June 25, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Alice school sex probe. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A complaint has been made about an Alice Springs public primary school not taking action beyond a “talk”, when parents drew the attention of the principal to sexual behaviour among young children at the school.
One child alleges that another “sucked his willy” and did the same to two other children.
His information comes after months of disturbed behaviour on his part, including verbal abuse, swearing, and sexualised language.
It also comes after he told his parents that a child had exposed herself to him.
This information was conveyed to the school principal in May, after the parents had already reported that his language had become more sexually explicit.
The parents claim no action was taken beyond the principal talking to the children involved.
In particular they claim that there was no close monitoring of the children and that the most recent alleged incident took place when the children were unsupervised in a toilet block on school grounds.
The parents have reported the allegation to the police and FACS and have written a detailed letter of complaint to a number of Territory politicians and the Department of Education.
The Alice Springs News has spoken with the complainants.
We asked them whether what the child said happened could have been imagined, especially as he was previously exposed to pornography (a video showing oral sex) when on holidays away from his family.
That incident was also reported to police and FACS.
The parents say they have no doubt that what their child has told them did take place.
Police investigations have commenced, says Superintendent of the Regional Investigations Division Lance Godwin.
He declined to comment further, saying it would be “inappropriate at this moment due to the sensitive nature of these allegations”. 
The Department of Education and Training advise that  all Northern Territory schools have mandatory reporting requirements. 
The school has made a report, says a spokesperson for the department who declined to make further comment “as this matter is under police investigation”.
In the Alice Springs News’ understanding of the timeline around this matter, the police investigation began in response to a call from the parents mid this month although matters were raised with the school, the parents claim, in May. 
Minister for Children and Families Malarndirri McCarthy would not comment beyond advising via a spokesperson that “the Child Abuse Taskforce and Sexual Assault Referral Centre began an immediate investigation as soon as a notification was made”.

Protecting children

There have been 4415 notifications to Family and Children’s Services (FACS) in 2008-09 to the end of March, last week’s Estimates hearing was told.
This is significantly more than the estimated total of 3950 for 2008-09 in last year’s Budget papers.
The revised estimate for 2009-10 is 5100.
Minister for Children and Families, Malarndirri McCarthy, said there are 41 child protection workers in Central Australia, but she was unable to say how many new positions had been created in the last 12 months, taking the question on notice.
There is also a mobile child protection team, with “six experienced child protection workers”, which has spent “a significant period of time” in Central Australia in 2008-09 attending to Alice Springs’ “high rate of notifications”.

Pistol Club aiming for more members. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Alice Springs Pistol Club is turning 50 next week and wants to celebrate the occasion with a boost in membership.
The club is planning open days and will again be running its food stall at the Show – but it’s a hard ask: Pistol shooting is one of the toughest sports to get into in Alice Springs.
The club’s membership was decimated from 70 to 20 in the wake of handgun controls introduced nationally after a man killed two and injured five at Monash University’s Clayton campus in Melbourne, on October 21, 2002.
And local shooters say the Northern Territory has the nation’s most stringent restrictions, while being poorly equipped to administer them.
“We’re the people they can regulate,” says an Alice sports shooter, a couple of weeks after two men used “unregistered and unlicensed” handguns to kill an underworld figure in Melbourne.
“They are the ones the authorities can’t regulate.”
The club for half a century has maintained an unblemished, accident-free record, says Lee Matthews, the president.
The shooting complex, just past the end of Undoolya Road, has excellent facilities: a 25 and a 50 meter range with 24 stands each.
It has a relatively new air conditioned indoor air pistol range, named after one of the club’s founders, Clarrie Smith, with 25 stands, each equipped with automatic target retrieval.
There’s also a cozy clubroom and bar – which stays shuttered until the day’s shooting is over.
But to join you need more than a keen eye, a steady hand and a mental aptitude which, according to Graham Nicholls, the coach, is 80% of what makes a good competitor.
You also need to have the patience of a saint.
To merely pop out and see what the club’s all about, and have a shot under the supervision of a club safety officer (which is known as using a Category H Firearm under Supervision), this is what you need to do:-
• Join the club and pay a $70 membership fee for three months.
• Nominate any other firearms clubs of which you may be a member.
• Supply details of firearms you may own.
• Provide two character references from people who’ve known you for at least two years.
• Give “Authority to Release Criminal History” to the club.
And that’s only the start: It’s then over to the police firearms unit to process the request, which may take up to three months.
Yet the club has turned out star members, including Christine Trefry, who competed in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
The club isn’t giving up hope to again broaden its membership, according to Mr Matthews.
Sunday morning is a good time to pop in.
It’s not dear: if you’re shooting .22 pistols, it about $12 a shoot for two boxes of bullets.
Until you qualify for buying a pistol, one can be made available.
And next year the club will again play a major role in the Masters’ Games, attracting to Alice shooters from around Australia, and even overseas.

