September 10, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Shire Councillor in bashing allegations. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Adrian Dixon, a Councillor of the Central Desert Shire, is one of four men alleged to have assaulted a young Laramba man, breaking his jaw and necessitating his evacuation to Darwin for surgery.
Travis Gibson, 22, says Mr Dixon kicked him in the face with steel capped boots.
Following the grog-fuelled melee on August 20, members of the Gibson family allege they were evicted by the Dixon family from Laramba, 200 kilometers north-west of Alice Springs, being forced to vacate three houses.
Some of the family, about 30 people, sought shelter in Aileron, some with relatives in Alice Springs.
Locals say this deprived the family not only of their three homes, but also of the extensive government provided facilities at the community: schooling at three levels, a clinic, an aged persons’ service, a council office, sports ground and store.
Enquiries by the Alice Springs News revealed that the Dixon family has no power over the allocation of houses.
They are managed by Territory Housing, an NT Government instrumentality, on behalf of the Federal Government.
Territory Housing told the News it would look into the matter, and we understand the way has now been cleared for the Gibson family to return home.
Brothers Alec and Rodney Gibson told the News that they are paying rent to Territory Housing and they could not understand why they had to move.
Rodney Gibson says others, too, are being “pushed out by the Dixon brothers”, including the Cool and Nelson families.
Watson Dixon was arrested the morning after the fight but the News understands it was over an unrelated matter.
If allegations against Adrian Dixon are proven he would be the third Central Desert Shire councillor to fall foul of the law.
President James Glenn resigned as president recently when he was convicted for driving a shire vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
And acting president Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves pleaded guilty in the Yuendumu court on August 19 to hindering a police officer from carrying out his duties, and was fined $300 plus $40 victim’s levy.
Police say the fight in which Mr Gibson was injured is still under investigation.
One local woman, sheltering with relatives in Alice Springs, says she is afraid the trouble might continue, and hopes police will be ready to deal with it.
Adrian Dixon said he had been advised not to comment.

Hospital stonewalls questions on ENT wait list, emergency theatre. By KIERAN FINNANE.

