October 8, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Big move for more housing. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The NT Government is about to seek public comment on a change to the Alice Springs town plan that will allow the development of urban residential land south of The Gap.
At present mostly rural residential land is permitted there.
This would clear the way for a subdivision on the Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI) block, at the corner of Stuart Highway and Colonel Rose Drive.
This land has room for around 1400 blocks, is owned by the NT Government, unencumbered by native title and was identified at the planning forum in June last year as being the cheapest to develop.
According to consulting engineers Qantec McWilliam the costs for headworks (bringing services to the edge of the subdivision) would be $3.9m, whereas the estimate for Undoolya was $209m, and Larapinta, $26m.
The forum was told that a subdivision at AZRI would yield 826 blocks (800m2) for single dwellings, 347 (300m2) for multi dwellings, 280 (200m2) for medium density living, as well as 1.4 hectares for commercial use, 9 ha for community use and 1.8 ha for “neighbourhood parkland”.
Industry sources, speaking to the Alice News on the condition that they be not named, say current development costs – not counting headworks – range from $50,000 to $80,000 per block.
Prior to self-government, when the NT was under Federal administration, government land here was sold for the cost of development, to stimulate the growth of the town.
Last year’s forum focussed on the acute shortage of residential land and its current exorbitant prices. Although the urgent need was pressing, a year and three months have passed with meetings and consultation.
Meanwhile Lhere Artepe, the town’s native title body, is developing land in Stephens Road, Mt Johns Valley. They lifted native title over land owned by the NT Government there, in exchange for half the land.
The organisation’s CEO, Darryl Pearce, says construction work is scheduled to start in January on Stage One.
It will include 23 single dwelling blocks of between 801 and 1315 square metres, four blocks for medium density housing between 1350 and 1530 square metres, and one medium density block of 15,341 square metres where a multitude of units could be built.
Real estate agents Framptons, who are canvassing for expressions of interest, are not disclosing the prices of the blocks, but there has been speculation that they may cost up to $300,000.
The project is not without its irony: native title issues have been a major factor in delaying the construction of new suburbs. Now native title holders stand to profit from the high land and housing prices resulting from the shortage.
Lands Minister Delia Lawrie in March commented about other projects planned, or on the go.
However, the reality is much different to her upbeat version:-
• “Albrecht Drive (39 lots) including six lots for first home buyers,” said Ms Lawrie. All are sold.
This project was a result of the first deal between the NT Government and Lhere Artepe, in 2003.
There, too, roughly half the land was given to the native title owners, who sold it to a private developer for about $1.1m.
• “Emily Estate, on the Ross Highway, has approval for 16 lots.” All are sold.
• “Coolibah Tree Estate on Ragonesi Road has approval for more than 60 lots in Stage One.” After a rush on that land late last year, when several buyers paid deposits, the project seems to have stalled. One of the buyers says developer Ron Sterry had asked people, who had paid deposits of $10,000 each, to kick in more money.
The deposits are understood to have been put into a trust fund, to be paid back if the project is delayed or fails.  Mr Sterry did not respond to requests for comment.
• “94 lots approved at Emily Valley.” Developer John McEwen says the project is at an impasse: the Town Council is demanding that he upgrades a causeway, not on his land but leading to it, to a standard capable of coping with a 1-in-100-year flood (a Q100; the 1988 flood was a Q20 to Q50 – people will argue that point).
Mr McEwen says that demand is unreasonable, and there would not be a causeway of that standard “anywhere in the Territory”.
He says: “Completion of our subdivision would reduce the flow of water by 40%.
“At present 33 cubic meters of water would leave our land every second in a Q100.
“When the subdivision is complete there will be less than 18, because of retention basins and other features we’re putting in.”
Mr McEwen says Power and Water had told him they would not be dealing with matters concerning them until he has come to terms with the council over the causeway.
The council’s position seems to be contradictory: in the absence of a flood mitigation dam in the Todd, upstream from the Overland Telegraph Station, a Q100 would obliterate much of the CBD, and may kill many people.
Yet the council has made no efforts to push for the dam’s construction, currently blocked by a Federal ban imposed because of sacred sites (due to end in 2012).
Ms Lawrie said the “Alice Springs Planning for the Future Forum Action Plan ... will provide for future growth at AZRI and revitalise the CBD”.
Minister for Central Australia, Karl Hampton, and Alice Springs Mayor Damian Ryan are co-chairing the steering committee to drive these changes. Its other members are Julie Ross (Chamber of Commerce), architect Brendan Meney, Mr Pearce, real estate agent David Forrest, former Mayor Fran Kilgariff, now Executive Director for Regional Development, and planing department officer Tony Renshaw.