Estimates hearings: Unpaid fines & overflowing prisons.

The Territory Government’s record on law and order came under the microscope in the Estimates hearing last week.
Member for Araluen Jodeen Carney harried Ministers and public servants on fines recovery, the Alcohol Courts, youth crime and Family Responsibility Orders, and the Territory’s overflowing prisons.
She learnt that for the current financial year there is $2.9m outstanding in court fines – 75% of the total – and $3.4m outstanding in penalties, 43%.
Justice Minister Delia Lawrie explained the high figure by a “lag effect”: people make arrangements to pay the fines off over a period of time, so percentages for previous financial years look better.
Nonetheless the figures are still high: 36% for 2007-08; 28% for 2006-07.
That makes for more than $13 million of fines and penalties levied in the last three years that are unpaid, according to Ms Carney.
Said Ms Lawrie: “The 2007-08 figures are not as good as 2006-07, but they are better than 2008-09, which is the lag effect of the time to pay agreements that have been an effective tool for the Fines Recovery Unit.”
Commented Ms Carney in a media release: “It’s not just the tens of millions of dollars of revenue that could be used to put more police on the beat to curb the Territory’s very high crime rates.
“It’s the message it sends to offenders that there is no will to enforce penalties handed down by the courts.”
Ms Lawrie also finally had to answer questions about the Alcohol Courts that Ms Carney had asked in a letter dated April 2.
Ms Lawrie produced the following figures:
• 317 individuals were referred to the Alcohol Court in the first 18 months of operation;
• 94 individuals have completed treatment programs ordered by the court;
• five clinicians are employed across the Territory to assess offenders’ suitability for treatment and to report on their progress;
• 14 prohibition orders with no treatment and 11 with treatment are in place;
• another 201 treatment orders are in place, with 24 going through treatment.
Against a backdrop of 30,000 people in 2008-09 taken into protective custody for being drunk or having problems with alcohol, Ms Carney asserted that the regime is a failure.
 “We told your government years ago ... that it would not work,” she said.
“The figures, just from a cursory glance, clearly indicate it is not working.”
Problems with the regime are recognised by the government.
Ms Lawrie said a comprehensive review is under way, with an options paper being developed on “substantial changes” in order to engage with “a broader range of offenders”.
Among the concerns are:
• a lack of incentive to comply with prohibition orders arising from a lack of penalties for breaching such an order; and
• the exclusion of certain offenders from the regime as a result of the requirement to enter a plea of guilty in order to be eligible for an intervention order.
Ms Lawrie also said the government wants to “look at capturing non-offenders” in the system.
On the government’s strategy for dealing with anti-social and criminal behaviour by juveniles, it was Children and Families Minister Malarndirri McCarthy’s turn in the spotlight.
Ms Carney homed in on Family Responsibility Agreements, announced by the Attorney-General in a media release in February 2008 as the government’s way to “hold parents accountable for their child’s anti-social behaviour or criminal activity”.
Ms McCarthy revealed that six Family Responsibility Agreements (FRAs) have been entered into, none of them in Alice Springs.
She said 38 families in Darwin and 10 in Alice Springs are “also being considered”.
Of the six FRAs none have been breached but one has been terminated.
“Was it a mutual termination?” asked Ms Carney.
“Yes,” answered Department of Health and Families CEO, Dr David Ashbridge.
“Was that because the outcome was successful?”
“Without getting into the personalities and the confidentiality, suffice it to say that the family’s circumstances changed,” said Dr Ashbride.
Ms Carney also learnt that no Family Responsibility Orders have been made by the courts, although the Youth Justice Court did consider whether one was warranted.
How many applications for such orders had been made by police, asked Ms Carney.
Ms McCarthy said that was a question for the Police Minister.
Ms Carney asked Ms McCarthy: “Do you accept that your youth strategy in this area is a complete and utter failure?”
Said Ms McCarthy: “I do not accept that we have failed in regard to youth across the Northern Territory.
“We are in discussion with 70 families across the Northern Territory who want to see a difference for their young people.
“It does not necessarily mean that these young people have to progress onto an order, but it is about ensuring that this department and my staff are working with the families across the Northern Territory with the young people who need the support to find a better road ahead.”
Ms Carney went on to pursue Minister for Correctional Services Gerry McCarthy over the Territory’s latest prison statistics which she asserts prove that crime in the Territory is “totally out of control”.
She asked the Minister if he was aware that ABS statistics just issued showed a 23% increase over the year in prisoner numbers in the Territory. He was.
Ms Carney used the figures to argue that, if the current rate of imprisonment were to continue, there would be about 1700 prisoners in custody by 2012, while the capacity of the new gaol at Weddell and Alice Springs would be about 1500.
What would the Minister do about the shortfall?
Mr McCarthy said the prisoner work camp in the Barkly (taking 24 prisoners) would be piloted as “a good alternative” and the Community Corrections pathway would also be a way of reducing prisoner numbers.
In a media release Ms Carney commented that the increase in prisoner numbers by 112 from the December to March quarter represented “more than one new inmate a day”.
“The Territory reported more new prisoners over the 12 month period than Victoria – a breathtaking statistic given the disparity in population,” said Ms Carney.
Independent Member for Nelson, Gerry Wood, also wanted to get a handle on the Territory’s high imprisonment rate:
“Why are we getting record numbers?” he asked. “Where are they coming from?
“Are they coming from violent offenders?
“Are they coming from domestic violence, because the government is saying we are tracking more domestic violent offenders?”
His questions were taken on notice.
Note: Source for most quotes is Daily Hansard (uncorrected proof).

