November 5, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Wall of reports to keep out camels? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

There are more than a million feral camels in Central Australia, mainly in the NT and WA, yet there are no substantial measures on the ground to contain the pest that’s wreaking havoc on the environment, cattle station infrastructure and communities.
A spokesman for the NT Department of Primary Production says the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DK-CRC) has received $15m (the figure he gave) from the Federal Government to find a solution.
He says DK-CRC “are the people with the money.
“Everyone is waiting for them to come up with a plan.”
Earlier this year Federal authorities refused funding to DK-CRC for a second term and it will now be wound up on June 30 next year. (DK-CRC is a different entity from Desert Knowledge Australia.)
A bid is being made to create another research entity and to get public funding for it.
And there are efforts to help Ninti One Ltd, a company established by DK-CRC, to survive.
According to its website, Ninti One “holds intellectual property in trust for the [DK-CRC] partners, and carries out various services for DK-CRC”.
The directors of Ninti One Ltd are Paul Wand (DK-CRC chairman), Harold Furber (member), Jan Ferguson (managing director) and Ian McLay (business manager).
Camel control is one of the research projects on which the organisation has spent $93m, in cash and kind, during its first six year term of funding. [See report on May 28, 2009 at]
DK-CRC has published a massive 20 consultants’ reports dealing with the camel problem.
But it seems not a single shot has been fired in a culling program, nor a single camel mustered for sale, as a direct initiative by the organisation.
Ms Ferguson and Mr Wand had declined to give information to the Alice News, saying we could get details from the 2008/09 annual report, released last week, and no further comment would be made.
But Ms Ferguson this week offered to meet with the Alice News, an offer we will take up as soon as possible.
Key players in the camel industry have been ignored or bypassed by DK-CRC.
Pastoralist Gary Dann has a significant operation, at the Wamboden abattoir north of Alice Springs, slaughtering camels for human consumption.
He is negotiating with Muslim buyers in Australia, is following up leads for customers in China, and is an enthusiastic promoter of camel meat which is low in cholesterol.
An Imam will be visiting Mr Dann’s operation in the next few days to check its compliance with Muslim slaughtering practices.
He says DK-CRC has had little contact with him, and has “a one track mind” set on shooting camels and letting them rot in the bush.
Mr Dann says that would be a waste of a valuable resource.
Ian Conway at King’s Creek Station south-west of Alice Springs says he is mustering camels for Australian and overseas buyers practically all the time, but in much lower numbers than he would like to.
Nevertheless, he is likely to be Australia’s biggest exporter, but has had “no support, absolutely none” from DK-CRC.
“We have not been consulted,” says Mr Conway.
And Peter Seidel, who for years headed up the camel control and marketing initiatives in Central Australia, left town 12 months ago and “became a grey nomad”, as he put it this week.
Asked if Desert Knowledge had made him any offers or approached him for advice he said: “I have never been approached for my advice by Desert Knowledge, nor by governments.”
Ms Ferguson is nonetheless upbeat in the 2008/09 annual report: “Our research into feral camels directly influenced the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country Business Plan, resulting in a successful expression of interest for a $38 million feral camel population reduction project.”
Luke Bowen, Executive Director of the NT Cattlemen’s Association, has doubts about this statement. His understanding is that the Federal Government has kicked in $19m and the search is on for matching funds from the NT, SA, WA and Queensland.
“DK-CRC have not got the money yet,” says Mr Bowen.
He says between 1.2 and 1.5 million camels are roaming the outback, trampling down kilometres of fences, upending cattle watering troughs, invading communities where they drink from septic tanks, ripping airconditioners off the walls to get to water, and breaking taps.
“The fact that this an issue across states and land tenures makes it a complex and challenging task to have a coordinated and effective response,” he says.
Dozens of “snake oil salesmen” are roaming the bush, says Mr Bowen, spruiking supposed fortunes that can be made from camels.
Shooters can’t get sufficient ammunition in Alice Springs, and have bureaucratic hassles about the transport of ammunition.
Mr Bowen says the market – domestic and overseas – for camel meat and racing stock is limited, a few thousand head a year, but well below the natural increase in numbers.
Many of the camels are not suitable for slaughter and live export.
Meanwhile a “cast of thousands” at DK-CRC are trying to make a difference – “like the committee that designed the camel”.
As the DK-CRC website shows, local and interstate consultants, bureaucrats and academics are reporting on matters such as:-  
• Cross jurisdictional management of feral camels to protect Natural Resource Management and cultural values;
• a multiple criteria decision support framework;
• economics of camel control;
• chemical, biological and fertility control;
• legislation and regulations;
• key stakeholder perceptions;
• how to count camels;
• integrated national approach to feral camel management involving collaboration and promoting attitudinal changes ... and so on.
While these reports may well be precise, academically rigourous, peer reviewed and nicely presented, the question must be asked whether they are really necessary.
The main game, one would imagine, is not writing reports in an apparent reality vacuum, at a cost we must assume to have been $15m (the six projects cost $93m – see story this page).
It is going out there, shooting and mustering what Mr Bowen describes as one of the most destructive influences in the bush.
The elephant in the room blissfully ignored by DK-CRC is the paradox of massive unemployment in the bush, and the lack of people available for camel control.
“It’s a no brainer,” says Mr Dann. “It’s staring them in the face.”
It is, of course, lawful for Centrelink to stop the dole when people are offered employment – yet we could see no discussion in the DK-CRC reports of a meaningful application of that opportunity.
To be sure, there is plenty of lip service to Aboriginal sensitivities.
Glenn Edwards, Murray McGregor, Benxiang Zeng, Keith Saalfeld, Petronella Vaarzon-Morel and Michael Duffy say in one DK-CRC report: “Many Aboriginal people, particularly those who live in high density camel areas, see a need to harvest feral camels and control their impacts.
“[Some] have broad experience [but we need to] build on this knowledge.”
Clearly, that’s something that hasn’t happened yet but needs to be done in the future.
Say the authors: “Aboriginal people lack the necessary support and resources ... they lack detailed and accessible information about feral camel management issues, meaning they cannot make fully informed decisions about management options and ways to develop and implement management programs and activities.”
Does that tally with the high reputation of Aborigines as trackers, hunters and marksmen? Hardly.
The $15m which we need to assume DK-CRC paid for these reports would have been a good start in providing “necessary support and resources”.

