June 11, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

And the winner is ... Alice Springs! By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Finke has many heroes but the overall winner is Alice Springs.
Not only is the desert race an outback social event without parallel, and evidence of the town’s astonishing technical know-how, it is also a public relations tour de force worth $20m to $25m in Australia alone.
This estimate comes from Mike Drewer, media manager for the desert race for the seventh time this year.
Adelaide based Mr Drewer is hired by about 10 motor racing events around Australia each year to assist the media – and to keep them in line.
There were 76 media staff registered this year, from the NT, SA, WA, NSW and Victoria, about 60% from print and 40% radio, TV and the web, says Mr Drewer.
He says no systematic media analysis and monitoring has yet been done of news reporting of the Finke race, but the Clipsal 500 is getting $60m in value of media coverage.
Mr Drewer claims the Finke is now one of the world’s three top desert races, along with the Baja in California and the Paris to Dakar.
Another Finke regular is Will Hagen, the ABC Grandstand’s national motor sports commentator and reporter.
He is less bullish than Mr Drewer about the news coverage the Finke gets, and its translation into promotion dollars.
But he says this race is truly a sport, not a business, and as such has a great future.
And anyway, with nearly 600 competitors, it’s the biggest motor sports event in the country measured by participation.
Mr Hagen says followers around the nation, and maybe to a growing extent also the world, will appreciate the Finke because it is still truly wild, while many other events are increasingly run on “emasculated, colorless, flavorless circuits on undulated billiard tables”.
He says a driver in the Tasmanian V8 Challenge was complaining about safety, the fences weren’t good enough for him.
“That track is just 2.4 kilometers.
“He’s got guys with fire extinguishers within about 400 meters of him at the furthermost point and he’s complaining about the facilities.
“I don’t know what he would think if he came to the Finke Desert Race.
“We know Dakar is dangerous.
“We know the Finke Desert Race is dangerous.
“People get hurt and people sometimes, unfortunately, get killed,” says Mr Hagen.
“Yet nearly 600 people entered the Finke this year.”
“Same with Dakar.
“That’s why people went into motor sports originally.
“They want to take on something that’s a real achievement if you can do it.
“And if you can win it, wow! You can stand high.”
Patronage – by spectators as well as media – is hindered because Alice is a long way from anywhere, says Mr Hagen.
So it’s hard to get the message across.
“It was hard for Rally Australia, which is based in Perth, to get the message across even to the eastern states.”
There are other yardsticks by which to measure the importance of the race.
Says Mr Hagen: “Mr Jimco was here last year, the [American] who builds the buggies for this race. 
“The Finke is a major event, but it has a smaller crowd and recognition through the media generally.
“It’s very big in the Territory.
“Round Australia, in general terms, if you added up TV, magazines it rates pretty well, but newspapers are not so aware of it.
“It was on ABC national news.
“It might have taken the fire [destroying] Brad Prout’s buggy to get it there, but it was quite a long segment [on Sunday].
“It’s gaining [in media coverage] but it’s a long way behind.
“The thing that gets marketed all the time is the V8 Supercars.
“It has the money to market it. It is a business that is based on motor sports.
“Finke isn’t a business.
“This is motor sport.
“This event is well situated, I believe, for the long term.
“It’s setting itself up with a wonderfully solid and meaningful base that in my opinion will stand by it for years and years to come as a growing event, because it means a lot to the competitors and to the public who watch it.”
Stuart Bowes is a freelance photographer based in Adelaide who gets assignments the world over.
He’s been covering the Finke each year since 2005, this year for ACP publications Top Gear Australia, Auto Action, Overlander and Two Wheels.
What attracts the media to the Finke?
“Adventure, experience, conquering the unknown, the desert, the middle of Australia,” says Mr Bowes.
“People in capital cities admire the adventure of it.
“They know about Alice Springs, the place of the explorers, but are not familiar with the surrounds.”
He says a car on a race track is a familiar thing, but not on what’s “just a track in the middle of nowhere”.
Mr Bowes says usually people with money, resources, backing and sponsors win.
“But in this event, especially in the bikes section, people can prepare for 12 months, throw a lot of money at it.
“But it’s a test of yourself, your ability and your machinery.
“And you can’t fully prepare for a thing like that.
“You never know what will happen.”
Just ask race favourite Brad Prout what happened to his #3 Jimco Chevrolet 6 litre buggy, rumoured to have been worth $300,000.

