August 27, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Car parks spoil Alice, says report commissioned by the NT Government. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The amount of land given over to surface carparking in the Alice CBD must be “clawed back”, says an Urban Design Audit prepared for the NT Government.
The audit was conducted in September 2008 with the report finalised in February 2009.
It found that 40% of the non-road area in the CBD, which it rebadges as the Central Activity District (CAD), is given over to carparking.
It says the “coherence” of town’s public areas is in “danger of being lost ... as a direct result of the demolition of buildings in favour of surface car parking”.
It says the amount of parking provided relative to the amount actually required should be the subject of a further urgent audit.   
Once that is done parking structures should be constructed to replace surface lots.
The report describes such structures as “essential infrastructure for a maturing town centre”.
But it also says they should not front the street; rather, they should be “sleeved “ with “active frontages”.
“Active frontages” means buildings with a clear relationship to the street – built up to the front boundary and with windows and doors opening onto the street, as is the tradition in Australian country towns.
A poor ratio of active frontages means poor “passive surveillance” – that is, people inside buildings being able to see what is going on outside, an important contribution to actual and perceived safety on the street. 
The impression of Alice Springs as an “unsafe place” cannot be allowed to occur as the town centre is the “heart and soul” of the community, says the report.
It found that Todd Mall had a high level of “good” frontages, while the other streets in the CAD generally had “mediocre to poor” frontages.
These two matters of “great concern” – too much surface carparking and a lack of active frontages – are having “a serious impact on reducing the attractiveness, activity, vibrancy and safety in the Alice Springs public realm,” says the report.
“This problem is in danger of accelerating as many of the worst buildings in terms of providing activated frontages are some of the most recently constructed.
“It is clear that stronger planning controls to achieve activation of building frontages to streets are urgently needed.”
With appropriate planning controls every new development would contribute to the quality of the town centre over time, says the report.
The Urban Design Audit was posted on <> on August 7, two days after the latest media release on revitalisation of the CBD gave no hint of its existence.
It gives good reasons for why a review of planning frameworks and principles has been the priority activity of the revitalisation steering committee created by Planning Minister Delia Lawrie back in March.
Without a coherent case made for this planning review in any public statements on the matter, it has felt like just another bureaucratic delay in what has become quite a drawn out process (the first consultancy on the revitalisation, Material Thinking’s Paul Carter, began in February 2007).
The Alice News has followed the revitalisation story quite closely and was not aware until last week that the Urban Design Audit had been done.
Indeed the timeline included in the “Outcomes Report and Action Plan” released by Ms Lawrie in March had the audit being completed in the first half of this year, whereas it appears that it was already complete at this date.
To what avail this “mushroom treatment” of the public, we will probably never know.
Meanwhile, the Urban Design Audit, the work of Victorian company Design Urban Pty Ltd and the City of Melbourne, makes an easy to grasp analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of our CAD which should feed the public conversation about the revitalisation projects announced by Ministers Lawrie and Karl Hampton, when they eventually go on public display.
It contains a number of useful maps that make their point without further explanation: the street tree map shows the east-west thoroughfares – the very ones most exposed to the blistering western sun – to be virtually bare of trees; the map of public seating shows that we have hardly any; the map of weather protection provided by buildings shows that this is scanty;  the map of views and vistas shows that we have very few, despite our town’s glorious natural setting.
What views exist to the river are spoiled by carparks along its banks.
The report is adamant – these will have to go and the banks returned to their natural state.
It describes the Todd River as the town’s “single most important natural feature”, which needs to be valued and respected, “not turned into a car parking lot”.
It suggests that the eastern length of Parsons Street offers a good opportunity to bring the river closer to pedestrian space in the mall.
This would involve a development on the ANZ carpark to create an active frontage, and landscaping to reflect the river environment.
It also suggests planting shade trees that would eventually replace the Sails to “return the area to a more natural look”.
It doesn’t mention the Rotunda which Prof Carter suggested should be removed, in order to improve the link between the Knowledge Tree and the river.
There is some cross-over between the Urban Design Audit and Prof Carter’s report, also available in summary form on the “futurealice” site.
One proposal in common is to do with the area between Todd Mall and Hartley Street, proposed by Prof Carter as a “commonage”, and in the audit as “a new central public park”.
This would see the greening of the area behind Adelaide House and Flynn Church, at present part of the Hartley Street carpark, and the development of a covered walkway between the mall and Hartley Street.
The audit also suggests a small park behind the Old Hartley Street School, with the rest of the carpark developed to create active frontages.
Given the various empty shops and offices as well as the vacant lots around the CAD, this proposal would appear to be a long way from bearing fruit.
But Prof Carter’s report, full of enticing suggestions about activities and spaces for the “commonage”, suggests the south-east corner as ideal for a medium density residential development, noting that  residential “in-fill” is a key ingredient of self-sustaining CBD – or CAD – revitalisation.
And given the housing shortage and rental crisis, a development of this kind sounds more promising.
Prof Carter also suggests a children’s playground associated with a park adjacent to the Old Hartley Street School – amazingly, given our youthful population, the CAD has no playground, not so much as a swing or a see-saw, at the moment.

