September 24, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

No business like show business. By KIERAN FINNANE.

On the weekend the Cat’s Meow became a “Lion’s Roar”: that’s the name they gave to the fictional theatre where the show’s action took place; it’s also alludes to the up-scaling of this local group of dedicated performers – no longer a band, a veritable horde of 120, taking their cues from the classic Hollywood musicals as much as from traditional cabaret.
Cat’s Meow came into being during the 2007 festival, with a show at the Todd Tavern.
They were bursting at the seams last year in Witchetty’s.
This year, in two sell-out shows, they completely filled the stage in the main theatre, which was quite transformed by a few clever touches, huge retro banners on the walls, worn flounces on the balustrades.
There were all the hallmarks of stage traditions they were drawing on – a huge chorus line, a cigarette girl called Rose with stars in her eyes, her mysteriously missing lover, the tyrannical director, the magician’s assistants (lots of), the Madam, and various other pedlars of dreams.
There were also plenty of add-ons – it seemed that if anyone had a good idea, the reaction was ‘why not?’ and if anyone had a special skill, ‘let’s show it!’
Thus we were treated to a beautifully lyrical aerial ballet, choreographed by Lil Tulloch and Adelaide Church; a man lying on a bed of nails, having a brick broken on his stomach (Rick Everett, with Tulloch wielding the mallet); an operatic aria (sung by Tammy Brennan); and whip-cracking (Tulloch again, kerzlake, and Ella McHenry), to name a few.
There were moments of high humour – the crowd went crazy for the loose and wild men in hot pants (named Shonky and Bonky, you get the picture), as well as the bevy of bewitching beauties, tantalising Rose with their various brands of feminine guile.
And the crowd applauded in anticipation any appearance from Franca Barraclough, playing Sunny Waters, an “ex-magician’s assistants’ assistant”. She was being recognised in part for her role as the driving force behind Cat’s Meow but also for her exuberant embrace of everything far-fetched and silly.
Her long legs stuck in the air, protruding from her frilly skirt, as she was trying to scrape chewing gum from under a seat was a highlight.
Lily Alexander as Rose held the wildly diverse show together from beginning to end, with a light, charming yet commanding dramatic presence. My only regret was to not see more dancing from this natural-born mover.
Cat’s Meow will now compete with Wearable Arts for the ‘Wow!’ factor in the Alice Desert Festival line-up and it seems to have come out of nowhere and with next to no funding – there are well-springs of talent (not to mention commitment) in this little town.

What a huge chance we have! By ERWIN CHLANDA.

There are three major locations in the world reached by peak solar energy: two are in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and not of much use unless you put solar panels on very large floats.
The third one is the Australian desert region, with Alice Springs smack bang in the middle (see map at left, pulished in the Guardian Weekly this month).
Why are we all but ignoring such a monumental opportunity?
Germany, which compared to us gets hardly any sunlight, produces nearly half the world’s solar energy, with the output growing steadily.
In Alice Springs, the sparse incentive to produce solar power is diminishing daily, with a five year program for rooftop units selling power back into the grid moving inexorably towards its close in June 2013 – less than four years away.
The German programs run for no less than 20 years.
Although the Alice Solar City (ASC) project provides a 60% subsidy for the hardware of the domestic units – so far 93 have been installed – their purchase becomes less attractive with the diminishing amount of time in which householders can sell power into the grid. 
What opportunities there will be for sale of power to the grid after the program’s five year term is not clear.
The Northern Territory Government isn’t bending over backwards to capitalize on our enormously privileged geographical position.
It put $2.3m into ASC, and will pick up half the cost of the solar thermal project at Araluen – the total is tipped at $5m to $6m.
However, the government owned Power and Water Authority (P&W) buys electricity for no more than they are selling it, 27 cents per kilowatt hour.
Participants in the Alice Solar City project get 49 cents per kWh, with the balance coming from the Federal grant setting up Solar Cities.
New York Times columnist Thomas L Friedman last week put his finger on what the Germans (and – for example – Spain, India, Italy, Taiwan and Abu Dhabi) are doing right, and what we (and the USA) are doing wrong: “The reason that all these other countries are building solar-panel industries today is because most of their governments have put in place the three prerequisites for growing a renewable energy industry:
1) any business or homeowner can generate solar energy;
2) if they decide to do so, the power utility has to connect them to the grid; and
3) the utility has to buy the power for a predictable period at a price that is a no-brainer good deal for the family or business putting the solar panels on their rooftop.
“Regulatory, price and connectivity certainty, that is what Germany put in place, and that explains why Germany now generates almost half the solar power in the world today and, as a byproduct, is making itself the world-center for solar research, engineering, manufacturing and installation.
“With more than 50,000 new jobs, the renewable energy industry in Germany is now second only to its auto industry.”
P&W hasn’t worked out yet how much power it has bought from the household producers, but ASC’s Brian Elmer says they have implemented metering systems to record solar generation.
The PV units installed under the ASC initiative are mostly the two kilowatt type costing $21,000 (under the present subsidies program the householder pays just $8500).
At best – with optimal orientation of the panels to the sun, no shade from trees, and so on – such a unit will generate 3200 kWh a year.
At 49 cents, this is worth just under $1600.
Over five years that would amount to $8000, or a bit more than a third of the investment.
ASC is doing well in a spurt to sell “100 units in 100 days” before the offer for the subsidized purchase cuts out in December.
In 40 days 80 householders have signed a quote for a system installation.
The Crown Plaza hotel in Alice Springs, with a $1.5m subsidy, installed what’s touted as the southern hemisphere’s largest building-mounted photo voltaic plant.
Yet it produces less than the hotel consumes.
That’s pretty well the sum total of solar power initiatives in Central Australia. We have a long way to go.
COAG has so far been incapable of agreeing on a national buy-back price and duration.
The states are doing their own things.
This lack of commitment means no serious commercial decisions can be made about building the kinds of solar plants that work in the long term and efficiently.
One of Australia’s main players, Solar Systems, has just gone into voluntary administration.
The firm was set to build plants in the Ilparpa rural subdivision, at the Alice Springs airport and the Desert Knowledge precinct, all in the world’s best place for harvesting to power of the sun.