Bush to banquet: seasons, not management, drive booms and bust. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Financial information is far from readily available from DK-CRC, although manger Jan Ferguson, after taking a “no comment” stance, has now offered to talk with the Alice Springs News.
But for the moment we’re limited to what’s published on the web and the announcement, early in the life of DK-CRC, that $93m would be spent on six projects, in cash and in kind.
That would put the average cost of each program at more than $15m. We asked some of the likely end users to comment on claims by DK-CRC about its accomplishments. 
Here is Ms Ferguson’s take on the bush foods industry: “Our ongoing development of the bush foods industry resulted in a noticeable improvement in dollar returns to on-the-ground producers; a better understanding of the value chain is finally creating greater equity and financial stability in what has historically been an industry characterised by booms and slumps.”
Frank Baarda, a geologist and the manager of the Yuendumu Mining Company, has been in the bush foods game for 30 years in the Warlpiri community.
He says booms and busts are part of the trade and entirely driven by seasonal conditions – no matter how clever the management may be.
The fluctuations are in the supply, not the demand.
In one year the company’s income from bush foods was $418.
Another year three tonnes of bush tomatoes were collected by local women, worth $20 a kilogram in today’s value, or $60,000 for the year.
Over 20 years five tonnes of bush tomatoes were collected – an average 250 kg a year.
The company had been collecting wattle and eucalyptus seeds for 30 years, averaging half a tonne a year, with a present day value of $25,000 at $50 a kilo.
Mr Baarda is philosophical about outside advice: “Whenever a wheel gets re-invented large numbers of people will put up their hands and claim they have invented it.
“The bush food industry is a $1m a year industry attached to which is a $5m a year research industry.”
Rod Horner, an experienced bush food trader, specialising in bush tomatoes and wattle seed, finds Ms Ferguson’s assertion amusing.
He says the past two years provided no “dollar returns” at all because of drought.
The year before and this year have been poor years.
Mr Horner says two good things came out of DK-CRC: one was the advice from Zora Singh, of the Curtin University in Perth, to heat-treat bush tomatoes.
It wasn’t exactly brain surgery: putting the fruit into a black plastic bag and leaving it in the sun for a couple of days will do the trick.
And Mr Horner says thoughts about the value chain in one DK-CRC paper, by Kim P. Bryceson, University of Queensland, are “very sensible”.
Ms Bryceson says inventory management would minimise fluctuating demand and supply flows; there should be not just bush harvesting but also cultivation of bush tomatoes (the Alice News understands plantations so far are doing poorly); internal industry competition is “fierce” when supply is poor; this and long-term infighting between people who have been involved for many years in the industry, creates a perception of a lack of professionalism which will increase the business risk of any of the bigger retail outlets “dealing with any of the plethora of small players that are now coming into the industry”.
Mr Horner says that may be an allusion to some buyers being very poor payers.
Ms Bryceson also says: “Consumers do not know what most of the current marketed bush food tastes like, so are not actively demanding the products.
“Since the value-added products using bush tomato and wattle seed are sold mainly under the categories of jams, chutneys, sauces, bakery ingredients and sprinkles (dukkah) in the shops – with varying percentages of the raw product included – the questions arise as to how consumers differentiate bush products from all the similar products on the shelves, and do they want to?
“A significant consumer survey across various retail outlets would provide a clear understanding of what consumers would like.”
Again, something the future may bring, but hasn’t yet.
Mr Horner says there has been concern in the industry that DK-CRC may set up co-operatives that would sell to major buyers direct (, March 22, 2007), bypassing local traders who have played a major part in keeping the industry together, and forming a vital link with the market.
Mr Horner says: “Everything in Aboriginal affairs is funded by the Government.
“The bush food industry began without Government money.
“Aboriginal people, with their hard work, knowledge and skills created this industry without outside support.
“A government funded cooperative would result in highly paid white people taking control of the industry.”
But he says the most salient point is the tiny volume of trade.
He says he agrees with Mr Baarda, a supplier to him for some three decades, who says the industry is lucky to return $100,000 a year to the “people on the ground”.
On the one-sixth of $93m formula, DK-CRC spent 150 times that on its research project.
Ms Ferguson touts a cattle management device developed by DK-CRC: “Our work on remote livestock management systems saw technology uptake by many pastoralists.
“The desert businesses producing the technology saw great leaps in sales, while those using it benefited from falls in operating costs.”
The Cattlemen’s Association chief Luke Bowen says so far as he knows, there are very few of these units in use.
Roy Chisholm at Napperby has one, essentially a cattle race that can weigh cattle, record the data, assess whether there has been a gain or a loss in weight, and through a set of remotely controlled gates, guide the beast into a paddock with appropriate grazing.
“I understand the units are not yet commercially available,” says Mr Bowen.
But he says the system has a “huge amount of potential to reduce operating costs substantially.
“What has been commercialized is remote sensing telemetry, checking water points from you homestead, using simple but effective communications technology. 
“That’s out there commercially and proving very effective,” says Mr Bowen. A number of units are in use.”
Another DK-CRC project is “VRUM technology” which Ms Ferguson says “was demonstrated at a series of Australian and international tourism conferences and seminars throughout the year as part of its rollout”.
VRUM analyses “travel patterns of 4WD tourists using new technology, such as the Visualising Relatively Unpredictable Movements information model and geographic information system.
“Maps produced by VRUM show where people moved from and to, including their modes of transport and travel paths.
“VRUM helps to deliver a system-wide understanding of 4WD travel in desert areas by describing the travellers, businesses, organisations and communities involved—where people go and why, how they plan their trip, and the importance of the desert as a destination for leisure-based trips.”
Another way of finding out, of course, would be to have a yarn with them.
Peter Grigg, General Manager of the major industry lobby Tourism Central Australia, has never heard of VRUM, notwithstanding its presumed $15m develoment price tag.

Pubs unite to bar troublemakers. By KIERAN FINNANE.