Araluen tourism booms. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Araluen Galleries have attracted 20% more visitors over the last three months compared to the same period last year, says director Tim Rollason.
From March to May there were 4566 visitors to the galleries, compared  to 3852 in 2008.
The peak tourist season has not even started so the galleries are expecting to exceed past annual visitation figures (around 30,000) by a significant margin.
The increase coincides with the creation of a permanent exhibition, Origins to Innovations, which encapsulates the history of world-famous Aboriginal art out of the Central deserts and sits alongside the pre-existing permanent exhibition of the art of Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg School.
Visitation data does not include enough detail to determine whether the focus on Indigenous art is the reason behind the increase but Mr Rollason says the focus has been well received.
He also says there is increasing demand for the cultural tour at Araluen offered by Arrernte guide, Alison Furber. She is now doing two regular tours a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and is available for bookings outside of those hours.
The tour offers a glimpse of an Aboriginal world view, enough to whet the appetite, and is enriched by a number of pre-existing features at Araluen.
These are the magnificent stained glass window in the foyer, designed by the revered late Wenten Rubuntja; the painting above the foyer bar, reproduced on the eastern facade as a mural, by the equally revered late Clifford Possum; and the sacred corkwood tree in the  courtyard and the sacred hill behind the building, both part of the “Two Sisters Dreaming”.
As well Araluen is using the foyer space to add relevant material, such as the excellent painting Fertility (1992), by the late D. Mpetyane, which represents an aerial view of Alice Springs – its grid of streets superimposed on the landscape.
The artist wrote a poem to accompany the painting,  reproduced alongside it, which articulates his response to the development of the town on his traditional lands:
“Alice lost her virginity / Witness[ed] by / The old man gum tree / While the dog sat confused / Paternity licking its wounds / She gave birth / To one stone room / Next a shed then a house.”
A gloriously detailed photograph of a caterpillar, Ayepe-arenye, by Mike Gillam, adds to the offerings.
Ms Furber delivers her talk in a low-key friendly manner, finding ways to translate cultural concepts.
The Alice News joined in a tour group of Year 11 students from Templestowe High School in Melbourne.
She told them the Arrernte skin system is the “oldest genetic engineering system in the wold”, while Kadaitcha men, represented in the gallery by the soft sculptures of Tristan Malbunka, are like “Indigenous police officers”, or, looking for a stronger equivalent, the “Italian mafia”.
Although the party had just arrived in Alice Springs that day, she oriented them to aspects of the landscape by making Heavitree Gap, which they had passed through, their reference point.
This allowed her to talk about men’s and women’s places and stories and laws associated with them in a concrete way.

