July 2, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

School sex offender got away with it, say victim’s parents. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Parents of a girl now aged 15 say two years after a string of sexual assaults on her, over some six months, by a male class mate, the authorities have still not taken appropriate action against the boy.
There were two major assaults, both at the Alice Springs High School, when they say the boy, after fondling the girl’s breasts, attempted to tear her shirt off. He is also alleged to have made repeated threats to the girl, in the school and outside, of violence and sexual attacks.
But in contravention of legal requirements that such assaults are reported, the teacher whom the girl informed about the first major attack didn’t even tell the headmaster, let alone others in authority.
The then Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET, now DET, Department of Education and Training) has admitted to the Ombudsman that the teacher had failed to follow protocol “because she believed she had adequately dealt with the [events] at the classroom level”.
The second major attack was reported to the school principal at the time, Peter Vaughan, but despite the intervention of the Ombudsman, police took no action against the boy, because they had been told by Mr Vaughan that the alleged attacker had left town.
The girl’s parents say they repeatedly told the police about the boy’s whereabouts – in Alice Springs – but nothing was done.
In a bizarre twist DEET admitted that Mr Vaughan had spoken to the father about double jeopardy – that an offender can’t be punished twice for the same crime.
Says the Ombudsman’s Senior Investigation Officer, Giovina D’Alessandro, in a letter to the father: “The Principal also recalled using the term ‘double jeopardy’, and that he advised you that if the court applied a penalty then the school would not be in a position to impose a further penalty.
“However, the Principal has stated that his comments were not intended to discourage you from reporting the matter to Police.”
It seems clear the school, in this grave matter of a student being sexually assaulted, apparently failed entirely to comply with protocol, namely to make a report to the police and then keep its nose out of it.
It is unclear what role the school-based constable played in the events.
Ms D’Alessandro wrote to the father: “[DEET Director of Legal Services Craig Drury] pointed out that the issue of schools investigating serious matters which may also constitute a criminal offence is a complex one.
“In the past, Police have made it clear to DEET that they do not want the school conducting a detailed interview with the alleged victim or offender of a sexual assault as it may compromise Police evidence in such a way so as to make a subsequent prosecution difficult if not impossible.
“DEET has accordingly developed a policy which incorporates that principle.”
As it turned out, the only penalty the boy appears to have suffered so far was a two week suspension from school. The girl said in a statutory declaration to the police:- “[The boy] used to make threats to me, stuff like he knew where we [she and a girl friend] lived and that he would come and rape us and trash our house and stuff.
“I certainly felt that [the boy] might turn up at my place, because I know he visits friends across the road from my place.
“He makes me scared, and makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe when he is around.
“Sometimes I think he would try and do more than just touch my breasts.”
The parents say they lost faith in the public education system and enrolled the girl in a private school, at a cost of more than $6000 a year.  They asked DEET to compensate them, but DEET had refused.
The father says he had a telephone conversation with a DEET official about the demands.
The father alleges the official said – words to the effect: “We will engage the best lawyers at your [taxpayer’s] expense and drag this out for as long as it takes to send you broke.”
Chief Minister and Education Minister Paul Henderson wrote to the father on April 30, 2007, saying he would get back to him once the Ombudsman had made “any recommendation(s)”.
The father hasn’t heard from Mr Henderson since.
The parents were motivated to bring the affair to public attention by last week’s lead story in the Alice Springs News, “Alice school sex probe”.
DET issued the following statement: “The Department’s main concern is the wellbeing of students and staff and it takes any accusations of assault very seriously. The teacher did not follow Department procedures in reporting the original complaint.
“The Department has sincerely apologised to the family for this error. 
“Subsequently the matter was reported to police for further investigation and the student immediately suspended. The Ombudsman’s investigation was satisfied with the school’s response.”