Lounge chair in the breeze. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Stephen Schreiber (above) sat at home one night in his lounge chair, pretending to have his feet on bike foot pegs out in front of him, and to be grasping the sweeping handlebars of a big bike.
He was daydreaming about cruising the country in superb comfort, yet being out there in the breeze, in touch with the elements. And then he made his dream come true and bought a trike.
They look a bit like the front end of a Harley grafted onto the back end of a Porsche.
Most are made by the same company, Oz Trike, and are powered by a rear mounted 1600 VW engine, providing plenty of grunt for what’s still a fairly light conveyance.
They are worth $38,000, give or take a few thousand dollars, depending on the bits you stick on them.
“You’ve got to have shiny bits,” says Steve.
He was one of more than 100 trikers who   last week came to Alice for a national rally from all corners of Oz.
And the common basic design of a trike notwithstanding, each and every one is a manifesto to individualism.
They carry between one and four people, the biggest ones have three abreast on the bench behind the driver – rider?
The colors are stunning, and there is lots of chrome.
For 35 grand you can get a decent car, I put to Steve.
“I’ve got a very good car,” he retorts. “But it’s not a trike. You sit there and relax, you recline.”
He’s done 1100 kms in one day.
“You ride for 12 hours and you still feel pretty good.”
Rain? “No worries. You put on your wet weather gear and keep going.”
Steve has a DVD player mounted on the handlebars with hundreds of songs, and four speakers – two in the front for him and two in the back for his wife.
On their trip, from Bundaberg via Mt Isa to Alice, and back the long way via Adelaide and Sydney, they will be doing some 7000 kms.
Steve makes a full and frank confession on his website (which has lots of links to other triker sites): “I go to rallies with my wife.
“We load up the trike and the trailer and we’re gone and our sons can now look after themselves.
“I have been riding for 30 years and six of those years are on the trike which has just clocked up 100,000 km.”
Trikers are mostly mature gentlemen, around 30 and a few (hundred) months, prefer leathers heavily adorned with badges declaring preferred marques (VW, for example), or indicating places visited.
In a husband and wife team the wife is usually the one with shorter hair, and not grey. Beards are practically obligatory (for gentlemen).
In Alice for five days they stayed at the MacDonnell Range Caravan Park and visited Hermannsburg, Glen Helen, Ross River and Trephina Gorge.
Many say they’ll be back!
Photos (counter clockwise from top left): The shiny bits include a chrome skull. All that sparkles is a VW engine. Colours: the brighter the better. Crock eating miles. Bill Cullen came all the way from Perth.

Concrete blocks, Colorbond for Kmart mural? By KIERAN FINNANE.

Even the Town Council did not know about it: a proposed treatment for the Kmart wall, which seeks to avoid using only sandstone for a full reinstatement of the mural, has been and gone from public display.
The Alice News became aware of the display last Friday, October 2, some three hours before the deadline for public comment.
This was despite having asked chairman of the Development Consent Authority, Peter McQueen, on the preceding Monday (September 28) about a “new period of public comment” and what the focus of that would be. 
Mr McQueen had replied: “The Applicant will be exhibiting the proposed treatment of the wall.
“Yes there will be a period for public comment once the proposed treatment is known.”
At that stage the proposed treatment was known and had already been on display for 10 days (since September 18).
Mr McQueen has since explained that the timing for putting applications on display is not a matter for the DCA; it is handled by the Development Assessment Services of the Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI). 
He had assumed in relation to the initial enquiry from the Alice News that the application had not gone on display and he only became aware that it had when he received further enquiry from the News.
Our further enquiry was prompted when last Friday (October 2) at lunchtime, stonemason Tim Newland, son of the late John Newland who was responsible for the stonemasonry of the original mural, alerted the News to the fact that the display was about to conclude, expressing his disappointment in the options which were being put forward.
The News went to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure offices in Alice Plaza at about 2pm.
Normally applications that are on display are each in their own folder and available on a counter in the reception area.
There was none relating to the Kmart wall.
The News asked where the application folder was.
Staff did not know.
After searching in the offices, they were able to show the News a letter from the applicant and the attached visual information, but they could not find the folder, nor the accompanying forms and documentation that are usual for applications on display.
To the News’ query on this matter, DPI’s  Peter Somerville, via a spokesperson, has advised that the public notice of the exhibition was placed in the Centralian Advocate on September 18, with public comment invited “up to COB 2 October 2009”.
According to Mr Somerville: “DPI staff correctly ensured that the documents were available to the public during this timeframe.”
The written statement does not give any account of why documents were not on display in the usual manner during the visit by the Alice News, at least two hours before COB, on October 2.
The statement advises that no public submissions were received in relation to the application.
Minutes of DCA meetings are available at the DPI office. The minutes from the September 9 meeting at which the application was discussed reveal that State Manager of the Centro Properties Group, Mario Bocscaini, had attended the meeting together with Mick Betteridge of Probuild, who presented samples of the “proposed alternative building materials” (more of these later).
The minutes also show that Bob Eales attended on behalf of the Town Council. Mr Eales is Acting Executive Engineer.
The News contacted council CEO Rex Mooney, asking him if he was aware that the proposed treatment for the wall was on display.
He had no idea.
After further enquiry, Mr Mooney told the News that Mr Eales, despite having attended the DCA meeting, had not understood that the treatment was on display.
Mayor Damien Ryan, who has made loud and clear his commitment to the full restoration of the original mural, also knew nothing of the display.
The original development permit for the wall (from May, 1984) gives council a formal role in signing off on the mural, stipulating that the sandstone wall “will at all times be maintained to the satisfaction of the Town Engineer”.
When the News spoke to Mr Mooney last Friday the council had one hour and 10 minutes left in which to make a submission, which they did.
Necessarily short, it states council’s objection to “the use of materials other than sandstone in the wall” and restates their requirement that “the developer shall reconstruct the sandstone wall and reinstate the mural to its original design”.
The News contacted council’s two nominees who sit on the DCA, aldermen Sandy Taylor and Brendan Heenan.
Although nominated by council, in their DCA role they are required to act as individuals, not as council representatives, and they have no reporting obligations to council.
Mrs Taylor was aware that the treatment was on display and expressed surprise that the CEO and Mayor did not know.
She said the Central Australian members of the DCA are committed to restoring the wall to what it was.
She also revealed that they had asked that samples of the alternative materials be put on display.
There was no sign of these in the DPI office when the News was there last Friday.
Mr Heenan was not aware that the treatment had been on display. Indeed, he was under the contrary impression that the DCA had knocked back Centro’s proposal.
As for the details of what Centro is proposing, there are three options (drawing above), all of which only use the original sandstone for a band along the lower quarter of the wall.
In options one and two, an approximation of the original image, showing the profile of the ranges between Heavitree Gap and Mount Gillen, is achieved using a mixture of Colorbond sheeting and splitface concrete blockwork.
The third option, which is the one Centro favours, does not use Colorbond sheets, replacing them with an alternative colour of concrete block.
The representation of the profile is rough.
In particular it completely fails to capture the “nose” of Mount Gillen.
Heritage architect Domenico Pecorari describes the effect as “pixillated”,  and the colour of the concrete masonry as “monotonous, simple bands of colour with nothing of the subtlety, the fleck and gradation of the original”.
“It is a cheap and nasty version with zero artistic value,” says Mr Pecorari.
It is clear that Centro’s Mr Boscaini has no appreciation of the public art role of the original mural.
In his letter to the DPI, enclosing the visual information for the wall treatment, he writes: “The reason for the mural was to reduce the impact of the height of the wall.
“We are of the opinion that with the construction of the [Bob Jane T Mart building], the need for such a mural is not as necessary.
“Nevertheless, Centro is prepared to undertake the reinstatement of the mural but on a basis that it be economically viable.”
Mr Boscaini seems to assume that the only view to the wall that counts is from the Stuart Highway.
Mr Pecorari says “streetscape is still streetscape” and it is not acceptable for people using Railway Terrace to see just a “great big blank wall”.
Mrs Taylor says she contested the applicant’s view that the mural can’t be seen from the Stuart Highway: “It can be clearly seen from the Stott Terrace lights.”
Information provided earlier by Centro to the DCA suggested that replacing the 20-30% of sandstone blocks lost to damage would require reopening of a quarry which is “commercially unaffordable”.
But this is not the only option: Mr Newland says he has put to Probuild the possibility of cutting the original sandstone blocks in half, adhering them to panels, faithfully following the mural design, and then fixing the panels to the wall.
Such an option immediately takes care of the shortfall of sandstone and would also take care of some of the structural concerns, says Mr Newland.