Greek heritage alive in Centre. SERIES by KIERAN FINNANE.

Alice’s first Greek family, the Hatzimihails, arrived in town 50 years ago. Father Alexios (Alex) had left their home on the Greek isle of Kos looking for work. He found it aplenty in Alice and soon bought a block of land on Old Eastside where he was joined by his wife Xanthippi, their four sons, George, Tony, Steve and Michael, together with his sister, Maritsa, in April 1959. Daughter Rita arrived in 1960, was the first person of Greek origin born in the town. She was followed by Mina, born in 1962. (See Part One in the June 11 edition.)

Living conditions in their early days at 59 Giles Street were humble, but the Hatzimihails were used to that. “We didn’t have much living on Kos,” says Steve.
Alice was a bit hotter, a dust storm for their first Christmas was surprising, but isolation from the wider world was also something they were used to.
Steve still wonders though what drove his father to stay, when he was used to a place surrounded by sea, and here he was surrounded by desert.
A good part of it was the work opportunity.
But in the course of our interview Xanthippi explains another reason for the decision.
The Suez Crisis had erupted in 1956, the year Alex had left Kos. Following on from all the other geo-political upheaval that had marked his life, it made the Mediterranean look a less appealing place to be raising a family.
“We’re learning stuff we didn’t know,” says Michael. “My dad was going to return to Kos but with all that trouble, he felt he’d rather have his family safe in Australia. I hadn’t known that.”
Alex started working for the builders, JB and MJ Juett. The job took him down to the old motel complex at Ayers Rock, and he helped build the new homesteads at Mount Doreen and Banka Banka Stations.
Later he would work for Sitzler Bros and for Transport & Works.
The older three boys, George, Tony and Steve, were sent to school, for six months to Hartley Street before they joined the first intake of students at Ross Park.
With their swarthy skin and foreign language they had a hard time, particularly from the white kids, recalls Steve. They found allies amongst the Aboriginal kids.
“We were outcasts, the same as the Aboriginal kids.
“We were wog bastards, they were black bastards. We were on the same team.”
Says Michael: “The town was still too young to receive us. If we all rocked up today, so what? In the early days it was a culture shock for everyone – who were these people?”
By the time he started school it was a bit easier: “I was lucky. These boys paved the way for me.”
Their father taught them early the advantage they had in being four brothers.
“Dad always used to say to us, ‘Take a match and break it’,” recalls Steve.
“’Now take four together’. It’s harder to break them, there’s more resistance.
“’Never forget that fact,’ Dad told us, ‘Always stick together’.
“Dad was a very practical man.” 
He was determined to help them integrate but without forgetting their Greek heritage.
“Dad always wanted us to eat together at the table,” says Steve.
“After dinner he would give us a lecture on life, he wanted us to lead ‘a respectable life’.
“He anglicised our names so we would fit in. You couldn’t be called Stamatios, so I became Steve. His message was, when we were at home, we were Greeks, when we went out, we were to remember that we were in a foreign country: we had to behave well and do the best we could.
“Dad would tell us the Greek myths and relate them to life.
“He was always lecturing us, giving us example, he was a historian to us.”
He insisted that they speak Greek at home.
“Even when we talked among ourslves, if he heard English, he’d pull us up,” says Steve.
“He did us a favour really. Now we go back to Greece and we can communicate. Although if I’m talking to a lawyer, I have to say, ‘Slow down, brus!’”
As the boys grew older there was still friction with the white lads of their age.
“Like when we played football,” recalls Michael.
“Other players would sing out, ‘Kill that wog bastard’.
“But I can’t remember friction when we went into clubs.
“We had a lot of Italian connections in town, especially because of Dad speaking Italian.
“And Dad had friends who were Anglo-Saxon, they’d come home, drink coffee, when we had a party they would all rock up.
“I didn’t feel friction other than with the young men of the time.
“There’d be those circles of young men and we’d be fighting one of them in the middle, that sort of thing happened.
“But today the racism has disappeared. My daughter plays basketball and she’s never felt any kind of friction.”
Says Steve: “We were going forward regardless. We were pushed forwards when people were trying to hold us back.
“We used others as a benchmark, if they could do it, we could. We tried to achieve more, not so much financially but in personal growth.
“That’s how we saw any discrimination towards us as wogs – it was food for growth.”
The friends the Hatzimihails made in their early years have lasted the distance.
“We have a strong friendship with those part-Aboriginal families to this day,” says Steve.
He doesn’t want to start naming people in case he leaves someone out, but the names Ross, Bray, Abbott come up.
Rita adds the Trindles and the Campbells.
“We could write a whole page of the Aboriginal familes we’re friends with,” says Rita.
Some of these friendships were built later, when the family started up a fish and chip shop, at first in Todd Street, later on the site where The Lane is today, and later still further down Reg Harris Lane.
It had been Kon’s Tuckerbox when Alex bought it in 1968. Now it became George’s Tuckerbox. 
Says Michael: “It was very successful, the food was good, mostly Dad’s recipes, great roast chickens, milkshakes, our own hamburger patties, and it was the only place open late at night.
“I was the potato peeler. I used to peel four big bags of spuds a night.”
Steve had also done a stint of potato peeling before Michael was recruited; then he progressed to hamburger cook.
“Mum and dad were generous,” says Steve. “If kids didn’t have money one day, they’d give them something to eat. They’d always pay it back later.”
“They don’t forget,” says Michael.
Alex worked hard to keep the family’s Greek Orthodox religion alive for them.
He would bring Greek Orthodox priests to Alice for family baptisms, which led to him being dubbed “The Lion Heart of Central Australia” by the archbishop of the Australian Greek Orthodox Church.
When church or other Greek dignitaries visited, Alex would hoist the Greek flag as well as the Australian one outside their home in Giles Street.
All the Greeks in town would congregate there and Alex would play the Greek anthem as the dignitary walked up the garden path.
“Dad was very patriotic but he loved Central Australia,” says Steve. 
NEXT: What was it that he loved?