Vatskalis dropped bundle on swine flu: Giles. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Member for Braitling Adam Giles says Health Minister Kon Vatskalis has “dropped the bundle” on swine flu.
With the number of cases ballooning in Alice Springs and Show Weekend coming up, Mr Giles says he’s worried about the rates of infection getting out of control.
He expressed his concern as it was reported that one in five patients at the Alice Springs Hospital have the disease.
“From being the last place to get it, all of the sudden we’re the worst per capita in Australia, and possibly the world.”
He says the Territory needs to learn lessons from the rapid spread of the disease.
“How was swine flu allowed to get out bush?” he asks .
“Were the first cases identified effectively quarantined?
“Are the new cases being effectively quarantined, to limit the further spread?
“How safe can families in my electorate feel when they go to the Show this weekend?”
The Alice News offered right of reply to Health Minister Kon Vatskalis.
A spokesperson said: “The Opposition have refused to take up the offer of a briefing from the medical experts.  “They are being deliberately misinformed.
“Since the start of the outbreak the Government has followed the advice of the experts and will continue to do so.”
The number of cases of swine flu is being updated by the Health Department daily (
An indication of the disease’s rapid spread is the 35 cases confirmed over the weekend, followed by another 17 in the next 24 hours.
The majority of the cases are in the Centre. On Monday there were 17 people with the disease hospitalised in the NT, 15 of them in the Alice Hospital.

Crushed glass in – not on – the footpaths. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Territory Government has granted the Town Council $850,000 to buy a glass crusher.
Planning and Infrastructure Minister Delia Lawrie informed the council of the grant though apparently the money will come from the Department of Natural Resources, Environment and Heritage.
Crushed glass can be used as a partial substitute for sand (up to 50%) in non-load bearing concrete.
Council has plenty of use for the material in its footpath and kerbing programs and is trialling its use in the Gathering Garden on the corner of the Civic Centre.
Mayor Damien Ryan says the biggest benefit is that glass will no longer need to go into the landfill.   He says 6000 stubbies yield about one ton of sand.
Meanwhile, the Australian Government granted $84,000 to the Town Council, a share of an additional $100m for local governments announced at last week’s National General Assembly of Local Government in Australia, held in Canberra.
Aldermen will be considering how the unexpected money can be spent.
They have also asked officers to put forward some ideas about what kind of competitive “strategic project” could be applied for from a further $120m for local government projects across Australia.
Mr Ryan says the Australian Government has poured $1 billion into local governments since last November.
He says his peers across the country agree that the current national government is working with local government in an unprecedented way.
Council has also received a $90,000 grant from the Territory Department of Planning and Infrastructure to develop the area between the Totem Theatre and the Senior Citizens centre in readiness for an outdoor food market during tourist season.
And a further $75,000 over three years has been received for maintaining the Discovery Walkway and will be matched by council.
While the walkway (pictured) was developed by Great Southern Rail and is on government land, no regular maintenance program was provided for.
Council has stepped in, with the support of Tourism Central Australia and others, to work through overcoming the issues of maintenance, says CEO Rex Mooney.

Council’s energy savings get gong

The Town Council has officially achieved Milestone Four in the Cities for Climate Protection program.
Mayor Damien Ryan and Alderman Jane Clark on behalf of council were presented with their CCP certificate last week at the National General Assembly of Local Government in Australia, held in Canberra.
Cities for Climate Protection is an international campaign to involve local government in greenhouse gas emission reduction which council signed up to in 1998.
The previous council was taken to task for its slow progress on the program (see and
While the program has been defunded by the Australian Government, the Town Council will continue to Milestone Five which involves on-going monitoring of actions undertaken.
The “aspirational goal” for Milestone Four was to achieve a 5% reduction in greenhouse emissions, which council “easily achieved”, says CEO Rex Mooney.
Arid Lands Environment Centre coordinator Jimmy Cocking says council’s involvement in CCP has been “worthwhile”: “They’ve done a lot, but there is still a lot to do.
“With a 5% aspirational goal they really haven’t had to push themselves.
“There is so much potential here to lead the world as a sustainable arid city.”
Mr Cocking welcomed council’s support of a community garden with a grant of $5000 and recognised their efforts with recycling.
“Localising glass recycling rather than shipping it off is a great idea,” he says, responding to the news that council will buy a glass crusher.
“Now let’s see some ideas for dealing with cans, plastic, paper and for community composting.”
The council’s energy efficiency committee reported back this week on its energy audit reports for the Town Library, the Depot and the Civic Centre and the actions taken to reduce energy consumption.
Among these were lighting modifications in the library which have achieved greater brightness with half the lamps.
This resulted in financial savings of $2600 per annum from an expenditure of $1400.  An air-conditioning timer/controller was also installed in the library to turn air-conditioning off during scheduled closures (with a manual over-ride switch for after hours activity).
At the Depot actions such as turning off air-conditioning after hours achieved a “notable” reduction in electricity consumption with little expenditure.
However subsequent installation of security lighting negated some of the savings (though they did reduce vandalism at the Depot).
At the Civic Centre progress has been limited in part by contractual issues but also by lack of qualified tradespeople in Alice Springs.
The committee’s report notes that a “critical mass” of buildings with “leading-edge technologies” like those installed in the Civic Centre, may be required before suitably qualified tradespeople become available in Alice Springs.