To date the “responsible drinking” ball has been in the licensees’  court.
Now, with 16 key licensed premises in Alice acting as one when it comes to barring irresponsible drinkers, there’s a ball in the drinkers’ court as well – if they don’t behave in an acceptable manner, they may lose access to not only their favourite watering hole, but to just about every watering hole in town. 
Says Chris Vaughan, licensee at Bojangles and chair of the Alice Springs Alcohol Accord:
“At the moment regulation and accountability in the industry have been entirely borne by the licensees.Underage drinkers caught on premises, for example, have been getting away with a slap on the wrist while the consequences for the licencees are huge.
“We have been held accountable at Bo’s for having underage people on the premises. In the past we were on a six month good behaviour bond and if that had been breached we could have faced loss of trade at instruction of the Licensing Commission.”
Under the accord the first tier of consequences for the underage or otherwise anti-social drinker is as it is now: an initial one-year barring, using the Trespass Act, from the premises where he or she was caught.
But for more serious issues there’s an escalation: a tier two barring, issued by the police, of three to six months from all premises signed up to the accord.
In a third tier the barring from all accord premises is for 12 months at a time and renewable, depending on the severity of the offence.
“Offences like glassing and drink-spiking could lead to lifetime bans.”
So they’re not allowing for the person to mend their ways?
“There’ll be a right of appeal but for serious offences the person would have to make a very good case,” says Mr Vaughan.
“We haven’t got a glassing problem here and we don’t want it. In Darwin a group of venues in the heart of the CBD has now been ordered by the Licensing Commission to serve drinks in plastic receptacles after a certain hour.
“They haven’t been able to manage the problem. The accord puts us on the front foot.”
The accord is “wooing” three more key venues to come on board, including the Gapview Hotel.
If they do, the troublesome drinker would have really nowhere left to go.
The venues to form the accord were Bo’s, the Casino, Town and Country, Gillen Club, and Memo Club.
They’ve since been joined by the Golf Club, All Seasons Oasis, Todd Tavern, Rock Bar, Elkira, Diplomat, Sporties, Aurora, Annie’s, the Prison Officers’ Club and Heavitree Gap Hotel.
The move began just a few months ago after a visit to the Casino by members of a football club which resulted in a staff member being assaulted.
Mr Vaughan says the Privacy Act prevented the Casino from sharing information with other venues about the club members’ behaviour.
The privacy issues could be overcome if premises entered into a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, which could provide a “neutral environment” for applying standardised rules and sanctions across venues.
Mr Vaughan had heard about a similar accord operating in Mt Isa and went over to see it in action for himself.
In 18 months it has resulted in only 10 barrings but a 45% reduction in anti-social behaviour in and around premises and a 50% reduction in assaults, says Mr Vaughan.
A culture of more responsible drinking is growing.
“And this has flow-on effects, less drink driving, less domestic violence,” says Mr Vaughan.
“We won’t be going out looking for people to bar, they’ll be identifying themselves by their behaviour.
“Our feeling is that it’s often transient people, tradespeople, miners, who aren’t known in town, who cause the trouble. And we don’t want them here unless they can behave themselves.”
Apart from underage drinking, the accord is targeting violence of any kind, vandalism, possession or dealing in illicit drugs, drink-spiking, and bomb threats.
It’s about preventing those behaviours, not just reacting to them, says Mr Vaughan: “This is an education campaign with a sting.
“If you don’t take notice of the message, there are consequences.
“If we bar no-one, our campaign will have done its job.”
The slogan for the media campaign and education kits will be, “You’re on your own”.
Mr Vaughan says after initial publicity, there has already been a noticeable shift in attitudes at Bo’s. He says a group of girls has told him that they used to consume “party drugs” before coming to the venue but they’ve stopped doing that for fear of consequences under the accord.
And his security staff are reporting that when they ask a person to leave, there’s not the resistance that there used to be. People leave quietly, saying  “I don’t want any trouble, I’m going”.
The Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Imparja Television are all partners in the accord.
Northern Territory Police and the Licensing Commission (southern region) have also been part of every meeting and have assisted the accord members with information.
The council and chamber have made a joint application to the Australian Government for a $230,000 grant from the national anti-binge drinking campaign fund.
The Office of the Chief Minister has committed $40,000 and Imparja $50,000 worth of production services. The funds will be put towards driving the education campaign.

Boss defends woman: why the bashing charges were dropped.

An Alice tourism operator who bashed a man who was breaking into the quarters of a female staff member says the Darwin based NT News has misreported the events, and had not even contacted him to get the facts right (denied by the NT News).
Matt Mulga, who owns Annie’s Backpackers in Traeger Avenue, says last year he struck a single blow to the head of a young man who was armed with a shovel and had used it to inflict facial injuries to the woman.
Mr Mulga says the terrified woman had rung the police three times and when they had not arrived she called him for help.
The report in the NT News, an “exclusive” by Nigel Adlam, quoted an unnamed person saying that the case against Mr Mulga had been dropped because “no jury would convict him”.
Mr Mulga says this is pure fabrication.
The facts were, he says, that police charged him with using “excessive force causing serious harm”.
However, according to Mr Mulga no corroborating evidence could be found because the man had “absconded” from the hospital before being examined.
The Alice News asked the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) why the case had been dropped. A spokesperson provided the following written statement: “After reviewing all the available evidence the DPP formed the view that there were no reasonable prospects of sustaining a conviction so the decision was made to withdraw the charges ”.
The NT News’ Mr Adlam says he phoned Mr Mulga at least a dozen times, and made an appointment with him which Mr Mulga did not keep.
“The story is absolutely true.
“The DPP have said officially ‘we had no reasonable chance of conviction’.”
The News put to Mr Adlam that this was due to want of corroborating evidence.
“I accept that that is quite possibly true,” said Mr Adlam.
“But what must be remembered is that Matt Mulga’s name was on the court list twice, which means the process had gone a long way down road, and then the case was dropped.”

A victory for beauty – but one last hurdle. By KIERAN FINNANE.