National parks management will be an ‘equitable partnership’ with TOs.

The Alice News put a number of questions on joint management in parks to the Minister. The following written response was provided, via a spokesperson, by Mac Moyses, Principal Planner, Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport. 
NEWS: What is the role of the traditional owners (direct or via the land councils) in the management of the parks?
PARKS: The role of the Traditional Owners is to work in equitable partnership with the Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS), sharing responsibility for the management of the parks.
Over the next few years it is intended that jointly managed parks will have joint management committees comprising Traditional Owner and PWS representatives, whose role will be to guide management of the parks, at the level of endorsing management programs and setting local policy and procedure.
The role of the land councils is defined under the [Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation] Act at Section 25 AO. Essentially their role is to assist joint management processes, principally by consulting with, and representing the interests of Traditional Owners in relation to the management of parks.
[The Act also says the land councils have a role in the opinion of Traditional Owners “as to appropriate legislation concerning those parks and reserves”.]
NEWS: Can land councils influence joint management decisions right down to who gets permits?
PARKS: A number of activities on parks are regulated by permits such as research, commercial filming, public events and carrying out commercial enterprise.
For our new jointly managed parks, local policy and procedure relating to permits have been or will be developed by each park’s joint management committees. 
Land Councils are not represented on joint management committees but have a role in supporting Traditional Owners and PWS to ensure effective operation of the committees.  
In preparing local policy and procedure relating to permits, a definition of “standard permit applications” is being developed in which it is understood that delegated PWS staff, for example Chief District Rangers, may approve permits without consultation with Traditional Owners in accord with the guidelines set down for permits for that park.
 Larger proposals, such as a major commercial enterprise will always involve consultation with the wider group of Traditional Owners.
NEWS: Are there agreed-to guidelines, applying within both agencies [PWS and land councils], for considering permit requests or are they decided upon on an ad hoc basis?
PARKS: See response above. Some parks have more developed guidelines than others. It will take time and it is seen as a priority to develop guidelines for all parks needing them, that are consistent with broader PWS policy, the public interest and the interests of Traditional Owners.
NEWS: What specifically are the roles of the joint management officers within land councils?
PARKS: [Their roles are]:-
• consult with Traditional Owners of parks to ascertain their wishes with respect to their management and development;
• in partnership with PWS staff  undertake negotiations, planning, research, fieldwork and other tasks relating to management of parks;
• facilitate Traditional Owner input into Joint Management Plans and related decision-making processes;
• enhance the understanding and awareness of Traditional Owners in relation to parks management and development;
• consult with Traditional Owners in relation to allocating income arising from joint management;
• support Aboriginal employment, training and enterprise development programs relating to parks;
• assist in the monitoring and evaluation of joint management processes and outcomes.
NEWS: Where are joint management plans at for the parks in the East MacDonnells [where parks were formally handed over to Traditional Owners in June]?
PARKS: Joint planning discussions with the Traditional Owners of the N’Dhala Gorge, Trephina Gorge and Corroboree Rock are substantially complete.
The Joint Management Plans are being drafted and will be released for public comment in 2010. It is more or less the same group of Traditional Owners PWS have been working with for the three parks, although Corroboree Rock is somewhat different and is moreover culturally a men’s place.
NEWS: Do the plans already contain provisions for banning alcohol?
PARKS: The plans are being drafted and they say nothing in relation to alcohol.
NEWS: Have extra staff been allocated to PWS for joint management? [We understand there are 43 rangers employed on parks in entire southern half of the Territory, compared with 45 employed by Parks Australia at Uluru-Kata Tjuta.]
PARKS: In the Alice Springs PWS office at present we have two planners focussing on preparation of Joint Management Plans, a Flexible Employment Program Coordinator and a (recently vacated) Joint Management Facilitator.
Joint management has provided funding for additional positions in the southern region. In the Alice Springs and Barkly areas, there has been an increase in employment of Aboriginal rangers and trainees by seven positions.