Bushlight jobs safe – for now. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The jobs of the 28 Bushlight employees are safe “for the moment,” says the CEO of the program, Bruce Walker – they have contracts to 2010.
The Federal Government has stopped the capital funding of the project which for the past eight years has planned and supervised the installation of solar power systems in 127 outback communities across the Top End of Australia, for people living “off grid”.
Now only operational funding, $2.2m, will be available until the scheme closes down in 2011.
In addition there is still capital funding in WA.
Bushlight was spawned by the Alice-based Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), and has offices in Alice Springs, Cairns, Darwin and Derby.
Dr Walker is keen to change the government’s mind, and a spokeswoman for Environment Minister Peter Garrett says officials are still looking at options.
Dr Walker says: “They are stimulating every other thing in the country, why cut the stimulus to something that’s actually working?”
On the one hand the government wants to “close the gap” while on the other the outback “is losing out yet again over decisions made elsewhere”.
He says CAT is busy pointing out “unintended consequences” of the cut.
Dr Walker says critics of Bushlight’s cost – $30.8m so far, or $244,000 per system –  often overlook the side benefits.
The program’s team were involved not in the actual installation, but in “community support, engagement, developing resources, technical design, organising small suppliers, and payment of the bills”.
A bevy of small businesses has sprung up around the program.
Bushlight’s premature demise would lead to a loss in community benefit, diminishing the “capacity to respond to a lot of other initiatives”.
“If you don’t have capital programs to deliver, then these people move to other areas.
“We have runs on the board. We built on the back of the [Bushlight] opportunity a capacity.
“We need to find a creative way of maintaining that capacity and building it further.”
Bushlight is saving 2.2 million liters of fuel a year, worth $3.3m.

Aboriginal doctor finds her work rewarding. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

More Indigenous health professionals is one way to make improvements in Aboriginal health, says Dr Kim Isaacs, a Resident Medical Officer on a three month rotation in the Alice Springs Hospital.
Dr Isaacs is a Noongar, Yaruwu and Karajarri woman. Her mother is from Broome and her father is from the south-west of Western Australia.
She is the first Yawuru and Karajarri person to become a doctor,  completing a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery Degree at the University of Western Australia in 2007.
She did her internship at the Sir Charlie Gairdner Hospital in Perth and began her term as a Resident Medical Officer there.
The hospital sent her to Alice to increase her paediatric (child medicine) experience.
“I am enjoying learning and working with the many Aboriginal groups from this area and making a comparison of the similarities and differences to our health back home in Western Australia,” says Dr Isaacs.
She did not want to specify what these might be as she has only been in town for a couple of weeks. 
Most of the children she is working with in Alice are Aboriginal.
“It’s a very busy ward which makes the work challenging but it is also rewarding,” says Dr Isaacs.

While she’s in the Centre she hopes to get out and meet other Indigenous people working in health and in Aboriginal organisations with a view to encouraging any who might want to study medicine.
“There’s a lot of interest in getting Aboriginal people into medical school and once they’ve graduated, to return to work in their community,” she says.
That’s very much what she wants to do – to work in general practice and paediatrics back in the Broome area.
Although there’s a family background in health care – her mother’s a nurse, her uncle worked in Aboriginal mental health, and her grandfather was a traditional healer in Broome – medicine was not her first field of study.
She did a Commerce degree at UWA and afterwards worked as a researcher at the Western Australian Office of Aboriginal Health and at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
That’s when she developed her interest in medicine.
During her six years of medical school she did many placements in remote health in Western Australia, Maori paediatrics in New Zealand and Native American health in the USA on the Navajo Reservation.
With her studies overseas, she found a lot of similarities in health issues, but says the challenge of remoteness for the Kimberley people is still a major problem, as they have to travel great distances to access tertiary health care in Perth
There’s a need to put more resources into primary health care in remote areas – more GPs and early screening of diseases– in order to get on top of problems before tertiary health care is required, says Dr Isaacs.