Touch of light. KIERAN FINNANE reviews.

Light Touch, the title of Christine Godden’s exhibition of photographs at Araluen, has lovely layers of meaning: her subject in good part is about the touch of light on bodies and objects; her photographs themselves have a seeming effortless grace; they induce in us a desire to touch, to brush our fingertips across the complex of surfaces she brings within a single frame and across the show; they evoke memories of touch, whether of taut skin, wet glass, long hair, animal fur, a dry leaf, lush grass, the crunch of snow.
Entering the small gallery feels like entering a light-filled room opening out onto a sunny field.
Godden takes us with her through the space, as her gaze alights at a moment, in a place – on the sudsy glass and cutlery in a porcelain sink, on the vase of flowers at the window sill, on the bread spread with marmalade just bitten into and placed back on the board where it was spread, and moving outside, on the packed earth beneath a horse’s hooves, on a springtime meadow, on frozen ground thick with the snow.
And as it dwells sensuously, erotically on the lithe young bodies that inhabit this delightful world, often utterly complicit in the sensual charge of the moment, offering themselves without inhibition to her gaze, to the camera, appearing to anticipate its touch with their own touch or stance.
Sometimes though the gaze is more covert, probing, intensely focussed: the fine down on a young man’s back, the course hair under his arm, caught in the sunlight as he bends over a car engine; the laconic spread of a young woman’s legs, the fall of her flowered skirt over them, as she grips a steering wheel; the extreme truncation of a young woman sunbathing so that the gaze homes in on wet strands of hair, droplets on skin, the sheen of wet canvas, the sun dazzles on water.
These photographs were taken in the mid-seventies, though there are not many definitive clues in their subject matter about their date. It’s more a matter of mood – they project an optimistic vitality, a light-hearted sensuality that has perhaps gone missing in these seemingly more fraught times. 
In showing them again now Godden has taken advantage of digital technology to print them on art paper and in a larger format than the originals, allowing their fine detail – down to individual hairs – to fully emerge.
This show offers an alluring excursion to another time and place, located not historically or geographically, but in moments, glimpses, revelations in amongst light and shadows.

