ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
August 27, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
parks spoil Alice, says report commissioned by the NT Government. By
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
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
Once that is done parking structures should be constructed to replace
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
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 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
The Urban Design Audit was posted on <www.futurealice.nt.gov.au>
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
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
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
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
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
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
There is some cross-over between the Urban Design Audit and Prof
Carter’s report, also available in summary form on the “futurealice”
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“They just want to come out and talk to us as long as they get their
Over-crowded housing was also a theme with non-Aboriginal residents of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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.
“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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
Professor James Anaya was addressing
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
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 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
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
There was a call for a minute’s silence for the poor one murdered last
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
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
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.
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:
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,
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
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.
Will Gerry saves us from sacred
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
Whether or not this is collusion, I wonder if Mr Wood will review the
role the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) plays in Alice
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
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
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.
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
I had the occasion to perceive his keen determination to protect these
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.
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
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
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.
ADAM'S APPLE: Battling the
chronic wakefulness syndrome.
Remember the time in school when the teacher gave the pep
You know the one. The one that was meant to inspire us into a study
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
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
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
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
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