October 1, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

NT Govt is responsible for Parks grog ban: Anderson. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The buck for the current “charade” about prohibiting alcohol in national parks stops fairly and squarely with the Territory Government and Karl Hampton, the Minister for Parks and Central Australia.
So says his predecessor Alison Anderson, now representing MacDonnell as an independent.
“The Federal Intervention has nothing to do with the proposed alcohol ban,” she says.
“The NT Government can declare the parks dry or not dry, and Karl is the Minister for Parks.
“He has the power of veto on any decisions.
“All that’s required is a courtesy letter to Jenny Macklin”, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Mr Hampton did not agree to be intervewed but said through a staffer: “The alcohol restrictions are a result of the Commonwealth intervention – not a result of action by the Territory Parks and Wildlife Service or the process of joint management.”
The NT Government is handing ownership of national parks to Aboriginal interests under the Federal Land Rights Act.
Under the Federal Intervention parts of Aboriginal land have been “prescribed” as alcohol free but Ms Anderson says the 99 year lease-back of the parks, for which $3m a year will be paid to Aboriginal owners, “puts the power back in the hands of the NT Government.”
The issue last week prompted some undignified stonewalling and buck passing by Ms Macklin and Mr Hampton, but Ms Anderson is tackling the issues head-on.
She says the “Framework” under which the NT Government has done the deal does not give the Central Land Council power over the parks’ management.
Ms Anderson says CLC director David Ross is flying in the face of the spirit of the agreement.
“He comes from an Aboriginal land ownership point of view,” says Ms Anderson.
“He should be looking at the issues from a parks management point of view.”
Ms Anderson says the “Framework” is in place to encourage job and income opportunities for traditional owners, not to give them management control.
She says she has seen a letter from former NT Parks Minister Len Kiely to Ms Macklin, making it clear that there should be no alcohol ban in the parks.
The Central Australian tourism lobby anticipated the problems eight months ago when the “Framework” was under discussion between Aboriginal interests and the Territory Parks Service.
Tourism Central Australia (TCA) requested exemptions for visitors – domestic or overseas – from any drinking bans.
TCA’s Peter Grigg says the group, representing some 300 members employing the greatest number of people in the private sector in The Centre, wasn’t endorsing “open slather drink fests throughout national parks” but wants “responsible drinkers” to have the opportunity of “a refreshing alcoholic drink on their holiday”.
Mr Grigg says drinking should be confined to picnic areas and camp grounds, away from the actual attractions.
He says he’s heard from “quite a few members” who are concerned.
At this point the association isn’t conducting a survey, hoping “for support from outside the industry”.
Town Council alderman Murray Stewart described the proposal as “a potential economic catastrophe.
“We are putting up the ‘bugger off’ sign to the tourism markets right across the world,” he says.
“We say don’t come. We don’t want you.
“Is that the message we want to be sending out?”
Ald Stewart says he and local identity Ian Builder had formed the “Save Our Parks” group when details became known about the deal, [mainly through investigative reporting by the Alice Springs News – see the archive section of this online edition].
An Alice Springs News poll in March last year put this proposition to readers: “Leave all national parks in public ownership but set up an Aboriginal park management advisory body”: 254 people (75.6%) said “I agree”; 54 people (16.1%) replied “I don’t agree” and 28 people (8.3%) said “I am indifferent”.
Ald Stewart says senior staff of the government’s parks service, at a public meeting called by the group, had tried to “strongly dissuade us from making any comment about the fact that this [handover] would be the beginning of the end in terms of unhindered access to the parks.
“We were told by Parks there would be no restrictions placed on these parks as a result of joint agreement.
“Now, 10 minutes into the agreement, we can see the results.”
Ald Stewart says the parks now are “a wonderful political tool that can be used by organizations such as the Central Land Council.
“They are opposed the Federal Intervention, they are opposed to the restrictions and they are using the parks as a political weapon.”
Ald Stewart says while it is necessary to have control of alcohol use “it is not on to use our parks as a weapon to resolve political agendas.
“That was always the fear, and it has now come home to roost.
“We are now paying $3m a year [to the new Aboriginal owners of the parks in leaseback fees] for the privilege of having our freedoms removed.”
Meanwhile Shadow Minister for Alcohol Policy, Matt Conlan, says the Henderson Government must work with tourism officials and traditional owners to ensure bans are lifted.
Although exemptions had been sought by tourism operators, “traditional owners rejected this request because they felt if it is illegal for Aborigines to drink on their own land, visitors should also be banned.
“In effect, traditional owners have pulled away the welcome mat,” Mr Conlan says.
“While not every tourist wants to drink when they visit Central Australia, those that do should be allowed to have a beer or glass of wine at the camp site as they enjoy the surrounds.”
He says tourists already express their frustration at restricted take-away licenses and at having to produce ID before they can make a purchase.
“Any further limitations on the access to alcohol could have very serious implications,” he said.
So far the controversy has been a shabby example of avoiding the issues and passing the buck.
A spokesperson for Ms Macklin said on Saturday: “A letter has been received from the Central Land Council.
“These parks were handed back to the Traditional Owners in June this year and subsequently leased back to the Northern Territory Government.
“The Minister respects the views of the Traditional Owners and will be working through this issue with the Northern Territory Government and the Traditional Owners.
“The Australian Government is committed to tough alcohol restrictions in the Northern Territory to protect children, make communities safe and create a better future for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.”
The CLC has not responded to a request for comment.
Territory Parks Minister Karl Hampton was unavailable for comment because “he is out bush,” but he reportedly was at the AFL grand final in Melbourne.
A spokesman stated the “Government’s position on the issue”.
He said Mr Hampton “will work with Jenny Macklin and traditional owners to get a good outcome.
“We think a sensible approach can be reached which won’t adversely affect alcohol consumption in Indigenous communities, while at the same time allowing tourists to enjoy a drink at sunset.
“The intention of the alcohol bans is to stop violence and chronic ill health in Indigenous communities – not to stop tourists enjoying a drink in a National Park.
“We respect the views of traditional owners and have entered agreements over the management of this land,” said the spokesman.
Meanwhile the Plan of Management for the Arltunga Historical Reserve – reportedly one of the embattled areas – makes no mention of alcohol control.
It says the objectives are: 
• to provide opportunities for visitors to observe and appreciate the Reserve’s historical values and sites;
• to offer recreational opportunities consistent with the Reserve’s historical values and natural bush setting;
• to provide appropriate facilities and access to visitor destinations within the Reserve;
• to provide information and interpretation which allows for visitor use, enjoyment and appreciation of the values of the Reserve, whilst promoting appropriate visitor behavior;
• to monitor, and where necessary, modify visitor use of the Reserve;
• to provide for the safety of visitors.