Accolades for Anderson over campaign on housing in bush. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Baby Latifah Small lives at Hermannsburg in the three bedroom house pictured with eight other young children and 16 adults.
Latifah is the niece of Alison Anderson, former Indigenous Policy Minister, now Independent Member for MacDonnell.
The residents of the two-year-old house are her aunty Nettie (her mother’s sister) and cousins and nieces and nephews.
A good number of them sleep on the verandah on the other side which has been walled in with sheets of corrugated iron.
The cousin to whom the house was allocated no longer lives there. She had been delighted to move in, kept it spic and span and covered the walls of the living room with proud photographs of her children.
But as the stream of relatives moved in, her hopes for a well-run house evaporated and she took refuge elsewhere.
If Alison Anderson brought the Territory Government to the brink of collapse over the Indigenous housing issue, it’s hardly surprising – it concerns not only “her people” broadly speaking, but her very family.
Of the Centre’s remote communities, only Hermannsburg and Yuendumu are due for new houses under the now notorious Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP), which after two years and the expenditure of at least $70m has yet to see a single house built.
It’s unclear whether any of the people in baby Latifah’s home would be catered for by new housing if and when it’s delivered.
There is deep disillusion at Hermannsburg about SIHIP.
Outside the shire office CDEP Supervisor Ambrose Inkamala is gathering his team to start work.
“Big promise, nothing,” is his comment on SIHIP.
“Young people getting grown up, getting married, living with their parents” is what is leading to the over-crowding, he says.
“I’m alright,” he says about his own situation, but other families have “more than 15” in a house.
Alison Anderson as an independent will have his vote at the next election, he says – “all the families around here” will support her.
Shire councillor Mildred Inkamala is more than sceptical, she’s irate, focussing her anger on the Federal Member, Warren Snowdon, rather than on the Territory Labor Government.
She worked for his campaign at the last election.
“I was there, I said ‘vote for this man’.
“He never does nothing for me.
“They don’t come and see what’s happening in the community, they don’t ask, they just forget.
“Then when voting’s near, they come around, that’s when you see their face.
“And we’re telling them we’re still living in a crowded house.”
Again, her own situation is “OK” – she lives with her husband and four grandchildren – but is “talking about other families”.
Theresa Nipper is visiting for the day.
At present she is living in Alice Springs with her husband who is a renal patient. But home is Areyonga, where her children and grandchildren live in her three-bedroom house – 15 all up when she and her husband are at home.
“I have to go out of town to get a proper sleep,” she says.
There are some 270 residents in the community and – she counts, family by family – about 26 houses, an average of 10 residents per house.
Three other houses, apart from her own, are excessively crowded, she says.
She says Areyonga was promised “six to seven houses a long time ago” but “it never happened”.
Now she understands that 11 of the houses are earmarked for renovation but that will do nothing to ease the over-crowding.
Theresa is quietly spoken, articulate.
“As a mother I understand that health comes from the house. Kids need to sleep well and be fed.
“Me and Alison grew up in a humpy.
“I often wonder why people surrendered their freedom – hunting and living in humpies.
“I always fight for my people but no-one is listening to us. It’s a waste of time talking to white people, the promises they give us for housing.
“They just want to come out and talk to us as long as they get their pay.”
Over-crowded housing was also a theme with non-Aboriginal residents of Hermannsburg.
Ms Anderson dropped in on the school. It was morning-tea time.
Outside children were lining up for their main meal – pasta with a minced meat sauce.
It’s part of the school’s nutrition program. Those who arrive early also get cereal and milo for breakfast and there’s a sandwich and fruit at lunch-time.
Inside teachers were sitting down for a cuppa. Five single adults are having to share accommodation, two of them with a Department of Health nurse which has its own problems.
They describe nights of broken sleep when the nurse is on call and has to come and go at all hours. It makes it hard to teach the next day. Ms Anderson promises to press their cause in parliament.
At the Hermannsburg Potters studio she hears from the new coordinator, Steve Anderson (not a relative).
He’s worked hard to turn the art centre’s shaky financial position around after taking over in January.
His and the artists’ efforts are being rewarded – among their successes for the year is the record-breaking sale for one of their creations, a collective work which went to the National Portrait Gallery for $22,000.
The potters are looking forward to building an extension at the studio, so that there’s room for new artists to work there.
And the coordinator’s accommodation needs attention. At present Mr Anderson, his partner and two children are all in a one bedroom dwelling.
Everywhere Ms Anderson went in Hermannsburg on Monday, she was warmly received, by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike.
“Go for it!”, “Keep it up!” were the common refrains. It was the first of her program of visits across her vast bush electorate this week. Will she run again in MacDonnell?
“If an election gets triggered within a year, I will go again,” she says.
She suggests this is highly likely as she does not think the Territory Government will be in a financial position to meet all the demands of the Independent member for Nelson, Gerry Wood, with whom Chief Minister Paul Henderson has struck a deal.
“We know the government is $250 million in debt – how will it meet its promises?” she asks.
Meanwhile, she’s throwing herself into her backbencher’s role, gathering up issues and questions to raise in the October parliamentary sittings.
On SIHIP she now has no doubt that the 750 houses will be built, but they will come at the cost of Indigenous housing in other parts of Australia.
She says the Territory and Federal Governments are so embarrassed by the program’s failures to date, they will have to deliver, and the obvious source for the extra money needed is the national allocation for remote Indigenous housing, a total of $1.9 billion.
She says no more money should be squandered on consultation – “we have all the research we need”.
But on the other hand, she says a “huge education strategy” is needed to teach many Aboriginal people about how to live in and take care of the houses they will receive.
She also recognises how fraught the whole issue of Aboriginal housing is for governments.
They can well build a new house, like the one allocated to her cousin in Hermannsburg, but it soon gets over-run.
She says there was nothing her cousin could do about it – “it’s within Aboriginal culture to let family stay”.
And she says “the illusion” that governments owe people housing “perpetuates the problem”.
She looks forward to the day when, for instance, those Aboriginal people who benefit from substantial royalty payemts, use that money to build their own houses.

