February 25, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Is this the answer? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Tangentyere Council may have an answer to the town’s crippling problems of staff and accommodation shortages: it has put together a team of construction workers, who are here and are housed.
The council drew on the large number of un- or underemployed Aboriginal people and tackled head-on the most common concern about Indigenous employees – absenteeism.
A team of 10 is on the job already, and it’s likely a second team will be put together under a scheme that could become the template for human resources strategies in Central Australia’s mainstream industry.
Tangentyere began gearing up in June last year for the construction of 85 houses to be built in the Alice Springs town camps under the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program, getting staff ready to be employed under that scheme.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin was in town on Monday for the start of work on the first new house at Larapinta Valley.
Tangentyere’s Peter Cowham is in charge of recruiting and preparing workers, some from difficult backgrounds, with long histories of unemployment or jobs-for-the-dole backgrounds.
He started with 36 participants who were put through an aptitude test, gauging the ability to retain information, problem solving, attendance “which is critical,” and attitude.
Ten men were shortlisted.
“We retained them all, except one, who was taken off to prison. And that was a pre-existing situation we were not aware of,” says Mr Cowham.
“We replaced him very quickly.
“The 10 have been turning up every day since last August.
“It’s remarkable. It’s an outstanding achievement.
“We’ve been surprised at the success of this.
“We’re keen to put another 12 through.”
Mr Cowham says the key was a “hands on program, not putting people into a sterile training environment.
“They’ve all had bad experience with education – it may be their own fault, their family, or whatever.
“There is a resistance to attend on a regular basis the normal way training is provided.
“Our model is where they are trained in the hands-on stuff.
“They are in a comfortable environment, they are working with colleagues who’re in a similar situation.
“We have Indigenous supervisors who are completely aware.
“We have an Indigenous mentor for around 12 workers to troubleshoot.”
Are workers paid when not turning up for ceremonial reasons?
“It depends on the conditions of their employment,” says Mr Cowham.
“We’re not adverse to send people off to counselling if there are really big issues that are really blocking them in their progress.
“You can’t separate their social issues from their work.
Keeping the team in the loop was a key strategy: ‘”We communicated with them regularly, told them what the plan is.
“That’s required.
“They need to know where they are heading, to give them the day to day incentive to keep going.”
What about the humbugging by the people who are unemployed?
“That’s their private issue at home.
“We have financial counsellors at Tangentyere, we have a wage reduction scheme to pay off things.
“In one way or another we can do anything that’s required to solve those other things that are happening in life.”
Mr Cowham says frustrated employers are welcome to get advice from Tangentyere: “We’ve been doing it a long time.
“We’re the biggest employer of Aboriginal people.”
Meanwhile Ms Macklin was asked by the News how she would ensure that the care and maintenance of houses by their tenants would be better than they have been in the past.
She said: “[From having Tangentyere in charge of maintenance] there is one major change, of course, [that] we’re putting in place with the Northern Territory Government and that is public tenancy management. There will be a responsibility on the Territory Government to now keep the houses properly maintained, and there’ll be an expectation that people will pay their rent and look after their homes.”
Has she had a look at how the NT Government currently manages public housing and is she satisfied with that?
“We see the responsibility for tenancy management resting with the states and the Territories. That’s the way it’s been for a long time in public housing,” said Ms Macklin.
“The NT Government understands how important it is to meet those responsibilities.
“They want to make sure that we have tenants who look after their homes and pay their rent, and [the NT] wants to make sure the houses are properly maintained. It’s a two-way street."

Boffins blank on solar costs. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The amount of information about how much solar energy costs in Alice Springs is in indirect proportion to the amount of sunlight we’re getting.
Ask any of the local boffins about the bottom line for renewable energy production and – judging from the experience of Jimmy Cocking, the director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) – no-one seems to have a clue.
There are three major locations in the world reached by peak solar energy: two are in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and not of much use unless you put solar panels on very large floats.
The third one is the Australian desert region, with Alice Springs smack bang in the middle, according to the Guardian Weekly (Alice News, Sept 24, 2009).