Turbulent time for Macklin. COMPILED by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin is having a challenging week in Alice Springs as the Central Land Council – an agency within her department – is under sustained scrutiny and attack, and she is moving to freeze out Tangentyere from the $120m deal to – finally – provide decent living conditions for the people in the town camps. We’ve asked Ms Macklin’s minder to arrange an interview with the Minister. These are these issues we want to raise with her.

The Federal Court sets aside (throws out) a decision by the CLC to block exploration in the Simpson Desert by a company owned by Central Petroleum. The company tells the Stock Exchange: “The CLC has not explained ... as required by law, the processes undertaken by them.
“It has been revealed that contrary to the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act ... the CLC did not facilitate initial meetings with all of the relevant Traditional Owners.
“The CLC acknowledged that it may not have followed proper procedures.”
• • •
The CLC’s performance is under attack from petitioners in Hermannsburg.
“This country is ours and we wish to control it ourselves without the Central Land Council,” the petition, signed by over 400 people states, according to the ABC.
The CLC’s view is that this call for direct negotiation with the Australian Government  “is a reflection of the confusion surrounding the issue and the pressure put on Aboriginal people over the community leasing issue”, according to a CLC media release.
Now from the family of widely respected Warlpiri elder Thomas Rice Jangala say the CLC is treating him “shabbily” and “sometimes misrepresent our views to government and push their own agenda”.
They suggest that it is maybe time “that the Warlpiri had their own Land Council so we can look after our own affairs”. (See letter this page).
Under the Land rights Act as it now stands setting up their own land council is the only option for groups who want to negotiate without the CLC.
• • •
The Act under which the CLC operates says it is not allowed to enter into commercial deals that “enable it to receive financial benefit”. Yet the CLC has the majority shareholding in the multi million dollar investment company Centrecorp. Is the CLC in contravention of the Act?
Earlier this year, Ms Macklin’s department told the Alice Springs News: “It is the Department’s understanding that Centrecorp is not a related entity at law to the Central Land Council and the CLC is not at risk because of any commercial activities of Centrecorp.”
Ms Macklin made no further comment.
How can that be so, we persist in asking?
A well informed source from within government, speaking to us on the condition they are not named, says Centrecorp’s trust deed precludes the company from paying money to the CLC. End of story.
Not so: We obtain a copy of the trust deed and it seems to say the opposite, namely that Centrecorp can make payments “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”. A nice little earner for the CLC – now or in the future? And a violation of its obligations under the Act?
• • •
Does CLC own the new $16m building? Or does the Commonwealth, and is it at liberty to put it to good use at some time in the future?
• • •
Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon (whose mantra is “more money, more money”) has an almost perfect record of failure in matters of Indigenous health and regional services over more than two decades, as a politician or (between stints in Canberra) as an operative of the CLC.
After more than 30 years of landrights, the Federal Government saw itself compelled to tell Aborigines how to spend their dole, and how to care for houses given to them by the taxpayer. Meanwhile the CLC spends four times as much on its administration (nearly $10m a year) than it distributes to the people on the ground from mining royalties, that other form of sitdown money. And now Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promotes Mr Snowdon to Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery.

CLC urged to respect
senior Warlpiri man

Sir,– On Tuesday, May 19 we went to the Central Land Council to discuss royalty monies rightly belonging to our family for the Mikanji and Mirawarri, Ngapa (Rain) Dreaming places near Yuendumu.
We were told by a staff member of the CLC that our ownership was in dispute. Others were claiming that they were the rightful owners.
Thomas Rice Jangala (pictured) is one of the most senior men of our people. He is also a member of the Central Land Council.
White staff members of the CLC refused to acknowledge Mr Rice’s status. They treated him shabbily, with no respect.
The staff member involved decided himself to freeze payments on the basis of one letter from people we know well who have no right to this country. He decided to ask the anthropologists at the CLC for advice.
Mr Rice is our senior anthropologist. The white anthropologists, many of them new and inexperienced, will have to ask him for his advice and knowledge.
At the time there was a white anthropologist waiting in our country for Mr Rice to help them do site clearance work. He is the expert.
The CLC staff member refused to listen to him. When he came back again to meet with this staff member he was left waiting for hours.
The staff member was very obviously avoiding us. He hid from us. He refused to meet with Mr Rice.
When David Ross, the Director, was asked to do something he said that he had no authority to direct that staff member.
The CLC has made a lot of mistakes in the past. These mistakes have caused a lot of fighting and feuding amongst our people.
The CLC sometimes misrepresent our views to government and push their own agenda. They don’t always listen to us and they tell us what to do with our own money.
Maybe it’s time that the Warlpiri had their own Land Council so we can look after our own affairs.
The Egan Family

