ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
November 19, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Flood warning prone to failure. By KIERAN
The “modern technology” used to predict flooding in Alice Springs, that
Minister for Central Australia and Environment Minister Karl Hampton
seems happy to rely upon, is vulnerable to technical failure.
In response to the Alice News article of October 29 on the threat to
the town of a Q100 (a one in 100 year flood), Mr Hampton assured us
that “effective flood mitigation measures are already in place”,
including “the use of modern technology by flood forecasters”.
The Alice News has learned from a well-informed source, speaking to us
on the condition that they not be named, that flood forecasting
warnings depend on text messages going to the duty officer’s mobile.
We asked the Environment Department (NRETAS) what happens if there is a
delay in the text message going through, as can commonly happen and is
more likely when there are thunderstorms around.
A spokesperson says “a range of communication methods, including
text messaging and at some sites voice messaging are utilised to inform
the NRETAS flood forecast duty officer”.
The News understands that the voice message back up is only on the
river gauge at Wigley Gorge and that “100% redundancy” is needed to
ensure an accurate warning system – meaning every link in the chain has
to be duplicated.
There are only three river gauges – one at Wigley Gorge, another at The
Dipper on Charles Creek and one in the Todd opposite Anzac Hill.
In a storm in January 2007 a leaking roof in the NRETAS office shorted
the power supply to the warning system’s two computers, with the
consequence that no message was delivered to the duty officer.
A few hours later the Bureau of Meteorology phoned the duty officer
advising of significant rainfall at Bond Springs.
The river was flowing strongly and the police had closed the causeways
long before the duty officer reached the office and found that the
whole system was down.
After the system had been reset and the computer rebooted it was
discovered that two of the river gauges were not working. An officer
had to be sent to Wigley Gorge to send in manual readings by mobile
After this incident equipment in the NRETAS office was lifted off the
floor and shields were put over the powerpoints.
The Darwin office was set up to also send warnings for the Todd
Because it takes only 20 minutes for a large flow to travel from Wigley
Gorge to town, rain gauges (as opposed to river gauges) are critical in
predicting major floods.
There are five in the catchments for the Todd and Charles, one of them
at Wigley Gorge.
There is a long history of failure of rain gauges during rainfall
events, including the major flood events of 1983 and 1988.
Because of this the catchment’s behaviour in heavy rainfall events is
not well understood and modelling of major floods from these events is
When there is general steady rain and minor flows begin there is time
for the necessary precautions to be taken.
The town’s readiness to cope will be sorely tested if there is an
intense downpour as was experienced on November 2 at Uluru, with more
than 60mm of rain dumped by a storm in a little over an hour, including
30mm in just 20 minutes.
This will be even more the case if heavy rain such as that recorded at
Numery Station in January 2007 fell in the Todd catchment. On January
18 that year 246mm of rain – nearly 10 inches, more than the area’s
annual average – fell on Numery, 215mm of it in the six hours from 3pm.
(See Alice News, August 9, 2007.)
There are other weak links in the system: with the warning going from
the radio on the gauge in the catchment to a relay station at West Gap
then to the NRETAS office, all it would take for that chain to be
broken is a lightning strike in the wrong place.
On a previous occasion a Telstra repeater went down and did not relay
an alarm to the duty officer’s mobile.
ED – Mr Hampton was invited to comment on a draft. No comment had been
received prior to going to press.
Shock report: Macklin bails out
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, will bail out the
Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), revealed in a
breaking story by the Alice Springs News online edition on Thursday
last week to be in serious financial difficulties.
CAAMA receives significant government funding and is the majority
shareholder of Imparja Television.
A report by its auditors obtained by the Alice Springs News suggested
“uncertainty as to whether the organisation can continue to operate”.
Several reliable sources have told us the situation involves the
activities of Owen Cole, the disgraced former CEO of CAAMA.
Mr Cole stepped down as CEO when he was facing court charges over
his role in the notorious 2007 football grand final brawl.