Poisoned sacred trees to remain. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“An innovative, resourceful and far-sighted Town Council would want to see the sacred trees at Traeger Park preserved, even if the story may be confronting for some people in town.”
So says Mike Gillam, longtime heritage and environmental campaigner, and, though he is speaking as an individual, recently-appointed member of the board of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA).
And so the council proved to be on Monday night when they unanimously accepted the conditions of an AAPA certificate that requires that two dead trees next to the Traeger Park grandstand, the subject of a long dispute with AAPA, to be preserved.
The trees, along with many others at the oval and further west, are a feature of a registered sacred site and thus are protected under Northern Territory law.
The alternative before the council on Monday was to not accept the certificate and take the issue directly to the Chief Minister, seeking removal of the trees – no alderman spoke in favour of that course of action.
Some upper branches will be trimmed, the trees will be braced and the area around them will continue to be fenced off, but they will remain to tell their story.
This will be spelt out in a sign headed: “Two poisoned Kwekatye Trees”.
The sign will explain that they and other coolibah trees around the oval are part of “the Kwekatye boys’ journey north”.
And it will conclude that the Arrernte caretakers of these trees “mourn their loss as they mourn their kin”.
The wording is proposed in an annexure to the certificate.
Aldermen will negotiate to have added that the trees were poisoned by “persons unknown”.
It is undisputed that the two trees were deliberately poisoned during the construction of the new grandstand.
Council CEO Rex Mooney says he personally conducted an internal investigation and can say “without hesitation” that this did not happen as the result of any action by a council employee.
AAPA also conducted its own investigation but was unable to identify a perpetrator.
The matter, although it is an offence against a by-law as well as against the Sacred Sites Act, was never referred to police.
At Monday night’s meeting there was initial disagreement between aldermen over the wording of the sign, particularly the heading. Aldermen Jane Clark and Sandy Taylor however held out for highlighting the true story in the heading.
Mayor Damien Ryan, although he too had misgivings about having the word “poisoned” in the heading, urged aldermen to come to a unanimous position.
Ald Taylor’s deeply felt plea to support the custodians won the day.
Her reasoning was this: “We have had these demolitions [of other sacred sites] in the past and I think it is time for us ... to say what we really mean. If those trees were poisoned then that sign in my mind can stand up there as a notice to other builders in this town and developers that they cannot continue to do the wrong thing by the traditional custodians of this country.
“Every time we stand up here and we say ‘thank you’ to the custodians of this country, unless we stick by this stuff, what does that mean, that we don’t mean what we say, that we don’t respect?”
Speaking to the Alice News, Mr Gillam explained his take on the retention of the dead trees: “If our community is going to learn, we need tangible reminders that chart our development history.
“Given that the culprit remains unidentified and unpunished, removal of all evidence of the wrong-doing would reward their malicious, ignorant and anti-social behaviour and in all likelihood would only lead to more destruction of our natural and cultural assets.”
By way of comparison he mentioned an example from the town’s non-Indigenous past – the destruction of Lizzie Milne’s house, which once stood on the now vacant block used as an informal carpark next to Kmart.
A defiant Mrs Milne refused to sell her land to developers.
“When the place was bull-dozed after her death we lost an important way of telling a story about part of our history – a moment when the big chain stores flocked in and some people resisted.
“The story of the destruction of the sacred trees in Traeger Park must be told by whatever means and will be best told if the trees remain in place.”
In regard to the bracing of the trees Mr Gillam said: “A collaboration between custodians, an engineer and a sculptor could actually create one of the cultural touchstones of this town.
“And it may also send a message to the community, the nation and the world that the Alice Springs Town Council is truly a council for all.”
He pointed out that in Sydney a person or corporation found guilty of maliciously injuring or killing a tree may be fined up to $1.1 million.
Prosecutions have proven difficult but councils don’t stop there.
When, for instance, in 2005 someone killed a mini-forest of casuarinas and gums in a foreshore reserve at Blackwattle Bay, Glebe, the local council left the trees in place for as long as was safe, erected a large black banner and replanted with a new grove of trees in an attempt to obscure the views that they suspected were being sought by the tree vandals (Sydney Morning Herald, February 22, 2006).
Wanton damage to trees is also an offence under Alice Springs Town Council by-laws and the current review of the by-laws proposes an increased penalty of five units, up from one (one penalty unit = $110).
But Mr Gillam would like to see council – elected members and officers – on the front foot, showing by words and deeds that they understand the way in which sacred sites give Alice Springs “one of the most spectacular town settings in Australia and a cultural identity unique in the world”.
“They contribute greatly to the quality of life that many of us enjoy, serving as a constant reminder of the special place where we live.
“To Arrernte people they embody creation stories that are just as important as Bible stories are to Christians.
“I look forward to a future when everybody in Alice Springs, regardless of race, looks to sacred sites as a remarkable cultural legacy, as a rich point of difference.
“No-one is sure where the Biblical Garden of Eden is located but we do know about the convergence of powerful sacred sites within our town – we can be really proud of this fact.”
Mr Gillam also called for greatly improved physical management of sacred sites.
“We’ve come to a point where all of the failures of Alice Springs rebound onto sacred sites.
“All of the sites are under considerable stress.
“The highly valued puppy site beside Beaurepaires is being carved up by pushbike riders who are in all likelihood unaware of the site’s significance.
“Our failure to create much needed temporary accommodation for bush visitors is impacting heavily on sacred sites – whether it’s one family camping for a few days or 20 drinkers for a night.”
Mr Gillam acknowledges that there is a role for AAPA to engage with the land management issues and public education.
However, he says the authority is “clearly stretched by an immense increase in workload associated with SIHIP”.