The camp people Tangentyere is
paid to serve don’t have a voice

The Alice Springs News has been covering issues in the town camps for more than 10 years, frequently under the threat of trespass prosecution from Tangentyere Council, the organisation funded lavishly by the public to help the wretched town camps in Alice Springs.
As a provider of municipal services, as a tenancy manager, as a consultant on opportunities for the camps, some of which are in outstandingly attractive locations, as a provider of security, and a lobbyist for effective government attention Tangentyere could have made a difference: it failed on all counts.
Our stories are on the web.
Poor reporting in other media often starts with the failure to grasp that Tangentyere has no formal power whatever over the camps.
The leases over them are held by separate housing associations.
Over the years Tangentyere has – in the eyes of the camp dwellers – twisted its intended role as their servant to one of being their master, despite their proclamation that “Our bosses are our clients and our clients are our bosses” (see their website).
The News has spoken with several camp leaders who are afraid of Tangentyere, or would not act without its approval.
Also seemingly afraid (or otherwise downright irresponsible) have been authorities, such as the NT Government health inspectors.
We reported their petty insistence that a motel owner replace a couple of cracked tiles in his laundry, while in the camp over the motel’s back fence, dead dogs, human faeces and vast piles of rubbish failed to attract their attention.
Tangentyere, and its stalwart supporter Warren Snowdon, our Federal Member and newly appointed Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery, have endlessly complained about being underfunded, indeed “starved” for funds – thus justifying poor performance of municipal-type and tenancy management functions in the town camps.
This has gone unchallenged in the media which time and again reports without question bleeding heart claims by politicians.
A recent example: Greens Senator and Indigenous affairs spokesperson Rachel Siewert recently chimed into the debate by asserting that Tangentyere had been operating on the “smell of an oily rag” and had suffered from “decades of under funding”.
We asked her how she knew that, and has she obtained from Tangentyere a detailed statement about their budget to support her assertions?
An aide dodged the question, saying “Rachel has been dealing with the council for a number of years”.
So have we and the fact is Tangentyere will not disclose any financial information.
The total funding figure of $23m – that’s $4m more than the Alice Springs Town Council budget for running the entire town – frequently published in these pages over the years, has never been challenged by Tangentyere.
And who would argue with it if the camps were safe and clean places for people to make their homes in?
The annual reports on Tangentyere’s website are mum on money. The latest available, 2005-06, says the organisation is dependent on grants – up to 100 in any one year – and receives no core funding.
When you look for details and go to this is what you get: “403 - Forbidden: Access is denied. You do not have permission to view this directory or page using the credentials that you supplied.”
This is the kind of meaningless fob-off the taxpayer gets: “Grants are predominantly from the Australian [five departments] and Northern Territory [six departments] governments, with occasional grants received from the Alice Springs Town Council and various philanthropic bodies.”
I’ve asked Geoff and Walter Shaw many times about financial details but they treat these enquiries as some sort of a joke.
This secrecy, at least so far as the public is concerned, creates a marvellous opportunity for making interesting funding decisions.
The Shaw family dominates a nice little housing estate on the banks of the Charles River, the Mt Nancy Town Lease.
Old man Geoff, my long-term sparring partner, is the vice-president of Tangentyere. His son Walter is the president. His daughter Barbara is on the executive and is a key activist against the Federal Intervention and the now likely compulsory acquisition of the leases.
Geoff is Tangentyere’s former general manager for over 20 years.
Want a sob story from a camp dweller?