Fun & freedom of the Show life. By KIERAN FINNANE.

They wouldn’t change the freedom and fun of life on the show circuit for anything.
That was the theme amongst all the show men and women the Alice News spoke to on Tuesday, as they set up their tents and spruced up their rides.
There are three generations of Browns on the circuit now. 
Sue is pictured with daughters Camilia (9), Maticka (7) and Angela (6) setting up their shooting gallery (opposite page).
The girls do distance education out of Forbes in NSW.
Is that home?
“No, home is the road,” says Sue with pride.
The family also own the Twister ride, a laughing clown stall, dodge’em cars, bungey jumping, a food van and children’s rides.
The Millers have been in the business even longer – six generations, counting baby Griffin-Lee.
The family were taking amusements around the Territory 80 years ago before a show circuit even developed.
Today there are hundreds of Millers on show circuits around the country.
“It’s rare to go to an Australian show where there’s not one of our family,” says Tyrone Miller, father of Griffin-Lee.
They’ve brought to Alice the Cha Cha, the Octopus, dodge’em cars and this year are introducing a new ride for little kids, Bumper Boats.
Tyrone says the boats have had an excellent safety record in the USA over 25 years.
Dad Bruce chips in: “We give the kids a quick swimming lesson before we put them in!”
It’’s not always a family affair.
Craig Gilchrist (pictured page 1) leaves his partner and children behind when he heads off on the circuit.
“It works out well,” he says.
This is his fifth year on the road, and he wouldn’t give it up for anything.
“Paid to travel, what more could you ask for?
“Meeting different people, seeing different things, seeing the outback and how they carry on here.”
And how’s that?
“People in the country are better than city people. They’ve got more time for you, they talk to you civilly.”
Trent Andrews is new to the life. It’s only been three weeks but he’s loving it: “It’s fun, exciting, something different every day.”
The appeal is similar for Hayley Binsiar and Teresa Horrex who work for Gills.
Gills have got the ferris wheel, the Star Dancer ride, motorbikes and shooting galleries.
Teresa’s been with Gills for four months, travelling with them through Outback Queensland.
She’s come back to the show circuit and Alice Springs after a 16 year break.
The work and the lifestyle are a great change from raising kids (hers are grown up now) and doing housework, she says.
Hayley’s been with Gills for just two weeks, but on the show circuit for some 18 months.
She loves travelling around. Originally from Mackay, where everything is so green, in Alice she’s enjoyed her first sight of red dirt.

Aboriginal art for World Expo 2010.

Warlukurlangu Artists from Yuendumu, Mbantua Gallery from Alice Springs (specializing in Utopia art) and Buku Larrnggay Mulka from Yirrkala are working on exhibition prospects to coincide with the Shanghai World Expo next year.
Their representatives took part in a trade mission to Shanghai in May, sponsored by NT Chief Minister’s Office and Austrade.
While Aboriginal art will be part of the NT Government’s presentation at the expo, there are also opportunities for satellite events, says John Oster, executive officer of the art centre advocacy body, Desart.
Contacts made with Shanghai galleries will be developed over the next few months, with “two real prospects” for art centres at this stage, says Mr Oster.
He says Warlukurlangu and Buku Larrnggay Mulka have “the capacity and export readiness to engage quickly with the opportunities”.
Pictured are, from left, Tim Jennings (Mbantua), Gloria Morales (Warlukurlangu), Vivian Zhao (Australian Trade Commission Shanghai – Business Development Manager), Wayne Fan (Department of the Chief Minister NT – Senior Project Officer), Sun Yongkang (Capital Art Gallery, director), Will Stubbs (Yirrkala) and John Oster (Desart). Photo courtesy Gloria Morales.