He was later convicted of aggravated assault.
Mr Cole’s wife, Jennifer Howard, took over the reins of CAAMA.
Mr Cole, the sources say, was awarded a consultancy to do with the
former Imparja building in Leichhardt Terrace (pictured). The
costs of the project, according to the sources, are a major part of
CAAMA’s problems, and they say Mr Cole is getting an annual fee in the
vicinity of $100,000.
Ms Howard will neither confirm nor deny that Mr Cole is being retained
by CAAMA as a consultant.
But following the disclosures by the News last Thursday she made a
public statement saying: “The future is looking bright for the
organisation following an assurance of funding from [Ms Macklin] to
refurbish the old Imparja building.”
The News contacted Ms Macklin, Arts Minister Peter Garrett (providing
ongoing funding to CAAMA), Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and
MHR for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon.
We put to them that CAAMA has significant assets – including its share
in Imparja – and asked why should they be bailed out by the taxpayer.
Why are they not obliged to operate like most businesses, namely
without constant government support?
What is the community benefit flowing from the government funding for
We also suggested that wile there is desperate need for homes for peole
in The Centre, CAAMA is producing office space of which there is a glut
at the moment.
A spokesperson for Ms Macklin replied: “The Central Australian
Aboriginal Media Association will receive $636,000 under the
Aboriginals Benefit Account to renovate CAAMA’s premises at 12-14
Leichhardt Terrace, Alice Springs.
“This funding will enable CAAMA to renovate a commercial property for
lease and provide an income stream that will be invested back into
providing media services for Aboriginal people.
“This meets with the Major Economic Program funding category of the ABA
Staff for all four ministers said they would provide responses, but
none were to hand before the closing of this edition.
We will report on the issues, as information comes to hand, in our
online edition <www.alicespringsnews.com.au>.
The auditor’s report dated September 30, 2009, by Bill McAinsh, a
partner of the Deloitte accountancy firm in Alice Springs, paints a
bleak picture of CAAMA’s state of affairs and its business practices.
Mr McAinsh says in part: “The most serious matter we have to report is
the financial difficulties of the organisation, as evidenced by the
loss for the year and the excess of current liabilities over current
assets. There is uncertainty as to whether the organisation can
continue to operate.
“If the organisation does become insolvent and [management] allow the
organisation to continue to operate when it is insolvent, they could be
held to be personally liable for the debts of the organisation.
“At balance date, the ICC [Indigenous Coordination Centre] bank account
balance was inadequate to complete or refund all unexpended ICC grants,
including brought forward surpluses and the overall bank balances were
NOT adequate to refund all unexpended grants.
“At balance date the entity had sufficient funds to meet its tax
obligations if, and only if, tax obligations are paid before other
“Purchase Orders: Many of the items we selected for expense testing had
no evidence that a purchase order was used.
“The matters raised in this report are only those which came to our
attention during the course of our audit and are not necessarily a
comprehensive statement of all weaknesses that exist or all
improvements that might be made.”
The News spoke to Ms Howard early on Thursday, asking for an interview
about CAAMA’s financial affairs.
We emailed the following questions to Ms Howard later that day:-
• What will you be doing?
• What was the value of the old Imparja building before it was
• What is it worth now?
• Does Owen Cole have a consultancy contract with CAAMA?
• If so, for what purpose?
• If so, how much is he being paid?
• What is the current shareholding by CAAMA in Imparja?
• Will it be necessary to sell the TV license to pay CAAMA’s debts?
• How much do they amount to?
Ms Howard did not respond but in her statement to other media she
claimed the auditor’s letter obtained by the News was “outdated by
In fact the letter was one month and 12 days old.
She hit out at the Alice News via CAAMA radio, saying “Aboriginal money
is vital to the economy of Alice Springs and [I am] sure that this
particular paper has received its fair share of this in advertising
CAAMA did not offer a right of reply to the Alice News.