Ring Barbara – unless she happens to be overseas or interstate telling the UN and whoever else will listen about the lousy treatment Aborigines are getting in Australia.
We once ran a story about an unmarried Shaw occupying a four bedroom house at Mt Nancy while two families shared a two bedroom house next-door.
We asked Tangentyere whether Geoff, given his employment background and resulting superannuation arrangements (and surely also his wife’s should be taken into account), would ordinarily qualify for public housing.
Mr Tilmouth told us: “Geoff Shaw is a Vietnam veteran on a pension and qualifies for community housing.”
Failure to address the inequities inherent in this approach to tenancies was pinpointed by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin when she spoke to the parliament on May 25 about compulsory acquisition of the leases:
“[Tangentyere Council] will not agree to a fair and consistent tenancy management system. The Australian government and the Northern Territory government cannot agree to a system that does not give tenants in these town camps the same protections that apply to other Australians in other public housing areas.”
Back on July 29, 1998, under the heading “Fringe campers out in the cold and rain as organisations squabble,” we wrote that a “family group of more than 20, mostly elderly adults and their grandchildren, spent last week with a leaking tent and a few old tarpaulins their only shelter from winter temperatures and rain.” They had been evicted from other land.
Mr Griffin, of the Aboriginal Housing and Information Referral Service, said he would “hope” that Tangentyere Council would help. Mr Tilmouth said: “This is not the responsibility of Tangentyere Council, but the responsibility must fall back onto the [NT] Government.”
That same NT Government he says Aborigines can’t trust.
As a pattern for the next decade of our dealings with Tangentyere was being established, I wrote the following editorial: “Tangentyere Council’s first response to media enquiries about the drama [we were reporting on] was to try to muzzle their own clients and to bully the media into running only Tangentyere’s line.”
Their media office fired off an admonishment to our reporter for entering the Warlpiri Camp “without permission of Tangentyere Council”.
In fact, said the organisation, media representatives should not enter the camp “for reasons of a cultural and traditional nature”.
The News was told if we used the pictures and information gathered “without first allowing the Executive Director, William Tilmouth, to view the material and speak with you on this matter, then we will have no other alternative but to refer the matter to the Press Council”.
This threat came after we had specifically requested information from him, information not forthcoming until three days later, and only because we had made it clear we were going to proceed with the report.
Tangentyere’s approach to news gathering is completely unacceptable.
Our photos in that edition were taken not only with permission of the people concerned, but with their express encouragement.
We got their side of the story from them because we felt the public needed to know why people in our affluent town are living in fourth-world conditions.
In the 11 years that followed Tangentyere learned absolutely nothing.
We have been ignoring their directions and bringing to the town, and the world via our online edition, stories of horror and suffering from the camps’ hapless residents as well as stories about the ineffectiveness and buck-passing of governments at all levels in dealing with the situation.
A prominent example has been our tackling over many years the glaringly obvious failures of the Memorandum of Understanding between Tangentyere and the Alice Springs Town Council. The current Town Council have taken a step in the right direction with assertive action on dog control, overwhelmingly welcomed by town camp residents.
The funding governments should not now feel bad cutting loose this bloated failure.
In fact, they have a responsibility to the “little people on the ground” to replace Tangentyere with something competent and transparent, whose performance we look forward to covering.
August 4, the earliest date on which Ms Macklin’s notice to compulsorily acquire under the Intervention legislation can now take effect, will not come soon enough, for town camp residents and for Alice Springs as a whole.