‘Lots of solar action’

Comment by BRIAN ELMER, Alice Solar City

I disagree with the comment that the local solar opportunity is being “ignored”.
Alice Solar City is a $40 million program, that aims to not only change the way residents and businesses use energy, but will also result in 1000 solar hot water systems installed; up to 200 residential solar power sytems and 10 commercial PV systems; and up to five large iconic solar energy installations (using various technologies).
With the incentive for householders around 60% off the normal price and the ongoing subsidy being paid for the power produced, I think the incentive is far from “sparse” – it’s one of the best deals in the country.
There are number of small systems already installed on commercial premises (Zone A, Mt Nancy, Graingers Glass, Nashbilt) and a number of others in the pipeline.

Getting on the front foot with environmental probes: All brain and no brawn. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Environment protection authorities in many jurisdictions have teeth but the Territory’s EPA appears to be all brain.
It can provide advice to government but government is not obliged to take notice of it.
It does not have a regulatory role, does not do environmental assessments nor issue environmental licences; it does not investigate breaches, nor does it have any kind of enforcement powers. 
These functions are all the responsibility of government departments.
When Cameco-Paledin hand over their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Angela Pamela uranium prospect – to name the environmental issue most to the forefront locally – it will be assessed by the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NRETAS).
The Australian Government has ultimate power over uranium mining but under a bilateral agreement assessment is undertaken by the NT, though the Australian Government’s Minister retains approval powers.
What scope is there for the EPA to be part of this assessment process – can it serve the person in the street as an independent check on both the mining proponent, NRETAS and ultimately the government?
Board member Donna Craig, Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Western Sydney (and formerly Professor of Desert Knowledge at  Charles Darwin University), says the authority already has “the broadest trigger for what we call referrals under any EPA legisation in Australia” and members of the public can make such referrals.
A referral could occur, for example, if the public are concerned about the protection of groundwater.
This example could spark interest amongst locals concerned about mining of the Angela Pamela deposit, located above the Mereenie Aquifer which supplies Alice Springs’ water.
Says Prof Craig: “If it becomes very controversial, then a referral [to the EPA] might be [to look at] whether or not there’s an adequate policy framework and standards for the identification of the groundwater resource in Central Australia and the possible impact of a mine such as Angela Pamela.
“I believe that could be a referral because it’s broader than one particular project and its regulation – we could hire an independent expert or panel of experts to look at that aspect.”
Prof Craig sees the EPA’s role as more like that of a law reform body and ombudsman.
“Our role is to make sure the decision-making rules and standards are clear, and if there’s a systemic failure, then certainly it’s the role of the EPA to act upon that.”
The EPA  is currently taking to the public draft recommendations from a major review of the way environmental impact assessment is conducted in the Northern Territory.
It wants maximum public input on these before the final recommendations go to government (the official closing date for submissions is end of this month, however late submissions may be accepted with advice until the end October). 
In the board’s view the way in which government responds to the report will be the first true test of whether what looks like an ‘all-brain’ organisation has ‘teeth’ to go with it.
And another big issue for them “is whether or not the EPA is going to be adequately resourced”.
A lean, mean operation is possible but the board is hoping for flexibility in resource allocation, allowing for greater levels of funding if, for example, the EPA accepts three referrals all at the same time.
A referral does not necessarily entail “a bigger than Ben Hur inquiry”, says Prof Craig.
“It might just be the EPA staff reviewing something; it might be that we hire an independent expert, or it might need to go to some expert panel for recommendations, or it might be a full blown enquiry.
“All that is currently [provided for] in the legislation – the question is does the government have the political will to resource us that so that it works.”
So far, the EPA hasn’t been swamped, but referrals can come from corporations, from the public, from the government or the authority can self-initiate referrals.
At present, however, the EPA is focussed more on taking “a leadership role in law reform and policy”.
“We can have wonderful environmental impact assessments and yet terrible decisions are made because those legal policy frameworks are not in place.
“There’s a strong role for the EPA is to provide that kind of reform, to get more government policies based on ecologically sustainable development.
“Most of the laws in the NT related to this area go back to the early 1980s, they’re 25 years old.
“There’s very little explicit provision for public participation, access to information or rights of appeal, so really at the moment it’s a question of trusting your elected representatives.”
Mark Cowan, Principal Solicitor for the Territory’s Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO), basically supports the way our EPA has been set up “given the resource constraints of the NT Government”.