Let’s do better! COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Hello! Helloooo! Is there anybody out there?
Last week the Alice Springs News published a map, courtesy the Guardian Weekly, showing the “average amount of solar energy reaching various parts of the planet” including the world’s three major concentrations.
Two of them are over the Atlantic and Pacific, respectively, not great locations for establishing a solar industry.
The third one, and by far the biggest, covers most of Australia, with our fair town smack bang in the middle.
Yes, we are for solar power what Saudi Arabia is for oil and, well, what Central Australia seems to be for uranium, judging by the current flurry of exploration.
We thought this may spark a gutsy, big picture debate, some bold thinking, outside the square, visionary stuff.
What we have is the repetitive belly-aching of the anti-uranium lobby about our drinking water being polluted.
Where is the proof?
We have a limited program, nearing its end, encouraging householders to instal photovoltaic systems with poor efficiency. (“Roof panels a solar dud?” Alice News, May 15, 2008.)
Let’s turn being a Solar City into more than a sham. Let’s create something powerful, meaningful, groundbreaking, big.
Let’s make the world look to us for answers, inspiration, brilliance, investment.
There are claims that this region could provide enough electricity to power the whole world.
That there are now transmission technologies that can transport electricity over vast distances with minimal loss.
Think of all the wealth that oil has created, and that filthy coal that is choking the world to death: sunlight can give us energy on a similar scale, but clean, and the fulcrum of the globe’s solar industry is, logically, Alice Springs.
Who here is going to take the lead?
I tell a lie. There has been a response to our story last week.
Someone from the Centre for Appropriate Technology pointed out that the Rydges Plaza is now called the Crowne Plaza, and the public subsidy for its roof mounted solar system was $1.5m, not $3m. The information we published came from Solar Cities, who were shown a draft of the story. The errors are now duly corrected.
The Alice News is finally making progress with another initiative, seeking clusters where arable land, groundwater, transport links and idle labor are occurring together.
We’re looking at creating opportunities in horticulture which could be exploited in co-operation with by people from the Riverland who have generations’ worth of expertise but have run out of water.
We’d been making good progress with the research but – inexplicably – Centrelink, for months, denied us useful information about unemployed people in our region. (“Hand wringing over black jobs lack as Centrelink is sitting on its hands.” Alice News, July 9, 2009)
But Senator Scullion has now been able to get the figures, via a question in the Senate.
Onya, Nigel!
So stand by for more news as CDU Research Professor Rolf Gerritsen, water guru John Childs and the Alice News put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Meanwhile here are the unemployment figures:-


NT’s only ballet company wants more govt support.

By KIERAN FINNANE. Part Two of our coverage of the company’s 25 years.