Not surprisingly, Alice is the home of a large number of resident alternate energy experts attached to Desert Knowledge, the Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Solar City, CSIRO, NT Government instrumentalities, the Charles Darwin University and Power and Water (P&W).
But none of them seems to know what would be the cost for setting up The Alice to be entirely powered by the sun.
The Alice News started its research in mid-December 2009 with the proposition that ALEC is making a passionate case for using electricity generated from the sun, which shines upon us so generously.
It was a fair question to ask about the costs.
Mr Cocking made the full and frank admission that he didn’t know, and set out to get the drum on the subject.
After all, without a known bottom line, any advocacy of departure from fossil fuel is no more than an exercise in feel-good.
More than two months later Mr Cocking is none the wiser.
“We’re lobbying for the NT Government and P&W to spend on researching the questions of costs, and put together a feasibility study,” he says.
“ALEC doesn’t have the money nor the human resources to do that.
“ALEC is well placed to work with governments and private sector and the community, and given the resources to do a feasibility study we’d love to do it.
“We’ve tried for two years to build relationships to get these answers.”
The Alice News found that local people working in this field spend a lot of time in meetings, which makes it very hard for them to return phone calls, and if they do, are prone to saying things like: “Look it up on the Net ...”
We invited uranium miner Cameco to join the debate but they declined, saying their expertise isn’t in the solar power field.
And so it seems that the elephant in our sunlit room – the dollars involved – is being blissfully ignored.
We suggested to Mr Cocking that to make a valid comparison with our current generating method – burning gas and diesel – we need to know:-
• The cost and lifespan for infrastructure and equipment.
• Maintenance cost per year.
• Cost of disposal once infrastructure has reached end of life.
• Cost per year for fuel.
• Cost per year for safe storage of waste.
• Quantity of CO2 (or equivalent) emissions.
• Labor force required (number of people; total wages).
• Land required (hectares).
We sent these questions to P&W two weeks ago so we can make a comparison with its gas turbine power station being built at Brewer Estate right now.
Any senior executive would surely have the answers in his head or at his fingertips. None of them contacted us.
A minder, after several contacts, suggested to look it up in the annual report. It yielded little.
What we know about P&W’s operation, mostly, is what’s on the Net, put there before April 2009: The cost of the new powerhouse is “approximately $126m”.
P&W’s 2009 annual report says Taurus, one of the two gas turbines that have been driving Golfcourse Estate residents mad with their screeching noise, was relocated at Brewer Estate.
It is expected the Titan generator would be moved “the following year” – that’s 2010, says the website.
Presumably the cost of these two wheel-mounted machines, reportedly surplus American equipment from Iraq, are not part of the quoted cost for the new station.
Most piston engines at the Ron Goodin power station in Alice Springs are near their life’s end.
Says the P&W report: “The new Owen Springs Power Station, 25km south of Alice Springs, will have new generators, significantly increasing the plant’s efficiency and reducing emissions.”
P&W says its engines running on gas and diesel – and these can apparently be piston or turbines – produce 642 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatt hour (gWh).
As Alice Springs consumes an estimated 212 gWh (see below), P&W in little old Alice is belching 147,128 tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year.
Gas only (no diesel) would be better, with just 551 tonnes per gWh.
Coal is much worse: black coal produces 903 tonnes of pollutants per gWh, and brown coal, 1341 tonnes.
Palm Valley gas, for more than 20 years a major source of fuel for Alice and Darwin, will run out next year.
Presumably the Mereenie to Darwin pipeline can bring gas down here as easily as it can take it north, and Alice can run on offshore gas now being developed.
Commenting on the availability of these new gas resources the P&W 2009 report strikes an ominous note: “Channel Island Power Station [in Darwin] runs predominantly on natural gas, but gas supply issues meant that a large volume of diesel was required in 2008-09.”
Solar power plants, of course, have no emissions – except when fossil fuel-generated electricity is used in their manufacture.
How much power would we need to make one solar panel, and how much power would it produce over its lifespan?