You’d think there’d be shouting from the rooftops – the Development Consent Authority has insisted that the Kmart mural be reinstated using the original sandstone and where necessary newly quarried local sandstone, considering this to be “in the public interest”.
Perhaps the subdued reaction is because there could yet be an appeal by the owners, Centro Properties Group.  They have 28 days from the date of the determination – October 21 – to lodge an appeal.
Centro’s Mario Boscaini would only say that a decision on whether to appeal is still being made “internally”.
In giving reasons for the determination the DCA  refers to “preserving vistas along Railway Terrace, noting that a large proportion of the wall is also visible from the Stuart Highway and Larapinta Drive which are major transport corridors for residents and visitors”.
The DCA also says the original mural “established a significant character” for the vicinity and was successful “in minimising expanses of blank walls of the building”.
The DCA notes that the applicant demonstrated that alternative materials could be used but considers that “these would not be consistent with the original theme of a local natural setting using local materials” to create “a significant and iconic feature”.
The DCA found that the applicant did not provide “any special circumstances” for not reinstating the original wall.

Aboriginal dollar more than a third of Centre’s economy. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The ‘Aboriginal dollar’ – expenditure by Aboriginal people, and related institutions and activities – contributes at least one third and probably more to the Central Australian economy, researchers from Charles Darwin University have found. 
There has not been a study of the Aboriginal impact in the local economy for 20 years.
The last one was conducted in 1989, commissioned by the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of Alice Springs.
The new study, by Rolf Gerritsen, Owen Stanley and Natalie Stoeckl, has collected data from the same broad geographical area as the 1989 study, going across the border into the Ngaanyatjara lands in Western Australia and the Pitjantjatjara and Yankutjatjara areas of South Australia.
Sources of data include the ABS 2006 Census, survey results from institutions in Alice Springs and from community organisations that purchase supplies from Alice Springs, and a survey of tourists.
The researchers argue that much better data collection needs to be undertaken, pointing to, for example, the NT Government’s 2008 report on the Alice Springs economy that failed to “disaggregate by Indigenous status” most of the economic/financial data.
“Whilst the report contains much good quality information about the Alice Springs economy overall, there is a paucity of relevant information about the regional Indigenous economy, or about the way in which the Indigenous economy interacts with the non-Indigenous economy.”
Their study seeks to fill the gap in knowledge by quantifying “expenditures within Alice Springs that are directly or indirectly associated with Aboriginal people, thereby providing important information about the economic ‘importance’ of Aborigines to Alice Springs”. 
The researchers conclude that “the Aboriginal proportion of the Alice Springs and Central Australian economy is both core to that economy and has grown slightly in relative measure over the past two decades”.
This growth has come in part from an  increase in real terms over the past two decades of resources expended by Aboriginal organisations, or organisations that focus upon delivering different kinds of services to Aborigines.
“Some of this increase is in amounts sufficient to offset the relative decline of the personal income of Aboriginal individuals”, resulting from welfare entitlements not keeping pace with wage and salary increases.
The 2008 economic study put the Gross Regional Product (GRP) at $1,478m. 
In the greater Central Australian economic region, GRP is $2,302m.
The incomes and expenditures of Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals working on Aboriginal communities amount to more than $150m per annum, approximately 6.5% of the regional economy.
The study estimates tourism expenditure that is Aboriginal inspired at some $80m. This brings the Aboriginal impact up to $230m, or 10% of the regional economy.
Following a survey of 23 Alice Springs-based Aboriginal organisations, their in-region expenditure was assessed conservatively at $100m. This brings the directly Aboriginal-derived proportion of regional GRP up to at least 14.3%.
Adding $17m in annual mining and park lease royalties, the Aboriginal proportion of the Central Australian economy rises to about 15%.
The researchers then allocate (as did the 1989 study) a pro rata proportion of total Northern Territory agency expenditures in Central Australia to Aboriginal purposes.
“We assume 40% of regional expenditure by the NT Government is for services to Aboriginal people. Again this is a very conservative estimate.
Although they form only 38% of the Central Australian population, almost certainly health and public safety expenditures for Aborigines are much higher than 40% of the total outlays in those areas.”
This adds at least a further $120m, possibly as much as $180m, or 5-10% to the Aboriginal impact in the regional economy.
 Commonwealth and NGO expenditures are excluded because accurate estimates for their outlays, separately from the NTG outlays, can’t be produced.
“Because of this exclusion, our estimates for governmental program expenditure are exceedingly conservative,” say the researchers.
Some organisations are also excluded. 
“For example, the Alice Springs-based Imparja is formally an Aboriginal owned and controlled TV station with a footprint over most of remote Australia. But it operates as if it were a franchise of Channel 9, so we have not included it here.
“Similarly we have excluded organisations such as the Centre for Appropriate Technology, the Institute for Aboriginal Development and Charles Darwin University (Alice Springs campus), where we could only make guesstimates of Aboriginal-derived expenditure.
“These latter three would probably add $10-15m to the Aboriginal-derived expenditure in Central Australia.
So it is clear that at least 30% of the GRP of Alice Springs and its region are derived from the existence of the Aboriginal people of the town and region. And in all probability the figure is closer to, if not greater than, 35%.”

Basic comfort, security plus three meals a day.

Aboriginal Hostels Ltd provides a working model for short-term supported accommodation in Alice, but at Ayipirinya Hostel on Larapinta Drive short-term often becomes long-term because there's nowhere else for people to go. Sid Ross Hostel on Gap Road is for medical patients in town for short-term treatment or else en route to Adelaide, while Topsy Smith Hostel is exclusively for renal patients and their carer.  
Part 2 of an overview of the much-in-demand facilities by KIERAN FINNANE (see Part 1 in last week's issue). 