The EDO is a non-government community legal centre practising environmental law in the public interest, part of a national network, funded primarily from Commonwealth grants with support also from the NT Department of the Environment.
Mr Cowan says the Territory needs the law reform process that the EPA can help lead, a process undertaken by many other jurisdictions five to 10 years ago.
For example in the Territory the Department of Resources is both in charge of promoting the mining industry and of mining environmental approvals – the issuing of licences – and enforcement.
In this situation there is a danger of “industry capture” and in other jurisdictions handing over licencing to an environment department has been a way of guarding against this.
Mr Cowan also says the status of the EPA’s recommendations to government needs to be stronger: “There should be some kind of legal test so that their recommendations need to be adhered to unless there’s a good reason not to.”
And this reason should be published, says Mr Cowan.
This would be in contrast to the present situation typical of the Territory in which the government has the complete discretion to do what they like and without explanation.
Mr Cowan says the EDO would like to be pushing for this reform but there are numerous other issues claiming their attention, in particular the difficulty of achieving ecological sustainability when there are so many disparate pieces of legislation and processes that promote unsustainable development.
The law reform work that the EPA is undertaking thus has their full support: without it, “we’re just fighting fires all the time in a system that keeps lighting them”.
Mr Cowan says it is hard not to be sceptical about the commitment to law reform of the NT Government, given their record in relation to applications like that of the McArthur River Mine to expand to an open-cut operation, requiring diversion of the river from its natural bed.
In this instance, the government rammed legislation through the parliament, side-lining the objections of the Environment Minister and allowing the open-cut operation to proceed (see
“Are they committed to ecological sustainability or to simply making lots of money for mining companies?” asks Mr Cowan.
Both the EDO and the EPA want to see a much greater role for the public in environmental decisions – instead of the “tokenistic ‘send a submission’”, in Mr Cowan’s words. Both would like the public to be brought meaningfully into the process at a much earlier stage of development planning – looking at the big picture of the type of development we want and its ability to make the society prosper rather than confined to reacting to particular projects.
“Why don’t we have a rigorous assessment process that allows an examination of the alternatives and risks of allowing some 30% of the world’s uranium to be dug up, trained through Alice Springs and shipped out through Darwin Port?” asks Mr Cowan.
“Dealing with these issues through assessment of each individual uranium mine allows these risks to be written off as inevitable or too small each time, because there is no way of addressing alternatives or the situation when these impacts all add up.
“But rigorous environmental assessment is still required of individual projects because they create serious localised impacts you can’t identify at the broad level.
“No large scale project is without environmental risks and we need to take a precautionary approach.
“So it’s a political decision at the end of the day, how much risk we are prepared to take.”
Says Prof Craig: “Rather than react to the terms of reference in an environmental impact assessment, we argue that the public get involved in those early decisions, for example in alternative approaches to demand management for energy and alternative ways of meeting that demand.
“That’s where a lot of public discontent is. We can talk about process until the cows come home, but very often the polarisation is around the form of development people want in the Territory and where it is going to be.”
How realistic is this?
Prof Craig says there is a process called “strategic impact assessment” which operates in various forms “in progressive European countries” – “where you have active public engagement, consideration of human impacts”.
And in the Netherlands and France, for example, all proposals that go before Cabinet have environmental audits.
Says Prof Craig: “If you’ve got a representative government, you can’t dictate to them what the outcome is going to be, but you are trying to push up the consideration of sustainable development at the highest level, to ensure you’ve got a well-informed government in terms of what people want, what the environmental strengths are, what the realistic options are.”

Gerry Wood’s agenda on the EPA.

The parliamentary agreement between Gerry Wood and the Chief Minister proposes to give the Environmental Protection Authority additional powers and functions:
• auditing and reporting on compliance with environmental approvals and licences;
• investigating and responding to pollution complaints;
• monitoring and reporting on water and air quality across the Territory;
• producing regular “report cards” on the health of our environment; and
• by amending the referrals criteria empower the EPA to comment on Environmental Impact Statements for future major developments.
Says the EPA: These additional functions seek to address a common perception of what an EPA ‘should’ be, however the additional powers and functions are broad and the EPA is seeking detail on what is being sought by the amendment.
While the EPA is working through the details of what a broader role may look like, it is keen to ensure that the independence and the benefits of the current model aren’t lost. True independence comes from the ability to focus on big picture reform and advise government accordingly – an environmental ombudsman.
There is a risk that a regulatory body that has a reporting relationship with government will lose the independence being sought by the community.