Post 9/11 terror. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

The future of music distribution lies in USB sticks and vinyl.
When you purchase freshly pressed records you also receive a free download voucher of the same album.
I believe that when Einstein made a statement that after the Third World War humanity would return to sticks and stones, what he was really saying is that we would return to memory sticks and vinyl.
Pop Vulture’s review of “The needle and the damage done”, a performance demonstrating the top ten worst albums of all time (part of the Araluen birthday celebrations on  the weekend), will be written in the style adopted by maverick French writer, Pierre Guyotat.
Fiona Scott-Norman. Host. Dressed like liquorice all sort. Archaeological dig into the world of bad music. Anthropology looking like a delicious roll of lifesavers. Shoes off. Can’t put feet up. Araluen seats too far apart. Not like Alice cinema, feet up there.
Talking. Playing music. MP3. Vinyl. Performance. Stand up. Cabaret. Lecture. Original. People get it. People don’t get it. People who don’t get it, ooooh and ahhhh in false recognition like they do get it.
Qantas collection of in flight music. Giving new meaning to post nine eleven terror. Swinging sexism. John Laws a kamikaze to new lows. Back in those days it was simpler and more confused.
Racism. Subliminal racism. Accidental racism. Battering ram in your face racism. Open racism. Best kind of racism. I didn’t know it was racism, secret song racism.
I’m not racist but ... Rolf Harris’s original version of “Tie me kangaroo down sport” has verse saying, “Send me Abos away mate, send me Abos’ away, they’re no use anymore mate, so send me Abos’ away mate”. Edited from ‘eighties greatest hits. Mr Harris misses the point. Simpler and more confused.
Show original and magnificent. Show too short. Honky Tonk amnesia. More punters needed.  Faex Mohawks fashion before music. Having a notebook, clipboard at shows mimics being important. Go for the sake of going. Like people who take their own pen to the bank. I took notes with a pen I took from that person at the bank.
Thievery DJ, Fiona Scott-Norman has bad music passion. First shoplifting them in the ‘seventies. Stealing the tackiness and selling it to the audience. Her show too good too short. Short sharp jabs punching above their weight in cool.
Worst album of all time. The Shaggs. Three young children severely tempo and melody challenged. Taken from school by their delusional possessed father believing them to be competition for the Jackson five. Home schooled into ridiculousness.
Sad, funny, need more. 
Happy birthday Araluen, one degrees, need to advertise though. Put finger back on pulse. Many  in the cold. One degree cold.
“What ten worst record thing?” skipping records of disappointment. Saturday spinning vinyl. Warm. Inside warm sound of the record, duplicated sound. fun with snap, crackle and pop. 
Rating: 803/1004

Success against the odds. SERIES by ALEX NELSON.

In the fourth part of his series on the McEllister Method for establishing shrubs and trees in the Centre ALEX NELSON looks at working with hard clay, saline soils. This follows the June 4 installment which reported on the longevity of a number of fruit trees established with the method, two of which are still alive after 20 years of almost total neglect.