In the days before ‘them and us’. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Alice’s first Aboriginal woman alderman, Sandy Taylor, let fly at the recent public meeting about draft by-laws. It was a reaction rooted in her growing up in a time when hard work brought people together.

Sandy Taylor’s first home was a small tin shed with a dirt floor on New Crown Station where her Aboriginal mother was “head girl”.
Even when her family moved to Alice Springs in 1961 they spent many years living in a tin shed, somewhat larger but with no toilet.
But there was no “them and us” in those days, says Sandy, now an alderman on the Town Council, the first Aboriginal woman to achieve this.
The reasons for a more cohesive town she sees as due in good part to the hard work that everyone had to do then in order to survive.
“There was no easy welfare. Whether you lived in a tin house or a brick house, everybody was sort of the same.
“There were no ‘posh’ people, no Golf Course Estate, no Snob Hill.
“And everybody knew everybody else.
“The town was smaller of course.
“Nowadays I can go up town and see nobody I know.”
Sandy was born at Andado Station but returned with her mother, Emmie, to New Crown.
Emmie, who went on to become a well known racehorse trainer in Alice Springs, was born and raised in the far north of South Australia. Emmie’s father was a white man but her brothers and sisters were born to her mother’s second marriage with an Aboriginal man.
Her mother and step-father, Luritja and Pitjantjatjara speakers, worked for Kidman’s, travelling across that country in a camel-drawn wagon, picking up and delivering supplies.
Emmie says her brothers and sisters didn’t want to have much to do with her because she was a half-caste and after her mother’s death the family left her behind on New Crown.
She was only 15 or 16 when Sandy was born.
Sandy’s father was a white man whom she would not get to know till later in life. The man she called “Dad” as she grew up was in fact her step-father, also a white man, Alvan Wehr.
When Sandy was five Emmie sent her to live at St Mary’s, a hostel for Aboriginal children.
“My mother, a wonderful woman, believed I should have an education, a good education,” says Sandy.
Emmie regrets her own lack of education: “Look at me, I can’t read and write,” she says.
She feels “a bit angry” with the station-owners who employed her: “They could have given me an education – they had governesses there working.”
Much later she sought out a literacy class at the Institute for Aboriginal Development: she attended the class over seven or eight years and is pleased now to be able to read a price list, but frustrated that she can’t, for instance, write a letter.
She remembers life on the station as just “hard work” and says there is “some good” that Alvan Wehr came along and married her – “otherwise I’d still be stuck there”.
Sandy was at St Mary’s for two years before Emmie and Alvan moved to Alice Springs. By then Sandy had a little sister, Christine, and ultimately there would be six more.
At first the family lived, along with other Aboriginal families, in the “Gap cottages” on Park Crescent, in those days the last street at the southern end of town.
From there all the land to Heavitree Gap was a vacant saltbush flat, as was the land between the cottages and the Stuart Highway, with the exception of the Gap Store and Radio 8AL.
Families in the cottages included the Stuarts, the Fergusons, the Kopps, and the Tilmouths.
“We all looked after each other,” Sandy recalls.
While she’d boarded at St Mary’s Sandy had been going to Hartley Street school.
She says she doesn’t remember “any colour barrier”.
“You had Griffiths House where most of the station kids lived and St Mary’s where the Aboriginal kids lived but we all came together at school.
“Sometimes I had to sit on the fence. I had my black mates and when they got sick of me I’d join my white mates. That’s part of growing up in Alice Springs.
“There were probably fights and squabbles but I didn’t notice, though we’d fight kids from other schools – ‘convent dogs, sitting on logs’, that sort of thing.”
She recalls lots of migrant families too, mostly Italians.
“If there was a colour bar, it was probaly that we were known as ‘half-caste’, ‘whitefeller’, ‘blackfeller’, even ‘quarter-caste’.
“There was nothing wrong with saying that, that’s how you were, how you were known.
“It didn’t matter what colour you were, as long as you could work.”
Alvan had a job doing grounds maintenance at the airport.
Sandy remembers him taking the whole family to the annual Christmas parties.
“People were in awe of us as a family, all us girls, at the job my mother did, how clean she kept us, how well clothed we were.
“We didn’t have a lot – we played with tin cans for toys – but we always had a pair of shoes and a nice dress.
“These were a standard for Mum – we didn’t go out of the house unless we were dressed in our Sunday best.
“But everyone in town was like that.
“I remember Uncle Dicky Foster. He was a full-blood Aboriginal man who worked on the railways and you’d never see him without a clean white shirt.”
From the Gap cottages the family moved into the tin shed, a Nissan hut, at the old racecourse on Northside, where both Emmie and Alvan were caretakers, with the kids helping too, and also did track work.
The shed was large enough to partition, so that Emmie and Alvan had their own room though there was always a baby in there with them.
There was no toilet but they kept a bucket inside for “number ones” at night, but for “number twos” they had to walk some distance to use the racecourse toilets: “It was scary, running through the dark in among the cedar trees,” recalls Sandy.
The $40 a week that Alvan gave Emmie for house-keeping was not always enough to go round.
Sandy had a slug gun, which she’d use to get pigeons to cook for the family.
She had also developed into a skilled rider, and from the age of 11 was getting up at 4.30 every day to do track work for horse owners such as Ly Underdown, Snowy Kenna and Keith Scarce.