The Duprada Dance Company, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a performance at Araluen this weekend, is almost entirely self-funding.
While founder and director Lynne Hanton values her independence, she says it has also been tough to get where she has without government support.
Back in 1987 she was assisted by the government to study in New York for a year.
And she regards her relationship with Araluen as a creative partnership, valuing it tremendously (see last week’s story), but she says that’s pretty well where the support stops.
When she took the company to Singapore, she received a $15,000 grant from the NT Office of Export and Trade.
She applied to Arts NT for a marketing grant of $15,000 to support the tour but was knocked back.
With the total budget for the tour coming in at over $60,000, the company and their supporters had to dig deep.
Duprada – the Territory’s only classical ballet company, with a presence in both Darwin and Alice Springs – could do a return tour to Singapore next year, but Mrs Hanton says it’s a very stressful undertaking on a shoestring – fine as long as everything goes to plan but there’s not much leeway for things going wrong.
“Most people assume we are government funded. It’s got to the point that I’m embarrassed to not receive any support from them at all.”
When Shane Stone was Chief Minister he personally saw to it that the company received funding.
Mrs Hanton says it is her impression that this ministerial interference has not helped in the subsequent years.
She says although she sent invitations to the Chief Minister and Minister for the Arts on the occasion of the tour to Singapore, she never even had a letter of recognition.
It was galling then to see the tour featured in the government’s publication, Territory Quarterly, with a photograph of her dancers alongside a photo of the Chief Minister.
The Alice News asked the Chief Minister via his spokesperson to comment. We had not received a comment prior to going to press.
The News also offered Arts NT an opportunity to comment.
A spokesperson stressed Araluen’s considerable in-kind support, including free access to the venue for performance rehearsals, and the waiving of all hire costs for this weekend’s festivities.
Visual arts staff at Araluen are also working with Duprada to support a display of costumes in the foyer for the anniversary.
With regard to other funding opportunities, the spokesperson says Duprada is a not for profit association comprising dancers from two ballet schools.
However the separation between the commercial enterprise schools and the not for profit association is not always very clear.
“Arts NT has previously offered advice that it would be valuable to clearly delineate where the commercial enterprise ends and Duprada Dance Company begins,” says the spokesperson.
In relation to Duprada’s application for funding to support the Singapore tour, the spokesperson says application was deemed unsuccessful by the Arts Grants Board, which is peer assessed, not assessed by the Northern Territory Government.
“Ms Hanton then submitted a series of applications on behalf of individual company members.
“Prior to submitting she was offered specific advice by Arts NT on how to best frame the applications.
“This was not followed and unfortunately the applications lacked the details required as Arts NT assesses all requests for support against the published criteria.”
The spokesperson also says: “International showcasing, especially where there is limited export potential demonstrated (ie export is based on continued subsidy rather than commercial capacity to be self sustainable) can not therefore be a high priority.”
The spokesperson says Arts NT is  unable to comment on decisions made by a previous government and each arts application is assessed on its own merit by peers.
She says the NT Government, through Arts NT, funds Ausdance NT as a peak body to offer support and advice across the dance sector in the NT. Ausdance NT received funding for $70,000 in 2009.

Pendulum swinging back on public middle schools. By ALEX NELSON.