Rooms in all three hostels are equipped with a toilet and shower as well as a sink and a small fridge. Residents can make a cuppa but there's no cooking allowed inside.
In the new wing at Ayipirinya, built just last year, there are three rooms with disability access – wider doorways and bigger bathrooms with doors that can be lifted out if a person needs assistance. There are two similar rooms at Sid Ross. 
Menus for the meals provided in the dining-room are vetted by a dietician and changed once a month.
At Topsy Smith meals cater specifically for renal patients, while in the other hostels they are suitable for diabetics.
"The majority of our clients are diabetic or on the verge of becoming so," says Jean Ah Chee, Regional Manager for the last eight years with Aboriginal Hostels Ltd.
In the grounds at Ayipirinya there's a firepit – "fenced off so the kids don't get burnt" – which gets used quite often to cook up kangaroo.
A swimming pool was put in last year but a "no school, no pool" policy applies.
Similarly the games room, equipped with a few pinball machines, is kept locked in school hours.
When children arrive with their families at the hostel for a long-term stay, staff advise local school liaison officers who follow up. 
A recreation room, with lounge and flatscreen TV,  is also kept locked, but is opened on demand – a security measure, "so we know who's in here", says manager Aaron Perkins-Kemp-Berger. Locking the room became necessary after a brand new leather lounge was ripped to shreds. 
Most of the longer-term residents have their own TVs in their rooms – the recreation room is used mainly by the short-term residents.
Relative to hostels in other parts of Australia, often in very old buildings, Ms Ah Chee describes the Alice hostels as "lucky".
The Sid Ross Hostel is 10 years old and is equipped with a lift – the only lift in an Aboriginal Hostels facility in the country. Residents are taught how to use it safely.
Topsy Smith Hostel was redeveloped just two years ago.
The facilities at Aypirinya, formerly the Stuart Caravan Park, are "adequate", says Ms Ah Chee.
"We would like to do a major upgrade, but there's not that type of money available. The focus at the moment is on the provision of new hostels to respond to the need that is out there."
Aboriginal Hostels does not attempt to organise social or occupational activities.
Some church groups conduct singalongs and prayer meetings, popular with the older residents, says Ms Ah Chee.
The organisation, Indigenous Community Volunteers, has provided arts activities at Topsy Smith Hostel and are trying to source volunteers to provide activities at Ayipirinya.
"One of our residents at Ayipirinya is a painter, another works in basket-weaving and pottery, many of them are arts-focussed."
Relationships with the neighbours are good, says Ms Ah Chee, citing as evidence that when the new wing at Ayipirinya was built, there was not one letter of objection to the Development Consent Authority.
"If any issues arise at any of the hostels, they are dealt with straight away by staff who are there 24/7.
"Residents are there mainly because they want a safe place to live and they are pretty quiet themselves."
At Sid Ross where people come to access medical services, they spend a good part of their days at the hospital.
Because of its location, opposite Traeger Park, the hostel can experience a bit of "humbug" during the football season.
Common sense solved one the problems – a water tap was installed outside the fence "for people in the creek to use".
Entrances to all three hostels close at 10 pm.
Inside residents are free to socialise as they wish. Some of them will sit outside and talk with one another, but most are getting on in years, and some are not very well so people tend to go to bed early, says Ms Ah Chee.
She says there were some objections from residents of the wider Eastside area to the construction of the Topsy Smith Hostel, but the immediate neighbours wrote letters of support.
"They tell us that they love our residents, who always give them a happy good morning," says Ms Ah Chee.

Lessons for Alice found in Singapore. By DOMENICO PECORARI.

It is said that you need to leave a place to see it in its true light and that, from that distant perspective, its best and worst features are brought into sharp focus.
Whilst staying with a long-time friend in Singapore recently, I saw a sharp-edged contrast between our two countries and experienced the distinctly uneasy feeling that I had indeed landed in one of the newest “first world” nations, while my own country, together with much of Europe and the United States, was on a slow and long descent towards “third world” status.
I first visited Singapore in 1976 and remember well my then new-found friend, Joe, taking me to see one of the last remaining “kampongs” left in Singapore, a group of village dwellings located near the newly-built Changi Airport.  
This interesting example of an earlier Singapore was scheduled to be razed to the ground by Lee Kuan Yew, in his government’s drive to house all Singaporeans in high-rise apartments buildings.   Some of these new 15 and 20-storey housing complexes were in the process of being built nearby, serviced by new six-lane highways which to me, at the time, seemed over-designed for the sparcely spread out developments in the area.
My friend explained the government’s system: how every worker paid a portion of their earnings into a centralised housing fund from which the government built the apartment buildings.  Depending upon their level of earnings and savings, each Singaporean was then entitled to a home, from a five-room apartment down to a one-room “bed-sit”, as was the case with Joe, who was single and could only find casual work.
My friend’s apartment was certainly very basic: a single living and sleeping room, with a kitchen alcove to one side, and a small bathroom.  
His unit was un-painted and had no floor-coverings. The kitchen comprised a simple concrete benchtop, for cooking equipment, and a small basin/sink for washing up.  The un-tiled bathroom had just a simple tap in the wall and showering involved filling a large bucket with cold water and pouring the water over yourself with a small plastic scoop.  A squat-style toilet in the corner of the bathroom also served as a floor waste for showering and the washing of clothes.  
This spartan but affordable unit was deemed habitable by the Singaporean government as it provided for the most basic of human needs: shelter and good sanitation.  It was expected that the owners would carry out upgrades to their units as opportunities and finances allowed.
Joe’s story since that time seems to mirror the progress that is evident throughout his country.  His apartment now boasts tiled flooring and is painted throughout.  
His bathroom is also tiled extensively and fitted out with a western-style toilet, a hand basin and shower fittings.  It even has a hot-water unit.  
He has fully furnished the place with all the trappings of modern life: an entertainment unit complete with a flat screen television and sound system.  
Very flash, I thought, as indeed is most of present-day Singapore.  Gone is the smelly open drain system which I remembered lined most of the streets back in 1976 and which provided a perfect breeding place for the largest cockroaches I had ever seen.  
The modern Singapore is clean to the extreme.  Its sparkling new mass-transit (Metro) system is without doubt one of the most modern in the world, demonstratesing the Singaporean creed: build it well, build it to last.
I also saw how the government has recently begun upgrading the earlier-built apartment blocks by installing additional lifts and replacing the older lifts, which stopped at every third floor, with lifts which stop at all floors.  
The housing blocks themselves, arranged in a military-style layout surrounded by major roads, are now being grouped into smaller “neighborhoods”, each with their own distinctively-designed fencing, gateways and covered ways between the buildings.  
The grounds between the buildings are being fitted out with children’s playgrounds and shady sitting areas where Singaporeans can meet with friends amidst lush, green landscaping.
There’s an overwhelming sense that the place has been developing to some kind of “plan”, that the last few decades of development has been the result of a drive to improve Singaporean society through improving the lives of its citizens, by providing work for all and by giving everyone the opportunity to improve their lives.  
It appeared to me, from the younger Singaporeans I met, that education is highly valued by them, as they study hard to ensure their place in a highly competitive environment.
There is very little crime in the country, I was told, and anti-social behavior is practically non-existent.  When I inadvertantly left a small bag in the boot of a taxi, the driver personally returned the bag to my friend’s home as soon as he noticed it.
As a country which has no natural resources to export, Singapore has had to carve out its place in the world, defining its role in the region by providing a highly efficient hub for trade and financial services in the international market.
Today, its five million people enjoy the fifth highest standard of living in the world, on the basis of GDP per capita.
There are lessons in all this for us, I feel.
It wasn’t long after arriving in Alice Springs, in 1984, whilst enjoying the sunset from atop Anzac Hill, that I first came to see this town as an island – an island surrounded by seas of sand.  
But, unlike Singapore, our island-town does not seem to have any idea of where it is headed.  I believe we still have no real vision of where we want The Alice to be in 100 or 150 years.  
Just what ARE the things about this place we want to safeguard for the benefit of future generations?  
I’ve often wondered how we can possibly plan an “Alice in Ten”, a “Territory 2030”, when we haven’t yet thought about our town’s long-term future in a changing world.
We ought to be defining where we want and, increasingly, need for The Alice to be in a hundred years time, if we are to plot the “roadmap” by which we might get there.  With such a plan, we would then be able to judge development proposals not only for their short-term benefits, but for the role they play in fulfilling a shared goal.  
Without such a plan, we will just continue to grow in our historically haphazard way, led by the opportunistic developer with his tantilising “bucket of money”.
The people who can help define that vision are all here in our little town, each with their area of expertise, be it the natural environment, energy and water conservation, the arts or social services.  We know these people: they are Alice born or else long-time residents, both Indigenous and of immigrant background, but each with an intimate connection with the history and present-day conditions of this town and region.  
Sadly, however, these very people are themselves “islands”, their individual knowledge bases unconnected and left unshared.  
More than ever, their ideas need to be brought together, discussed and prioritised to form a viable direction for the sustainable development of our unique and iconic town.