“I got to ride some beautiful horse flesh that I never would have otherwise,” she says.
Only trouble was, she’d sometimes fall asleep at school – Alice Springs High by this time, on the site of the present day Anzac Hill High.
She was paid $1 per horse for riding it seven days a week and saved hard till she had $200 to buy her own – a filly she called “Blue Ribbons”.
Five out of her seven sisters also eventually had horses and were keen members of the Pony Club. Four of them would go on to become professional jockeys.
“How we fed the horses, I don’t know,” says Sandy, confessing to some midnight raids on hay supplies that weren’t theirs.
Similarly, “if you had to get a killer [for meat], you’d go and get one”.
While she can also remember driving cars from the age of 13, obviously unlicensed, she says nonetheless “people had respect for the law”.
“Policing was different. 
“They knew all the families – of course the town was much smaller.
“If you did something wrong they’d take you home to your parents – they knew your parents would give you a good kick up the backside.
“There was no police harassment, it was just about them knowing the families.”
Pony Club played a big role in Sandy’s life.
She excelled in show-jumping and remembers some wonderful outings.
“We’d go for a campout at Ringwood Station once a year, riding the horses as far as Benstead Creek.”
Alvan and Emmie gave the girls a “Christian upbringing”.
They attended Sunday school “out the back of Mount Nancy with old Father Long”.
He’d do the rounds, picking all the children up – the Gap mob, the Mt Nancy mob, the kids from Trucking Yards.
“We’d love nothing better,” recalls Sandy.
Alvan would sometimes take Sandy to the Catholic Church.
She never felt comfortable there: “We had to wear little white hats, and little white gloves.”
She preferred the Anglican Church and recalls vividly the smell of the thin parchment paper of the small Bibles they had there.
Sandy gives Alvan his due as a provider but she did not get on with him.
With Emmie’s blessing, as soon as she turned 16 she put in place long-held plans to run away.
She’d saved enough for a bus fare to Darwin where she knew her natural father lived. 
On the day she took off she literally jumped out of a window at school.
Alvan was a possessive man and even at that age he would pick her up from school.
When she wasn’t there, he drove up and down Todd Street looking for her. Sandy had persuaded the bus driver to let her board and was hiding there, watching him.
When she got to Darwin, he was waiting for her at the bus station, having sold one of Emmie’s horses to pay for his airfare.
But Sandy was determined, refusing to return as long as he remained in her mother’s house.
It took her a month to locate her father, Dean Stephens.
She recalls the day with joy. A friend, who worked with him, took her to his workplace, using a ruse to get him to come out to her car in which Sandy was hiding.
Sandy recalls:
“I sat up – my Dad was looking at me.
“’Sandra,’ he said, ‘is that you?’
“’Yes, Dad, it’s me.’
“He was trying to roll a cigarette and his hands were shaking. I said ‘Give it here’ and rolled it for him.
“He told my friend, ‘Tell them I’ve knocked off, I’m taking my daughter home’.”
Dean sent her to Darwin High where his daughter, Lorraine, introduced her as “my big sister, Sandy”.
Again, she says there was “no colour bar”.
“It was special to be accepted in both families. I always say, ‘I’m the only whole one among you lot’, though it probably doesn’t make sense to anyone else.”
Sandy was now in her leaving year. She’d finished Term Two at Casuarina High, then did Term Three at Darwin High.
“I didn’t pass but I did finish the year,” she says. “I always tell people I got my leaving certificate.”
She went back to Alice then.
Alvan had left her mother and the family was having a difficult time. Emmie’s eighth daughter, Donna, was only five months old.
Sandy remembers pleading with Emmie to get help – so they could have firewood and fresh food.
Emmie says it took eight months before official help came but townspeople rallied around: “One lady was coming across, saying, ‘Emmie don’t worry, we’ll look after you’.
“I don’t know how she got involved with me.
“I can’t remember her name but gee, she was good. She had the whole town coming and feeding us.”
Emmie had been a shy woman and had kept pretty much to herself, staying at home, looking after her children.
“That changed when I got single,” she says.
The St Vincent de Paul Society also helped and then, when plans were afoot to move the racecourse south of the Gap, she recalls Bernie Kilgariff intervening to help her get a proper house where she remains today, after 35 years.
Sandy meantime became the first hostess for Central Australian Tours, the forerunner of AAT.
She used to do town tours on a double-decker bus and also go out to the West and East MacDonnells.
“I was the first and as far as I know the only Indigenous person on the busses as a hostess.”
But she remembers working with some Aboriginal coach drivers – “the likes of Johnny Spencer and Teddy Walsh”.
She went on to work at  Aboriginal Arts and Crafts but later joined the public service for both Territory and Commonwealth Governments.
She married “my beautiful Barry” in 1979 and they have two children, René and Jeremy, and two grandchildren, Mitchell and Ryan, René’s sons with her husband David Sanders.
These days Sandy works as an Aboriginal and Islander Education Worker (AIEW) at St Philip’s College, though she’s currently taking a year’s leave to write her mother’s story.
Before starting at St Philip’s in 2000, she worked for 10 years with the NT government in the office of Aboriginal Development and Aboriginal Lands Branch as a Senior Advisor to the Minister of the day.
She has used her positions to be an important voice calling for Aboriginal people to take charge of their own destiny, particularly by taking advantage of education and employment opportunities.