That’s a question we should ask the boffins – if we can catch them between meetings and conventions.
In the absence of any hard facts on costs, Mr Cocking and the Alice News worked with what we do have available, the vigourously promoted roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) systems: 188 units have been installed here through Alice Solar City.
We were doing the numbers somewhat tongue in cheek, because the sun doesn’t shine at night, and storage of electricity isn’t included in the calculation.
The average PV unit on Alice rooftops costs $16,000 installed, has a life of 25 years, a size of 15 square meters, and puts out 2 kW (kilowatts).
Get a pen and paper, please!
Assuming the sun shines five hours a day (striking the solar panels at a useful angle), and we have 300 sunny days, each unit puts out 3000 kWh (kilo watt hours) per year.
The average household consumption is 8500 kWh, interestingly enough, nearly three times the electricity produced by the average PV unit.
Still keeping up?
There are 10,000 households in the town, requiring a total of 85,000,000 kWh a year.
NT Government statistics say households consume 40% of the power in Alice. That makes the town’s total demand – including industry, office buildings, retail, and so on – 212,500,000 kWh a year.
In order to meet that demand, it would take 70,833 average rooftop units, costing all up more than $1.13b.
That’s about 10 times the cost of the Owen Springs power station, still not counting the expense of power storage, a largely unresolved problem.
It’s interesting to note that these 70,833 rooftop units would take up an area just over one square kilometre.
Now, please put down your pencil, crank up your laptop and email us a letter to the editor.
But please make sure you include the numbers!


Aldermen on Monday night rejected the suggestion that an electric barbecue planned for the riverside carpark near the Stott Tce bridge is not for “the whole community”.
Having supported the installation of the barbecue in the December meeting last year, on February 8 they received a petition with 156 signatures calling on them to “dispose of the proposal”.
“We feel this proposal is a waste of ASTC resources,” said the petition.
“These funds could be better allocated to serve the whole of the community.”
Hand-written notes accompanying the petition asserted that “ tourist / visitors won’t use [the barbecues] as they carry their own cooking equipment” and “no locals will ever use the area”.
The notes also asserted that the barbecues would keep “illegal campers” and “troublemakers” in the area.
Further, “BBQ’s will not work with our social demographics”.
The notes ended with this warning: “Please note, Aldermen, ratepayers are now starting to pay attention to your actions / decisions.” 
Aldermen Murray Stewart, Liz Martin, Sandy Taylor and Jane Clark all voted to adhere to the original proposal.
This was not supported by Alds John Rawnsley, Melanie van Haaren and Mayor Damien Ryan.
Ald Stewart said the provision of the barbecue was in keeping with the provision of good facilities for “all our citizens” and that it was also part of council’s drive to get people back to the river and “iconic zones” in the town.
Ald Martin said the existing wood-fired barbecues in the area are used by visitors and motorhome-owners.

Ex-staffer says DASA needs reform. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A woman who worked for a year with the rehabilitation facility, Aranda House, says staff there fail to listen to their clients, do not respond to their individual needs, and are hampered by a huge turnover of personnel not adequately trained.
The woman, who spoke to the Alice News on the condition of not being named, says Aranda House is funded by the public purse and so has to be accountable for what it does.
She says clients come from all walks of life, races and backgrounds: “They could be your neighbour.”
Yet the staff and management of the facility, run by the Drug and Alcohol Service Association (DASA), take the view that clients must accept a rigid routine – or leave.
This was one of the main complaints of former clients, Russell Bray and artist Caroline Johnson, both of whom who disclosed their experience of a largely counter-productive regime in last week’s Alice News.
DASA would not comment, but two CP politicians say the situation as described is unacceptable.
Health shadow minister Matt Conlan says: “As the Government says time and again, issues of alcohol contribute to street violence, family violence and a raft of other social issues. 
“Given that they know this, it beggars belief that they’re not doing all they can to ensure rehab facilities such as Aranda House are adequately resourced.”