Canberra’s funding fantasies collide with the brutal reality in the camps. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Territory Senator Nigel Scullion says conditions for public housing tenants in Alice town camps, where the Federal Government is planning to spend $130m on housing and infrastructure, should be changed from the ground up.
Residents should be made to pay for damage caused by reckless behavior and overcrowding.
Laws prohibiting alcohol consumption in the camps – frequently flouted – should be enforced rigorously.
And he says the current Commonwealth Government should resume the policies of the previous one, which required that people who do not actively seek work where work is available lose the dole.
Senator Scullion was asked to comment on recent reports in the Alice Springs News, dealing with the following issues:-
• On September 10 the News raised questions about massive public expenditure going to camps that are populated by people who are either unable or unwilling to take proper care of the residential assets they have been provided in the past; will allow friends and relatives to crowd into their dwellings and destroy them in the process; have a profound disrespect for the law; and have no inclination to administer even the most basic self-help.
• On September 17 the News reported that in July there were 2619 people on the dole in the Alice Springs region while the town has acquired a reputation among backpackers as an employment Mecca where work can be snapped up quickly and easily.
• And earlier this year the News started to investigate opportunities in horticulture by identifying locations where arable land, underground water, transport links and idle labour co-incide.
CDU research professor Rolf Gerritsen and water expert John Childs are assisting the News with advice.
We asked Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin’s department to tell us where there are clusters of unemployed. We explained that regional figures available on the internet were of no use, because potential workers wouldn’t be able to commute over hundreds of kilometers.
“I will not break down these figures,” Macklin adviser Meg Dixon-Child told us on Friday.
We asked Ms Macklin and Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon to comment on all of these issues – neither would.
Senator Scullion says: “They can break down the unemployment figures but they won’t.
“Where is Warren Snowdon in all of this? This is his electorate.
“He is a Minister yet he’s out of the loop on all this.
“There are cells with high levels of unemployment and there are high levels of opportunity in terms of work and it would be very useful to work out where they are.”
Senator Scullion says he has put a question on notice in Parliament about the clusters of unemployed, and the deadline for the answer will be at the start of the sittings next week.
He says the Rudd Government has clearly changed the policy of the Howard government requiring job seekers to look for work, and when they find it, to turn up.
If they did not dole payments were stopped, a process called “breaching”.
“Labor walked away from this, and the notion of mutual responsibility,” says Senator Scullion.
Sanctions have been threatened for parents not sending their children to school, “but I don’t know if there have been any breaches”.
MLA for Braitling Adam Giles, who worked in the employment industry before being elected to NT Parliament, observed from up close the new Rudd government’s whittling down of penalties for people avoiding work.
He says in the dying days of the Howard government, Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough resolutely pushing his mutual obligation agenda, escalated to eight weeks the suspension of the dole for people not seeking or accepting work, not undertaking training or work for the dole programs.
Under the new government this was soon reduced to one week, then one day and even to 10% of one day, says Mr Giles.
Moreover, the word went around that being too hard on dole recipients wasn’t such a good idea “and did not fit in with Labor socialism ideals”.
Under Mr Brough, decisions to suspend payments were routinely made.
However, under Mr Rudd the bureaucrats soon began to engage in exchanges with people about to lose the dole, along these lines, according to Mr Giles:-
Why did you not undertake training? I didn’t know I had to. But we wrote to you. I can’t read. Ah, well, in that case we won’t breach you.
Says Mr Giles: “If you want social change you need the carrot and the stick.
“The carrot has stayed. The stick has gone.”
Senator Scullion says the conditions in the town camps are unacceptable.
“Governments must provide public housing, and we don’t have enough.
“But it is the responsibility of governments also to ensure that the public housing, that belongs to the wider community, is utilised effectively.
“You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different outcomes.
“It’s just another definition for lunacy.
“If we just build houses in the town camps, and we have no changes to the responsibilities of the people living in these houses, and serious responsibilities, then nothing will change.
“They will still be places that are characterized as ghettos, as slums. 
“Here is an opportunity. We are going to put $130m towards infrastructure to help people living in town camps.
“But the people in the town camps have to assist all of us.
“They need to improve the behavior of individuals within those houses.
“I’m talking about drinking alcohol, which is prohibited, and the numbers of people who live in those houses ... not putting 30 people into them,” says Senator Scullion.
“We need some fundamental changes. There is no point in building bigger and better houses if some of these social dynamics don’t change about responsibilities, and lawfulness.
“I am continually disappointed that we have organisations like Tangentyere, who are supposed to support these people and clearly do not.”
He says he’s spoken to five people in the Hidden Valley camp, each paying $50 a fortnight rent for “the base of a bed, some sheets of tin, basically an old shed.
“There is no power, no toilets, no showers.
“There is one tap, 10 metres from the dwelling, “out on the flat”.
“One person is forced to be there because she is a dialysis patient.”
Senator Scullion says the current government has clearly abandoned plans for hostel-type accommodation proposed by the former coalition government, whose indigenous policies were driven by Mal Brough.
“You can’t say to someone, stay somewhere else, when there is no somewhere else.
“We proposed to build cheap hostel style accommodation, with 24 hour security and run as commercial ventures.”
One of the two locations where Mr Brough wanted to set up a hostel, the failed Tweretye social club adjacent the show grounds, is now up for sale by auction.
Says Senator Scullion: “Whoever is going to manage this housing [in the town camps] – and I hope it’s not going to come back to Tangentyere – needs to apply strict rules of liability.”
If someone gets drunk and smashes a wall, “the person who pays for it is the person who signed [for the lease] on the dotted line.
“And if he can’t pay then he will be evicted.”
Senator Scullion says there are rules for public housing around the nation and the world, and there is no reason why they should not apply here.
“The public are providing housing at a relatively low rental and in exchange tenants have to look after the housing.
“After a while people will realize that if they break it they have to fix it, and there will be a change of behavior.
“That’s how it works around the world."