An orgy of beanies. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Two prisoners escape from holding cells and discuss places best not to hide, but still spike and push the pop cultural syringe.
They are prisoner number 345278 aka Mr Yin and prisoner number 872543 aka Dr Yang. Cuffed together, they are forced to survey and converse about entertainment whilst on the run.
Mr Yin: Let’s go to the cinema. The seclusion and air-conditioned comfort will offer us solace and refuge, if only for a couple of hours.
Dr Yang: That all depends on what is screening. Imprisonment can often come under the guise of entertainment.
Mr Yin: How about Transformers again?
Dr Yang: No. Apart from the visual face molestation of epilepsy-inducing action, I was casually bored with this sequel.
It seems that in this modern era, all a filmmaker needs to do is produce this veritable mortar shell of special effects and keep the film’s dialogue and plot line completely void of originality. The general population of cinema-goers will still exit the building resembling goldfish at feeding time, drop-jawed and crystal-eyed.
I know you enjoyed it Mr Yin, but I feel that hype is the new market platform now rather than the final product release.
Mr Yin: I thought it was good. Above the norm for M-rated family entertainment. The swearing was a bit out of sync with what the generation Xs grew up with, their sacred “robots in disguise”. But sometimes I think you just need to swim with the current.
Dr Yang: Never! It is for my refusal to conform to what is the current tide of what we are and are not supposed to enjoy, that I found myself imprisoned.
Mr Yin: Yeah … that, and all those murders you did.
Dr Yang: Alas … the shackles that bind my feet and hands are but metaphors for the repression of my free thought.
Mr Yin: OK, if you can justify multiple homicide as free thought. Good luck to you. Anyway this Beanie Festival sounds unique, warm, live music, ample food that is far from prison issue, and an added bonus of the police not being able to single us out if everyone is wearing criminal-associated apparel, by which I mean a beanie.
Dr Yang: Definitely, before my unjustified sentencing, I had great adoration for the annual Beanie Festival. But one thing’s for sure, I do want to be absent in body for the show-stopping announcement of the Top 10 beanies, fresh off the podium and ready for purchase. The horror! The horror! Scores and scores of people, a violent swarm, a giant teeth-clenching beast machine, clawing and lashing, kicking and scratching, and ultimately de-evolving at the chance to own one of the Top 10. Honestly it’s like being tied up inside a giant reptile washing machine.
Mr Yin: That’s actually the part I enjoy the most. So many preachers of non-consumerism and limited possessions living, all involved in this orgy of retail ejaculation. It’s hilarious, forget tight-arse Tuesday at the video shop, this is by far and away the absolute pinnacle of cheap entertainment to be had.
Woe betide the auction hammer!

ADAM'S APPLE: Ponderings from the thunder-box.

