not surprised,” says Mr King, “that was our plan.
“Two out of the three buyers were people who do not have a passion for
Aboriginal art. We were offering an alternative, non-Indigenous
paintings with investment potential.”
Ms Appleyard says the most common word used in response to the Bromley
show was “refreshing”.
“The public has been telling us what we felt ourselves, that there was
room to do something different.”
Peta Appleyard Gallery is next door to Gallery Gondwana.
Ms Appleyard welcomes the prospect of Ms Premont’s renewed focus on her
“That’s fantastic for us and for Papunya Tula.
“Alice Springs is what’s important to me, as my home town.
“If we’re all working hard, we challenge one another, that helps all of
us do our best.”
Her gallery is notable for its lofty space and elegant refurbishment.
“We strived to create from the floor up a good quality space, a blank
canvas, to allow the work we show to speak for itself,” says Ms
It must also have exposed her to some debt: its furnishings are
custom-designed; its Erco lighting is state of the art (“what they use
in the Louvre”, she says).
Did she have a healthy amount of capital to start with?
She laughs: she had some capital but is certainly carrying some debt.
Her response to the current economic climate is simple: “Stay strong,
focus on what we do.”
“I had every expectation that it would be a tough journey regardless of
She acknowledges the importance of her exclusive representation of
Watiyawanu Artists and on-going relationships with interstate galleries
that have developed around that.
In fact the Watiyawanu artists are responsible for her involvement in
the art industry and led her “to whitefella art”.
Ms Appleyard grew up out bush, between Haasts Bluff and Mt Liebig.
“Their art was part of my life along with other things like hunting and
ceremony but it didn’t hit me as a profound experience until I went
back out as a married woman with a child, and saw work by Wentja
Napaltjarri – I was gob-smacked, I literally fell to my knees.”
Ms Appleyard’s mother, Glenis Wilkins, was (and still is) working as
coordinator at the art centre.
“I said to them I’m here, tell me how I can help you.”
And so six years ago, she began marketing their work.
“I dealt with people the artists weren’t interested in dealing with,
raising their profile – they are now a very recognised art centre.
“Our deal with them is like that of any other gallery, 60 to the
artist, 40 to us, and we cover expenses.”
As she became more confident in what she was doing, the idea of her own
gallery was born. Planning was well underway before the global economy
began to unravel. There’s no turning back now.
Buzz, not bucks: The Finke ...
16 days to go. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Finke is about buzz, not bucks.
Wayne Braszell (above, left) and Jason Adami (right) are living proof
Both have come down with the Finke Fever gripping Alice Springs, their
minds focussed on getting their machines ready, however different they
“You can feel the hype building, all around town,” says Wayne.
He reckons his Southern Cross Mark III buggy is worth around $18,000.
That’s roughly what the shock absorbers alone cost on the “truggie”
raced by Jason, a massive machine with one of the longest and widest
wheelbases, and a 5.7 litre V8 motor.
Value? “Around $80,000,” says Jason.
While Jason, having raced with Peter Kittle, is used to top of the
range gear, Wayne is competing in the Sportsman’s Class (formerly Class
“It’s every bit as much fun,” he says.
His objective is finishing, not winning.
He’s competed in every Finke since 1998.
He won his class twice and had one second place.
That’s the only three times he finished.
In one race his buggy gave up the ghost just 35 kms from the start.
One time it conked out within sight of the day one finish at the Finke
In the wet 2001 race the engine drowned 20 kms from the finish line.
“I drive it hard,” says Wayne. “After all, it’s a race.”
His navigator is his work mate, Shane Tenace.
Wayne owns WB Mobile Windscreens and the race will be a real break for
both of them: the buggy doesn’t have a windscreen.
Wayne’s machine, like most of them in the Finke, is testimony to the
dedication and mechanical skills of the drivers and owners.
The buggy has a VW running gear with a few Porsche bits; a five-speed
Renault box; a tiny 1300 cc, normally aspirated Suzuki GTI engine that
revs at a most respectable 8000 RPM.
At that output when something goes wrong, it goes wrong big time.
Wayne fitted springs and shockies (18” travel at the back, 16” front).
Three weeks out from the race, his engine head is still in Adelaide.
Wayne’s fingers are crossed, but he’s used to it: the buggy is always a
work in progress, in the shed on Wayne’s rural block.
The seven winter time races each year at the magnificent Ooraminna
track are a great proving ground for the Big One on the Queen’s
In town Jason, owner of the Sporties restaurant and bar in the Mall, is
scraping the mud off from the last Ooraminna meeting.