One woman’s drive to foster classical ballet in The Centre. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A quarter of a century ago performances of the classic ballet Les Sylphides and extracts of others filled the Araluen theatre for two nights running – the very first performances on the stage there.
The dancers were local girls who had grown up with the Alice Springs Ballet School, started by Lynne Hanton 10 years earlier.
Mrs Hanton together with Anne Van Den Driesen, a long-term music teacher in town but also a classically trained dancer, and Pam Butler filled the principal roles.
The event, on April 18 and 19, 1984, marked the birth of the Alice Springs Ballet Company, since renamed the Duprada Dance Company.
It will be remembered in an anniversary performance of original choreography from company dancers on October 3 at Araluen.
Education Manager and a founding member of the Australian Ballet, Colin Peasley, will visit for the celebrations.
“We all respect what Lynne is doing in Alice Springs,” says Mr Peasley.
“When I say ‘we’ I mean the Australian Ballet.
“People don’t realise how hard it is to foster the arts in regional Australia. I was going to say outback Australia but really it’s the same in places like Dandenong.
“And it’s not just her teaching – she’s gone to the trouble of creating a company that’s so important in the educating of the mums and dads.
“That’s an important part of educating students, getting the mums and dads to understand what it’s all about.
“Lynne has achieved more in Alice that I’ve seen in most regional cities.”
The standard of teaching by Mrs Hanton and her staff is “highly regarded”, says Mr Peasley.
“She won’t finish off the next Pavlova [Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian ballerina of the early 20th century] but she may start off the next Pavlova.”
Mrs Hanton’s ballet school, which today boasts over 600 pupils, began with half a dozen. 
She had returned to Alice Springs to be with her dying father, Ron Kerr.
He and wife Betty had come here from Adelaide in 1960. Mr Kerr was a builder and worked first up on the construction of the Memo Club.
Lynne had already started learning ballet in Adelaide and in Alice continued in a class of five, under instruction from Virginia Hunt.
To pay her ballet fees and for pocket money, young Lynne used to get up at four in the morning, to do track work with race horses.
In the late ‘60s the Western Australian Ballet Company performed in Alice on a number of occasions and that’s where Lynne went at the age of 14 to complete her dance training over two years.
Back in Alice, to distract herself from the sadness of her father’s last illness, one Sunday in 1974 she rounded up the little girls from her street and took them up to the Youth Centre on Wills Terrace for an impromptu dance class.
“Next week 20 girls turned up, and the week after, 40 – they came from everywhere,” recalls Mrs Hanton.
She was 22 years old; as a teacher and an administrator she had to learn on the job.
“By the time I realised what I was doing it was already quite a big undertaking.”
She didn’t formalise her teacher training until 1987, when she was supported by a Territory Government scholarship to do a year’s study in New York.
But in the meantime, in 1984, she had already established the Territory’s first and still only classical ballet company.
“People said, ‘You can’t do that’, and my answer always was, ‘Why not?’”
The catalyst had been an intensive workshop in Darwin in 1983, led by Ann Jenner, a principal dancer from the Royal Ballet Company in London.
Mrs Hanton took five girls from Alice to join “the untidiest, most motley group of 10 to 16 year olds you’ve ever seen”.
In two weeks the group of 40 were moulded into a presentable troupe putting on a fully costumed performance of Les Sylphides and extracts.
The experience gave Mrs Hanton and her best dancers a repertoire to work with and the resolve to stage it.
Back in Alice, Araluen was still under construction but Mrs Hanton booked her performance dates and threw herself into teaching the repertoire.
Since then the company has performed constantly, three to four times a year, and always with at least two shows at Araluen.
Performance is essential to the development of a dancer, says Mrs Hanton.
“You always have to be working towards something – you are learning this for that reason.”
And the only way children can understand what dancers do, they only way they can get inspired, is to see dancers perform.
Mrs Hanton sees children as the primary audience for classical ballet – “children are entranced by a ballet like the Nutcracker”. 
When she attends a ballet performance in capital city theatres she is always shocked by the absence of children from the audience – “the main audience for ballet in Melbourne seems to be wealthy retirees”.
Having a professional theatre in which to present well-crafted productions is an important part of why she has made Alice the home for her company.
A small company like Duprada would not be able to afford to hire the State Theatre in Melbourne.
“Melbourne simply does not have an accessible quality theatre to compare to Araluen,” she says.
“Before Araluen opened we had performed at the Youth Centre, which I hated – torn house curtains, no lighting to speak of, chairs scraping on the floor.”
Theatre expenses use up most of the box office takings for each performance.
“It’s expensive but do-able,” says Mrs Hanton.
“Without Araluen, as well as support from the Alice Springs Town Council with their community access grant, I can honestly say the ballet company would not be where it is today.”
She says Araluen is the only theatre in Australia to have a tarquette floor, essential for dancers in point shoes: other companies have to buy their own tarquette and take it with them when they tour.
The flooring was a significant investment made when the arts centre was built and when Duprada goes on tour Araluen allow them to take the tarquette with them.
The company has also built a strong partnership with Araluen’s lighting and stage designer Greg Thomson and technician Daniel Sawyer, to the point where the pair take leave to accompany Duprada when they perform elsewhere.
Touring is one of the defining characteristics of a dance company, says Mrs Hanton.
Another is to have paid professional dancers.
Duprada has achieved both. 
There are four dancers, besides herself, on staff – Erin McKinnon, Stephanie Gaylard, Hayley Michener, and Kristy Old.
Each teach two to three classes a week but their main job is to dance.
“We are never not performing or working towards performing,” says Mrs Hanton.
This year’s itinerary is an example: in March the company presented Coppelia at Araluen and then in Darwin, followed by Divertissements at Araluen in April; they attended master classes in dance and choreography with the Australian Ballet in June; and took part in Wearable Arts in August, with several entries from their costume designer, Simone Killian, presented by their dancers.
Throughout the year, studio performances are staged for friends of the ballet company and the 2010 season will be launched with a studio performance in December.
“On average we’re performing every six weeks,” says Mrs Hanton.
The four principal dancers employed in Alice will take part in the Duprada production of Sleeping Beauty in Darwin in November.
Duprada has a permanent presence in Darwin, which came about when Mrs Hanton’s daughter, Leisa Jackson, also a dancer, moved there and began teaching.
Mrs Jackson now has over 200 pupils and 23 dancers of the 72-member company are Darwin-based.
The whole company performs together once a year, alternating between the two centres.
Duprada has also had some international experiences, most recently in 2008 with a three-night production of a range of ballets at the Drama Centre Theatre in Singapore.
Mrs Hanton had choreographed three: Moonlight Sonata (with local girl Tanika Richards on piano), Arabesques in Attitude, and Silhouettes and Soliloquies.
Another, Body Sculptures, was choreographed by daughter, Leisa.
Duprada dancers also took part in an international master class in Prague in 2005. 
Their European-flavoured name was created by them in 2000 to get away from pigeon-holing as a “regional” or “community” company. (At the same time the ballet school was renamed the Australian Dance Academy.) 
Unfortunately, says Mrs Hanton, there is an assumption that regional and community-based performances will be “non-professional”  and the company would rather not have to battle against that stereotype.
Mrs Hanton says the achievements of the company have received greater recognition since the name change.
NEXT WEEK: Government help scarce.