And spokesman for Central Australia Adam Giles says: “The situation with alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation is terrible. 
“We simply do not have enough resources to cope and the resources that are provided are uncoordinated between providers and stretched to the point were some patients are not receiving 100% treatment, while staff rush around trying to assist many others.”
The former staffer, who was previously a counsellor in Singapore’s Changi women’s prison, says the problem of Aranda House is that is has a one size fits all policy. Unlike CAAAPU Aranda House caters for all races.
“Some of our clients are illiterate and some are pretty intelligent.
“That means we need to have a very experienced management, capable not only of dealing with alcohol problems” but all the associated issues – financial, social, professional.
“You deal with people problems. Everybody is different.
“Some people will do whatever the staff say. Fine.”
She says “you are coming to my house, you have to listen to me” is the attitude of Aranda House.
“If you don’t like it, you go. And that’s not right.
“We are there to serve them.
“Some of the clients have underlying problems, and you have to deal with these.
“You have to treat a client individually, and that means we need management experienced at many levels.”
She said when she read Mr Bray’s comments, “what he was saying was, I want to be cured.
“And I want to be able to trust you to cure me”. 
Mr Bray said clients would start therapy by confiding in counsellors: “They open this can of worms and then you can’t see them again for two weeks.”
The former staffer says one-on-one sessions should be at least twice a week, with frequent casual contact between client and counsellor in between: “You mingle, have contact with them, give them a pat on the shoulder ... ‘how have you been doing?’”
She says in her time the frequency of sessions was as described by Mr Bray – one a fortnight: “I really feel sorry for the clients.”
Meanwhile Mr Giles says: “Currently DASA, Bushmob and CAAPU are completely overwhelmed.
“Bush Mob can only cater for five youths, turning away droves each night because of a lack of facilities.
“We see Juvenile Justice (JJ’s) facilities with 11 beds but only one occupied, while right next door to JJ’s there is alcohol dry out / rehabilitation who doesn’t have the resources to do the job.
“These facilities are just not big enough and cannot cope, leaving staff to burn out while clients are not sufficiently treated, leaving an outcome of a revolving door to substance mis-users and abusers.
“Everyone’s working hard but nothing changes. All agencies and staff do it tough.
“What is required is a transitional system that caters for youth, both boys and girls, and adults, and that has a seamless approach to addressing sober up, dry out and rehabilitation.”
Mr Giles says options should include voluntary as well as mandatory access, and there should also be sentencing under the Country Liberals’ three strikes policy.

Araluen’s solar plant: ‘Why weren’t we told? By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Friends of Araluen are offering to host a community consultative meeting over the siting of the solar air-conditioning plant at the Araluen Precinct.
Tenders have been called for the plant, whose footprint is much the same size as that of the arts centre’s main building.
It consists of 10 rows of parabolic troughs, enclosed by a security fence, as well as a thermal plant room with an eight-metre high tower.
Plans were put on public display at Araluen on February 5, two months after community consultation over the draft Araluen Development Plan had closed, although the plans were available from at least November 19 when director of the precinct, Tim Rollason, mentioned their existence at a public meeting.
The current siting of the plant will have the greatest impact on Central Craft, who have made their opposition to it loud and clear (see Alice News, Feb 11).
Construction will take out a good part of the precinct gardens between Central Craft’s studio and the Museum of Central Australia, significantly blocking the studio’s view and natural light, as well as impeding the view to the sacred hill rising behind the studio and the main building
The issues were discussed by some of the Friends after a committee meeting on the weekend and secretary Fran Morey made the following statement on their behalf:
“Whilst we are all in favour of the use of solar technology to meet the electrical needs of Araluen Art Centre, we feel that there must be a more aesthetic and culturally appropriate method available.
“The Crowne Plaza appears to have provided the solution in a much less obtrusive manner, by employing the use of solar panels on the roof.
“With the large expanse of roof space, which faces north, at the Araluen Art Centre, was the use of solar panels even considered?