Alcohol bans in Macklin’s court, says Hampton. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

NT Parks Minster Karl Hampton says it’s not his government but the Commonwealth which decides on alcohol bans in parks whose ownership the Territory Government has recently transferred to Aboriginal interests.
“The alcohol restrictions are a result of the Commonwealth intervention [and are] not a result of actions by the Territory Parks and Wildlife Service,” says Mr Hampton.It’s up to the Commonwealth which parks can or cannot be exempt from that legislation.”
This contradicts claims by Alison Anderson, the independent Member for MacDonnell and a previous Minister in the Territory Government. Mr Hampton says he has told the Commonwealth Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin that “consumption of alcohol by responsible adults” in national parks is considered acceptable by him and his government.
He says the NT Government previously had to seek exemptions from liquor bans in the Nitmiluk and Devil’s Marbles parks: “These are cases in point,” he says. “We need to sit down on a case by case basis with the land councils and traditional owners and talk this issue through.”

West Macs comments invited.

Draft joint management plans for both the West MacDonnell National Park and Watarrka National Park were released last week.
The closing date for public comment on both is November 13.
According to the  Parks and Wildlife Service website joint management  plans describe the natural, recreational and cultural values of a park and how the managers responsible – the joint management partners – will ensure these values are properly protected.
They provide direction for the future management of a park or reserve, and outline how the interests of the community, Traditional Owners and conservation will be served.

Serious allegations against shire. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Present and former employees of the MacDonnell Shire, a little more than one year old and with an annual budget of $26m, have made allegations to the Alice Springs News about rampant corruption, bullying and incompetence.
They are – or were – senior staff in one of the shire’s 14 communities, or in the Alice Springs head office.
All spoke on the condition that neither they nor their communities are named.
The shire’s first CEO, Wayne Wright, resigned in April, saying “personal and family matters are the reason”.
One of the people contacting us suggested Mr Wright was under threat of being sacked, but made a deal to resign involving a substantial payment from the shire.
The terms of settlement have not been disclosed but it is possible that a “no fault agreement” was invoked which is neither a sacking nor a resignation, and which can involve a financial settlement.
Kerry Moir, head of the local government association, says this arrangement – available only for CEOs – is “too easy in my view”.
She says: “It makes it too easy for a council or a CEO to simply say, we don’t want this employment relationship any more, so let’s settle.”
The News understands at least one unfair dismissal case has been brought.
One informant says in several of the communities there are serious issues about the use of shire assets, especially motorcars.
Councillors and staff, accustomed to have unhindered access to these assets when there were small independent councils, refuse to submit to the more stringent controls mandated by the shire.
They lay complaints and “the shire is more interested in avoiding complaints than investigating their substance”, says one informant.
One contact says people would use the shire workshop as they pleased, “to the detriment of the shire”, and causing serious occupational health and safety problems.
“They would come into the workshop and work on any vehicle, using shire-owned tools and equipment,” says the contact.
He was also told to give free reign to certain organisations within the community, adopting a “hands off” attitude to appease powerful elements.
When he insisted on stricter controls he was abused and threatened with physical violence.
“You assume the hierarchy will back you,” says the man. “They didn’t.”
The problem is partly that a large number of people had to be recruited in a hurry when the shire kicked off on July 1 last year.
Some of them had “fixed agendas”, have little more to offer than being “Territorians of long standing”, had been using their power to promote their own opinions, and had little if any formal education or training.
Another contact says: “Some of us are under a lot of pressure.
“Staff are being bullied and harassed by head office, trying to pressure staff to quit their legitimate involvement in local organizations or businesses.”
He says, “Some individuals are as corrupt as hell, stealing money.
“Processes required by corporate law are missing.”
Some people attached to the shire “are heavy drug users and dealers, councillors come to meetings stoned off their faces, miss meetings or turn up late.
“We’ve informed head office but there is no action.
“People are suffering because we don’t carry out our core service delivery, including maintenance of houses.
“There should be audits but none are made.
“There are no rules, regulations, no induction packages.
“We’re at a loss about how do things.”
The contact says a massive $6m of the budget is spent on the head office in Alice Springs.
The new CEO has so far visited none of the remote offices.
The News has been told at least two people have been sacked, on spurious grounds, and one person has been transferred without the employee’s consent.
The News has offered the right of reply to the shire. A spokeswoman said a response is likely to be provided for the next edition.

Licensees move to reduce trouble on their premises.