Harnessing the food gifts and flavours of the bush. By KIERAN FINNANE.

More surprising ingredients – gathered from the plant kingdom – emerged in this year’s bushfoods recipe competition
Wattleseed and bush tomato still played starring roles but all sorts of new (to many) leaves and berries made appearances, including some plants typically thought of as weeds.
J9 Stanton served blanched saltbush leaves with butterfish and sunset limes (a coastal native), while the sweet berries of the ruby saltbush inspired more than one entrant. 
Little Rhodanthe Collins squeezed their juices and added sugar to make the base for a refreshing cool drink, while Ruth Morley, a lawyer in her day job, used the whole berries, adding sugar, lemon juice and water to make a sensational sorbet.
This won in the dessert category and was also awarded overall winner.
The berries were plump, their tiny seeds – a little hard when you eat them fresh – were like a nut to bite into.
The taste was sweet and fruity yet quite distinct from other berry tastes, each mouthful luscious and refreshing at the same time.
And because the berries had been used whole, rather than blended, the colour was wonderfully variegated – jewel-like reds, blushed with orange.
Competition judge, Raelene Brown from Kungkas Can Cook, expressed her admiration for working with, almost unadulterated, a single bush ingredient to come up with such a standout entry.
Ruby saltbush is a common native ground cover around Alice and bears plentiful fruit after rain.
Another sorbet vied for winner in the dessert category, using bush coconut as its key ingredient. This is the flesh from the galls found on bloodwood trees, including the little worm that grows the gall around itself.
The judges were given the little worms separately to try. Fresh they are little sacs of water; these however had been steeped in Benedictine – gourmet worms.
This sorbet was one of two joint entries from Rita Cattoni and Bess Price.
The other used the bush banana plant to make two pesto-style dips, one using the flesh of the fruit, the other the leaves.
The extraordinarily named “snotty gobble” – the berries from a mistletoe – were served as the fruit filling and also on top of a chocolate pudding-like cake. They held their form well in the cooking, their fruity globules providing an appealing texture folded into the warm pudding.
This was a joint entry from Jo Dutton and Carol Turner, following up on their witchetty grub entry of the week before.
Ms Brown was impressed that they’d been able to find enough of the snotty gobble to use –  it’s hard to beat the animals to them.
Collecting the ingredients had been a lot of the fun as well as work in their entries, said Ms Dutton. 
Weeds featured in both entries from Ange Vincent, a stalwart of the competition. In the first round she produced a Wild Weed Pie, using a mixture of native and non-native greens – the leaves of amaranth, saltbush, native caper bush and sour thistle – to make something like a spinach and feta pie but with a very distinctive, well-balanced taste, complemented by bush tomato jam and yoghurt sauce with a touch of lemon myrtle.
In the second round Ms Vincent made a roo tail stew, slow cooked to perfection – judge Beat Keller, of Keller’s Restaurant, licked his plate clean to show his appreciation.
She served it with a Wild Weed Salad, featuring saltbush, amaranth and purslane.
Amaranth is typically found growing in the cracks of paving, while purslane (pigweed), easy to recognise by its red stems and prettily bunched succulent leaves, comes up in open ground.
Ms Vincent’s entries were serious contenders in the savoury category, but in the end the judges came down in favour of a beautifully elaborated entry from Miranda Sage.
A former resident of Alice of over two decades, Mrs Sage returns every year, last year attending one of the bushfoods events for the first time, vowing that she would enter the competition this year.
Taking her inspiration from “Waltzing Matilda”, she presented “The Bushman’s Tuckerbag and Swag”.
The tucker bag contained seared ‘roo fillet in a delectable sauce of onion, quandongs, bush banana, dates and “a good shiraz”, all wrapped in a filo pastry bag.
The swag itself was made from the thinnest crepe I’ve ever seen, mottled with wattleseed “so that it looks like an old army blanket”.
It was rolled around a pesto-style filling featuring homegrown silverbeet and macadamia nuts, with a blanched leaf of silverbeet lining the crepe.
Each serve came with a small pannikin of an Australian aniseed myrtle tea.
By contrast, an elegantly simple entry took out the wildcard category.
It was a sweet quandong liqueur, started by Milyika Scales a year ago, steeping quandongs in vodka, sourcing the fruit from her family’s quandong plantation in Ilparpa Valley.
Six months later she removed the fruit from the bottle and added sugar.
She served it neat with the fluffy seed of a bush banana as garnish.
Mr Keller esteemed it as the “best liqueur” the competition has seen over the years, and suggested it would be a sensation in a liqueur-based dessert, like the Italian custard dessert, zabaglione, usually made with Marsala.
Nick Tyllis also kept it simple with a delicious loaf of crusty wattleseed sourdough, that took out the award in the bread category. 
Mr Keller and fellow chef Andrea Celofiga, a judge during the first round, got him thinking about selling his bread at the markets, saying they would make their commercial ovens available to him.
“Count September 13 as day one of your micro-business,” said Mr Keller.
Mr Keller, who has been judging the competition from its inception,  was very excited by the innovations he saw this year.
He talked to many of the entrants about taking part in a bushfoods showcase – them providing the ideas, himself and other commercial chefs backing them up with their professional know-how.
If this eventuates it would be an excellent outcome of the competition, but just as important is the shift taking place in kitchens around town, as knowledge spreads about the food gifts of the bush. 
I read recently about the eco-activists who call themselves “freegans”: they reclaim the perfectly good food that is thrown out in supermarket and restaurant wheelie bins in an attempt to redress the wasteful consumption habits of The West.
In The Centre displacing some of what we buy, imported from afar, with the food products of this environment, known about and used by the Aboriginal people of the region for millennia, can make its own small contribution.