The debate surrounding the merger of the two junior public high schools into the Centralian Middle School, especially concerning the future of the Anzac Hill High School, is presaged by events 35 and 18 years ago respectively.
In the first instance, the secondary campus shifted from Anzac Hill to Gillen; in the second, Year Seven students were shifted from primary to secondary to boost dwindling enrolments.
Anzac Hill High School officially commenced as the original Alice Springs High School (ASHS) in 1954, as secondary student numbers in the Alice exceeded 300 enrolments by the early 1950s.
ASHS remained at its Anzac Oval location for almost 20 years but the pressure of increasing student enrolments by the late 1960s necessitated the construction of a much larger campus on Milner Road in the new suburb of Gillen, commencing operations in the early 1970s.
I can recall the final years of ASHS at Anzac Oval, as I commenced primary school in 1969 at the OLSH primary school (then popularly known as the Convent School) across Wills Terrace.
My recollections are enhanced by the memory of two “big girls”, initially in Year Seven at OLSH and subsequently at ASHS at Anzac Oval, who befriended me in my earliest years at school.
One of the girls was a Kilgariff (I don’t remember exactly who), and the other was her good friend Liana Nappi. Our friendship faded after the relocation of ASHS to Gillen and we went our separate ways.
(Liana Nappi is remembered as one of the victims of the suicide plane crash at the Alice Springs Airport in January 1977).
There was no controversy about the shift of ASHS to Gillen (that I recall) – it was all part and parcel of the burgeoning growth and expansion of the Alice during the supposedly bad old days of Canberra remote control, a time when the town doubled in a decade, and in stark contrast to the throttling of growth occurring under NT self-government rule today.
The old high school campus at Anzac Oval was mothballed for most of the 1970s, and the oval itself became the main venue for sports days and games for the Convent School. For a time the older OLSH primary students used to make their own way across to Anzac Oval each day during lunch breaks to play boisterous footy matches.We virtually had exclusive use of the oval until the headmistress issued strict instructions forbidding us to cross the busy Wills Terrace without supervision. What a spoilsport!
Meanwhile, ASHS in Gillen was the only high school in the Alice for a decade, catering for students from Years Eight to 12. I was a student there between 1976 and 1981.
Student enrolments continued to grow and, with numbers in some years exceeding 1000, ASHS was bursting at the seams.
ASHS also had to accommodate Year Seven students from the overflowing Gillen Primary School directly opposite the high school, and had a special class for students from Yirara College. And Bradshaw Primary School,  just to the west of ASHS, was also filled to capacity.
The suburb of Gillen was clearly the hub of education in Alice Springs during the ‘70s, notwithstanding four other primary schools scattered across town.
By the late 1970s plans were drawn up for another high school to be built in the new suburb of Sadadeen, complemented by the residential St Philip’s College also becoming a private secondary school, and by a new Catholic junior high school.
The old campus at Anzac Oval was brought into use as the Community College of Central Australia in the early 1980s (precursor to the Charles Darwin University) but was restored to its original role of secondary schooling, renamed as the Anzac Hill High School, commencing in 1987.
The proliferation of schools by the mid 1980s coincided with the tapering off of economic growth in the Alice as a result of federal funding cutbacks to the NT.
With the onset of national economic recession in the early 1990s, the local situation developed into a surfeit of secondary schools and the NT Government was forced to take drastic action to save them.
In April 1991 the government announced sweeping cutbacks and rationalization of all public service expenditure.
In Alice Springs the Minister for Education, Shane Stone, announced the closure of Traeger Park Primary School, whose 144 predominantly Aboriginal students were to be transferred to other campuses for the start of the 1992 school year. A number were transferred to ASHS.
Stone also announced that all Year Seven students were to be “lifted into the high school system”.
Referring to ASHS and Anzac Hill High, Stone revealed: “By moving Year Seven into the high schools we have saved one of them.
“Both high schools have vacancies and the problem was they could have been fitted into one.” (Centralian Advocate, 23-24 April, 1991)
These changes, especially the closure of Traeger Park Primary, prompted uproar and sustained protests for the remainder of the year.
At that time I was then a prominent party member of the CLP in the Alice, and after a letter I wrote in support of Stone’s decisions was published , I was invited to ASHS for a personal tour of inspection to see just what was on offer for students.
I jumped at the chance to see what ASHS was like since the 10 years I had last attended as a student. There was an impressively greater range of courses, subjects and services compared to the options available in my school days but also noticeably far fewer students – well less than half the number of those admittedly overcrowded times more than a decade earlier.
The whole campus seemed subdued and eerily quiet – and that, as far as I can tell, has remained much the case for ASHS to the present day – a large, mostly empty campus occupying an enormous open space in the middle of suburbia.
What’s more, ASHS is a far more forbidding complex, surrounded and cut off from the outside world by high walls, grilles, fences and gates, as significant expenditure on security measures has been implemented to combat incessant vandalism over the years.
It is astonishing to read that Anzac Hill High School now has more enrolled students than does ASHS, albeit by a small margin – 165 vs. 157 (Alice News, September 17).
If one googles for Alice Springs High School, the most recent websites seem to date from 2004, when the school boasted 435 enrolments, including 170 indigenous students.
Given there are now only 157 enrolments, this represents a precipitous decline in student numbers over the past five years. (By contrast, Anzac Hill High has an up-to-date website, ironically advising of the school’s apparent imminent closure at year’s end).
More telling, of course, is that the total combined enrolments for both schools is 322, virtually identical to the number of students enrolled at the original ASHS at Anzac Hill in 1954.
Today the NT Labor Government faces the same dilemma about what to do with these two campuses as did the CLP in 1991 – but there is an interesting twist to this tale.
The CLP’s Shane Stone moved Year Seven students into the high schools; by contrast Labor’s “Building Better Schools” program, under Education Minister Syd Stirling, removed Year 10 students from the Middle Schools (ASHS and Anzac Hill High) to the Centralian Senior Secondary College in Sadadeen, commencing in 2007.
Both Syd Stirling and Shane Stone were first elected into office in 1990 – and both are former school teachers.
The CLP’s measures to keep both schools open favoured ASHS over Anzac Hill High, given there has been no substantial infrastructure expenditure at the latter since 1994 (Alice News, September 17).
Labor has continued this situation, and looks set to repeat history by effectively shutting down Anzac Hill High disguised by measures implemented in the creation of the Centralian Middle School.
In light of tightening economic constraints the NT Government is justified to rationalize resources by closing one of the two junior high schools. However, in light of the information I have seen, it seems that Anzac Hill High School has a much stronger case to argue for its survival.
It makes sense to remove the “Youth Hub” and “intervention-related” boarding facilities, restore the lost classrooms, and transfer the rapidly dwindling student numbers from ASHS to Anzac Hill High; plus outlay expenditure on upgrades to infrastructure for what is a historically important education facility in Alice Springs.
This begs the question about what to do with ASHS.
Given the acute land and housing shortage afflicting the Alice at present (significantly the NT Government announced in 1991 its “overall involvement in housing will be substantially reduced”), it is tempting to consider selling much of the grounds at ASHS for real estate development, as suggested by Anzac’s school council president, Alan Smith (Alice News, September 17).
But this may well be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as once such development occurs all other options for this site are irretrievably lost.
Perhaps it is time to revive the concept of developing a major residential sporting college complex for Alice Springs. This was first mooted for the Sadadeen education precinct in 1994, supported by the newly elected Member for Greatorex, Dr Richard Lim, in whose electorate it would have been built.
A similar suggestion has subsequently been made by Alderman Murray Stewart.
ASHS offers an ideal venue for this concept – all the essential infrastructure, transport and services already exist.
Public expenditure would only be necessary for conversion or upgrading of the existing infrastructure.