There is a waiting list of 1600 for ear, nose and throat treatment at the Alice Springs Hospital because of the difficulty of getting specialists to visit, according to a reliable source.
The Alice News requested an interview with hospital general manager Vicki Taylor on the issue. Instead of an interview we got the following statement, attributed to a spokesperson for the department of Health and Families.
It says nothing at all about the waiting list.
“Alice Springs Hospital (ASH) has a partnership with the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH).
“Through this agreement an Eye and Ear team from the hospital provides specialist services to ASH for one week of every month.
“ASH complements the RVEEH teams with locum ENT surgeons.
“Senior Victorian-based ENT surgeons have been present at ASH over the past three weeks [the statement was issued on September 1] for intensive weeks of ENT surgical service delivery.”
The Alice Springs News enquiry on the ENT waiting list was the second in a month to meet a stone wall.
The other enquiry concerned implementation of a recommendation from the Territory Coroner that “the Northern Territory Government fund a dedicated emergency theatre for the Alice Springs Hospital as a matter of priority”.
The recommendation was made in a report dated December 10, 2007 following the inquest into the death of a young man in April 2006 who bled to death on an operating table in the hospital.
He had been admitted with multiple stab wounds but did not receive surgery until more than 30 hours later.
This delay was found to be one of the contributing factors to his death.
Finding out whether the Coroner’s recommendation has been implemented has not been possible.
On August 10 the Alice News asked the simple question: Is there a dedicated emergency theatre at the ASH?
A spokesperson for the hospital provided the following reply, sourced to Dr Peter Lynch, Director of Medical and Clinical Services: “Alice Springs Hospital operates three major operating theatres and two-day procedure theatres.
“Major operating theatre capacity is managed in order to accommodate emergency surgery at any time 24 hours per day and seven days per week.
“The hospital is frequently required to do so and is able to respond effectively to this demand.”
The News told the spokesperson that the answer wasn’t clear.
We provided detail from the Coroner’s report as the context for our question and re-phrased it to try to get a more direct reply.
We asked: Can the hospital outline the way in which the problems discussed [by the Coroner] have been addressed?
And to make it even clearer, we added:  If there is not [a dedicated emergency theatre], is there increased capacity since the preventable death [that was the subject of the Coroner’s report]? And can I please have the detail about this capacity?
On August 17 we were told to “refer to the responses provided last week”.
Here is, in part, what the Coroner’s report says, which is why we thought it important to ask the question:
“I have found that the delay in the operation was a significant contributor to this death.”
The deceased had been admitted to hospital with multiple stab wounds at 3.39am on a Friday and was not operated on until 10am on the Saturday.
The Coroner’s report continues:
“In April 2006 when this death occurred there was no dedicated emergency theatre, which meant that emergency cases were routinely delayed.
“Changes since that time have resulted in a dedicated emergency theatre scheduled for 3 days a week.
“However I heard evidence that in most weeks at least one day is cancelled, because if one nurse calls in sick then there are not enough staff to run it.
“In addition the funding for this theatre was special funding provided by the Acute Care Network to reduce the waiting time on the Alice Springs Hospital elective waiting list.
“This funding ceases at the end of 2007.
“The statistics also show an increase in the number of surgical admissions from 1428 in 2003 to 2472 in 2006. This is a very large number of surgical admissions.
“Dr [Jacob Oapillil] Jacob [Director of Surgery] said this is because there is an enormous amount of trauma in Alice Springs. There were of the order of 2800 trauma cases in 2006 and I heard evidence that if there are more than 400 trauma cases a year then a centre should be considered as a major trauma centre according to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
“I heard evidence that a dedicated emergency theatre would cost about $5 million a year, taking into account operational costs, salaries and support.”
Having failed to get a clear answer from the hospital, we decided to pursue the matter in different quarters.
Health Minister Kon Vatskalis’s media advisor provided the following: “The 3rd operating theatre was opened following the coronial and all theatres are used for emergency / elective surgery as required.”
The Department of Justice media advisor informed us that a report responding to the Coroner’s recommendations had been tabled in the parliament on May 8, 2008. On the Coroner’s request, she then forwarded the report.
The situation, according to this report, is not quite as Mr Vatskalis’s spokesperson would have it.
Signed by then Minister for Justice Chris Burns the report advises that a written response to the Coronial Findings was received by the Department of Health’s CEO, Dr David Ashbridge, on April 3, 2008. 
Dr Ashbridge informed the Minister that there are three fully commissioned operating theatres at the hospital but only two are funded on an ongoing basis.
He said the third is used “from time to time to accommodate overflow of emergency and elective cases.
“The current theatres are used for a combination of elective and emergency cases, with emergency cases having priority at all times.
“The establishment of a dedicated emergency theatre would not be a viable use of scarce staffing resources.”
Dr Ashbridge also advised that additional funding had been received from the Australian Government and would “support the utilisation of the third theatre over the next 12 months and provide capacity to support emergency cases as they arise.
“The potential of establishing a fourth theatre capacity to deal with the increased elective demand is also under consideration.”
So the answer to our original question is that there is not a dedicated emergency theatre but there does appear to be increased capacity.
We also asked questions about staffing. The Coroner had found that a lack of nursing support had contributed to the preventable death.
The hospital had itself commissioned an independent review following the preventable death.
This review had recommended “that all theatre staff, especially the nursing staff, are adequately trained and have theatre certification.
“Currently staff are under-qualified which increases the risk for Alice Springs Hospital.”
By the end of 2007 half of all theatre staff had received their formal qualifications.
The Alice News asked what proportion of staff in the operating theatre [now] are trained with theatre certification?
This was the reply we received: “The current Theatre staff includes a number of very senior Nursing staff with extensive Operating Theatre experience. The small number of staff who do not have theatre certification are currently undertaking this formal process.”
In our follow-up to this reply we asked: Has there been an increase in numbers since the [preventable death]?
We received no reply.
We also asked: What proportion of operations start on time?
The hospital-commissioned review had recommended that theatre begin on time.
And it commented: “A review of starting times showed around 62% of operations started on time; this is something that the Hospital is finding difficult to improve on, it is being monitored through a theatre management group.”
This is the reply we received: “Currently the great majority – over 90% – of elective surgical lists commenced at the schedule time.”
We sought to clarify, asking: What proportion of emergency operations start on time?
We received no reply.
The Coroner had commended the Alice Springs Hospital for adopting  the recommendations of the independent reviewer, for coming up with eight of their own, and “for committing themselves to implementing the bulk of them”.
The Alice News questions were limited to the areas that appeared to possibly be still of concern.