Our first Greek family arrived 50 years ago. By KIERAN FINNANE.

It’s fifty years since Xanthippi Hatzimihail arrived in Alice Springs with her four young sons, landing in an Ansett DC3 at the old airport at 12 Mile.
It had been three years since she had seen her husband, Alexios (Alex).
Their two and half year old son Mihail (Michael) had been born after Alex left their home on the isle of Kos in Greece in 1956, in search of work. This had taken him first to Darwin and then south, working along the highway till he reached Alice in 1957.
There were other Greek men in the town, single men who’d worked their way north from Port Augusta, but with the arrival of Xanthippi and the boys, the Hatzimihails would become Alice’s first Greek family.
They hail originally from the port town of Bodrum in Turkey, which faces the isle of Kos.
“We’re Asia Minor Greeks,” says Michael.
Alex was born on Paros, Greece but as a child went to Turkey where his grandmother was living. In the Greco-Turkish conflict that arose with the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Alex escaped from Turkey to Kos.
Xanthippi (nee Zouvrenou) was also an “Asia Minor Greek”.
Says Michael of his parents’ marriage: “In those days they worked to keep the bloodline going.”
Alex was a boat-builder on Kos, but that work dried up after the World War II; in fact the whole island economy was on its knees.
He had three sons, his wife, mother-in-law and his sister to feed. When he heard that the Australian Government were looking for tradespeople, he took the plunge, paying for his own passage to Darwin, so that he could decide for himself when to return.
He could speak Italian, as the Italians had conquered Kos in 1912, and Alex had attended an Italian school. He soon fitted in with a group of Italian workers in Darwin and went with them when they headed south.
There was plenty of work in Alice. Among other jobs Alex helped build the nurses’ quarters on the site of the old hospital in Stuart Terrace.
Housing blocks had been released on Eastside and he bought 59 Giles street for 11 pounds, started building a house and negotiating with the Department of Immigration to bring out his wife and boys. At first his request was refused.
Michael says his father threatened to leave Australia but an Immigration Officer in Darwin, a man of Greek origin, stepped in and all of a sudden, in April, 1959, Alex received a letter saying his family were on their way.
The house in Giles Street was nowhere near ready.
The Bonnani brothers – “at that stage there were three of them,” says Michael – were building their own house a few doors away.
When they heard Alex’s family were due to arrive they stopped work there and came over to help him. The roof was on and two rooms had been enclosed by the time Xanthippi and the boys arrived.
Stamatios (Steve), the third born son, was just over five.
One of his earliest memories in Alice is of walking to the Eastside shops with his mother and his brothers. Little Michael fell over and bloodied his knee.
“A lady came out and helped patch him up. That was old Mrs Mostran and she and her family became friends of our family from that day.”
There are other stories of early friendship and kindness.
Xanthippi could only speak Greek.
If the children were sick, Alex would explain to neighbours Susie Zaharo and Lorna Juett what the problem was and they would write a note in English for Xanthippi to take to the doctor.
He in turn would would write a note about treatment, which the ladies would explain to Alex who would translate for his wife.
Xanthippi also reached out to the Aboriginal people around her.
Although she understands and can speak English, she is more comfortable recalling these times in Greek.
She speaks to Michael who translates:
“The isolation was hard for Mum. She could see Aboriginal people hanging about.
“She thought, ‘If I can befriend them, if I get sick, they’ll look out for me’.
“If they were passing Mum would offer them tea and cakes and biscuits.
“She noticed they would not drink the tea until she drank it first.
“A friend of Dad’s, an Aboriginal man, told him they were being cautious because they knew of Aboriginal people being poisoned. When Mum drank the tea they knew it was OK.”
In a stream of Greek I hear the words “Trigger and Daisy”.
Michael explains: “They were her friends, an Aboriginal couple.”
“Very good friends,” says Xanthippi in English.
“They were very loud, like Greek people,” laughs Michael.
Xanthippi had been an only child. When she left Kos, she left behind her widowed mother and was not to see her again.
“When my mum left my grandmother died,” says Rita, the fifth born of the family and the first person of Greek origin to be born in Alice (in 1960).   
“It was too hard – her only child and all her grandchildren had gone.
“Mum couldn’t even go back for her funeral.
“It happened too soon after she’d left and it wasn’t financially possible.”
NEXT: Living conditions in the early days at 59 Giles Street were humble, but the family were used to that.

Move to the Centre had big rewards.

It’s not every day that a business in Darwin decides that there are more opportunities in Alice Springs, but that’s what Alice Springs Helicopters did, moving from Darwin to the Centre some five years ago. Mechelle Collins spoke about the experience at the Alice launch of the NT Chief Minister’s Export and Industry Awards last Thursday.