A patron committing an offence on licensed premises in Alice Springs will henceforth be barred not only from the premise where the offence took place but from all others that are members of the new Alice Springs Licensees Alcohol Accord.
The accord was formalised on October 2 with support from the Chamber of Commerce and after consulting with Licensing, Regulation and Alcohol Strategy and the Northern Territory Police.
Founding members are Lasseters Hotel Casino, Bojangles Saloon & Dining Room, Memo Club Alice Springs, Outback Security, Town & Country Tavern and Gillen Club.
The offences being targeted by the "common barrings" are:-
• underage on licensed premises;
• failing to quit licensed premises;
• having drugs on a licensed premises;
• assaulting staff or patrons on a licensed premises;
• criminal damage to licensed premises.
The accord has established a three tier barring process.
The first tier would see the application of the existing on premise trespass notice for 12 months, managed by the venue.
The second tier would see a common barring from all accord venues for three to six months for minor offences.
For more severe offences, the third tier would see common barring from all venues under the trespass notice for 12 months, renewable annually.
The accord has been benchmarked off several others operating throughout Australia including the Mt Isa Accord which has been in operation for 18 months.
In that time 10 key troublemakers were identified and received common barrings from the Mt Isa Accord.
Other potential trouble makers have heeded the warnings and adjusted their behaviour accordingly.
In the short space of 18 months the Mt Isa Accord has been credited with a reduction in antisocial behaviour in and around licensed premises by 45% and a reduction in assaults in the same areas of 50%.
Meanwhile June quarter crime statistics released on Tuesday by the Department of Justice show a decline in house break-ins in Alice Springs, but rises in assaults, commercial premise break-ins and theft.
The statistics relate to offences recorded by the police.
Assaults in the June quarter, with 303 recorded, were up 25% compared to the same quarter last year.
House break-ins for the quarter were down by 23%, while break-ins to commercial or other premises were down by 18%.
Motor vehicle theft and related offences, with 103 recorded, were up by 124% compared to the same quarter last year.

More cans from camps.

More town camps have become involved in the Cash for Containers recycling effort, according to David Koch whose Territory Metals runs the operation for the Town Council.
On September 10 we reported that only women and children from Karnte Camp were exchanging cans for cash; now many others are getting involved, including Little Sisters, Palmer, Namatjira and Ilparpa camps.
As of this week the depot had collected over 1.5 million containers, averaging 61,000 per day (they are open only on Saturdays and Mondays).
Many more cans are collected, but bottles are also picking up.
Returning five cents a piece to the collector, this amounts to a $75,000 tab for the council.

WHOW, what a great project.

There has been an astonishing 92% reduction of cancer of the cervix in the NT between 1991 and 2005, well ahead of the 60% reduction nation-wide.
This was part of the inspiration for three Alice Springs women, health professionals working mostly out bush, to launch an even more effective attack on the disease: they needed to bring health care, including pap smears, to the people, rather than the other way ‘round.
It’s called Women’s Health on Wheels, or WHOW for short.
The upshot was their campaign for this $100,000 mobile examination room, a 4WD truck that can go practically anywhere.
They all got truck licenses and this week they were showing off their creation, paid for by the NT Government from a surplus of Federal health money.
The three are Health Promotion Officer Lynette Windsor,  Remote Women’s Health Educator Sandra McElligott and Aboriginal Health Worker Julie Wright.

Issues clouded in Araluen debate. COMMENT by KIERAN FINNANE.