Good Morning, Little Sisters. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Little Sisters Town Camp, 10.30 on Saturday morning: the party is well under way.
Some 30 men in three or four groups on a dusty and horrendously littered block are drinking beer.
They clearly regard the big sign at the entrance to the camp, declaring it a dry area, as some sort of  joke.
Country music blares from car speakers.
I’m looking for someone.
The guys are friendly: “Oh, you’re the newspaper man.”
There’s no hostility – maybe not enough grog’s been consumed yet.
Green cans are everywhere – in front and back yards surrounded by low fences, and around dirty mattresses and blankets out in the open where some people sleep.
Maybe it’s a fresh take on ‘greening’ Australia: cover the ground in green cans.
The trail of them starts at the dump turn-off, thickens as you reach Little Sisters and in the camp itself there must be 2000, maybe 3000 cans.
I had started my search at Warlpiri Camp, off the North Stuart Highway.
The same picture of unbelievable filth, and people in between it, on the ground, on blankets, in a wheelchair, with nothing to do.
In another part of the camp a group of men is more animated, green cans in their hands.
They, too are helpful. Although the people I’m looking for are from out bush some men know them, or of them.
I get another lead. It takes me to Hoppy’s Camp via Charles Creek Camp.
The morning quiet – some people are still asleep in the open – is disturbed by a young man doing wheelies in a ute, raising clouds of dust.
Hoppy’s is a bit further down the road, past dead cars, lying on their roofs or burnt out.
Again, just the other side of the futile alcohol sign, are blokes clutching green cans. Again, thousands of grog containers are on the ground.
On the way out I see a man picking them up.  They are worth 5c each under the new town council initiative.
It’s a white man, not from the camp, who’s collecting the containers to make some money for his grandchildren. He says sometimes he picks up cans pierced by police in a bid to enforce the dry areas law.
The man says he has no trouble reaching the limit of $25 per visit to the depot, that’s $50 a week. He has a big stash of cans.
David Koch, who runs the recycling depot for the Town Council, says the overwhelming majority of collectors are not from the camps.
There is one exception: women and children from Karnte Camp, behind the old drive-in theatre, are embracing container collecting in a big way, and “are making some pretty good pocket money”, says Mr Koch.
The imminent spending of a vast amount of public money in the camps urges some conclusions to be drawn from these observations.
Firstly, these residents are either unable or unwilling to take proper care of the residential assets they have been provided in the past.
Secondly, they will allow friends and relatives to crowd into their dwellings.
Thirdly, they have a profound disrespect for the law.
And fourthly, they have no inclination to administer even the most basic self-help.
Is this an appropriate environment into which to sink more than $100m of taxpayer’s money? The Alice News put the question to Karl Hampton, Minister for Central Australia, and of late the only Labor MLA in Central Australia.
His commitment to improvement is unquestioned, but while the spirit is willing the flesh is weak.
The rural housing project SIHIP has been in a rut for two years, and the moves to upgrade the town camps are bogged down in a court case brought on – absurdly – by a town camp resident.
And as the Laramba situation illustrates (see lead story this edition), people in the bush have scant idea what’s going on.
Mr Hampton says this has been a concern for him for the past 12 months: “People are saying they don’t understand the tenancy agreements and they don’t understand what is going on [about the] transition from the community housing model to the Territory Housing management model.”
Is Territory Housing getting the message across?
“I think they can do better. The consistent message I get is that people don’t know what’s going on.”
Delays notwithstanding, is there anything underway to prepare camp dwellers for the new houses?
Says Mr Hampton: “A lot of consultation is going on again, from the Commonwealth government, and it’s all caught up at the moment with the outcome of the challenge [in the Federal Court] to the proposed lease arrangements.”
He says the story is not all bad: “There are a lot of good people out there on town camps who do look after houses, [such as in] Ilpiye Ilpiye and Morris Soak, but there are a lot of places which have their problems.
“That’s why we need to look at these different housing management models. It needs to be a two way street.”
What’s happening on the ground at the moment to achieve this?
“At the moment it’s the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
“There have been some programs in the past to help those people.
“Territory Housing had provided [to Tangentyere] funding for life skills education.
“There have been a number of attempts in the past to help town camp residents to look after their homes.”
Clearly, in the camps I visited these have been a complete failure and there are no initiatives currently being undertaken by the NT Government to deal with the issues.
The News put to Mr Hampton that present public housing rules limit the stay of visitors to six weeks but do not limit the number of visitors.
Anecdotal evidence is that 30 persons in a house all at the same time is not unusual.
Says Mr Hampton: “There is a definite need for more short term to medium term accommodation.
“The priority is to get more beds available and then maybe look at the rules after that.”
Mr Hampton sets great store by the Working Futures policy “addressing need to support the growth towns” through secondary education and jobs.
“We need 3000 to 4000 jobs created.”
We put to him that backpackers get jobs in a few hours after arrival, and the labor shortage in The Alice is chronic.
He says it a “complex issue of linking an employer to an Indigenous person” and “these things are going to take a while” and “you need to take a look at the models”. He mentions as an example the Yapa Crew, which furnishes short-term contract labour from Yuendumu and Lajamanu to the Granites Gold Mine.
We put to Mr Hampton: Will prospective tenants [of the new houses in town], unless they have full time work, be obliged to assist with the construction of the homes, by working as unpaid labourers?
Mr Hampton: “The target under SIHIP is 20% ... for training and employment [and in Alice] there should be local town camp residents involved in that project. 
“I’d be very disappointed if they weren’t.”
The SIHIP model – two years in the making without a single house being built – doesn’t contemplate unpaid labour.