Ms Howard’s apparent assertion that a newspaper’s editorial performance
should be governed by considerations of advertising revenue – the most
serious corruption of the journalistic code of ethics – would suggest
she is not a fit and proper person to head up a media organisation.
Playing the race card, she said: “I don’t know what their problem is.
It appears that whenever any local Aboriginal organization shows any
hint of trouble, this particular paper is quick to try and tear them
Ms Howard falsely identified the News’ interest in reporting facts
about CAAMA’s financial affairs, as to do with an interest in
Our interest across the board is in the wise expenditure of public
money, and accountability for achievements as a result of that
Unlike CAAMA, the News is not funded by the public purse.
Some 30% of our readership is Aboriginal, and many of our news tip-offs
come from Aboriginal people. Our reports on Indigenous affairs are
noted for their balance and professionalism.
We have exclusive circulation in the town camps of Alice Springs, and
most bush communities in the million square kilometers of our
We could also point out that when local organisations, including
Aboriginal organisations, appear to be doing a good job we report on
that too, the most recent example being a two-part article about
Aboriginal Hostels Ltd (October 29 and November 5).
Ms Howard may also care to note our report on the latest research into
the worth of the Central Australia Aboriginal economy (November 5) as
well as our archive going back years of reports on various aspects of
CAAMA’s operations and reviews of its productions.
The current issue of CAAMA’s financial difficulties casts light on the
responses – or lack thereof– by Federal Government agencies to a crisis
within an organisation which over the years has absorbed hundreds of
millions of dollars in public funding.
Says the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and
Indigenous Affairs: “This is a matter for the Office of the Registrar
of Indigenous Corporations” (ORIC).
Says ORIC: “Our office cannot comment on the financial position or
accounts of a corporation when they have not been lodged with the
“Please direct any questions about CAAMA finances directly to CAAMA.”
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission says it has had no
reports about CAAMA’s possible insolvency.
According to CAAMA’s 2007-08 report submitted to ORIC, CAAMA had in
that financial year an income of $3,304,441 and assets worth $6,399,076.
The report for 2008-09 is is due by the end of December.
Seven to two
vote for revised by-laws. By KIERAN
The most controversial of the Town Council’s public places by-laws have
Compromise was the name of the game as a majority of aldermen backed
the revised version of the by-laws at their committee meeting on Monday
‘Begging’ is treated within a new by-law, “Causing nuisance” (bl50),
along with urinating or defecating, spitting and swearing.
There were 38 submissions relating to the begging by-law, including
several from legal, welfare and human rights organisations.
The word ‘begging’ is no longer being used, but it will be an offence
to cause a nuisance to another person by “asking for alcohol,
cigarettes or money”.
The impounding and disposal of abandoned items by-law remains (bl65),
but the “authorised person” enforcing the by-law will have to act in
accordance with written guidelines.
The earlier version of this by-law led to a raft of hysterical news
items around the world about homeless people having their blankets
stripped from them in the middle of freezing nights, but only 16
submissions were received on the subject. Again they included a number
The draft guidelines define what is meant by “abandoned” and give
examples of items that are to be taken to Tangentyere Council for
cleaning and re-distribution (reusable blankets and pillows); items to
be taken to the police station (bicycles, bags of personal effects,
medication); and items that may be discarded at the landfill.
This list is rather surprising as it contains many items that could be
re-used, including camping equipment and paint brushes, paints and
Camping in a public place, which the earlier version saw banned 24/7,
is now to be prohibited between 9pm and 9am, an extension of three
hours on the existing by-law.
The draft by-law that received the greatest number of submissions (41)
concerned demonstrations and protests.
An earlier requirement for individuals to have a permit to demonstrate
or protest has been removed; the permit now has to be sought only by
the organiser or leader (bl34) – which assumes that there will be one.
The area covered by this by-law has been enlarged.
In the earlier version it applied only to Todd Mall and the grounds of
the Civic Centre. Now it appears that the by-law applies to the whole
local government area.