Controversy over the fate of Gallery Three. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Next year’s Alice Prize, the 36th of this national contemporary art prize, will be presented in Gallery One and Witchetty’s.
Our photo shows part of the 33rd Alice Prize in Gallery Three, including the large winning work on the right by Tony Coleing (who shared the prize that year with Alice artist Nicky Schonkala).
In the foreground are former president of the Alice Springs Art Foundation Trish van Dijk, former curator Tim Rollason and former director Suzette Watkins.
Mr Rollason is now director of the Araluen Cultural Precinct and finds himself in the hot seat as he oversees a number of changes that are drawing fire from some in the arts community.
The new role of Gallery Three as the home for a permanent exhibition of Indigenous art is particularly contentious, as it is seen to be limiting the opportunities for other exhibitions, including national touring shows, curated exhibitions of the permanent collection, the Alice Prize and community-based shows, such as the Advocate Art Award. 
Dugald Beattie, president of the Central Australian  Art Society, raised these concerns, among others, at the Alice Springs Town Council meeting on Monday night, seeking council’s support for the formation of an Araluen Advisory Group.
Such a group has existed in the past and Mr Rollason says that its revival has come up more than once during community consultations over the precinct’s development plan.
Mr Rollason says this wish will be put to the Arts Minister together with other feedback from the community.
Mr Beattie told council that he doesn’t think the changes that have taken place at Araluen would have occurred “had there been community input”.
The Alice News put to Mr Rollason that Witchetty’s is a lesser quality gallery than Gallery One or Three, and not suitable for the presentation of the Alice Prize.
He disputes this.
He says it’s got everything that every other gallery has got as well as direct access to the courtyard and natural light.
The News suggested that the stained glass windows could be distracting.
Mr Rollason said the visual arts team together with the Art Foundation will work on this issue once the actual works arrive.
He says it is the difficult task of Araluen’s exhibitions programming committee, which includes a representative from Watch This Space, to weight up and accommodate all of the community’s desires for the galleries. 
However, in Gallery One next year there will definitely be curated exhibitions of non-Indigenous work from the permanent collection next year as well as shows by non-Indigenous professional artists.
He also says that Gallery One can accommodate national touring shows, as it did in the past for Moist and Ocean to the Outback, both from the National Gallery of Australia.

Visitors from Siberia. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“We might be the first human beings they’ve ever seen in their lives – there aren’t too many in eastern Siberia where they come from!”
Birdwatching guide Mark  Carter is warning us that the Greenshanks will in all likelihood fly off as we approach.
These are waders who nest on peat bogs in the Arctic Circle in the northern hemisphere summer, then, as it begins to freeze over, make their way south, some of them to the Central Australian “wetlands”.
These are the poo ponds just south of town, a prized birdwatching site, known to twitchers all over Australia.
We do manage to see a pair of Greenshanks, hugging the banks of one of the ponds.
They may have flown through more than 20 countries to get here – one of the extraordinary feats of the animal world.
It’s this “lifestyle” that’s got Mr Carter interested in them.
“When I first started birdwatching I found waders a nightmare, it can be so hard to spot the differences between them, but these massive journeys  make them an interesting group. Really, it’s a privilege to see them.”
It’s less pongy at the ponds than I had imagined and as the sun rises, lighting up Ilparpa Valley stretching away to the west, and with birds wheeling on the breeze and hundreds more feeding in the ponds, it’s quite a lovely place to be.
Mr Carter’s a good guide – knowledgeable and enthusiastic for his subject as well as humorous.
“Every time you flush a loo in Alice, you’re doing something for conservation,” he says.
The ponds represent a major refuge for migratory birds who thrive on the nutrient-rich water and the multitude of lifeforms that it supports.
We see Australasian Grebes, little carnivores, on the hunt for invertebrates and small fish.
We see Black-winged Stilts, so-named no doubt for their ridiculously long legs which trail out behind them in flight. They too feed on little crustaceans and brine shrimps.
Black Swans breed on the site and we see a little band of Alice-born cygnets bobbing behind them.
There are several Coots on a far bank. They also nest at the ponds as well as in any of the waterholes out in the MacDonnell Ranges – “you see them quite regularly out there”.
A Whistling Kite flies overhead. The waders are a bit big for them to pick off but  “they enjoy the ego boost they get from scattering them”.
We spot – with difficulty as they are so well camouflaged on the stony bank – some Black-fronted Dotterels.
A Whiskered Tern wheels above the water –the tern family are mostly seabirds but there’s a little group of species loyal to freshwater, says Mr Carter.
“They still have to travel through a hell of a lot of desert to get here.
“They have little tiny legs that they tuck up under them in flight.
“They’re a bit rubbish on land but very elegant in the air.”
Perhaps the most spectacular sight for the morning is the flock of Red-necked Avocets – there are scores of them feeding, scooping through the water with their up-turned beaks, shaped like long ticks.
Mr Carter spots “more exciting Siberian wanderers” – Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.
He’s seen them in Japan in blizard conditions, standing on their skinny legs in icy water.
“They have a circulatory system like penguins, that stops the cold in their legs from moving up into the rest of their body,” he explains.
Not a problem here, of course.

Road trip totems.