In 2006 I was given charge of the new plantings program at the Olive Pink Botanical Garden (OPBG) for that year.
The soil varies considerably across the six hectares of planted ground at the OPBG, from highly permeable outwash from the hillsides, wind-drifted sand and silt through to hard saline clay earths towards the river.
Prior to becoming a reserve in 1956, the site had been heavily overgrazed (mostly by goats) and suffered extensive erosion. The nutrient quality of the soil, despite its proximity to the Todd River, is very poor overall.
Establishment of plants, all Central Australian native species, has been slow and incremental over the years. Most have been planted in holes a little larger than their root balls, with some slow-release fertiliser and, for heavy clay soils, some gypsum to help soften the soil. Generally the rate of growth of the plants is slow, and the degree of successful establishment varies greatly with the different species.
In 2006 the garden was also suffering under the impact of drought.
To maximise the chance of success for the new shrubs and trees, I decided to use the McEllister Method. The planting season extends from autumn through winter to spring, the favoured time in the Centre – easier on both the labourers and the new plants.
The excavation of the holes was the most arduous task, all done with manual equipment – shovels, post-hole augurs, and crowbars.
Blood-and-bone fertiliser was coated around the sides and bottom (after perforating the sides), then added with each subsequent layer of soil fill.
Slow-release fertiliser (Osmocote or similar) was also stirred into the soil with a garden fork, together with small quantities of any nearby leaf litter, sticks and dead buffel grass clumps.
After the settling in period of the backfilled soil, each new plant location was ringed with a rim of soil to create a shallow crater to retain water during irrigation. The new plants were then put into position.
The overall rate of survival was high, and the growth rate for most of them was good despite the difficult dry conditions.
However, some did not respond as well as anticipated; my assessment was that I had erred too much on the side of caution by not including enough organic matter into the back-filled soil.
Once the fertiliser in the poor soils was depleted, some plants grew slowly or died. I resolved to increase humus levels in the soil for the new plantings of 2007.
The first new area for planting was inside the main front entrance of the garden next to the road – and in close proximity to the two Salt Wattles.
The daunting nature of the ground could be judged by previous plantings that had done so poorly over the years.
The new plants were three species of Eremophilas (native fuschias), one Senna species (formerly Cassia), and a border row of alternating tussocks of lemon-scented grass and kangaroo grass. The McEllister Method was used for all although the grasses only needed smaller holes.
Substantial quantities of organic matter were incorporated in the back-filled soil, with lashings of blood-and-bone fertiliser, slow release artificial fertiliser, and gypsum.
The leaf litter on the ground was quickly used up, so I raided from nearby several barrow-loads of old weathered wood-chip mulch, ideal for mixing into the soil.
After all the new plants were in, watered and mulched, there was one more task. Pegs were hammered into the ground next to each new shrub to help deter the euros, or hill kangaroos, from indulging in their occasional pastime of boxing new plants.
As the metal pegs normally used were in short supply, jarrah timber garden stakes were substituted. This was to prove serendipitous. 
The area was completed by the end of April 2007; it was now a matter of time to see whether all the effort for this very difficult part of the garden would pay off. If the plants grew well nobody could have any excuse for failure in their own gardens! NEXT: The contribution made by termites.

LETTERS: Alice needs to outshine negative impressions.

Sir,– Living in Alice has given me an easy way of living; I have a great job which allows me to interact professionally and socially with different cultures from around the world.
Now I’m just an Anglo-Indian from the South of India who blindly made her way to Alice after living in Melbourne for a year, and this exposure does wonders for a person who can enjoy all kinds of flavours!
In my last year here I must say the energy that this place gives out is amazing!!
From the dance floor and swinging doors of Bojangles to walking under full moon dingo-howling nights at Palm Valley to the emotional swing of the community that rallies together when a loved one passes away or when they have achieved.  The small opportunities are endless and the learning is gigantic.
What I do find hard to swallow is the fact that amidst all this runs a chase for money, and fear with a hint of rage between the ‘white and black man’. I have been witness to many a discussion of who needs to change and who’s in the wrong.
Life is too short to have such suspicious minds and the walls we are building will only suffocate us! 
We all have capabilities, whether we are black or white, yellow or red, to do anything we set our minds to.
Hence, instead of trying to destroy each other and the land we live on, why not WAKE UP and start moving forward without the nagging and whining!
Let go of things that make us feel negative, sad, alone and miserable. Let’s give a little more love to ourselves and share it with others. What’s the worst that could happen?
I know there is more that goes on and it is not easy to create change with a snap of one’s finger but when I read letters to the editor from people who have holidayed here from other parts of Australia who hold Alice in such low esteem it annoys me because I know that a little bit of effort would go a long way.
Let’s bring back the fun and zest in life! We need more music and social gatherings in order to create oneness among us.
Alice has the potential to make a niche for itself without any effort as long as we the people can prove that our hospitality, open-mindedness and outback experiences can over-rule and out-shine the negativity we have created.
Inspiration to voice my thoughts from reading Adam’s columns – I think they are good.
Esther van der Veen
Alice Springs