Brilliant Desert Mob: Their own view. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Two very different insights into ways of looking at the world are revealed in two exhibitions – one the Desert Mob showing of Yarrenyty Arltere artists, the other the Mount Liebig Photography Project 2004, showing at Peta Appleyard Gallery.
Yarrenyty Arltere artists work out of the Larapinta Valley town camp learning centre. They’ve become particularly known in recent years for their soft sculptures – of animals, dolls, kadaitcha men – but this year have made their mark afresh with four striking etchings.
All four are about ‘relationship to country’ – a phrase that is no doubt overused but referring to a central theme and driver of  Aboriginal art.
What is different about these etchings is their graphic representation of ways of thinking about this.
In Shirley Namatjira’s Kadaitcha Man Walking Through Country one figure is upright, the other upside down – a simple strategy to suggest the exceptional powers of the Kadaitcha Man, as well as his movement. A wonderful deep blue shows that it is night time. Country, interestingly including fences, is barely discernible except within the outline of the figure. It is as if lit up when he passes – you can run but you can’t hide from the Kadaitcha Man. 
The Country is Me by Blanche Ebatarinja uses the large scale of the figure in country to assert their reciprocity. Bigger than trees and hills, the figure represents no ordinary mortal, rather it is cultural identity.
Little Ghost, also by Blanche Ebatarinja, has a figure at a similar scale, although with a more amorphous shape and less centrally placed, suggesting its haunting quality. And as you would expect with a ghost, it is transparent – country is visible through it and not contained by it, continuing to the edge of the frame.
Telisa Splinter’s figure in Remembering My Father’s Country is at a more human scale and it is clothed – now we are in the realm of an ordinary mortal. Country is there, in a few deft lines, both within and around the figure and the act of remembering is given a graphic presence – a feathery protrusion from the figure’s head.  
Separately and together the etchings take the viewer by the hand and express in the simplest but most poignant of terms the way the artists think and feel themselves in the world.
Following the outstanding entry from Yarrenyty Arltere artists in this year’s Wearable Arts Awards, a collaboration with a visiting artist, the etchings are another vindication of the learning centre’s commitment to expose their artists to stimulus from others. Master printer Maddy Goodwolf from Tasmania worked with them in two periods and printed the final editions (the editions of five for each etching were sold within 10 minutes following the opening of Desert Mob on Sunday). 
The visit of an outsider, photographer Simon Davidson, was also behind the Mount Liebig Photography Project.
At the time, 2004, the small community 250 kms north-west of Alice Springs, was afflicted by petrol sniffing and the project was conceived as a diversion program. Davidson instructed 19 young residents in the basics of lighting and composition and provided them with 35mm disposable cameras to tell the story of their lives.
If the Yarrenyty Arltere etchings are about matters of mind and spirit, here the young artists have their eyes wide open on what is going on around them.
Roads and cars are central in several of the photographs, with one of the most striking being Amos Wheeler Tjapangardi’s view from behind the dashboard of trucks hauling heavy loads, appearing to overtake the photographer’s car on a narrow dirt road. This could be a moment in a film, full of thundering engines, dust and movement, a great example of the way that a photograph can capture in an instant the dynamism of an event of much longer duration.
There are also of course several portraits amongst the 23 images on show, including many variants of the subjects, from toddlers to adults, raising their index and middle fingers in the V-sign. 
No V-signs though from two brutally candid images, again the work of Amos Wheeler, showing young people sniffing petrol.
In one the sniffer, alone, wrapped in a blanket, looks directly but blankly at the photographer. The contrast with the shining open gaze of the child in Dianne Reid Nakamarra’s Untitled 15, or the warm complicity in the gaze of the teenager sitting in a derelict car in Nathan Rowe Tjakamarra’s Untitled 06, could not be greater.
In the other, a group of young people – children, scarcely in puberty– are sniffing. Some of them, at least, do not seem quite as lost to the petrol as the sole sniffer – they’re trying it out, watching one another. But one has clearly felt the hit, head tipped back, eyes closed. If the task was to tell a story, Amos Wheeler has clinched it in this chilling photograph.
Happily we learn from the exhibition notes that sniffing no longer occurs at Mount Liebig.
Another photograph, Untitled 16 by Patrick Collins Tjapaltjarri, will unsettle many viewers.
High-leaping flames from a campfire light the scene. Two smiling men hold up the products of their hunt – one a partially plucked bird, its long legs dangling, the other a pink-skinned joey, taken no doubt from the pouch of the slain ‘roo at his feet.
The photograph lays bare, without judgment, the full violence of the hunt – the carcasses are not the neatly trussed parcels of a butcher’s shop window, they are devastated flesh and bone.
This stands in contrast to the frank high spirits of the men – the hunt has been successful, the meat will fill bellies, this is simply how it goes.
This photograph was exhibited in the 2005 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, but otherwise the Peta Appleyard show is the first gallery outing for these images.
The exhibition has reportedly excited the young artists, now all five years older, and they’re hoping to get a similar project underway again.

Desert vigour.

Anticipation of exciting new talent feeds the buzz around the Desert Mob exhibition, which brings a selection of work from Aboriginal art centres across the desert to Araluen each year.
It was once again satisfied this year with the appearance of, among others, this work by Freddy Ken from Tjala Arts – the vigorous painting and strong composition matching the artist’s choice of weaponry as his subject.
More than 800 visitors, many from interstate, were there for the show’s opening on Sunday, with sales totalling $345,000, a new record and 10% more than last year’s.