“The solar collectors shown in the plan may be cutting edge solar technology – but would perhaps be far more appropriate for the Desert Knowledge Precinct than for the Araluen Cultural Precinct.
“It would also appear that the memorial to Roger Connellan may have to be disturbed. Has any contact been made with his brother over this?
“Once again there has been a complete lack of community consultation at the planning stages – which has already led to the many community meetings over the “Draft” Development Plan for Araluen. “
One of these meetings was called by the Friends and they would be happy to host another if “necessary and warranted”, says Ms Morey.
The Alice News asked Mr Rollason to comment.
He says: “The panels at Crowne Plaza are photovoltaic cells connected to batteries that store energy.  They are simply there to collect the sun’s energy.
“The Araluen system is designed to collect heat, rather than energy, in order to create a heat exchange in the plant room that then provides chilled water for the air conditioning processes – so it is a whole different system, for a whole other purpose.
“The plant needs to be located near the Arts Centre, so creating power at Desert Knowledge is not practical.”
Mr Rollason does not take up the question of whether the heat-generating system adopted, requiring the large field of parabolic trough collectors, is more appropriate for the precinct than simply having PV panels on the roof and generating solar energy.
It would not have been “cutting edge” and therefore perhaps not an “iconic project” but could PVs have contributed just as well to lowering the arts centre’s greenhouse emissions? 
In terms of siting of the plant Mr Rollason says: “The solar collectors will stand at 2.0 metres high, and so will not obscure the sightline through to Big Sister Hill.
“An in principle agreement has been reached between Central Craft and the precinct management in regards to [the plant’s] overall placement and we continue to work closely with local community groups to ensure the best possible outcomes for everyone.
“The Roger Connellan Memorial will not be moved as part of the solar project, and if it ever was moved, it would certainly be after consultation with the family.
“An architect is currently working on the project and we hope to see further elevation drawings on how the finished plant will look to become available soon.
“Aesthetics are a matter of opinion, however the overall brief for all consultants on the project is to  ensure the system engineering works, and ensure that the overall look of the plant is in keeping with the natural surroundings and the existing precinct architecture.”
The issues surrounding the plant will also be discussed at the Central Australian Art Society meeting this coming weekend.
In advance of that meeting, secretary Mark Wilson spoke to the Alice News as an individual.
“Once again this comes down to the lack of a local management board – this lack of transparency would not have occurred had there been such a board.” 
Mr Wilson says Mr Rollason “seems to be representing Alice Solar City, not Araluen”.
“He seems to be exploiting people’s natural desire to see solar power used but the issue for Araluen is appropriate solar power,” says Mr Wilson. 
“What’s critical for me is the total load at the power station. Where renewable energy is generated is not really important and the logical place is the Desert Knowledge Precinct, not the Araluen Precinct.
“To totally spoil the art centre vista does not make sense.
“There’s heaps of room down the back of Araluen for this plant but that seems to have been ruled out because the government is demanding a prominent position.
“The draft development plan made much of the presence of the sacred hill and now this plant will all but obscure it.
“To say at a public meeting that plans are available is not the same as putting them on display.
“The plans should have been shown to that meeting by Tim Rollason.
“At the time of the consultations this issue seemed a distraction from what we then saw as the main game – the use of the galleries and the management process – but now I see it as part and parcel of the management process.”
The Alice News asked Mayor Damien Ryan to comment as a key partner in Alice Solar City but also with a wider brief in terms of the well-being – in this instance cultural and general amenity – of the community.
Said Mr Ryan: “My view on the matter is that as Mayor of Alice Springs, I support Alice Solar City and their projects.
“I spoke with director Tim Rollason on the matter and he assures me that he has been consulting with Central Craft and other stakeholders to reach a positive outcome for all parties concerned.”
The Alice News also asked RedHOT Arts to comment, as they were another organisation actively involved in consultations over the draft management plan for the Araluen Precinct. They did not respond to our invitation.

Alice Springs a rollercoaster of restaurant supply and demand. By KIERAN FINNANE.