LETTERS: Our ‘friendly’ town is not so if you are black.

Sir,– Once again I find myself writing to you out of sheer frustration over the take it or leave it attitude of many Alice Springs businesses, even with this recession.
I always pay in cash, but this means nothing to many of these businesses. My dollar goes twice as far interstate, and a lot further overseas, so please don’t use freight as an excuse.
When doing business in many of these places, I need to dress as a red-neck drunk to be served with a smile.
If accompanied by my wife, I get a very different reception (as she is Indigenous).
Now the colour of our money makes no difference to many of these local businesses, but when they realize we come from Santa Teresa (any community) we are the untouchables, and they let us know in very unsubtle ways.
We all know the government has wiped the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory, but this treatment we and many others receive is beyond reason.
We have tried to support local businesses, but there is a lot of bad feeling out there and we have been on the receiving end for too long.
Now we will shop on line. That way there is no discrimination. They only see the colour of our money. Or we’ll do business with families and school mates, where there has never been a colour or class issue.
Laurie Butcher
Santa Teresa

Youth allowance change victims

Sir,– Regional students will no longer be able to qualify for Youth Allowance by working for a gap year to gain independence, under a bill introduced to the Federal Parliament [on September 10].
Minister for Education Julia Gillard said the new scheme will create a fairer system, but I have heard a very different story from Northern Territory students.
To claim that students who have to move away from home to study will particularly benefit under the new scheme is an absolute outrage.
Regional and remote students will be the hardest hit of all. They will have to pay for the increased benefits to some students, while having their own incentives slashed.
These students are already far less likely to attend university because of the difficulties involved in moving away from home to study. Labor’s changes will make it even harder.
Under the existing rules, a student can become eligible for independent youth allowance by working for a gap year, but the new scheme will mean this option effectively disappears.
Students whose parents earn a combined income of $140,000 or more can no longer get financial assistance despite the possibility that living at home is simply not an option.
Maintaining a home and meeting basic living expenses requires a level of income that cannot be earned part time between study commitments.
I am baffled as to why Trish Crossin, Damian Hale and Warren Snowdon refuse to stand up for the Territory’s students and families when they know the difficulties these students face.
Where is the consultation that Labor is so famous for?
I am seeking further input from Territory students and will be watching the results of the Senate inquiry very closely to ensure that suitable amendments are put forward.
Nigel Scullion
NT Senator