Howling monsters of metal. GIG REVIEW by BEN EVERETT.

The night before Halloween, at Todd Tavern, a brutal summoning of musical talent took shape. All who attended will not forget the echoing siren screams of White Witch, the trash-core destruction of Uncreation and of course the vile Miazma.
As the gig was at a licensed venue and incorrectly advertised, it diminished the normal diabolic pit into a 10-man creator. 
Although the turnout wasn’t as good as past gigs, each metal-head gave their all and created yet another memorable night for the Alice Springs metal scene.
First to enter the dark domain of Todd Tavern with the intent of blowing minds was Here Among Dead. Although they were missing the band’s vocalist, the lead guitarist took up the mic as well as other special guests taking to the stage from the crowd.
The emerging White Witch then showed the metal hungry horde how much they put it out there, throwing out their amazing guitar licks and earth shattering solos. White Witch definitely opened to an eager audience.
Uncreation was another one of the night’s surprise pleasers.  One of the original Alice metal bands of our time has been reformed and reborn into a machine gun riff, a barrage of triggered beat and howling monster of metal. 
With a taste of old school grunge and almost punk vocals, Uncreation seemed to manifest into what may be the promising start of a new band on the scene.
Town favourite Miazma hastily took the stage with a corpse-painted Jackson Smith breathing words of anguish into the crowd – a new track of death metal and pitching out old favourites such as Death Neck Snap and Fabians’ Blade.
Miazma’s crowd seemed to be smaller than usual. Bass guitarist Domenic Golotta agreed: “The younger crowd brings more funding and more chaos into gigs, but the pit was a little more brutal than normal due to the older crowds.”
The night ended with everyone having sore necks and ruined voice boxes – I believe the Halloween spirits would be pleased.

Tossing the fish to the clapping seals. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Every 10 years or so an art and music movement occurs, and as its predecessor becomes ‘bled in’ and accepted by mainstream audiences, the new revolution rises.
Generally despising the movement before, it’s what you see the kids turning on to.
Try and imagine a double helix, one movement on the decline, another on the way up. 
A ‘tic toc’ process kicks off, waiting for the next underground wave to roll in.
It’s a floating era that can regurgitate many musical acts from an infinite sea of possibilities and paths. In itself this is a movement. 
Saturday night, KI warehouse will see the long-awaited album launch of one of Alice’s home-grown gems, a paradigm of musical life atop this instrumental pop-cultural  purgatory plateau,  Dr Strangeways. 
A melting pot, bubbling with the infusions of many sub, sub, subbity-sub genres of music, has finally tossed the fish to the clapping seals.
I can remember when you were Bloom Boogie on The Lane rooftop fellas, and have heard the cool opening melody to ‘Racehorse’ come across via speaker for a few Halloweens now.
But arrived the album has, landed it has, wrapped up in a cool cover with a psychotic looking Willy Wonka-like character on it, Dr Strangeways’ Strange New World is now available for you to own, to touch, to listen to, to burn, to tell your friends interstate that you know these guys. To listen to those same friends say ‘Yeah OK’. 
Now down to the business of tracheotomy selection. 
The album opens with ‘Space Clown’, bold and proud, brass section and didgeridoo going toe to toe with a lyrical rundown of who and what’s to come.
The exploitation of people’s unrelenting dependency on telecommunications is brought cleverly to life through lyric and note in ‘locked in’.
‘Look Outside’ has the group singing its way through some quirky wordplay, denoting the laid back attitude and approach adopted by born Territorians. 
This also comes to the surface with MC Skank’s vocals on the freshly polished version of ‘Racehorse’, proving beyond any body of doubt that the NT accent coexists well with a Hip Hop tune.
The album also takes a turn for the serious as ‘Oh Lady’ touches on issues close to home such as the encroachment of big industry life on Central Australian culture. 
Cabaret fans will be happy to know that the carnival-like tune that you heard cannon-balling festival proceedings was none other than track 10,  ‘Russian Mickey Mouse’.  It’s a dance of keys, a waltz of electrified strings and brass that beads sweat, a highlight of musical craftsmanship demonstrating a temperance of instruments relating to each other. 
Towards the end of the track there’s this point where the keyboard sounds like it’s being drowned, and with its dying breath it screams out its last words. Just like when a flower is at its most beautiful just before it dies, a last little explosion of colour and life, this is a worthy climax for the patience shown in constructing this album.