Consultation after the fact has contributed to disaffection amongst a longtime group of users of the Araluen galleries, but their resentment is clouding the issues.
Prominent local artist Dan Murphy (pictured) bought into the debate with remarks in his launch speech for the opening of a group exhibition featuring work by some of the disaffected last Friday.
The opening drew a large crowd, the biggest yet for Peta Appleyard Gallery and testament to the strong interest in the collective known as Studio 12.
They are a group of local non-Indigenous artists who have banded together to win exhibition opportunities for themselves. This showing at the vibrant Peta Appleyard Gallery is a well-warranted exposure of their work in an attractive and spacious professional gallery setting.
Dan Murphy is known for his hard work and passionate commitment to working with Indigenous artists but on this occasion, speaking without notes, he welcomed the Studio 12 show as a change from all “the dots” that one sees in the mall. He referred to the ironic position of non-Indigenous artists in  Alice Springs as “fringe-dwellers” of the art scene and he noted the importance of the Studio 12 show in the context of the changes taking place at Araluen. (It should be noted that this was not the basis on which Peta Appleyard put together the show.)
Murphy described the changes at Araluen as based on race (“the colour of our skin”) and claimed that artists, in their interaction with other artists, do not see race, rather they see each other’s work. Many in the gathering showed their appreciation of his remarks with applause and calls of “here, here”.
But the link that he made between the challenges for Studio 12 and other non-Indigenous artists to gain exposure and the changes at Araluen demands some attention.
There is a reason why Alice Springs is on the map internationally in the art world and that is because it’s the gateway for the Aboriginal art flowing out of the deserts as well as the hub for many of the support structures for this major Australian art movement.
No matter how accomplished and interesting the work of certain artists from Studio 12, indeed how essential it is for its audience (and this includes me), its reach and cultural significance are not of the same order.
It stands to reason therefore that the Araluen Galleries, as the only public art institution in town, have to give a place of prime importance to Aboriginal art.
This is not because it is produced by people of a certain race; it’s because of the work itself and its standing in the national and international visual art context.
Araluen Galleries have to give primacy, as any self-respecting public art gallery would do, to what is without precedent, to what is truly innovative. This space in the visual arts in Central Australia is occupied by the best of Aboriginal art.
It has been argued by some of the disaffected that a separate Indigenous cultural centre should be built. Even if it were, that would still not relieve Araluen, as the region’s major public gallery, of their responsibility to give primacy to Aboriginal art. They would be a laughing stock if they didn’t.
However, it is not surprising that the changes at Araluen have gotten people off side.
The draft management plan that describes them is no draft at all in relation to the short term changes – they have already taken place, or are in train, and they lay the groundwork for further change in the future.
As outlined in last week’s issue, the big bone of contention is that the largest and most attractive of the galleries – Gallery Three, built with a Centenary of Federation grant of $2.3m to the Friends of Araluen – has been turned over to a permanent exhibition, Origins to Innovations, charting the development of Aboriginal art in the region.
This has put the squeeze on the remaining gallery space to accommodate the rest of the visual arts program, including long-established annual and bi-annual exhibitions, such as the Alice Prize and the Alice Craft Acquisition, as well as well-supported community shows such as the Advocate Art Award, presented by the Central Australian Art Society (CAAS).
To compensate for the loss of Gallery Three new wall display space has been added with the conversion of Witchetty’s into a multi-purpose venue that can function as an exhibition space.
But this is not enough, according to some, and CAAS were forced to limit the size and number of works for this year’s Advocate Art Award.
Witchetty’s is a compromise space.  It is certainly not a space of the same order as Gallery Three, which in its original form, with its high southern wall and large unencumbered floor area, was a space in which work could be presented in an exciting way.
However, at the risk of affronting some, I have to say that it was inevitable that a non-selective show like the Advocate Art Award would be moved out of the main galleries at Araluen.  Whatever the community-driven origins and early history of Araluen – and it’s a precious story about Alice Springs – its evolution to become the region’s only public gallery, playing catch-up really to the emergence of contemporary Aboriginal art in the Centre, means that its role and the standard to which it must perform have changed.
It’s a hard swallow when change is thrust upon you as a fait accompli and then you are asked to give your opinion, as if it’s going to make any difference. It may be useful to remember what a regular feature of Territory political life this kind of process is – the arts community is not being given special treatment.
And it is also important to recognise that non-Aboriginal art has not been banished from the Araluen galleries. In fact since the installation of the permanent Aboriginal display in Gallery Three we have seen the Pamela Lofts exhibition, the Beanie Festival, and a number of smaller shows in the small Sitzler Gallery that opens off the foyer.
In terms of process, Araluen staff, I suspect, are the meat in the sandwich, just as Parks and Wildlife staff have been in the national parks handover. 
Small agencies, with limited resources, are put by the government at the forefront of major change in social and political policy, often driven by Ministers or their advisors.
Thus a primary consideration of the “draft” management plan for the Araluen Cultural Precinct is the way in which it can deliver Indigenous employment and economic benefit for the region – quite different from the aspirations of those members of the community who drove the creation of the arts centre 25 years ago.
In the longer term, according to the plan, the precinct may get a new gallery but it is not clear what its focus would be.
In the meantime, the focus of the Museum of Central Australia is going to change, with some material going to the Desert Park for display, and a new emphasis given to “interpretation of the social history of the region”.
The ructions in the arts community over the changes afoot in the precinct are an interesting moment in this social  history and, returning to the current Studio 12 exhibition, The Witchetty’s that was, a 1994 work by Iain Campbell, would be an excellent entree into the story.
This really is a work that belongs at the precinct, reflecting earlier changes there which have strong links to the current ones, and I hope that some money can be found to acquire it.
Meanwhile, the Friends of Araluen are hosting a meeting to discuss the draft management plan on Saturday, October 17, 2.30 for 3pm at the Andy McNeill Room (Civic Centre).
The findings of this meeting will be reported to another, hosted by RedHOT Arts, on Thursday, October 22, 5.30pm, also in the Andy McNeill Room.

Alcohol in Alice three years  after ‘turning down the tap’. COMMENT by JOHN BOFFA, Peoples Alcohol Action Coalition.