Unique News

Sir,- As an avid reader of all news Australian may I congratulate you on the unique and individual website that is the Alice Springs News.
I particularly loved your recent article entitled “Heated meeting fails to resolve council by-laws” (August 20).
Stephen Jones

Rolling Texas hills

Sir,– Hello from Texas. I try to read the Alice Springs News every [week] or so. Keep up the good work.
I live in the hill country of Texas, rolling hills, lots of trees of all kinds, also lots of wildlife.
I would love to come to Alice Springs some time.
I really like your country but I like the outback best.
Monroe Buntyn
Mason, Texas, USA

Looking for uncle

Sir,– My mother is trying to get in touch with her brother who was last seen in Northern Territories, Australia.
His name is David Watt, DOB August 25, 1943, age now 67.
His ex-wife is Lorna Nee Goodwin, daughters Nicola Watt and Michelle Watt, ages about 38 and 40.
If there is any way you can help I would be very grateful.
Derek Elliott
Tyne and Wear, UK

ADAM'S APPLE: The ages of man.

In a few short days I will be celebrating another birthday. It will be my 34th.
While I am absolutely fine with getting older (the alternative is so much worse, says George Bernard Shaw), my 34th comes with mixed emotions.
At times I feel many ages. Quite often I feel 70.
I am extremely comfortable as the grumpy old man. Often times you’ll see me shuffling around the supermarket, pants hiked higher than is considered natural, grumbling about how bloody mindless young people are these days and how much better life was back in the day.
At other times I feel like I’m about 14. Toilet humour still gives me a guilty guffaw. I’m still appallingly useless around women and enjoy angst-ridden teen anthems.
Occasionally I need to be reminded that I am in fact not 23 and that there is close to no chance the pretty young lass at the bar would be interested in someone a full decade older.
The term “a full decade older” has the amazing ability to make me feel quite ashamed about even contemplating the notion. It is not that I am a dirty old man. Rather that I just for a moment forget that I’m in my thirties.
When I strap my rugby boots on before a game I feel like I’m 19. Enthusiastic, energetic and ready to prove myself. Eighty minutes later I feel about 48. Sore, slow and 29 years closer to the end of my life.
In fact of all the years I feel, 34 is the least resonant. Thirty-four is an age of young responsibility. I should be settled down by now surely. And I should have kids by now. I should have a home, a wife and a career to establish.
Instead I rent, my furniture is predominantly from lawn sales and I spend much of my intellect devising ways to tell jokes about Britney Spears.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m quite happy with my lot. My mother on the other hand occasionally gives me “that phone call”.
You know “that phone call”. It is the one that starts off asking about your week and ends up asking why you haven’t given her any grandchildren.
My grandmother, in the guise of being a dithery old woman, aims her questions in a more pointed form.
It must seem peculiar to an 82 year old woman that a 34 year old man lives the way I do.
When she was 34 she had been through a world war, had married and produced five children.
Most phone calls between my dear grandmother and I contain a version of me saying, “No Nan, I’m not gay, I’m just a bit useless with girls”.
It is these phone calls that prove to me that no matter how old you are, no matter how in control of your life you seen to be, the ego can always take a beating.
The disparity between the age I am and the multitude of ages I feel makes a question come to mind. Should I be getting the most out of the life I have, or should I be trying to change my life to one of domestic appropriateness?
Am I happy with my lot or do I need to settle? What if the 34 year old part of my life passes me by? Will I be content with such things as I have?
I remember my uncle being the topic of hushed conversations between members of my family. When I was young, he was unmarried and never really looked like settling down.
My uncle is now in his fifties, still lives by himself, dyes his hair and wears cargo pants. I have little proof but I’m sure he goes to nightclubs and buys beverages for women half his age.
Perhaps it is time to get my finger out.

Making a meal of the festival. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.


Mei Lai Swan 09
The Mei Lai Swan 09 is a rosé with prominent cello bouquet and a lasting strong fruity voice. This wine offers an intoxication both soothing and invigorating. Enjoyed when the room is full, or when the room is empty, the Mei Lai Swan 09 is for the palate in all seasons.

Stop it! I love it!
A flambé of five spices, served as an eclectic mix of music, with a side order of tossed fresh theatrics. The Brisbane-based quintet is a perfect start to waltzing through the evening’s gastronomic offerings.

The Barons of Tang (PICTURED)
This hostile chilli soup has a robust flavour of Gypsy, punk with slight mutant Jazz overtones, and the lingering delicacy of Ska Funkle. Brought to rolling boil in a schizophrenic wok, this dish bubbles and spices, using time and tempo changes with the precision of a homicidal metronome.
The Barons could very well be the pop cultural choice of the year. Their solid brass punches holes in the atmosphere while wailing strings lacerate the senses. Synchronicity and entertainment served with a side order of blast beats.  One serving of this main does more than its fair share to fill the ravenous appetites of the musically Hungry, but two helpings this evening and the gluttonous individual can be excused.
Consuming The Barons is like eating at one of those ultra-exclusive travelling restaurants that specialize in food gathered only from the endangered species list … Afterwards you feel that you can’t wait for the next time it’s delivered to your doorstep. You’ll have to go in pursuit.

DJ Mustaphaa shots
Served chilled and to be taken aurally.

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