LETTERS: Sightlines: What is the vision of the whole?

Sir,– There are good reasons for the Town Council and NT Government to encourage quality developments that will grow a residential population within the CBD but such outcomes can be achieved within the existing height limits.
By reviewing “individual projects on their merits”, decision makers will relinquish their authority to developers – after all who is going to enter the quagmire of an aesthetics debate? Projects will be rubber-stamped and we will make our own irreversible mistakes instead of learning from the experience elsewhere that tall buildings tend to be long-lived.
Perhaps the near absence of this planning control explains the ad hoc conglomeration of high rises in Darwin. Did the government have some grand plan to guide high-rise development in Darwin?
Think beyond individual buildings – what is the vision of the whole?
Will our own version of ‘Rafferty’s Rules’ attract quality developers who can be confident that their own development won’t be compromised in time by bigger and less worthy structures across the road?
In simple terms, a three storey model providing retail on the street, offices above and accommodation on the top with open air living spaces on the roof and a solar array can be built within current limits.
On the Melanka site, existing height limits allow for a 14 metre high development. Just over a kilometre away, developers who believe that bigger profits are beautiful can build up to 20 metres in the Mt John tourism precinct. Most landowners have failed to take advantage of the existing 14 metre limit (originally 12 metres) and within Mt John not a single development has been constructed to 20 metres!
There may well be a good argument for allowing much bigger buildings on the AZRI block south of the gap where a future satellite development is planned. This land is topographically flat and less vulnerable to flooding and those who believe their creativity is being stifled in town can show us the architectural wonders we’ve been missing out on.
Much of the CBD is ‘under-developed’ and some single storey structures have been built with foundations designed to carry extra levels. Special incentives could be offered to owners to encourage both the conversion of low occupancy upper level offices to high demand residential uses and the completion of existing buildings by adding upper levels. This could be actioned very quickly and would provide a dispersed and useful approach to increasing residential living in the CBD. 
Can a rating scheme be applied to the CBD that includes car-parking waivers and other concessions for upper level residential conversions?
Perhaps the CBD should be rated on the basis of ICV instead of the current UCV system or a mixture of both. An improved capital value system might better reward the community through increased rates when developers want to increase building heights to maximise profits.
Such a system could take pressure off unique heritage buildings that contribute to the richness and character of the streetscape and currently pay the same rates as a three storey office block down the road.
If a politician (the Minister) is going to decide each high rise project on its merits, then the pressure on single storey heritage properties will actually increase and some of the differences between Alice Springs and the historically barren streetscapes of Darwin’s CBD will blur even further.
Mike Gillam
Alice Springs

Sir,– Regarding the article about Tassie Goodluck in last week’s paper, I knew and worked with Tassie for many years and we spoke about his pet project, The Rainbow Valley, many times. All he wanted was to preserve that stretch of land and possibly open it up as a tourist venture.
Tassie Goodluck knew the Territory like the back of his hand and was one of the true conservationists way before anyone even knew what it meant to be one. It is absolutely wrong to accuse Tassie of trying to exploit the country he loved dearly.
I also knew Noel Fullerton before the camel farm days when he still was selling veggies at the railway siding in The Alice.
 So do the right thing and tap Noel on the shoulder and tell him Tassie was there before him. There is not much we can do for Tassie Goodluck now but uphold his integrity.
Joe Spitzer
Wels, Austria

Murals will go

Sir,– Regarding Jane Clark’s letter last week, ‘ASHS murals to go?’, the School Council has agreed that the murals at Alice Springs High School will be painted over as part of the facelift for the new Centralian Middle School.  The murals are  now 25 years old, faded, chipped and beyond repair.
The murals have all been preserved for posterity, on film. The photographs, along with the names of the students and teachers involved will be acknowledged on the Centralian Middle School’s website as part of the history link.
Those involved in their creation who are still in town are being encouraged to come along to the ASHS farewell ceremony and have their photos taken and their contribution acknowledged as part of the culminating activities.
Thelma Perso
Department of Education and Training
Historic photo
gets response

Sir,– Your article, ‘Little things of everyday life’ (Thursday, October 15), about the Central Australian Historical Images data base got some results. I got a telephone call on the Friday morning about some photographs that we could check out and include what we wanted to. We did that on the weekend and I am now scanning some of those photographs.
I also got a call from Ivan Hayes (son of Trudy Hayes) to say he is the boy in the foreground of the billy cart races.
The photograph was taken about 1956.   
Barry Allwright
Alice Springs

Independent inquiry into child protection needed

Sir,– The capacity of the Child Protection Minister to properly manage her portfolio continues to be of serious concern. Malarndirri McCarthy claimed [last Wednesday] the Inquiry by Children’s Commissioner Howard Bath would “provide a report on recent issues”.
But on ABC Radio the next day, Dr Bath said the inquiry’s terms of reference hadn’t been worked out yet.
It is also noteworthy that Dr Bath was unaware how many recommendations from his 2007 inquiry had been implemented, saying only that he believed the Government had acted on a “majority” of the 30 recommendations he delivered.
This gets to the core of why an Independent inquiry, conducted at arms length of Government, is essential.
That all recommendations from the Bath Report, which was handed down almost two years ago, have not been fully implemented is surprising, given assurances by the former Minister Marion Scrymgour in the 2008 Estimates Committee hearings.
In answer to the question, “Have all of the recommendations been implemented?” Ms Scrymgour replied. “As far as I know, yes … “
I am stunned at Gerry Wood’s announcement on radio last Thursday that he would support the Children’s Commissioner’s review in favour of an Independent inquiry into child protection.
The welfare of Territory children is a matter of grave concern and all Members of Parliament have a responsibility to ensure that the system protects children.
For anyone to assert that the system and the Minster are doing well beggars belief.
We will nevertheless write to Gerry Wood and urge him to change his mind.
Jodeen Carney
Shadow Child Protection Minister