The way the proposed Indigenous representative body would work.

In last week’s issue we quoted comments by Independent MLA Alison Anderson on the proposed Indigenous representative body. Here in summary is how it would work.

A 128 delegate National Congress is proposed as a new national representative body for Indigenous people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, who chaired the steering committee for the body, handed his report to Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin on August 27.
There would be equal numbers of men and women in the congress, with 120 elected or appointed, and eight from the executive.
All would be vetted by an ethics council.
There would be two co-chairs, one male, one female.
Delegates would sit for four year terms.
The body would give Indigenous people “a voice”.
Its job would be to formulate policy and advice, provide advocacy and lobbying, and monitor government service delivery and performance.
It should be set up as a private company rather than a statutory authority, yet have “systemic contact [with government] at Ministerial level and through the Council of Australian Governments”.
Under the proposed model, the Australian Government would fund its establishment and the first five years of operation.
The government would also contribute to an Establishment Investment Fund for the body and contribute to it over the initial 10 years to provide a capital base and ensure long-term sustainability of the organisation.
By the end of ten years the Investment Fund will need approximately $200 million from all sources.
The government would also facilitate fast-tracked approval for the body to enjoy Deductible Gift Recipient status (Charitable status) to minimise costs and more readily attract donations for the Establishment Investment Fund.
Welcoming Mr Calma’s report, Ms Macklin said in part:
“The Government is prepared to provide modest and appropriate recurrent funding for the national representative body once it is established, as well as providing support in its critical establishment phase.
“This would be benchmarked against funds provided to similar autonomous, peak representative bodies.
“Funding would be administered in the same way as it is for other national peak bodies, respecting the right of organisations to put their view, while requiring them to demonstrate that they are representative and that funding is used responsibly.” <>.

All the old Alice News editions are now digitised at the library.

Alice Springs Public Library has recently digitised the entire archive of the Alice Springs News, from 1994 until 2007.
The 2008 editions will be digitised this financial year.
The Alice Springs News maintains its own web-based archive – some four and a half million words – dating back to February, 1997, when we began publishing our online edition, one of the first newspapers in Australia to do so.
We are delighted now that the library’s digitised archive makes readily accessible the editions of  our first three years of publication.
Readers will be able to see the papers in facsimile  – as they were laid out and with all the photographs – and the process used allows the text to be read by search engines.
The library’s initiative means that it now has a complete archive of the newspapers currently published in Alice Springs, available for viewing in the library.
It is the only library in Australia to have negotiated agreements with publishers enabling it to digitise newspapers which are still in copyright. 
They’re simple agreements, says Special Collections Librarian, Fiona Blackburn.
The digitised newspapers can only be viewed in the library and viewers agree to abide by copyright conditions – copying only 10% or one article of any one edition, whichever is smaller.
Ms Blackburn says most people accessing the archive are doing personal research, such as family histories.
Anyone doing research for a commercial or professional publication is directed to the publishers. The National Library of Australia is coordinating a huge newspaper digitising project with the State and Territory Libraries, aiming to make copies of all the newspapers ever published in Australia available on line.
In the absence of any agreements like those Alice Springs Public Library has, the National State and Territory Libraries can only make available editions of newspapers published before 1954.
The National Library has expressed great interest in the Alice library’s agreement and may be able to use it as an examplar in its own negotiation with publishers to achieve the same access.

Call for power, water to help TiTree grow.

The Economic Development Advisory Board of the Central Desert Shire Council have called on the Territory Government to invest in power and water infrastructure that will enable a first stage land release in Ti Tree that will also support the mining and horticulture industry to build a regional economy.
The town already has a school, health clinic, police station, new shop, council office and great growth potential being located on the Stuart Highway. All the facilities and all the passing traffic a town needs to thrive – except for land and power to build badly needed private houses.
The chair of the advisory committee, Central Desert Shire Council President Norbert Patrick, said the development of Ti Tree is a chance for the NT Government to build confidence in its ability to foster “growth towns” across the Territory.
• According to Shadow Treasurer John Elferink, a briefing by Territory Treasury officials has revealed that the Henderson Government spent $154 million more than it budgeted for in the last financial year.
Accusing the government of being “financially irresponsible”, Mr Elferink says the usual allocation for unforeseen expenditure is $40 million.
He says last financial year the government spent that $40 million plus another $154 million, and the previous financial year they also spent $150 million more than they had budgeted for.
• Territory pensioners as elsewhere will receive an increase in their pension payments from September 20.
Single pensioners on the maximum rate will get $70.83 more per fortnight.
Couple pensioners combined on the maximum rate  will receive an increase of $29.93 per fortnight. 

Sami Cha & Billygoat Superstars are playing music with a mission.