You can almost smell the burning rubber, feel the dust on your skin, in your blanket.
Central Australian J9 Stanton and Top Ender Aly de Groot, with their collaborative show, Headmiles, at Watch This Space, have rendered homage to the experience of travelling the vast distances of the Territory.
It’s something they both do in the course of their work as artists, crossing into each other’s country: de Groot comes down to the Centre to teach at Batchelor Institute; Stanton travels north, to work in the artist-in-schools program on Groote Eylandt.
They met over a decade ago at a weaving workshop in Adelaide and have collaborated once before in a Watch This Space show.
The work of both is strongly influenced by the very different environments they live in, but for this show they worked closely together and responded a lot to each other’s work.
It looks like the desert won over de Groot’s saltwater sensibilities – her radioactive jellyfish, woven from neon green fishing line and plastic bags, alone stand out from the dust and rust tones of the majority of pieces.
Among the most effective are the calligraphy series, large and small, made from shredded rubber tyres retrieved from the Stuart Highway.
Stanton has recognised the inherent graphic quality of these road trip totems and made them precious by patterning them with ininti beads.
de Groot’s weaving skills triumph with her dirty dogs wrought from steel wool and wire, each one full of personality, and also with her eerie human-like figures suspended from the ceiling – people in nowhere, made from pandanus and plant dyes, and tourists, made from kelp, plant fibres, and tree sap.
But more than from any individual piece, the show’s strength comes from the way the gallery space has been transformed by the installation of the work – the artists have brought those big, wild places they travel through inside.
The show, part of the Alice Desert Festival, finishes this Saturday.
– Kieran Finnane

September surgery. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

In the dying days of a spectacular September Pop Vulture watches, by the dim light of the surgery theatre, the progress of an operation to keep the month’s pulse active.
Time is 18:15, Friday, September 11: experimental surgery begins ... patient appears to be in docile receptive state … bushfoods placebo administered ... September’s heartbeat normal, cerebral activity stable.
Inducing opening festival parade procedure ... subject’s pulse raising, pupils beginning to dilate ... inducing adrenal gland musical overload serum, Mista Savona, Black Arm Band, Tjupi band via hypodermic in conjunction with local vibe anaesthetic ... patient’s heart rate becoming erratic, sweat glands beginning to arouse ...
Commencing high moon saloon humour solution … patient’s pulse rate returning to stable level, sweat in dissipation stage, body temperature at manageable level according to  bedroom philosopher thermometer ... end of stage one surgery ...
September to remain on pop cultural dialysis, observe but do not resuscitate ...
Beginning stage two of September’s experimental surgery ... 10 day Alice Desert Festival dialysis fluid at halfway consumption point … patient’s cerebral activity at provocative level, sweat glands normal, heart rate normal, focus clear …
Entering cabaret stage of operation .... subject’s heart rate escalating rapidly, pupils dilating to saucer-like appearance, brain activity beginning to alarm ...
Inducing Barons of Tang experimental mutant serum ... subject’s blood pressure and pulse rate at critical level, pupils have ruptured ...
Subject in dance floor like convulsions … concluding experiment at 1800 hours Sunday September 20 ... subject will remain on pop cultural drip until functional normality has returned.

LETTERS: Junkets for ratepayer benefit?

Sir,– For a small rural community it never ceases to amaze me that hardly a week appears to go by without someone from council being “missing in action” on travel, supposedly for ratepayers’ benefit and at ratepayers’ expense. 
Perhaps Desert Knowledge could take time out from planning, what I can only describe as, the forthcoming unnecessary and self-serving camel holocaust and train the council on the use of video conferencing (a la front page of the Alice Springs News, September 17) and thereby justify, in my view at least, their claims to encourage best practice in desert communities while at the same time saving the hard-pressed ratepayers a substantial amount of money, from what appears to me to be little more than unnecessary travel junkets, bringing no direct benefit to the town or its residents.
John Costa
Old Eastside
ED – The Alice News offered right of reply to the Town Council. We had not received it at the time of going to press but will publish it next week if it comes to hand.

NT last for 1st home buyers

Sir,– Commonwealth figures show the Northern Territory has the lowest take up of the Federal Government’s First Home Owners Boost.
Out of the 153,449 recipients of the First Home Owners Boost since October 2008, just 1,147 were in the Northern Territory.
To put that figure into perspective the Australian Capital Territory had 2,400 first home owners accessing the Federal grants in the same period. So despite the ACT having a population just 50% higher than the NT, it had 100% more first home owners taking up the grants.
With 1% of the national population, the Territory should be receiving 1% of the grants, which would have seen around 1530 successful applicants.
The Henderson Government’s snails pace release of land is a significant factor in why nearly 400 first home owners have not accessed these Federal grants.
The lack of land for residential development, the huge rents and the high cost of established homes is a trifecta of failure for first homebuyers.
The number of new homes being built is desperately short of what is needed to meet demand. In the past 12 months just 1000 dwellings have been started when the Territory needs at least 1700.
Kezia Purick,
Deputy Opposition Leader

In search of ‘Beetle’ Cavenagh

Sir,– It’s a long shot, I know, but long shots have occasionally been known to work!
The enclosed pic is of me as a young officer serving aboard the P & O liner IBERIA in the 1960s. 
At that time the ship was ferrying thousands of migrants to Oz from Europe with nothing but the clothes they wore, Ten Pounds Sterling, and all their hopes, skills, talents and dreams of a better life in the sun. If any of them remember me, I hope their ambitions were fully realised. From Sydney the ship took a different role –  that of the Pacific Cruiser.
On one such cruise I met a most wonderful Alice Springs-based family named Cavenagh and, in particular, their delightful daughter questionably named ‘Beetle’.
So well did we (all) get along that the Cavenagh family urged me to sign off mid-voyage and join them in their ventures in Australia. 
I didn’t ... and I admit there have been times when I regretted the decision.
But, strangely, after all these years, I have never forgotten them ... and now, nudging 70, I’d like, if possible, just to express my warmth towards the Cavenaghs – and ‘Beetle’ in particular for her friendship and kindness way back then and enquire how life unfolded for her.
If anyone knows the Cavenagh family’s whereabouts I’d be most appreciative of my address being conveyed to them just in case they’d care to say ‘Hi!’.
I said it’s a long shot ... but at my age there’s not a lot to lose and I’d much appreciate any assistance you can render in establishment contact.
Roger Service
PO Box 283
Gillitts, 3603
South Africa