It may be another long-term Alice restaurant to have closed its doors but it’s not all doom and gloom, says Beat Keller, owner-operator of the former unique Swiss-Indian restaurant, Kellers.
“I’m a firm believer in supply and demand.
“If the demand is not there, you change, close, keep at it, but don’t whinge.”
An upbeat notice on the front fence – posted just before Christmas when Mr Keller bid fond farewell to his customers after 17 and a half years of service – promises a “new dining concept” for Alice in 2010.
What it will be is either still Mr Keller’s secret or a work in progress.
However it will involve the premises of the Red Sea restaurant (also closed), at the other end of the Diplomat hotel complex of which Keller’s was also a part.
“One restaurant on that strip will be more feasible,” says Mr Keller (pictured).
The “new concept” is also likely to have an emphasis on breakfast and lunch, as well as dinner.
“You can’t make money anymore just opening at night.
“Daytime custom has picked up, while there are definitely less people in town at night.
“People are saying they don’t feel safe going out at night.”
This isn’t the only problem local restaurants are battling, says Mr Keller.
A string of them have closed, with The Lane in Todd Mall the most recent.
Alcohol restrictions and bans had set up local licensed premises to become targets of break-ins by thieves looking for grog.
On this point, Keller’s had suffered less than others, such as one CBD restaurant, still open, broken into 22 times in 18 months, he says.
Restaurants also face tough competition from premises able to “cross subsidise” their food and beverage operations with  gambling licenses, take-away liquor licenses and / or accommodation.
And it’s always a battle to get staff, especially in a town where job opportunities are plentiful and many of them more highly paid that hospitality jobs.
“To run a successful restaurant, you not only have to be a good chef,” he says.
“You have to a good host, a good businessman and  keep your finger on the pulse.
“At Keller’s I’d proven what I needed to.
“Now it’s time for a change.”

MacDonnell Shire: more senior staff go. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The MacDonnell Shire lost two senior employees last week, their Deputy CEO Des Rogers – prominent Aboriginal identity, a former alderman, businessman and current board member of Desert Knowledge Australia – and Philippa Major, director of Corporate and Community Services.
Ms Major was also acting CEO of the shire for several months last year following the sudden departure of its then CEO Wayne Wright in April.
The Alice Springs News put to Shire President Sid Anderson and CEO Graham Taylor that the pair were sacked.
Mr Taylor declined to say whether they were sacked or had resigned.
“They are no longer employed by the shire, effective Tuesday,” he said.
He declined to give reasons for their departure or to elaborate on any implications for the shire beyond the difficulties of replacing them.
“It is not appropriate to comment on the employment of individuals.” said Mr Taylor.
The News asked whether instability at the top level of the shire was a problem.
Mr Taylor questioned the term, “instability”.
The News pointed to the sudden departure of Mr Wright as well  as Mr Rogers and Ms Major.
Mr Taylor rejected the relevance of Mr Wright’s departure: “That was a year ago.”
Meanwhile, the council at its meeting last Thursday voted to formally adopt a delegation of authority to its CEO – currently Mr Taylor but the delegation will extend to any person in the CEO position.
Its use, according to the recommendation adopted by the council, “shall be consistent with strategic plans and policies of council and the law”.
There were 20 items of delegation defined, including allowing the CEO to take legal action against “someone doing the wrong thing”, and to be council’s “representative in employment matters”.
There were also 17 specific exclusions, including borrowing money, the acceptance of tenders, the appointment of the CEO or an auditor or a deputy mayor, and the power to levy rates and make by-laws.
Councillors had done training around the delegation but there were still questions in their mind.
“Is this normal?” asked councilor Joe Rawson.
Mr Taylor replied that some councils he’s looked at haven’t had delegations, but will have them shortly.
He referred to a previous council where he had been employed for seven or eight years where he was given “full delegation”.
He’d seen some delegations that were “very narrow” – “you lose the ability to get quick service to the customers”, he said.
The training had evidently represented the issues graphically: would the CEO be allowed to wander the wide open spaces, be fenced in a big paddock, or else in a small yard.