Menzies defends Alice Springs alcohol report.

The Menzies School of Health Research has rejected scathing criticism of its evaluation of alcohol control measures in Alice Springs, made under a $1.4m deal with the NT Government.
The criticism came from academics of the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, in Perth, undertaking a review of the evaluation commissioned by the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition in Alice Springs. Menzies’ Alexandra Boston says: “The report into the Alcohol Management Plan (AMP) in Alice Springs, which was commissioned by the Northern Territory Department of Justice, represents a thorough and balanced attempt to gauge the impact of the Alcohol Management Plan and assess the community’s views on a contentious and divisive issue.
“The report was independent and was executed by Menzies School of Health Research, an organization which has 25 years of quality independent research under its belt.
“The findings of the report have been wholly accepted by the Northern Territory Government.
“The report is freely available on both the NT Department of Justice and Menzies School of Health Research websites, and people interested are invited to download it and form their own judgements.”
Ms Boston declined to say how much the report cost, saying only it followed “a competitive tender, therefore we are unable to disclose the cost”.
However, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Kon Vatskalis said: “In May 2008, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Families entered a three year partnership worth $1.4m with Menzies to, amongst other things, evaluate Northern Territory initiatives to address alcohol related harm. 
“Evaluation of the Alice Springs AMP was identified as a priority project under the partnership.
“Government has accepted the findings in the Menzies report.
“We will continue to work with the Alice Springs community to find real solutions to the problem.”

Eyes on Araluen.

A record number of entries will make this year’s Wearable Arts Awards certainly the biggest, possibly the best.
There are 50 entries in the adult show, and 38 in the children’s show.
Five entries have come from people residing outside of Alice Springs, some of whom have competed in the prestigious WOW (World of Wearable Art) awards in New Zealand, which began in 1987.
The “New World Sustainability” category in the Alice adult show has attracted the most entries, though surprisingly none apparently dwells on uranium-related themes. Interest is rather in the imaginative use of recycled materials.
While some students compete in the adult awards, there is also a student awards show on Sunday at 1pm. Pictured are, from left, Taylor O’Keefe, Nikki Byrnes and Emily Noske-Turner showing off the flair of past award-winning designers Colleen Byrnes (Taylor and Nikki) and Carmel Ryan (Emily). Both are again taking part  this year. Photo JAMES SPIERS.
Meanwhile, once simply an exhibition, the annual Desert Mob now also offers a symposium, an art market for low-priced works and a dance event. With the main exhibition opening on Sunday, September 6, the Desert Mob MarketPlace will run the day before, in the Araluen forecourt, foyer and Witchetty’s. At Hermannsburg Potters studio this week even their top artists, such as Judith Inkamala (pictured), were busy with small works destined for the MarketPlace. 