Attracting workers

Sir,– A Regional Economic Development Fund Grant of $20,000 [will] assist the Alice Employment Campaign.
The grant will be used by the Alice Springs Town Council to develop a marketing strategy aimed at attracting workers to the Centre.
A marketing strategy including a website will be developed that will allow local businesses to advertise job vacancies.
This will help to elevate Alice Springs’ profile in the labour market and attract potential skilled workers.
The Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Committee are also taking steps to better position Alice Springs’ attract and retain workers.
Karl Hampton
Minister for Regional Development

IAD court action

Sir,- There has been a change in the battle to fix up the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD).
As the current chairperson, Janice Harris, has blatantly ignored IAD Rules we will now take action in the courts under the NT Associations Act.
A Special General Meeting called for Thursday, May 28 had to be boycotted by our Institute’s concerned members because ... many IAD members were not notified about this meeting [and] there was [alleged - ED] rigging of the Register of IAD Members, the new membership application process and members’ proxies.
There was no quorum of 20 members present. Clearly, Ms Harris could not even raise a quorum of 20 members from her own supporters for this meeting.Ms Harris and her [supporters] should do the decent thing and resign now to avoid any further damage to IAD.
Neville Perkins,
Former Chairman and Public Officer, IAD

ADAM'S APPLE: Tragedy & triumph.

I have a secret love of the dramatic.
Many men do. Men are meant to appear as though not much disturbs the austere manliness of their inner mind, but I know quite a few that cry at the sight of their team losing the Grand Final.
Sport however is not the sole outlet for such displays.
Scattered around the lives of men are little pockets of indulgence, windows into a world that is generally ascribed to women.
Women have no qualms about swimming in an ocean of the dramatic. Industries have been built for the delivery of that particular service. Paperback books and soap operas keep thousands of people gainfully employed.
I do know of a few men, men of importance, men of genuine stoicism, manly men that have a secret fetish for daytime soap opera. Many an awkward moment has resulted when the wife tapes over the weekly indulgence or when the boys drop in unannounced.
I know a couple of roguish types that cry at the Kleenex moments in films and I know a few more that secretly read the latest Fabio bound book.
I don’t do much of those things. Sure I’ve been known to cry in a movie. (In the interest of full disclosure the two most embarrassing have been Adam Sandler’s “Click” and Steve Martin’s “Father of the Bride 2”. Both instances came as a shock at the time.)
My indulgence of drama comes in the form of the tourism commercial. I know it sounds naff but I love them. The big budget, sweeping vistas bled of all contrast for maximum colour. There is something about the drama of a pan shot from a helicopter over a gorge or an ocean set to something written by a long dead Austrian that makes me watch as though very little else exists.
There was even a time when I wanted to be a director of these types of commercials but I never really wanted to know how the sausage was made. The magic of all that colour, all that space, is a scene I’d rather not ruin with budget restraints and catering vans.
I do have to wonder though if my favourite outlet for the drama fix doesn’t give the outsider a skewed view of life in these places. What do people think about the Territory when all they have as reference is the Tourism NT image?
Now I’m not having a go at Tourism NT here. Without those images the only thing left at the moment is the Intervention.
Look at our own perceptions of other places. Without having been to New Zealand my view of the place is basically Lord of the Rings and their tourism commercials. 
Last week the story of Liam Jurrah made headlines around the country. It is a wonderful story.
I don’t care what your take is on Yuendumu, I think it safe to say that on the scale of human experience in this country, this young man didn’t have a life of privilege.
It’s a story of a kid who dreamed of playing football at the highest level from a place where that dream seems as remote a possibility as the place is itself.
It’s a story of talent, tragedy, toil and triumph and it’s a story everyone should know. But there is also the equally impressive story of those talented people from around Central Australia who might have been given a glimpse of the prize but stayed at home and raised a family. 
The memories of the elderly are full of stories about humanity’s capacity to overcome adversity and it is a crying shame that it is only there where you can find them.
When people from the cities ask me about Central Australia, sure I might start with Uluru and Palm Valley but it is the stories of triumph in the face of failure, success through hard struggle that I like to tell.
They are the true reflections of Central Australia and I think they are just as dramatic. Maybe we should start telling them more often.

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