If you have ever thought that men might cherish the time spent on the loo a little too much, I think you might be right.
This week I was sitting on the loo, pants around my ankles. The radio in the bathroom was on and playing a killer tune and I was reading a sports magazine.
While I was sitting there on the throne I realised that I was the happiest I had been all week.
I had time to myself. I had some great tunes. I was reading about sport. I was sitting down and I wasn’t wearing pants. What more can a man ask for?
The reason men love a good spell on the loo is mainly to do with the fact that for a small period of their week, the loo provides a rare opportunity for a man to be alone and to think.
Sure, men are thinking all week, but for a 20 minute period, newspaper or magazine in hand, in the loo a man is free to think about whatever he likes.
The freedom to contemplate, to roam the mind is a rare but cherished experience.
While I was sitting there, surveying all I command, I did some thinking too. In fact many of the columns you have read over the years have had their genesis with my bare bottom planted firmly on the same plastic seat.
A thought entered my head. Who designs the artwork for the toilet paper? The designs don’t suddenly appear on the 2-ply so someone must have the job of designing them. Is that their only responsibility at the toilet paper factory? Is that a full time job? What sort of qualifications does one need for that gig?
“I see you’re a frog in a jacket specialist!”
“Yes I am. I also dabble in smiling fishies and teddy bears with honey pots.”
I wonder what sort of job satisfaction designing the artwork for toilet paper could possibly imbue. Does the designer take pride in the fact that their work is seen in thousands of grocery stores and millions of homes every day or do they resent the fact that their masterpieces generally end up obscured by poop?
We’ve all done work that has been less than edifying. I’ve worked a checkout. I’ve analysed urine and sputum. I’ve been paid to dress as the unbelievably poorly named Roger the Rooster. All these jobs were fine enough but totally thankless.
No one thinks about how great it is to be able to collect food and household items without the need to hunt and gather.
When the patient gets the all clear, it is the doctor who gets the thanks, not the poor lab technician who had to wade through a week’s worth of wee.
Still on the loo I thought about the most thankless job I could possibly see myself doing. I’m pretty sure being a statistician would have to be right up there as the most thankless job I could imagine.
Without statistics, governments would never be able to explain why they want to spend our money. Without statistics we wouldn’t know how many people there are in Australia, how many of those people are poor and how many of those poor people can read and write.
Statistics is the backbone of government policy. It’s the backbone of business strategy and it’s the gold nugget for breakfast radio jocks and weekly column writers.
A good statistic makes our life so much easier. When we find out that more Americans believe in UFOs than believe in God, it’s like Christmas.
When we read that there was more people without a job in Australia than thought Brendan Nelson would make a good Prime Minister, it was like we’d caught a leprechaun.
Statisticians make my job so much easier, yet I never thank them.
You’ll never see a statistician on Celebrity Deal or No Deal.
You’ll never hear someone say, “That’s the statistician’s super model girlfriend”, and I doubt you’d even invite a statistician to a dinner party if you could find a good enough excuse.
On top of all that, on top of being social pariahs and having a thankless job for which everyone else claims credit, on top of that, statistics is really hard.
If you’ve ever had to take a statistics class you’ll agree that 95% of the population would rather remove a vital organ with an apple corer than take statistics.
So I guess the conclusion I made before I hiked up my trousers and washed my hands was if you are in a position to thank someone for the work they have done, take the time to show your appreciation. It might stop others becoming statisticians.

LETTERS: Where are the Intervention's fruit and veg and real jobs?

Sir,– It’s been two years since Mal Brough sprang the NTER tsunami (the Intervention) on the NT.
When the Rudd Government came to power they announced that it would be policy as usual but that on the anniversary of the Intervention a review would be conducted.
As one local Yuendumu person posed the question: “Why is Rudd using Howard’s shoes and piggy-backing his policies?”.
Last October the Report of the NTER Review Board was released. All 129 pages of it, and a great job done by Peter Yu and his team.
Minister Macklin’s immediate response was to cherry pick the report and announce that the Government would implement some of the recommendations. The main such recommendation is reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA), and wait for it ... in a year’s time!
Compulsory income management (IM) is the most obviously bizarre, inefficient and counter-productive of NTER measures. The report’s first recommendation on IM is that “The current blanket application of compulsory income management in the Northern Territory cease”.
Yet Minister Macklin said compulsory IM would continue (ED – We understand compulsory IM is being considered in the current consultations with Indigenous communities, with a view to redesigning NTER measures so that they do not require the suspension of the RDA).
In a continuous barrage of announcements and media releases Minister Macklin keeps presenting IM as some sort of panacea and one of the main planks in the Government’s latest policy mantra. “Closing the Gap”.
A Government that promised to make “evidence based” policy decisions is now following in the footsteps of its predecessors and pursuing the politics of fear and loathing and spin.
Anecdotes of “children getting fresh fruit and food at last” and “women that feel safe at last” and all thanks to IM and the Gap palpably closing. You tell that to the people of Alice Springs currently over-run with what I describe as IM refugees.
People who have nothing better to do than to drink, gamble, hang out and generally make a nuisance of themselves, the catalyst for resurgent racist attitudes and tensions in Alice Springs and elsewhere.
[Some] have had their houses effectively appropriated by Territory Housing.
You tell that to those Yuendumu people who have invested so much soul in the bilingual program, recently killed by the “four-hours English only policy” coup de grace.
Whilst education policy is not part of the NTER per se, it is being driven by the same ethnocentric mind-set.
Frank Baarda

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