Variety Bash was hot. Madame Buttlerfly not. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Once upon a time in caterpillar town …
As August into September grows, outward bloom the festive shows.
Madame Butterfly should have stayed a grub, an audience bored their heads they rub.
A pineapple a ticket, a score a song, five minutes in and they’re begging for the gong.
All she does is long and pine, but all you hear is whine, whine, whine.
Variety bands bash, or dinosaur park, much less appealing than drunken riddles in the dark.
Leo Sayer, that tooth pick with a fro! Screaming Jets on the bill too? No, no, no.
Cat Empire alone may have been worth the ticket, but demographic isolation causes a very sticky wicket.
An anachronistic set will never quench the thirst, jump ship at Blatherskite Park, women and children first.
That aside a lot of fun was had, for the variety that’s important and never that bad.
Inglorious Basterds, Public Enemies, Oscar celluloid is on the go, Coraline too, take in a good show.
September looms near, the cabaret, a must reservation, choose carefully the dates, reason leads to self preservation. 
With cast, an exploding one fifty strong, its third year drum beat, it hammers along.
The shows wares a secret Hush! Hush!
With tickets on sale already, go on, Rush! Rush!
Two massive showings is all they will seat, completely community driven! a miraculous feat.
The festival’s soundtrack is loose and about, Paul Kelly kicks off, acoustic no shout.
Mista Savona is booked to come around once more, dancehall Jamaica for those who missed it before.
Black Arm Band is a tune you can’t ignore, Bush Bands Bash you missed it last year – nevermore, nevermore.
September is a fire that all should gather round’ for culture of the ravenous kind, a feast does abound. 
The scene is set, a glowing month about to start, with mixed up rhymes to draw the eye and burning lines to warm the heart.

LETTERS: UN fact finding just a farce.

Professor James Anaya was addressing the one-sided, invitation only meeting last week. He told the Alice News: “Before taking any action on [submissions] I have to corroborate them in some way, investigate them.” To the left of Prof Anaya is Barbara Shaw whose action in the Federal Court is holding up Commonwealth measures to improve conditions in the squalid town camps of Alice Springs. The court will deal with the matter again next week. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said this week: “I want to get on with the job of upgrading and building new houses so that women and children who live in the camps have a safe and healthy life. Recent court action has meant disappointing delays in the implementation of the $138 million plan to transform the Alice Springs town camps including intensive support services.”

Sir,- Well it turned out worse than we expected.
The governments of Zimbabwe, North Korea and Burma would have been impressed by the meetings organised by the Intervention Rollback Action Group with the UN’s Special Rapporteur Professor Anaya.
The media were tightly controlled and not given equal access when they were given a small window of opportunity.
All of the usual suspects were there, including at least one whitefella we know to have been sacked from a community development position, but actual town campers were very thin on the ground.
It seemed to us that the meetings were set up to intimidate those with views opposite to the Action Group.
We met others with profound concerns relating to violence against women and children leaving as we entered because they simply refused to tolerate the attempt to intimidate and did not want to become involved in confrontation.
My wife, the chairperson of the NT’s Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council, was hand delivered an envelope we were told contained an invitation to the meeting of government representatives two days before the meeting.
The envelope proved to be empty.
After letting the Action Group know by email she received another placed in our letter box the day before the meeting.
One day to prepare a “brief summary” and a “larger report” on “governance, culture & identity, non-discrimination, self-determination and land rights and resources”, for presentation to the Rapporteur.
Of course the commissars in the Action Group had worded their invitation on the premise that such reports would support their opposition to the Intervention.
A notice advising a meeting of community representatives appeared buried in the classified ads column of the Advocate.
We missed that ad, as did every Aboriginal person we spoke to – residents of the town camps and Amoonguna.
Even one who had publicly demonstrated against the Intervention from the beginning was not informed.
She was not part of the charmed circle surrounding the Action Group.
We saw and heard nothing in Aboriginal languages either in the advertising or at the meetings.
The proceedings were all in English.
So we had the usual sentimental nonsense about Aboriginal culture and customary law from English speakers that bears no relation whatsoever to the lives lead by people on the ground in town camps and remote communities.
There was a call for a minute’s silence for the poor one murdered last week.
Mark Lockyer asked for silence for the one mauled to death by dogs and the one half eaten by dogs on the town camps.
If we’d had a minute’s silence for all who had died unnecessarily on the camps we would have been silent for the rest of the day.
Rosie Kunoth-Monks told those assembled that “payback was a peace making ceremony”.
Try telling that to the dozens we know who have suffered grievous bodily harm or inflicted it, those whose relations were murdered or are locked up for homicide offences, the children who have been assaulted because their adult relatives were not available at the time, during examples of these “peace making” ceremonies.
Try telling that to the families who have been caught up in years of violent feuding sparked off by these “peace making” ceremonies.
When I pointed out some of the negative side to Aboriginal culture that my family has suffered from Rosalie told the meetings that such things didn’t happen on her side of the Stuart Highway.
Try telling that to a room full of Warlpiri.
At that point we left in disgust.
We have been led to believe that meetings elsewhere were far more open and balanced.
I sincerely hope that is true.
Maybe we need our own Action Group, but for me it sounds a bit too much like Einsatz Gruppe and I despise politically applied ideology.
Let’s deal in realities not fantasies.
Dave Price
Alice Springs