My husband Chris and I started our helicopter charter company in Darwin 17 years ago. 
We had one helicopter, one client, a large debt and a lot of enthusiasm. 
We operated from an office under our house in Rapid Creek and while Chris flew, I kept the books and worked several jobs to help pay the bills; and together we raised our two young children.
Ten years later we had increased our client base, generally in mining exploration, operated three helicopters and employed three pilots. 
As most of our work seemed to come from Central Australia, we decided it was time to set up a permanent base here, so we built a hangar and offices on the Alice Springs Airport and by the end of 2003 had moved everything down from Darwin.
At the same time we expanded into tourism, not realizing the task ahead of us.  A few flyers around Alice Springs should do it, we thought! 
The business grew and so did the popularity of our flights.
Shortly after, we joined the Chamber of Commerce which was one of the best business decisions we’ve made.
In 2007 they encouraged us to enter the NT Chief Minister’s Export and Industry Awards.  And yes, you might ask what on earth a helicopter charter company would export – so did we!
But our tourist flights and charters were now starting to sell internationally. 
We were being sought out by film and television companies from the UK, Europe, Japan, Canada and the US and were working with international mining groups in exploration.
We did need some encouragement to enter.  We knew it would be hard work putting together a worthy application but this was our opportunity to see how our company rated against others – for the first time. We entered the Emerging Exporter Category.
In our saner moments, we didn’t like our chances! 
That October we flew to Darwin for the Export Awards presentation night and were astonished to be presented with an Encouragement Award. 
The Judges said it was such a difficult task to choose the winner, they felt compelled to include an award for the runner up – the first time this had been done.
We were thrilled and feIt it was a turning point for our business.
Last year we entered again and won the Small Business Export Award from an impressive list of competitors. 
We attended the National Awards in Melbourne and were extremely proud to not only represent the Northern Territory but Central Australia.
Unfortunately we didn’t win but it was a fabulous experience for such a small Territory business.
Winning these awards has helped make the last two years the most exciting and rewarding for us. 
We were motivated to continue achieving, opening up further opportunities for ourselves internationally and engaging a marketing consultant to expand our tourism products.
It raised our profile in the business community and we are now recognized not only as a leading player in Central Australian Tourism but the leading provider of helicopter charter here.
We have received enormous support from the Northern Territory Government, The Chamber, Tourism NT, Tourism Central Australia and other Alice Springs operators.
We now operate six helicopters, employ five pilots, a marketing manager and bookkeeper.
We are so proud to be able to use the Export Awards logo wherever we can as it says we have accomplished something very special.
For those of you who are considering entering this year, do it – if only to find out more about yourselves.
It is a big step but the rewards are great.

Town Council adopts new approach to recycling operation. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council is pushing ahead with its plans for an aluminium and glass drink container recycling operation, but has changed approach.
Instead of running it out of the council depot and staffing it with council employees, as originally announced, they have advertised a tender.
The change was prompted by “suggestions from the community”, says Mayor Damien Ryan.
The recycling operation is part of a three-pronged strategy to reduce litter, with liquor litter particularly in council’s sights.
The second prong is to raise money from a charge to landowners where a takeaway liquor outlet is in operation.
These funds will help offset council’s expenses in removal of litter from public places.
The charge has prompted angry protest from the ratepayers involved and may yet be challenged in the courts.
First service of the new charge will not take place until late July.
Council would not expect notice of any legal action before then.
The third prong is the current revision of public place by-laws.
“This will lead to much tougher litter fines,” says Mr Ryan, as well as a string of other measures to curb littering behaviour.
Mr Ryan is confident of a ready market for reprocessing aluminium cans, but says council is looking for some innovative options for glass recycling.
One is to have the glass crushed.
Mr Ryan understands that ground glass can replace up to 50% of sand in non-load bearing concrete.
Council could use such material extensively, for instance  in its footpath program.
“I understand 6000 stubbies produce one tonne of ‘sand’,” says Mr Ryan.
The tender is for a 12 month contract.
Mr Ryan expects the successful company would go on to tender for business when the Territory Government introduces its own container deposit scheme, mooted for 2011.
The tender closes on June 22.

Library venue a coup for Nu art. By POP VULTURE.

The first exhibition in what is set to be a series of shows presenting local artistic responses to the proposed development of the Angela Pamela uranium mine unveiled over 40 contributions last Friday evening at the Alice Springs Public Library.
There must have been around 90 punters in attendance and among them were three  whom you can see attending nearly every exhibition opening the world over.
Pop Vulture eaves-dropped on their conversation.

The mid-nineties, beret wearing, clammy handed, latte sipper (MNBWCHLS): People just want to appear to have a reaction to something they have little intellectual knowledge about.
The free drinking free thinker (FDFT): What do you mean?
MNBWCHLS: Using mutation as a medium for inevitable evolution, so mid to late eighties ...
Artist: I don’t think you’ve looked around properly, the mutation medium is only a ripple in the pond of what is on the stage here.
I think the reflection of what could potentially affect generations to come has become a strong focal point this reaction around.
FDFT: Why are they showing this exhibit in the library?
I am semi-homeless, due to frequently being in the doghouse, so I’ve come to rely on exhibition openings for a dependable source of free alcohol and food.
For certain there are many other venues that can afford themselves some complimentary sauce!
Artist: Be it accidental or deliberate, I think it’s a stroke of genius.
This library will increase the exposure of the art and artists twenty-fold.
The foot traffic through this place could never be rivalled by any local gallery, and in case you haven’t noticed, demonstrations involving the topic of the u-mine generally only draw attention from the already converted.
This way people from all walks of life will stop and look.
But to keep things in the vein of normality, the exhibition will relocate to “Watch This Space” in about a month’s time, including further contributions from any who feel freshly inspired.
Will you be adding something to the movement, mid-nineties, beret wearing, clammy handed, latte sipping guy?
MNBWCHLS: No, my life is one of a chameleonic refuge, for you see I have no actual artistic talent myself, or any true inspiration for creative medium, let alone the vision and radical transformation of thought required to produce something brilliant and original.
Therefore I surround myself with people who create, so as to marry myself with the illusion that my presence is always needed at one of these functions.
Artist: Well the rarity behind this show is its large community-driven input, a rolling snowball of interest that will gather much attention from members of the public as the installations will be in place for the remainder of the month.
MNBWCHLS: With that I’m off to find a café with the most public exposure, so as to be seen by many as I write on my laptop.