The ban on swimming in a public place not designated as a swimming area
– which looked like outlawing a favourite albeit rare activity when the
Todd comes down – is now restricted to having to leave “dangerous
waters” if so directed by an authorised person (bl31).
The by-law to attract the most vociferous attention in Monday’s meeting
was that concerning the removal of graffiti (bl 42). The only
modification to it has been the reduction of penalty, from five units
to one. Owners or occupiers of property subject to graffiti will still
be obliged to remove it, although council will be providing various
degrees of assistance.
Alderman Samih Habib saw in the “prosecution of the victim” an attack
on the fabric of our democratic society. With this by-law council was
heading towards “dictatorship”, he claimed.
He joined Ald Jane Clark in not voting to take the new version of the
by-laws to the next step – a formal vote at the November 30 Ordinary
Ald Clark said she was “happy with some of the compromises” but she
continues to have problems with by-laws covering areas already covered
by other legislation and those moving council rangers into what she
sees as policing roles.
She remains “firmly against’ by-laws 41 (littering), 42 (removal of
graffiti), 47 (drinking liquor), 48 (open container of liquor), 49
(power of an authorised person), 74 (authorised person requiring
information), 77 (moving on persons), and 78 (removal of persons), and
has reservations about 26 (no camping) and 50 (causing nuisance).
Aldermen Sandy Taylor, Liz Martin, Melanie van Haaren and Brendan
Heenan all spoke of having had to accept compromise in relation to
certain by-laws but were prepared to support the new version.
Ald Taylor saw the whole package as about “the growing up of this town”
– people accepting responsibility for their own actions.
Only Mayor Damien Ryan and Ald Murray Stewart spoke without
reservation. Mr Ryan did not go into any detail, while Ald Stewart saw
in the package a reflection of “strong values” and “structure”
which creates “the opportunity of becoming a good social citizen”.
first survey show of "father of urban Aboriginal art".
The first museum survey of the work of South Australian indigenous
artist, Trevor Nickolls, the “father of urban Aboriginal art”, opens at
Araluen this Friday (6pm).
Nickolls’ works are widely recognised for their ‘dreamtime/machinetime’
theme, which combines the sheer natural wonder of the Aboriginal land
and Dreamtime stories with robust symbols of urban Australia – an
enduring leitmotiv for the dichotomy of European and Aboriginal
histories in Australia.
More than 55 paintings and works on paper have been brought together
for the first time from public and private collections across Australia.
• Work created in a series of workshops for people with a disability
goes on display at Central Craft’s June Marriott Gallery from this
Friday (opening, 10.30am).
These workshops were organised by Arts Access Central Australia
delivered by three local artists, Philomena Hali, Siri Omberg and
Amanda Mc Millan, all highly skilled and recognised for their quality
Participants worked with jewellery making/silversmithing, pottery, felt
making and fabric painting and printing.
All works are for sale and can be taken when purchased.
• Kukula McDonald’s signature black cockatoos, Billy Benn Perrurle’s
lyrical hill country (and Benn has a successor in Adrian Roberston),
Lance James’ lively horses and cowboys, and Billy Kenda’s vivid cars
and trucks are among the works featuring at Gallery Gondwana’s
exhibition, Bindi. Billed as “emotive, moving, breathtaking”, the show
opens at 3pm on Saturday.
Friday reel to
reel. By POP VULTURE with
This week Pop Vulture is a travelling film maker, mentally
documenting everything seen and heard, and drawing up a storyboard for
a future film, documentary/mockumentary, together with shot list,
camera techniques and direction where the inspired is required.
Friday evening free music session at Olive Pink Botanic gardens.
Start with a still shot (mid field) of the empty little stage adjacent
to Bean Tree café, roll with a stop frame animation of
guitar, mic, amp, stand and leads being added to the stage. Gradually
pull back to an establishing shot of the area around stage, as bodies
of punters begin to swell in number about the scene.
Sammi Cha and other budding local instrumentalists take hasty advantage
of the ‘open mic’ atmosphere.