Coroner’s fire death findings

Sir,- I refer to your article “Chopper pilot returns to charge over Kings Creek fire death”.
You claim that I “did not make any findings” in the Coronial Inquest into the tragic death of Cynthia Ching. This is misleading and your readers should be acquainted with the facts.
On 24 August 2005 I announced my intention to hold an inquest.
That inquest was held in Alice Springs for five days from 6 March 2006. Multiple witnesses including several expert testimonies were heard and all evidence was canvassed.
On 4 May 2006, I handed down written findings – a 46 page document which has been available on our internet site since that date.
Full findings were made as to the identity of the deceased, time and place and the relevant circumstances of her death. Such findings are the main jurisdiction of the Coroner.
Furthermore, recommendations were made which included Work Health issues and, as per my jurisdiction as Coroner, I formally referred the matter back to the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions having come to the conclusion that “in my view the accident causing the burns leading to the death may have involved the commission of a crime”.
Should your readers wish to read the full findings they can find them at the following weblink:
Greg Cavanagh
Northern Territory Coroner
[ED - The Alice Springs News regrets the error. Our reference was to the following concluding sentence in Mr Cavanagh’s findings: “It is not within my purview to attempt any resolution of those issues, nor to make any findings or recommendations in relation to them. It can only be hoped that the parents of the deceased do find closure, and I note their expressed appreciation of the coronial process in providing some assistance in this regard.”]

Sacred sites costs must be reviewed

Sir,- Thank-you to the Alice Springs News (Aug 20) for publicly raising the issue of significant costs in relation to an application made to the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) concerning a fire management plan in the Todd and Charles River.
Although my views are not shared by all (and I write as an individual), I support legislative protections for Aboriginal sacred sites. 
Such protections ensure respect for the cultural diversity that thrives in this region. 
Our town performs well economically because of this and the connection to identity and land is something that cannot be measured: socially, emotionally, etcetera.
What I have issue with is the cost structure.  In order to manage resources and conduct an activity in relation to a registered sacred site the applicant must pay a financial cost. 
The problem is the cost is not just an application fee, it is a cost to compensate the AAPA bureaucracy for processing an application, and in many cases the costs can be substantial (and can apply even if the application is rejected). 
In my view this is an unfair arrangement considering that it is in addition to the time, money and effort put in on behalf of applicants.
The fact that Alice Springs has a much larger concentration of registered sacred sites then say, Darwin, means that the value of our cultural diversity is overshadowed by a cost structure that adversely impacts areas where this value is the strongest. 
The cost should be met by all Territorians. 
This means absorbing it at the Northern Territory level. All sides of Parliament are in a position to advocate this view.
The present arrangements are not the fault of traditional custodians. 
They are not the fault of AAPA, its board or its employees. 
It is the fault of an outdated legislative and administrative framework that requires reform.
John Rawnsley
Deputy Mayor
Alice Springs

Will Gerry saves us from sacred sites authority?

Sir,- I imagine Paul Henderson can scarcely believe his luck. 
In exchange for signing off on an alderman’s wish list of more bicycle paths and another swimming pool he keeps his job, and Gerry Wood sits in revue.
Whether or not this is collusion, I wonder if Mr Wood will review the role the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) plays in Alice Springs. 
Leaving aside the fence around the two trees (dead) in Traeger Park Oval, and the block on a designated walkway around the western end of Annie Meyer Hill, a dry summer is approaching and there is a no agreement on a Todd and Charles Rivers fire management scheme.
AAPA has indicated that it will charge the ratepayers of Alice Springs a reduced fee of only $37,710 to process the application of the 2001 Fire Management Plan.  Can they really have spent the last eight years dithering? 
Was anything agreed, or are discussions and fees progressing?
Also, a revised joint application to AAPA from the NT Fire Service, The Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI) and the Town Council for a continuous approval for controlling the fire risk in the Todd and Charles Rivers has been lodged and has been assessed. 
AAPA fees are also being assessed.
While we are assured that a response to the fire risk is in the mail, an audit of the trees growing in the parks and on the verges has been conducted using an infra-red camera. 
Some of these photos have shown internal faults that could result in a tree coming down in a high wind such as the one we had a year ago. 
As luck would have it, some of the dodgy trees are sacred so I foresee more processing, more consulting and, no doubt, more AAPA fees.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Noel’s love for bush

Sir,- I was particularly interested and delighted to read the story about long-time Centralian Noel Fullerton and the assertion by some park rangers that he had contributed to ecological damage by taking camel treks through the bush. 
In the early 1980s, I was asked to chaperone a young Pintubi man who was employed by a European film company to portray the young Nosepeg Tjapurrula and some of the scenes required Europeans on camels. 
Noel and I surveyed locations east of his camel farm on the south road and he graciously took me to some sites which were of ecological and cultural significance. 
I had the occasion to perceive his keen determination to protect these places.  
At one stage, his attention to a particular plant bordered on that of a keen nursery keeper for a rare and fragile orchid. 
I have never forgotten the way he moved through that country, both the dry river beds and the more spectacular places of ecological fragility.
Russell Guy
Alice Springs