LETTERS: What a welcome to Alice for Ghan passengers.

Sir,– This is a copy of a letter sent to Tangentyere Council’s William Tilmouth:
Dear Willy,
Firstly, my sincere apologies for the delay in this letter reaching you. It was supposed to have been written and sent almost two months ago but other commitments prevented this arriving until now.
My partner and I were returning from Darwin aboard The Ghan on the morning of Thursday, April 16. The train slowed as it headed in from the northern gateway towards the Alice Springs Terminal.
We were absolutely disgusted by the sight of the amount and content of rubbish consisting mostly of empty VB cans, discarded nappies, broken glass, open but empty tins and a myriad of other filthy rubbish strewn along the perimeter of the Namatjira Camp that abuts the railway line near where it crosses over Lovegrove Drive.
This is just totally unacceptable as a practice in any civilised region and I implore  Tangentyere Council in partnership with the other regional Aboriginal organisations to take control of the situation immediately.
Whilst Namatjira Camp may not be the official responsibility of Tangentyere Council, it is located next to Morris Soak camp and the area needs to be cleaned up and maintained. The situation is clearly linked to the physiological and psychological health and safety of the camp’s inhabitants and visitors – most especially the children and aged.
Another town camp in full view of road travellers driving into town from the north is located on the right hand side of the Stuart Highway opposite the MVR buldings. It, too, is a complete and utter disgrace.
Our town prides itself on its history and iconic status with the domestic and global tourism travellers. For those images to be many people’s first impression is a blight on the whole community.
As a successful business operator for a period in excess of 10 years, my passion for this place, its people and its spirit is well known. The deplorable state [of] town camps (legal or otherwise) becomes a reflection of the whole town.
I am also a member of the Tourism Central Australia Executive and the Chamber of Commerce. Both these organisations are negatively impacted on along with the entire Alice Springs community.
I can no longer stand by and watch this beautiful town filled with some very special people and ‘magic’ locations in some of the most stunning geographical areas of Australia relegated to the status typical of areas in Soweto, South Africa (to which I have been to and witnessed the levels of degradation and poverty first hand) and the sub-continent.
The collective of Aboriginal organisations in Central Australia need to bind together to address this deplorable situation. Centrecorp, Central Land Council, Arrente Council, Lhere Artepe and Tangentyere Council all have a collective responsibility to address this situation and are all to be held to account.
Whilst I don’t pretend to know or understand the extent of the politics and economics involved here, I see that the very people these organisations were created to assist living in fourth world squalor while many millions of dollars earned through royalties etc. lie hidden in various bank accounts.
The actions of the people who hide and do not spend this money on its people is deplorable and they should be held accountable in the civil and criminal justice systems.
The Aboriginal people of this region deserve much better than they are getting. Utilising much of these funds through health, education and employment programs would go some long way in beginning to address the impoverished status of the Aboriginal Alice Springs communities.
Those programs are not only the responsibilty of all three tiers of governments – Aborginal corporations must invest back into helping to develop some pride and honour in what it means to be Aborginal.
Phil Walcott
Alice Springs
Who pays for
ourism nonsense?