Maybe use a panelling effect showing the musicians’ faces, possibly
fiddle around with various lenses, colour solarization perhaps, to
create a possible subliminal message about the use of solar power in
Moving to The Lane rooftop, Frank Yamma, Iwupa, Sassy
J and McDee. Hopefully most gig goers will think this is going to be
packed to the hilt and decide that they don’t want to be dropped into
the tumble dryer of arms, legs drinks and feet, so they will shuffle
off somewhere else, maybe to the screening of The Age Of Stupid which
is still being talked about at length on its second run.
Speed motion from Olive Pink to The Lane, sound effect of speeding
tape, possibly stop at the intersection between Todd Mall and Todd
Street and speed frame cars going by to create the illusion that this
town is indeed a buzzing metropolis.
Note to self: rent and watch Metropolis when get back to the city.
Frank Yamma and company play raucous set to a comfortable crowd, pure
performance glowing from the rooftop.
Move the camera slowly through crowd starting from the foot of the
stairs then through the audience from front to nosebleed. Will use a
hand held for this creating the affect of being an actual punter.
The noise from the band immediately amplifies when the camera reaches
the very front of the crowd, make it seem as if the music and
surrounding sounds have suddenly exploded into the audience’s
Leaving The Lane via the staircase.
Try something original, bounce down the staircase like a ball hopping
from step to step, still using hand held technique, will record sound
of a tennis ball bouncing down the staircase and play it back over the
top of shot, making it appear that the audience has now turned into a
tennis ball and is bouncing off to the next destination. Damn cool.
For closing credits, use a montage of the all the evening’s musicians.
For closing tune use something local, a contemporary release, maybe “Oh
Lady” by Dr Strangeways.
Give the end of the film a kind of sad and directionless ending – this
might leave things open for an audience craving some dodgy sequel.
harvest instead of camel holocaust.
Sir,– It appears from your edition of November 5 that the camel debate
is far from resolved.
From what I have read it appears to me that $90 million has been
squandered on little more than the production of rubbery figures and
anecdotal evidence of the damage done by camels, much of which is
indistinguishable from that caused by that other introduced species,
The result is that the camel has now been added to that other pest
species that the authorities felt needed to be eradicated, the
Consequently I am not surprised that DK-CRC’s funding is to end given
that the chance to come up with innovative, humane and practical
proposals to the perceived problem have given way to unimaginably
cruel, barbaric and intellectually lazy proposals that have proven to
be a complete failure in the past.
What lies at the root of this proposed camel holocaust is, I believe,
an attempt to produce a pre-Captain Cook nirvana, one which never
existed except in the minds of zealots.
Camels are now part of the environment and are here to stay, and we
need to learn how to harvest them humanely like kangaroos, something
that even ritual religious slaughter does not provide.
If not we will see the greatest animal slaughter since the
near-extinction of the American Bison in the 19th Century.
The eyes of the world are slowly opening on Australia and how it treats
its wild animals and the coming international debate will, I believe,
make the mulesing issue seem tame by comparison.
Words cannot express our gratitude
Sir,– We arrived in Alice Springs on Friday November 6, having
travelled from Victoria for the memorial service to honour our dear
son, Paul Michael Quinlivan.
The next 48 hours were to provide memories we shall never forget.
Upon arrival we were ushered into a home in Warburton Street, to find a
note on the table from the home owners who were on a week’s holiday. It
read: “Please use anything you need in our home. There is food in the
fridge, I have baked a cake”.
In the evening we were all invited to dinner meeting family and friends
of Paul whom we had often heard of but never met. They had travelled
from the Gold Coast, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and
Emily Gap, where the memorial service was held, was a favourite spot of
Paul’s. In between high rock walls, with washed sand underfoot and
fresh and healthy gum trees about, we gathered.
Many of Paul’s friends from Nyrripi and Ampilatwatja travelled so far
in the hot conditions to shake our hand, give us a hug and repeat very
good words about him.