 He’s obviously got energy to burn: in his day job Samuel Chen is a ranger based at Ormiston Gorge/Owen Springs; in his own time, as Sami Cha, he’s started a business called Sami Cha Productions, wanting to raise environmental awareness through music, new media and film.
The Alice Desert Festival presents him with an ideal occasion to do so and he’s made the most of it.
His band, Sami Cha (centre in the photo) & The Billygoat Superstars, will feature in Sounds from the Ground, Music NT’s gig showcasing contemporary local artists this Saturday, before Bush Bands Bash.
His video footage from the West Macs will run as the ‘VJing’ backdrop to Friday night’s concert featuring Los Bandoleros Perdidos and Mista Savona.
He has photographs in the LLLook exhibition, opening at the Public Library on Saturday (11am), and he’ll speak there about his experience of The Centre.
He’ll take part in a gig at the Night Markets, on Thursday, September 17, and again at the festival club on Friday, September 18 from 10:30pm, with “Treat ‘em Green, Keep ‘em Keen”.
This will have a video component, “some groovy music to jive to” and will interpret the desert environment.
Cha has been writing songs for seven years, though he’s only been playing live for the past year.
His lyrics are inspired by the different landscapes and experiences from living here and from his travels across the world.
He describes the style of music he plays with The Billygoat Superstars as “organic rootsy percussive blues/folk, with a slither of funk, and a bit of stage antics”.
He’s responsible for vocals and guitar, Joe van der Reijden is on lead guitar, Johnny McKay, percussion, Tashka Urban is shaker and supplies back up vocals, and Nick Ravenscroft plays bass.
“We plan on bringing a new earthy, exciting sound to the Alice Desert Festival, and get the audience feelin’ the groove,” says Cha.
He welcomes the festival’s support for local talent, lamenting the few venues which support original music in Alice.
There are some however and Cha regularly plays the Sunday Sessions at Bloomin’ Deserts (1-5pm).
“It’s open mic, and has been attracting all the real local artists, such as Leon Spurling, Jacinta Price, Lucas Castle, Tashka Urban.
“It’s a real community place,” says Cha.
Other local acts to feature in Sounds from the Ground are South East, Exit Earth and Built 4 Comfort. You’ll find them on the main stage at The Pod (Anzac Oval), 4-7pm, this Saturday. 
Meanwhile, on Sunday at The Pod, the nationally acclaimed Aboriginal group, The Black Arm Band, will perform a spectacular musical memorial to one of the Territory’s greatest performers, George Rrurrambu Burarrawanga, the former lead singer of the Warumpi Band who died in 2007.
The memorial will be the last for GRB, who has been honoured at events and concerts across the nation for his contribution to the national Indigenous music movement.
It will recognise the special connection the Elcho Islander had with the Centre through the Warumpi Band – a connection immortalised in the song ‘My Island Home’, written for him by Neil Murray.
GRB was also a founding member of  The  Black Arm  Band, which features top Indigenous performers and their collaborators – Archie Roach, Ruby Hunter, Shane Howard, Stephen Pigram, Shellie Morris, Lou Bennet, Dan Sultan, Kutcha Edwards, Emma Donovan and Bart Willoughby.
Twenty male and female dancers from Elcho Island will fly to Alice Springs for the tribute, which will be opened by a musician march followed by two traditional Gumatj ceremonial dances – the knife dance performed by the Yiki Dancers (Gumatj women) and the crocodile dance, performed by Gumatj men.
Warumpi Band will also take part in the Black Arm Band Concert, with a performance of ‘My Island Home’.

LETTERS: Long half-life of Murray’s grandiose nuclear visions.