On October 1 this year Alice Springs had its three year anniversary of the commencement of price-based alcohol supply reduction measures.
These measures have basically implemented a two-tiered floor price on alcohol such that the cheapest grog is around $1 per standard drink between 2pm and 6pm and then falls to only 50 cents per standard after 6pm – thanks to the continued sale of two litre casks.
Primarily as a result of this floor price approach Alice Springs has seen an 18% reduction in the consumption of pure alcohol at a population level and a higher reduction amongst the heaviest drinkers.
There has been a major shift amongst the majority of heavy drinkers from cask wine to beer in cans, with a small number of heavy drinkers waiting until 6pm and shifting to the cheaper two litre casks.
Most of this change pre-dated the introduction of other measures such as the so called “Dry town”, income quarantining and the forced prohibition of alcohol on the town camps.
The shift to more expensive forms of alcohol has translated into significant harm reduction. Looking at data three years prior to the restrictions and three years post the restrictions:
• the combined homicide/manslaughter rate has fallen by more than 50%;
• the suicide rate has fallen;
• grievous bodily harm has reduced by about 20%;
• the alcohol attributable admissions to Alice Springs Hospital have fallen;
• the alcohol attributable presentations to the Emergency Department have fallen.
Unfortunately, it is still not possible to directly compare these achievements with what has occurred in other regional centres across the NT because the data is not publicly available.
However, the last alcohol consumption data that was available, up to December 2007, revealed that Alice Springs was the only regional centre where alcohol consumption was falling.
Since then restrictions have been put in place in Nhulunbuy and Katherine which may also be working but this is not publicly known.
The recent report “Trends in estimated alcohol-attributable deaths and hospitalisations in Australia, 1996-2005” from the National Drug Research Centre received national publicity last week.
This report revealed an alarming increase across the nation in alcohol-caused hospitalisations. The NT easily had both the highest alcohol-caused hospitalisation rate and the largest increase over this 10 year period of any jurisdiction behind Victoria. But the period of this report pre-dates completely the alcohol restrictions in Alice. Since the introduction of the restrictions alcohol-attributable hospitalisations here have declined against this trend. This is further evidence of the effectiveness of the restrictions.
However, even with the reduction in hospitalisations due to alcohol since October 2006, our rate of such hospitalisations in Alice Springs is still far too high, due to the initial high baseline we began with.
The local evidence that we now have in Alice Springs of the effectiveness of an alcohol floor price has been given expert backing in the report from the Rudd government’s Preventative Health Task Force.
This report has recommended that an alcohol floor price be considered on a national basis along with a volumetric tax on alcohol (meaning a tax rate based on the amount of alcohol in a product, making higher alcohol content products more expensive, thus encouraging consumption of lower alcohol content products) and a range of other measures including a social marketing campaign and a ban on alcohol promotion to young people under 25.
Such measures would see the consumption of pure alcohol fall by at least 20% across the nation and many hospitalisations and deaths would be prevented. Such measures would also lead to a significant further decline in consumption in Alice where even after restrictions we still consume alcohol at nearly 1.5 times the national average.
The reaction from the alcohol industry, the neoliberal media and other apologists for the alcohol industry, such as our own “responsible” drinkers lobby has been swift and predictable.
Witness the plethora of articles and editorials in The Australian about the so called “nanny state”. The profits of the alcohol industry are seriously under threat from these recommendations and unfortunately many people in our society have learned to put private profits before people. We are told we need to support economic growth at any cost even when the cost is so clear and obvious as in the case of the economic growth of the alcohol industry. Another obvious cost to this outdated concept of economic “growth” is the destruction of our natural environment and climate change.
The reason why governments need to act is not primarily to save the drinkers from themselves – it is argued by some that they should be allowed to kill themselves early if they so choose and government should not try to limit this “freedom”.
Governments need to act on alcohol to protect the rest of the community from the harms perpetrated by the excessive drinkers on us.
The victims of alcohol-caused homicides, rapes, suicides, grievous bodily harms and especially child neglect need greater protection from government.
The argument is not a nuanced one about whether each individual should be allowed to drink excessively if they so choose; it is simply about placing reasonable limits on what individuals can do in relation to alcohol in order to protect innocent others – especially, but not exclusively, women and children.
Alice Springs, however, cannot afford to wait for a national agreement on an alcohol floor price or a volumetric tax, as welcome as these developments will be when they come.
Alice Springs has the highest alcohol-attributable harms of any region in the country and one of the highest consumption rates in spite of the 18% decline. Further action on supply reduction needs to occur in Alice now.

LETTERS: Row over poisoned sacred trees continues.

Sir,–  A comment on the on-going saga over the trees alongside Traeger Park’s grandstand: You are bloody joking, aren’t you? 
Council? AAPA?  Your  decision, that the dead trees remain, held up as a monument to a community’s ‘togetherness’, ‘repentance’ for the presumed deeds of an individual.
A monument to monumental stupidity more likely!
A blatant, painful sign of the deepening divisions in our community. A continuing sign of  paternal disrespect for the beliefs and customs of our town’s ancestors. 
The Old People were a tough, hard-bitten, above all practical people possessed of a fantastic sense of humour  who would have regarded the kerfuffle over these trees with much laughter and well-mannered derision, for in their world you weren’t deliberately rude to others even when you thought they were idiots. The dreaming stories were possessed of many tales and beliefs about the great river red gums but those tales and beliefs didn’t extend to individual trees and most certainly not to the trees in question, trees that were only planted there about 40 years ago as shade for our then showgrounds.
On many occasions I have been told of or witnessed traditional people in their search for honey, game, making wurleys or for a myriad of other uses, unhesitatingly fell much larger trees than those in question at Traeger Park. 
And I am absolutely sure, if they were still with us, and had they been asked, they would have unhesitatingly felled those at the park in order to protect the lives of those who mostly sit beneath them. Their great grandchildren!
This paternal decision made in what appears to be a rather pathetic attempt to appease what amounts to a government bureaucracy, is utterly ridiculous and makes a mockery of the Old People and their beliefs.
Instead of bringing us closer, it flies in the face of both black and white Centralians, exacerbating the divisions between our cultures. 
No one knows if these trees were poisoned. Looking at them it seems likely, yet no proof exists.
For all of that, if indeed these trees were poisoned, the poisoning was the action of an individual!
Not the actions of a community! Asking the community to carry this Albatross around its collective neck because of the “possible” act of an individual, for generations to come, is an act of sheer and utter stupidity.
If anything at all can be learnt from this debacle, it is that it is time the community as a whole revisited the Sacred Sites legislation and rewrote it in such a manner that it operates to protect sacred places as it was originally intended and that brings to heel the manipulative behaviour intended to do nothing more than prop up this ridiculous bureaucracy.
Aboriginal people themselves need to take charge of these things, take control from the bureaucrats, bring some common sense back, remove these ugly safety hazards, remove what are rapidly becoming symbols of division in our community.
Let the community as a whole show the way forward by planting some new trees in their place, demonstrating for once and all that while some may seek to divide our community their brief moment of success will inevitably be overcome by combined community  good will.
Together we can bring about a monument to our “togetherness”, not a tombstone to our “divisiveness”. New trees in their place symbolise new life, new hope, and the only decent way forward, side by side!
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