His truggy’s front is from a Jymco buggy and the tail end comes from a
Trophy Truck also made in the USA.
So is the centrally mounted Chev 350 getting its 500 horsepower onto
the track via a three gear Turbo 400 box.
Top speed: 240 km/h.
Has he done it, on dirt?
“Yes,” says Jason.
He says the truggy won’t be the fastest in the race but almost
certainly the most reliable (Jason finds a piece of wood to touch).
The buggies with independent rear suspension will have an advantage
over the truggie’s rigid rear axle, with a limited slip differential.
But the truggie will be stronger.
“It’s built not to break. It’s hopefully indestructible,” says Jason.
The front features J-shaped swing arms, forward of the shockies,
allowing 20” of travel, more than A-shaped arms would permit with the
shockies in the middle.
The machine’s cage-like chassis is testimony to the engineering skills
developed in Alice Springs over 31 Finkes, especially since the buggies
gained pre-eminence over the bikes in early 2000.
Jason says the chassis, originally adapted and built by Rod Smith, has
been upgraded by his “fabricator”, Mick Ackaman, from designs by Jason.
He says the wheelbase of the machine was determined by the distance
between the whoops, the legendary bumps in the track, so that the buggy
can fly from top to top.
But now the whoops are further apart, says Jason “and bigger”.
Like most competitors Jason is praying for rain on the race days,
keeping down the all-embracing dust which can cut down visibility to as
little as 10 metres.
Jason’s navigator is Danny Auricht, a bike competitor before driving
for Peter Kittle, later handing over to Dave Fellows.
Jason says even a top navigator has a difficult job: “There is too much
In the USA there is now wide use of GPS guided track information.
Continuous images of the track immediately ahead are displayed on a
screen – minus the dust. That system is not yet permitted in Australian
ADAM'S APPLE: Weighing up
freedom versus distance.
When it comes to discussions about the cost of air travel, most
Centralians respond with the same six word lament – “Don’t talk to me
Let’s not pretend for a moment that we live in a civilised society.
When someone from Sydney can be flown to Vietnam and back and be housed
there for four nights for $50 more than it took me to fly return to
Sydney, there is something amiss.
Whether frugal by nature or necessity, some people choose the road less
travelled when it comes to getting to a major city. For those who are
Alice locals or those who drive back to their stomping ground you may
not be aware that it is occasionally more economical to fly to your
destination via another city.
In the attempt to save a hundred dollars or so I myself have flown home
via Adelaide, via Melbourne and via Brisbane in my four years in Alice
While it takes some extra time it can save you quite a pretty penny and
it has the added benefit of letting you see parts of the country you
otherwise would miss.
On my last trip home I went via Adelaide. An hour or so out of Alice I
got to see the majestic Lake Eyre full of water from the channel
Although I was 12 kilometres up in the air and looking out of a window
no bigger than my face, it was a sight to see. Such a large body of
water rising out of the driest of landscapes.
Another benefit out the Tour de Tightwad, is that for half a day you
get to wander around a city with no particular purpose but to waste
some time. You get to be an expert on a place in four short hours.
Regardless of the city, the one thing you realise when visiting a place
outside Alice Springs is the amazing freedom we have in Central
Australia.The equation is quite simple. The size of the population
divided by the physical size of the city equals the amount of
regulations, ordinances and laws controlling what you do. Do this here,
don’t do that, and don’t touch this, come over here, line up there.
I was sitting eating a sandwich outside the Adelaide airport watching
the fair people of the garden city make their way in and out of the
terminal. Like zombies on a mission, they filter out to catch their bus
They, like the good citizens they are, throw the obligatory scornful
glance at the man who has decided to smoke a cigarette outside of the
designated smoking zone and then queued at the appropriately signposted
place for the bus to town.
Adelaide is a beautiful place but, just like all the other cities in
Australia it is full of barricades, bus lanes and bright yellow signs.
All of these regulations are implemented with an aim to make living in
a city easier. But does it ever feel like some governments make new
laws just to look like they are doing something?
The South Australian government have recently banned the issuing of
plastic bags. Now regardless of your opinion on the efficacy of such a
move, it’s a bold one and it’s working on the surface at least.I didn’t
realise it for an hour or so but I didn’t see a plastic bag in the
malls and streets of the city.
Not until I was making my way back to the airport. There he was, a
regular looking man walking along the footpath across the road to me,
plastic shopping bag in hand.