Sir,– Murray Stewart is well known for his penchant for publicity on a wide range of issues, commencing with his proposal in 2003 promoting a national heroes monument in Alice Springs.
This no doubt partly explains why his most recent suggestion to build Australia’s first nuclear power plant in Darwin or Katherine (notwithstanding the Lucas Heights facility in Sydney) has prompted little comment in response, a variation of the “cry wolf” syndrome.
He did garner an approving response in an NT News editorial entitled “Power of fresh ideas” (August 31) yet there is virtually nothing new in Stewart’s “fresh ideas”.
His inept promotion of building a nuclear power plant in the NT was apparently prompted by a call from Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce to develop a national nuclear power industry. Senator Joyce is saying nothing new, as the retiring federal Liberal member Dr Brendan Nelson was the first to renew such calls in 2005.
Stewart’s vision of the Top End being a supplier of energy to a national power grid echoes the ill-fated CLP campaign promise in the Territory elections of 2005, too.
There is a long history of campaigning for a Territory-based nuclear power industry which reached its zenith in the late 1980s.
In 1985 a publication “The Nuclear Power Industry – A responsible approach” argued “that uranium enrichment, fabrication of fuel elements, spent fuel reprocessing, and the storage and disposal of waste could take place in the Northern Territory of Australia.
“A preliminary feasibility study, carried out by the NT Government for a Darwin-based enrichment plant, indicated that such a plant could be set up economically.”
The document calculated that the Territory’s participation in the entire nuclear fuel cycle would generate annual revenue as much as $16 billion or more (based on 1984 dollar value).
A far more detailed document, “Prospects for Australian Involvement in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle”, was released by the NT Department of Mines and Energy in May 1988. It predicted that “by the year 1995, the Northern Territory could be well advanced in its involvement in both the front-end and back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle” and concluded (more modestly) that the industry “has the potential to earn around $10 billion a year in export income”.
A nuclear power station was not considered feasible for the NT but the governing Country Liberal Party enthusiastically supported the development of all other aspects of a nuclear power industry.
This support was epitomized by the irrepressible larrikin Mines and Energy Minister, Barry Coulter, who made a ministerial statement on “Prospects for the Territory’s Nuclear Industry” in the Legislative Assembly in May 1988, coincident with his departments’ publication on this topic.
Coulter noted: “The US Secretary of State for Energy, Mr John Herrington, said in Darwin recently that Australia could play the uranium role in the world that Saudi Arabia has played so dominantly with oil” – an analogy that has been repeated several times in recent years, most recently by Murray Stewart.
The reasons why the CLP and mining interests pushed so hard for a nuclear industry based in the NT are summarized in the near identical conclusions of the 1985 and 1988 documents: “The Northern Territory is the logical choice for establishing an integrated nuclear fuel cycle industry. “It has:
Two producing uranium mines and two more ready to proceed;
A population which is 80 per cent in favour of uranium mining;
Bipartisan support for (a) uranium industry;
The need to develop a self-supporting economy; and a government with the will to pursue such a course”.
However, by mid 1990 the CLP had lost “the will to pursue such a course” as the prospect of electoral defeat was considered a genuine possibility that year. The CLP abandoned the campaign to develop a nuclear industry because there was no point expending so much effort on an issue over which the NT had no control.
It is the federal government which retains the ultimate say on all matters nuclear in Australia, and the Hawke Labor government was never swayed by the CLP’s campaign.
It is Canberra’s control, of course, which makes Murray Stewart’s call for “referendums” in Darwin and Katherine to decide the fate of his nuclear power plant idea so pointless; such “referendums” (more accurately plebiscites) would have no legal basis and the Commonwealth cannot be bound by the results, irrespective of the outcomes.
As an individual Murray Stewart is as entitled as any person to promote his ideas and suggestions but it is by virtue of his position as an alderman of the Alice Springs Town Council that his call for a nuclear power plant in the Top End has gained the prominence it has achieved.
All that Stewart has accomplished is the display of his profound ignorance and naivety on an issue over which the NT Government has no jurisdiction, let alone the Town Council; and is an embarrassing reflection on the calibre of Central Australian political activism.
No wonder everybody else is keeping silent.
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs

Car parks great

Sir,– Regarding “Car parks spoil Alice” (August 27), we need to keep our car parks. The best thing Alice has got is the car parks around town. That’s what make Alice!
In the ‘sixties you could park anywhere you liked but there were hardly any cars.
You could stop in Todd Street, before it was a mall, and walk straight into any shop.
Gerry Miles
Alice Springs

Speed limits working

Sir,- The 130 kilometre per hour speed limit on previously open speed highways was introduced on January 1, 2007 and was met with and remains subject to apparent debate.
The statistics from these sections of [major] Territory roads clearly show a significant reduction in all accidents, whether fatal, serious or no injuries as anyone could predict and logically expect.
While other factors may be contributors to a crash such as fatigue, alcohol or not wearing seatbelts, speed still influences the seriousness of a crash, there were 25% less fatal accidents, 42% fewer “hospitalised” accidents, 77% fewer “minor injury” accidents and 38% fewer “no injury” accidents. Overall, there has been an average of 40% fewer accidents on those affected stretches of highway since the speed limit was introduced.
Still, ongoing traffic enforcement, speed limits, demerit points, new anti-hooning legislation, ignition locks and education campaigns are all in a comprehensive, multi faced approach to road safety.
Grahame Kelly
Assistant Commissioner Operations, PFES

Pine Gap ‘energy conscious’

ED – In Letters (Aug 27) Lena Milich criticised the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap (JDFPG) for continuing to use in some of their houses out-dated, high energy using and noisy air-conditioners and running them 24/7 whether the house is occupied or not.
The Alice News offered JDFPG right of reply. We note that the reply does not address the specific issue raised by Ms Milich.