Araluen changes

Sir,– Like many in the art community, I am concerned with the change in direction of Araluen’s Gallery 3.
The catalogue of the first exhibition in the new gallery, Hidden Treasures,  states: “This new gallery has been specifically built to display the permanent collection through a grant made to the Friends of Araluen by the Commonwealth Government through the Federation Fund and with funding from the Northern Territory Government.”
The present change in direction was done without any consultation with the original stakeholders.
If we are going through a genuine  consultative process I call on the Director of Araluen to commit to restoring the original aim, and for no change to be made until the development plan is signed off by the Minister.
Mark Wilson
Alice Springs

Hampton won’t
listen on ANZAC

Sir,– ANZAC Hill High’s School Council’s requests for their school to be kept open as a separate campus after the merger with Alice Springs High School have been swept aside by the Education Department.
The so-called consultation process has been a farce.
Karl Hampton was invited to the School Council’s AGM and didn’t attend. Mr Hampton said on Tuesday, September 29 on ABC Radio that he didn’t want to get involved in ANZAC High School issues, and wanted to leave it to the Education Department to get on with the job of organising the merger.
Mr Hampton, no matter what pressure you may be under to take no role in this matter, you do have a responsibility to the people of the Centre to at least represent their views if you can’t actually be their advocate.
The council is asking the Education Minister to honour the guarantees it has previously given to the parents of the school.
Many of these people are solid Labor voters who believe in state education, and feel the actions of the government will reduce their choices, and create a more divided community.
The council’s petition is asking for ANZAC High to be kept open as a separate campus, and that Maths, English and special education be taught at both campuses.
I urge everyone who wants to support the continued success of ANZAC Hill High School and its role in the town to sign the petition, <>.
Kay Hartley
Alice Springs

Solar through roof

Sir,– Just over 100 Alice Springs residents have committed to install rooftop solar in the past 50 days during Alice Solar City’s 100 Days of Solar campaign – a result that has far exceeded expectations.
This is evidence of the keenness of Alice Springs residents to be more energy efficient, and having access to the financial incentive through Alice Solar City has made it all the more attractive.
However, we are now close to our limit of funding and Alice Solar City will no longer be accepting any new requests from householders.
Our original target was to have 225 of the smaller 1kW systems installed in homes, but due to the demand we allocated enough funding for 270 systems, around 90% of which are larger, 2kW systems.
The total amount of rooftop solar power installed will be in the order of 500kW, again above our original projections.
Already 103 systems have been installed and the remaining grants will be issued on a first come first served basis, meaning that the only households eligible to be issued with funding include households that:
• have received a quote from BP Solar and are yet to sign, or
• have formally requested, or are in the process of having an inspection and/or a quote being prepared.The remaining householders will go onto a waitlist.
There is support available through the Green Loans program and the Solar Credits scheme, and we can assist people with this information.
Brian Elmer
Alice Solar City

ADAM'S APPLE: Working to make dreams come true.

They say that a man’s soul can be seen most clearly through his dreams.
I hope they mean his aspirations rather than his nocturnal REM. sleep. If not, my soul is full of some pretty crazy stuff and may require some therapy. Does anyone else have recurring dreams about flying monkeys? No?
The dreams of humanity are perhaps the most powerful ideas the world has ever known. It is our dreams (and opposable thumbs) which separate us from other animals.
Humanity has done amazing things. We have walked on the moon. We have banished polio. We have invented and discovered and explored and none of it would have been possible without dreams.
Dreams are the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Without dreams all that remains is mediocre, mundane and middle of the road. It is our dreams that propel us to achieve great things and every person walking on the earth should be able to dream great things.
The problem with dreams is that for the most part they take a lot of work to transform into reality. The space program didn’t happen overnight and Dr King’s dream is still a work in progress.
Men and women have dedicated their entire lives to making dreams come true and some of them have done so in the knowledge that it may never happen.
I fear this notion of time is being lost. In a world that has moved on from the MTV generation into an even faster Twitter generation, people have lost the sense of time needed to fulfill dreams. They want their dreams now.
Jessica Watson is a 16 year old girl from Queensland.
She has a dream of being the youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world.
Now that’s a big dream. Personally, I can’t imagine dreaming of something so great.
The problem is that Jessica can’t sail that well. On the way from Brisbane to Sydney, before the start of her journey, Jessica accidentally hit another vessel.
Now I know accidents happen on the ocean and Jessica isn’t the first person to hit another vessel, but it is alarming to know that the vessel Jessica ran into was a 63,000 tonne Chinese cargo ship. Now for those of you who skipped maths class, 63,000 is bloody huge!
Of all the trials headed our intrepid Jessica’s way, surely a 63,000 tonne cargo ship should be easy enough to spot.
Jessica suffered a large amount of criticism due to the incident. But just like her boat on that tragic evening, Jessica’s course could not be altered.
As you read this, Jessica is pulling into Sydney Harbour to prepare for another attempt. A great example of persistence.
Jessica’s mother suggested that all the criticism was due to her gender. I don’t believe that to be true. I think Australian’s would love the notion of one of our gals taking on the world.
I believe the criticism is due to the fact that Jessica crashed into a bloody big boat a few hours into her journey.
Perhaps like many people today, Jessica saw how easy success comes to some. All you have to do is drop your knickers on reality television and “blamo” – you are famous. Sleep with Mel Gibson and you could be on the front page of every magazine in the newsagency.
The problem with wanting a dream now is that for the most part, people need to learn the skills required to achieve them.
We dream big here in Alice Springs. It’s a town where dreams can be fulfilled. There is however, a fair bit of hard work ahead of us. I just hope we don’t run into a bloody big cargo ship on the way.

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