Athletes need coverage

Sir,– Recently I was up at two every morning to watch the World Athletics Championships in Berlin – every track and field event including the men’s and women’s marathons, all the replays and interviews of not only our very few Aussies but competitors from other countries also. SBS-Two TV coverage was simply fantastic and unbiased, with up to date news from around the athletics world that normally at home in Australia we never see or read about.
Australian media coverage of last years athletics in the Beijing Olympics needed a big kick in the rear, especially if there was not an Aussie competing.
We get overloaded with non-Olympic sports such as AFL, Rugby, Cricket, Melbourne Cup taking up many boring hours of free to air or Fox Sports paid TV time.
This without doubt is why there are not many Aussie athletes encouraged and competing at world level right now.
However if our Australian media shared their TV and newspaper coverage around all world sports I am sure we would have many more young up and coming people training and participating in “whole of the world sport” such as athletics.  
Noel Harris
Alice Springs

ADAM'S APPLE: I’ll never forget my backyard.

When people have a profoundly excellent time they are prone to using the adage, “This is something I’ll never forget”.
I’ve never really understood that phrase. Maybe I just have an exceptional memory but I remember quite a lot of my life that is ordinary.
I remember going to the dentist in primary school. I remember watching films that did nothing but waste 105 minutes of my life. Of course, you’re going to remember the excellent parts of your life.
Having said that, if ever there was a time to use the term, last week was it.
Last week I had the absolute pleasure of doing something many locals don’t. Last week I donned the backpack and went and saw the sights in my own backyard.
It was part of a combined buck and hens do. The lovely bride and groom had the inspired idea that considering the expense of coming all the way to Alice Springs for a wedding, many of the guests might like to see the sights of Central Australia.
So for three days, two dozen locals and interstaters did what thousands of people do every year. We climbed into a bus and drove and drove. Did I mention that we drove?
From the comfy cafés here in town it is difficult to fathom just how big our own backyard actually is. I don’t think any other group of people would get away with calling an attraction 500 kilometres away their own but here we do and don’t bat an eyelid when telling this fact to an ill-prepared tourist.
Many tours from Alice Springs combine the big three on their itinerary. Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Watarrka are all must see, bucket list natural wonders.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Although you can see Kata Tjuta from the rock, Watarrka is, let’s be honest, nowhere at all near the other two.
This was openly apparent when after the long bus ride and seven kilometre hike around the canyon, we all jumped back on the bus for the trip to our camp site, at Yulara. A 780 kilometre drive in a bus designed to carry small and slender Belgians and a seven kilometre walk is a big day for a big man.
And while I’m on the subject, is it culturally insensitive to wonder why no one has thought of a chair lift to take you to the top of Kings Canyon? Given the choice between a chair lift and a rock staircase known affectionately as heart attack hill, I’m fairly confident that many tourists would prefer the initial choice.
The climb, the flies, the travel are all worth the experience however. The canyon itself is breathtaking.
The Rock, even with all the commercial trappings, is one of the most impressive sights I have seen, and then there’s Kata Tjuta, an awe-inspiring geological anomaly in a flat and sparse land.
Strangely though, the memories I will cherish from the past week will have very little to do with natural monuments.
Before we jumped onto the bus on the first day, the bride and groom were the only people to know all the members of the tour.
By the end of the trip, thanks to a world class tour guide, and some equally world class passengers, we were all best of friends. Perhaps it was the hard slog up the canyon, perhaps it was the hour after hour in the bus, perhaps it was the fact that we all shared these incredible vistas and watched the sunrise over this spectacular backyard of mine, but in the end the enduring memories will be the A grade friends I made on the trip.
If you haven’t ventured down to the back fence in a while you really should. If you have half as wonderful a time as I had last week, it really will be something you’ll never forget.

Mighty run for Mini.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Mini, Steven Spiers decided he was going to drive his 1975 Leyland Mini S around the Outback.
Departing from Brisbane in early June, he travelled through Bourke and Broken Hill in far west New South Wales, making his way down to the Great Ocean Road, where he took part in the 50th Anniversary Mini show put on by the Victorian Mini Club.
He then made his way into South Australia and up to Leigh Creek, the start of his Outback odyssey.
Steve and the Mini successfully tackled roads with large ruts and corrugations all the way to William Creek, Oodnadatta and Marla.  The trip was not without troubles though, including the loss of muffler and exhaust, damage to suspension and brakes, and the loss of fuel due to a ruptured fuel tank.
Steve is stopping a  while in Alice before heading north to the Three Ways and across into Queensland. 
He’d like to thank John Scott of Scott Engineering and Steven OMalley of MiniWorx for making the trip possible: “Without their support the car may not have made it up the track.”

Back to our home page.