We thought we knew Paul’s history but in the 48 hours in Alice we
learnt more about his stories, achievements, plans for the future and
successes in the past. He was a wonderful father, son, brother and
Anyone who is looking to visit the desert and stay in Alice, don’t
hesitate. It is a most friendly and welcoming town. We were treated
We will surely be returning to the area in some way to try and repay
the debt we owe to those who made us so welcome and took the sadness
out of our heart and made us so happy to be alive.
Dorothy & Bernie Quinlivan,
A man who created natural harmony
Sir,– On November 7, in the calming setting of Emily Gap, a Memorial
Service for Paul Quinlivan was held.
For the first time in my years of living and working in Central
Australia I had, within this gathering, the distinct feeling of natural
It spoke volumes of the way Paul related to people, no matter what
The communities of Nyirrpi and Ampilatwatja were two where his input
had great positive impact.
The beautiful singing of the women from Nyirrpi, in English and their
native tongue of Walpiri, was indeed moving.
Even more moving was the speech by one of the women from the Nyirrpi
choir, Ormay Nangala Gallagher. Her words connected with everyone
Although it was a sad occasion, I felt it a great privilege to be
Graham Tjilpi Buckley
Silly season burnout.
In many places across this wonderful country of ours, the festive end
of year period known as ‘the silly season’ is about to get
Here in Alice Springs we march to the beat of a different drum. For
your common garden variety Centralian has already started the silly
season. In the Centre, we like to get a head start on the celebrating.
For those new to Alice Springs, Melbourne Cup Day signals the start of
It doesn’t end with New Year’s Day either. Oh no, a silly season of
just two months of the year is too little time for your average Central
Australian. Ending the season around Australia Day gives us just enough
leeway to fit in all the summer socialising.
But the silly season can take its toll. Stories always surface about
the friend of a friend who suffered a little silly season burnout. They
had to go and dry out in Adelaide in order to allow the social
embarrassment of the burnout to fade. So here my good friends is the
definitive guide to avoiding the stigma of social outcast, a few simple
hints aimed at assisting you this silly season. Ladies and Gentlemen, I
bring you the Adam’s Apple guide to not getting nude and being escorted
off the premises at your staff Christmas party.
Hint 1: While there might only be 26,000 people in the town, there
seems to be more than 26,000 social functions in the next three months.
You will probably be invited to more dos than you have time to attend
so it is prudent for you to plan your weeks knowing that all the things
you should go to won’t be able to be gotten to.
When invited to a function, phrases like “count me in” and “I’ll be
there” should be avoided at all cost. You might have a Wednesday night
free of social functions. So at the time, the invitation from the
couple you see at your kid’s basketball games might seem like a nice
place to spend a Wednesday. But what if a better, more pleasant offer,
or three, come along? You’ve just committed to people you don’t know
Hint 2: Never commit to the afternoon do. If you have three parties on
a Saturday evening, neither the Saturday afternoon nor the Sunday
afternoon soirée are attainable goals. The hint here is no
matter how nice the idea, how pleasing an afternoon start seems, they
will always mean either an early night or a trip in the divvy van.
Hint 3: With the social calendar fuller than our justice and health
system combined, you really need to plan you weeks well. But your silly
season could also do with a bit of micro management. While it is
fine to plan your weekend, planning your party is also essential. On a
40 degree evening dressed in Territory rig, too often people succumb to
the refreshing beverage. The spacer is an invention purpose-built for
this time of year. In order to thwart the effects of dehydration and
alcohol consumption, have a glass of water after every drink.
Sure you might cop a bit of stick from the lads but a spacer means you
can go home at the end of a big night without the need to have your
hair held back as you pray to the porcelain.
Hint 4: No matter how inviting it looks, no matter how funny it seems,
no matter how much money your mates say they’ll pay you, do not get
nude. Just don’t.
I hope these handy hints help in your social survival this festive
period. You may just make it through without offending your boss, your
partner or your friends.