Sir,– In my weekend paper was a glossy mag called My Australia brought to you and me by Tourism Australia.
And paid for by you and me.
Designed no doubt by some overpaid whizzkid who knew stuff all about the subject.
“It’s all in the cool message man” or some such crap.
It is a dog’s breakfast of information-deficient inaccuracies.
Take page 21. A full page picture of Standley Chasm. The ‘topic’ – Group Holidays!
The subtext? Tassie wilderness, the ACT, Central NSW, the Gawler Ranges, the Tiwi islands.
Any mention of Standley Chasm? Central Australia? The NT even? Not an iota.
Turn to page 33. Under the “Driving holidays” banner is the Red Centre Way: “Highlights include Finke Gorge National Park ...”
Despite the fact that the route shown on the acompanying map doesn’t go anywhere near Hermannsburg, let alone FGNP.
Nor does it mention that FGNP is 20 odd kms of high clearance 4WD from Hermannsburg.
Who knows what market this flummery was aimed at?
Do people really make holiday decisions based on where Maggie Tabberer goes (who? – she must be embalmed)?
If the tourism industry is in the hands of this mob we may as well fold our tents and creep silently away.
Charlie Carter
Alice Springs

ADAM'S APPLE: One visitor we didn’t want.

I’m sitting at the dining room table.
Generally a place of comfort, of conversation and dinner parties and the place I type my column. But tonight I am neither relaxed nor comfortable. In fact it would be safe to say I’m a bit of a wreck.
I am like a younger, larger, more Protestant, less talented version of Woody Allen. I am a ball of neurosis and over-analysis. I am a twitchy mess of ticks and startles.
Like a junkie before the score, I’m anxious. Paranoia has invited itself to a meal at my table and tonight we dine on swine.
Swine Flu has come to the Alice and just like many of the young and enthusiastic visitors to this town, swine flu has shacked up with a local.
Swine Flu will stay with her for a week or so and then will move on once the local lass realizes Swine Flu is using her simply for meals and lodgings.
There’s no real love there.  Swine Flu won’t feel remorse however.
Swine Flu will simply head to the nearest pub or public restroom and before another local knows what hit them, Swine Flu will have seduced them with their infectious personality.
Do you think Swine Flu would be easier for the public to deal with if it wasn’t called Swine Flu?
I think pigs are pleasant enough creatures. Hell, I’ve seen Babe, one and two. I cried like a Geelong fan after last year’s grand final when I saw Charlotte’s Web.
But swine do have a filthy reputation. On the back of that filthy reputation, two of the world’s greatest monotheistic religions don’t even eat pigs, even though they are so delicious.
I’m pretty sure we would only be half as panicked if the world was dealing with deer flu or a virus originating from baby wombats.
But an influenza that jumped the porcine/human divide is what we are stuck dealing with and although the Territory is still relatively unscathed, the hysteria that has come out of Mexico and Melbourne via the media makes me second guess my own health.
You see I have a slight runny nose. My throat is a little tickly at the moment and I have a cough. Is it time to panic?
Should I place my tissues in a sandwich bag before placing them in the bin, or do I need to put them in some sort of hazardous waste disposal?
Is it time to call the guys from the E.T. movie with their massive plastic sheets and hazmat suits?
Should I answer the door when the pizza guy turns up?
I am a bit hungry but God forbid I spread whatever plague lies within my body. Do I have swine flu or is it a case of simple, bog standard man flu? I can’t tell anymore.
I’ll do what most men do when faced with a health scare like this.
I’ll drink a glass of orange juice (pulp and all), I’ll take a couple of Nurofen and I’ll try to get to bed early.  I tell you all this anxiety is bad for my health. As it happens, although swine flu is really quite contagious, so are the other regular flus out in the big disease-ridden planet we call home.
And even though there is all this talk about Tamiflu and whether the government has enough of the stuff to hand out, a few days in bed seems to be just as effective a treatment.
We love a good scare story though, don’t we?
We love an exaggeration. Whether it’s the dangers of swine flu or the volume of my own nasal mucus, we love to tell the tall tale and fear the worst fear.
At the pointy end of it all, I find myself becoming calm.
I don’t have the plague, the pox or the pork flu. I don’t even have grounds for a day off work.
At the end of the day I calm myself with the knowledge that the Syrian bloke who made my sandwich isn’t going to blow me up.
The Vietnamese family two doors down aren’t going to steal my job and the Indian taxi driver isn’t going to drive me out into the desert just because he wears a turban. 
I know that regardless of what “they” say, I am going to leave the plane from the same door I entered it.
I know that the vaccine for chicken pox didn’t render me a dribbling mess and I know that playing footy is actually beneficial for my health.
I know that I really don’t care if a glass of red wine is good for me.
I don’t care if it’s bad for me. It’s a glass of red wine.
I know that I am going to use my mobile phone and I will wrap food in aluminium foil.
I know that most of the time the only thing to fear is fear-mongering itself.

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