Broken promise

Sir,– Minister Jenny Macklin has once again broken a clear promise given to Aboriginal people in the NT. On many occasions she gave her word that the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) would be re-instated in the October sittings of parliament this year.
Minister Macklin also gave this promise to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, following a complaint by many of us from ‘Prescribed Areas’.
The Minister is claiming that the Intervention can be classified as a series of “special measures” under the RDA, operating “for the benefit” of Aboriginal people.
How would the Minister like it if someone took her house, quarantined her money, controlled where she shopped, ate and slept, and then told her it was all for her benefit?
The Minister will claim that her department has “consulted” with Aboriginal people, that we have somehow given consent to these laws.
But the consultation process was a sham from the beginning. Public servants mostly patronised communities with a government story about how the Intervention is working.
The “Future Directions for the NTER” document that consultations are based on gave no real choice to Aboriginal people about the Intervention. Leaked documents from the Minister’s office prove that we were never consulted about compulsory acquisition of our land under the five-year lease, because the government knew we would not consent.
We were asked which brand of compulsory Income Management we would like, what kind of alcohol controls or police powers. But communities have said many times we want an end to all racist control measures.
We want the resources wasted on “Intervention” to go directly to communities to meet our real social needs.
The Minister will not get away with this. The idea that taking Aboriginal land, housing and basic human rights away “for our benefit” is the same paternalism that created the Stolen Generations.
Richard Downs, Ampilatwatja. Barbara Shaw,  Mt Nancy Town Camp and 24 others.

Cast off the shackles

Sir,– This is an open email  to Richard Downs regarding the Walk Off [at Ampilatwatja].
Richard, we have one very simple equation here. One hundred (100) people = $ 25,000 per week!
Richard, with this income you do not need to go, or be led down, the well trodden path of collective victimhood.!!!!
Since the Walk Off, how many hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone into your Community?
Richard, with this guaranteed income you don’t need to go begging and biting whitefellas !!!! 
We have been stereotyped as victims ( Jacky Jacky? ) for too long. For the sake of our great, great, great grandchildren, MAKE a STAND !!!!
Cast off the shackles !!!!
Get rid of the Aboriginal Victim Industry people and their Agendas and Mentality. And the future they offer.
Richard, you have the opportunity to, QUANTUM LEAP !!!! To make the future, make a statement to the whole world and on behalf of the Aboriginal and Islander people of Australia!!!!
Richard Brother, I ask you to consider this direction and discuss it with your People.
We are on the same journey and in the same direction. Only different roads.
Arthur Bell
Brisbane, Qld.

Solar help

Sir,– Alice Solar City’s target of installing 270 systems has now been achieved and we will no longer be issuing solar grants for households.  Funding for commercial systems is also close to being finished.
We understand that this has left a lot of people disappointed, so Alice Solar City is looking to facilitate other mechanisms to assist households to install solar power, depending on the level of demand.
We currently have just shy of 200 people who have expressed their interest to still install solar. The more people we have on this list, the better case we can build to find another way to assist other householders to go solar.
Further, there is also support available through the Green Loans program and the Solar Credits scheme, and we can assist people with information about these programs.
Call 8950 4350 or visiting the Smart Living Centre at 82 Todd Street.
Brian Elmer
General Manager
Alice Solar City

ADAM'S APPLE: Kick and punch show.

It was one of those moments in your life that seems more vivid in the imagination than it probably has the right to be. I remember it was a Tuesday evening and I was 10.
I remember that although for years my father had railed against the need for such a contraption in our home, he still looked proud as punch when he walked in through the front door holding the box.
Many of a generation below me would wonder what kind of a world existed just a few short years before their birth, knowing that I was 10 when my father brought home the family’s first Video Cassette Recorder.
It was a wonderful evening. The black and brown box was opened in front of the whole family and like an object of curious religiosity the VCR was lifted from its container.
It looked so modern. It was jet black and the buttons were flush. There was a screen next to the video letter box which once plugged in flashed green. Looking back on that evening we must have resembled the first people to see fire. A cacophony of oohs and aahs. It all seems so primitive now in the days of television hard drives and Blu Ray discs. Back when I was seven, disc was spelled with a k.
My father spent the best part of half an hour plugging it all into the wall and the television. He then spent the best part of an hour trying to tune it so that we could still watch television.
It was not only our first VCR but it was also our first remote control. Dad sat us all down and in one of the most paternal of moments tried to explain to my mother and me how the remote worked.
But the best was yet to come. A VCR needs a video in order to be fully functional. Otherwise it is just a really expensive clock. So Dad and I made our first trip as a family to the local video store.
I had been to the video shop before. Many of my friends had VCRs and I had tagged along on occasion. On other occasions a friend or two and I would go and pretend to be looking for a video all the while trying to sneak a peek at the “Electric Blue” adult video covers.
But this was going to be a momentous occasion. What would be the first video hired to play on our new VCR?
After some ardent discussion it was decided that The Karate Kid was an excellent choice.
The whole night was an event. Mum made popcorn and for the first time in my lounge room I got to watch the previews. I still get a bit disappointed when the previews end.
For the next six months, because of that night, I wanted to be the Karate Kid. I wished I had my own Mr Myagi. I even convinced Mum to buy me a bonsai tree. I started karate classes at the local community centre and quickly became a green belt.
But like many 10 year olds, once the novelty wore off I stopped. I still have a love for martial arts films though. From the beautiful epics like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to the schlocky, poorly dubbed Honk Kong trash, I love a good kick and punch show.
How exciting it is then to have the opportunity for someone to make a truly Centralian martial arts film.
The story of Juliana, the 20 year old tourist who fought off her attackers with her black belt level karate skills is surely screaming for a screen adaptation. Imagine it? A young pretty girl with lethal skills fights off a gang of bag snatchers. Get the right people on the job and I can see Oscar written all over it!

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