SIHIP in focus

Sir,- Perhaps it’s time to put all the fuss about the SIHIP housing project for Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory into some kind of perspective, and I have a couple of examples to do this.
Alison Anderson’s resignation from the NT Labor government was due to the failure to construct a single dwelling in two years – out of 754 mooted homes – while much of the allocated funding is swallowed up (as per usual) by administration and bureaucracy.
By a remarkable coincidence, a report was released in Queensland about a month ago highlighting the requirement to build another 754,000 houses in that state’s southeast corner alone, to cater for an expected population growth from 2.8 million to 4.8 million residents by the early 2030s (gee, now that date rings a bell for the NT, too!)
The cost of each house, to be constructed under the SIHIP scheme in the NT, averages out to $896,000.
Recently my attention was drawn to a little snippet published in the Catholic Weekly in Sydney (August 2): “What a great group of people are the folk at the Parish of Pittwater.
“In November, 44 people from the parish will travel to Cambodia to build houses for the poorest of the poor. They are aiming to build 30 houses! That will transform the lives of 150 people. Each house costs $1500 and so far they have raised enough money to build 15 houses!
“And they are keen to hear from sponsors for more.”
I think it’s well overdue that Australia as a whole became a lot more keen to hear about just what the bloody hell is really going on in the Northern Territory!
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs

Pine Gap too cool

Sir,- It’s about time that Joint Defence Facility housing starts supporting our town’s solar aspirations.
The company responsible for a very large number of houses in The Alice acts as if it is still the 1970s when power was cheap and the only available refrigerated air conditioners were inefficient and power hungry. Problem is they haven’t moved on.
They continue to use the massive 2hp airconditioners of yesteryear and run them 24/7 whether the house is occupied  or not.
The few other diehards in the town still using these outdated airconditioners can’t afford to run them continuously, let alone run them for more than six months on an unoccupied house but this is normal for Joint Defence Facility houses.
The noise of these units makes neighbours’ gardens unpleasant because unlike their old housing commission counterparts they don’t take care to point them at the street but straight at neighbouring houses.  They skate on the fringe of the environmentally illegal and they don’t cool efficiently.
All they do well is make a lot of noise and guzzle power. At an estimated cost of $1500 per year per unit (ie $3000 per house) just for power, an upgrade to a modern system would pay for itself very quickly. It would also send a positive message that the Joint Defence Facility is keen to demonstrate that they are part of our community.
Lena Milich
Alice Springs

ADAM'S APPLE: Battling the chronic wakefulness syndrome.

Remember the time in school when the teacher gave the pep talk?
You know the one. The one that was meant to inspire us into a study frenzy.
The teacher would look us all in the eye with the same facial expression you get after watching a Disney movie marathon, and then lay it on thicker than peanut butter on toast.
“Study isn’t a punishment,” they would say. We all knew it was.
“It’s really very, very important. If you study really hard there isn’t anyone of you in this class that can’t grow up to be the Prime Minister of Australia!”
In second grade, we all believed the teacher. All of us in that class believed we could become Prime Minister of Australia.
By the time we got to high school however, we had pretty much picked out the kids that weren’t going to make the cut.
Michael Attard was never going to become Prime Minister. It wasn’t because he was illiterate or lacking a certain sense of civic duty. Many may even argue that those qualities wouldn’t preclude a candidate for the job anyway. It was because Michael Attard liked to sleep. A lot.
If sleeping was a sport, Michael Attard would be considered in the same company as Usain Bolt and Lance Armstrong. Once Michael slept the whole weekend save for a couple of 10 minute breaks for ablutions and a sandwich. He was still late for school on Monday.
Prime Ministers are known for their lack of sleep. Kevin Rudd and Bill Clinton are said to average five hours a night while Winston Churchill was a three and a half hour man (that might explain the drinking).
I suppose with all the work a Prime Minister is expected to do, sleeping in on a Monday morning might be considered poor form.
I can’t sleep in. Even on the weekend my body screams at me to wake up at the crack of dawn. I’d really like to sleep in. I am philosophically pro the sleep in. I’m just unable to stay asleep any longer than a Prime Ministerial five to six hours.
There is one advantage to the weekend wake up. You get to witness Alice Springs at dawn.
In the moments before the Saturday dawn, Alice Springs is a cool, quiet beauty.
From my balcony, the ranges begin to glow a magical orange. A near ecclesiastical celebration of the coming day complimented perfectly by the newly blue sky.
A lone hot air balloon hangs in the fresh atmosphere.
From a few houses down I can hear a rooster calling the day officially begun.
While most of the town’s residents roll over for another couple of hours slumber, the secret seagull-like society of the lawn saler scurries round town in their soft roaders looking for bargains.
They do so in the cool of the new morning air.
The moths have not gone to bed yet. They still perform their manic dance around the still lit street lights. The birds that call them breakfast soar through the trees. Flashes of colour flitting through the foliage. Greens and blacks and reds and yellows and tans. An early morning kaleidoscope of colour to enliven the senses.
The ears are not to be denied this early morning fiesta.
A grasshopper greets the morning with gusto. A squadron of galahs with their aggressive screams are joyously counterpointed by a host of sweet tweets, warbles and chirps.
As I suck in the fresh air of a new day I take it all in. The birds with their calls. The insects’ chirps and buzzes. The lawn salers’ scurries. I take it all in and I think to myself … SHUT UP – IT’S TOO EARLY!

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