Sir,– Thank you for the opportunity to respond to issues raised by a reader of the Alice Springs News in your issue of August 27.
Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap (JDFPG) is proud of its support of the Alice Springs Solar Cities program which began in 2006 when as a consortium member we provided support to the town’s application and set energy conservation goals with regard to facility housing.
We have undertaken a series of measures to make our homes more energy efficient. We have installed over 200 solar hot water systems and have replaced over 300 dishwashers and 400 washing machines with appliances that carry a four star energy efficiency rating or higher.
We estimate that,  in addition to the energy savings, this investment has saved 5 million litres of water per year.
Another significant project has been our whole house window replacement program which has replaced existing windows with energy efficient E-Glass resulting in a 30% improvement in heat loss. We also educate our personnel on energy conservation, with each new arrival receiving the Cool Mob literature on energy conservation in the desert.
It is worth noting that as a government agency JDFPG does not receive any of the financial incentives that private property holders receive under the Solar Cities program.
With regard to water saving measures, in 2009 we have completed 30 desert landscaping projects, reducing lawn coverage by 50% at those properties.
At the facility itself we have also replaced grassed areas with desert landscaping in a move which is estimated to save 1.5 million litres of water per year. All of our gardens have timer controlled watering systems and all of our houses have dual flush toilets.
With regard to air conditioning, we do use reverse cycle air conditioning and heating systems in 160 of our houses. These systems have all received upgrades to include soft start compressors and energy star controllers. We are currently investigating the use of split pack airconditioning systems and the use of ducting to reduce energy consumption on dual use systems.
In addition, an upgrade to the facility’s power generation capability from diesel to dual fuel natural gas and diesel generators is expected to have a positive environmental impact.
JDFPG is committed to a continuing program of improving the energy efficiency of our housing stock and the facility itself as an environmentally conscious member of the Alice Springs community.
Cameron Ashe
Deputy Chief of Facility
Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap

ADAM'S APPLE: Always the groomsman.

To me, getting married is like winning the Finke Desert Race – a wonderful dream, but I just don’t understand enough about the mechanics of it all to make it a reality.
The institution of marriage is one I am fond of but have never had the ability to find.
My good friends Michael and Stacey are to be married at the end of the month. To me they are a near perfect blend of the similarity and opposite needed to make things work. I couldn’t be happier for the both of them and wish them nothing but joy and happiness.
I am constantly amazed at couples that can endure all life throws at us through a long marriage. I’m not always a fan of living with myself so it is safe to say that it will take a fairly remarkable woman to be able to live with me for any period of time.
If there is one thing I know about marriage from the outside it is that it is a lot of work. I often wonder if some couples fail to distinguish between getting married and being married.
A wedding is an enormous logistical ordeal. Think about everything that goes into putting together a wedding. The dress, the suits, the venue, photographer, cake, place settings, invitations, fish or chicken, the little personalised lace bag of white sugar almonds. Plus seating arrangements!
“Your Uncle Harry is a bit touchy-feely so he can’t sit with my cousins.”
It’s enough to make you consider living in sin.
I have been a groomsman on several occasions and each time, the wedding has been completely different.
I have worn a white tie and tails, a grey suit and maroon cummerbund and I have worn a shirt that wouldn’t have looked out of place at an APEC meeting.
I have stood out the front of the ceremony in a church, a chapel, a synagogue, a bowls club, a registrar’s office and a backyard.   
The life of a perennial groomsman isn’t that bad. While the “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” tag may haunt some of the female folk, the groomsman’s job is pretty sweet. You get to wear nice clothes, dance with a pretty lady, tell embarrassing stories about your good mate and eat and drink quite a lot.
Recently however I did find myself slightly concerned about what all these groomsman duties might have done to me.
I was in one of the men’s wear stores in town with the groom. We were going through the options of the clothes we were going to wear for the wedding. The initial problem is that one doesn’t chose the groomsman for the clothes but rather the clothes for the groomsman.
This is an issue if one of the groomsmen, in this instance me, wears clothes from the “Larger Gent” section of the store, while others, including the best man, are what might generously be described as slender gents.
Unless the happy couple is fine with the idea of two of the groomsmen in horizontal stripes with the other in vertical ones, the situation is slightly problematic.
Another issue is that the groomsmen’s outfits can’t clash with the groom, the bride, or the bridesmaids.
This requires that the men doing the shopping understand the concept of colour clash – even less prevalent in male society than you might think. 
Choosing the wrong clothes can be a disastrous start to a long life together for the groom. The saviour in this situation is the shop assistant.
A good shop assistant can in effect save a wedding from the embarrassment of dodgy wedding photos for decades to come.
Luckily for us we had such a saviour. She went through ties and shirt combinations, shirt and pants combinations, tie and pants combinations.
She then asked Michael what colour the bridesmaids would be wearing.
Michael said they were wearing green. She then asked what shade of green.
To many men “What shade of green?” is like asking “What V8 engine?” Michael’s face had the look of a dog that has just been asked to explain the theory of relativity. A slight turn to the side and a hint of “please don’t ask that again”.
Instantly seeing my friend’s discomfort I piped up and said that the dresses are a dusty olive green.
Michael looked at me like I would have looked at him after saying such a sentence.
At that moment I realised, after all these weddings, after surrounding myself with happy couples, I, Adam Connelly, could speak woman.

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