People stopped to look. Was he breaking the law or was he part of some
heritage re-enactment group? A throwback to a simpler time. In fact
people were looking at him like people look at a $2 note, or the way
kids look at vinyl records. Sure it costs us a vital organ to get
anywhere, but at least in Alice we aren’t going to be accused of
treason for carrying home the groceries.
LETTERS: Research leads to
Sir,– Trevor Shiell’s letter to the editor (May 14) about a man with a
PhD in physics who left the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT)
after working as an electrician in abandoned remote communities
suggests most academic endeavour is impractical.
The real story is that Dr Bob Lloyd was an excellent research scientist
employed at CAT to conduct cutting edge research in renewable energy.
Bob left CAT because he was recruited to head a national renewable
energy project at the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy.
His research report laid the foundation for the national renewable
energy services Bushlight project.
This project has generated over $40m income to the town of Alice
Springs and has provided employment for over 60 people. The
project has bought national attention to the town and has won the
National Engineering Excellence Award and the project’s initial leader
was also recognised as the National Engineering Technologist of the
year in 2007.
The project has stimulated the growth and expansion of more than 10
small business enterprises across remote Australia and has developed
and refined the renewable energy industry’s capacity to service remote
These businesses now operate in a service network that supports 136
Bushlight systems in 106 communities and a further 100 non-Bushlight
renewable systems across NT, WA and QLD.
The expertise and capacity CAT has developed enabled us to play a
leadership role within the Alice Springs Solar City bid through
Bushlight’s then General Manager Grant Behrendorff. This $40m
project has also generated six new jobs as well as providing residents
of Alice Springs with a real opportunity to reduce their energy costs
and provide more work for local electrical contractors and green
Staff recruited to CAT to sustain the early energy work have gone on to
prepare feasibility studies and then project manage the design and
construction of the Desert Knowledge Solar Centre bringing a further
$3.1m to the centre and making Alice Springs the focus of the largest
solar demonstration facility in the southern hemisphere.
Alice Springs is the only place in Australia and one of only a few
places worldwide where the renewable industry can obtain live data on
these new solar technologies.
Excited by the opportunity of using new knowledge to expand our
business, and driven by commercial imperatives referred to by Mr
Shiell, the Board of CAT (all Indigenous people) two years ago
established a “for profit” company, CAT Projects, which has grown
quickly and recently managed the design and installation of the largest
roof top photovoltaic array in the southern hemisphere at the Crown
Plaza in Alice Springs, another $3m project.
CAT Projects is also managing other major community infrastructure
projects around Alice Springs and in conjunction with the Indian and
Australian governments is undertaking a $3m project in three regions in
India applying skills and experience gained through the Bushlight
project to the development of village energy services in India.
No pay toilets in USA
Sir,– Regarding ‘Are we getting public dunnies right?’ (May 14).
Pay toilets were outlawed years ago in the USA.
Each business has an “implied contract” with the general public
concerning safety, health and a sanitary environment, and many other
considerations that are normal in the general society.
It is compulsory that each business provide sanitary tolets for the
I keep reading your paper. Keep on trucking.
Las Vegas, Nevada-USA
Sir,– The Territory Today 8HA poll recorded 94% of people are not happy
with Cameco Paladin commencing drilling for uranium at Angela
Pamela, only 20km from Alice Springs.
This is a clear message that the people of Alice Springs need to be
consulted by the NT Government about mining uranium on their doorstep.
We must stand up and voice our concerns about this dangerous polluting
Let’s protect our town from this greedy corporation.
Not afraid of U-mine
Sir,– To those who are worried about uranium mining a little to the
south of Alice Springs I suggest that if they believe the element to be
dangerous, they should be relieved that it ought to be dug up and taken
away. If it’s gone, it’s not a problem.
Why should we be concerned that in some remote way mining uranium might
contaminate the Mereenie aquifer?
For millions of years rainwater has percolated through the deposit,
evidently causing no aquatic radioactivity to Mereenie water.
I have camped in the proposed mine area, sleeping on the ground in my
swag a number of times. I’m still here!
The fear of uranium as a power source reminds me of the introduction of
motor vehicles into England. So feared were these machines that a man
waving a red flag was required to walk ahead of each vehicle.
In 1957-58 I was involved with the testing of the first neutron
The source of the neutron scatter was a small slug of Plutonium through
which an electric current was passed. Again, after using this dangerous
device – I’m still here!
When not in use out bush, the radioactive substance was stored at the
then CSIRO headquarters in Gregory Terrace, but to those who work in
that area today – don’t worry. If I survived, so will you.