“I was thinking about blocking him in, in the small one,” said President Sid Anderson, with characteristic wit.
“Should he be in there a little while or do we want him in the big paddock? He might get lost in the bush.”
Councillors voted for the “big paddock”.
The Alice News asked CEO of the Town Council, Rex Mooney, whether there is a formal delegation of powers to him.
He said the Town Council has no formal document or register itemising delegated powers of the CEO.
Rather there are “standing delegations” arising from the policies and practices in place, which taken with the Local Government Act, in his view, are sufficient.
The difference, of course, for MacDonnell Shire is that it is a brand new council, in contrast to the Town Council’s decades of practice.
A career professional councillor, Mr Mooney says his experience of delegation registers has been varied: some councils have them, some don’t, all have their differences.

Jewel in tourism crown a big mess. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Emily Gap is one of the jewels in our tourism crown, just 17 km from Alice by sealed road, beautiful, steeped in Aboriginal lore – and covered in weeds and garbage.
Buffel, a rapacious introduced plant that competes fatally with native flora, and couch grass are everywhere. And there is the aftermath of several drinking camps – VB cans at the edge of the waterhole, and further downstream.
Some are gathered in rubbish bags but there is no bin to throw them in.
The Alice News raised the weeds issue with the NT Government three years ago, in April 2007 <>
This is the answer we got: “NT Parks and Wildlife Service is aware of the couch and buffel in the area and is also aware of the cultural significance of the site.
“We have been working closely with Traditional Owners to identify the important plants and trees that we are attempting to keep clear of couch and buffel (pictured at right).
“We have been brush cutting and spraying.
“Through the Flexible Employment Projects we have been employing local traditional owners to attempt to control weeds in the area.
“This small reserve is surrounded by couch and buffel on adjacent land with a significant amount of re-infestation coming from outside the reserve, especially from Emily Creek.”
[The author of this 2007 report together with her husband, using Roundup, a low-toxicity herbicide, have completely eradicated buffel grass from their two hectare block in the farm area, with very little reinfestation after rains, notwithstanding that varying densities of buffel are growing on all four properties surrounding them, some right up to their fence line.]
Said the parks service in 2007: “It is well known that couch is very difficult to poison, as it is very tolerant to herbicides and once established is very difficult to control and virtually impossible to eliminate completely.
“Growth of both buffel and couch is very eruptive and vigorous, particularly in response to good rainfall.”
And to rub it in, the caretakers of our parks announced: “Our weed control efforts are prioritised throughout the east central Barkly district to ensure we direct our resources to those areas where the best outcomes can be achieved.”
This week we asked the present minister for parks, Alice born and bred Karl Hampton, the following questions:-
• In the last three years, how many traditional owners have worked on the eradication of weeds in Emily Gap?
• What is the approximate total of hours?
• By what percentage has the area within the reserve covered by non-native flora increased or decreased?
• How many people at Amoonguna, which is within walking distance of the reserve, and has apparently significant unemployment, have been mobilised to assist with the weed control at Emily Gap?
Despite assurances from the minister’s aide that we would have a timely response, we had not received one by deadline.

Can developer tell future? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Which came first in the development proposal for a worker’s village on Lot 288, Ross Highway – the chicken or the egg?
As we reported (Alice News, Feb 11,, developers Graeme and Carol Bernie, and Tony Smith, seem to have been very fast off the starting blocks putting in their bid for a multi million dollar “short stay workers village” in Alice Springs – and possibly one in Darwin.
And now it seems the developers are equipped with the gift of predicting the future, with their plans predating the government’s invitation of proposals for such a village by two weeks.
To recap: the government’s requirements were first advertised in newspapers just one week before Christmas.
On January 18, still in the holiday period, Mr and Mrs Bernie signed an authorization for Darwin consultants Master Plan to act as the applicant, and Mr Smith did so the following day, on behalf of the Green Ant Property Trust.
Two days later Master Plan had a 34 page submission ready for the government to put on public display for a fortnight.
It was taken off display – ending the opportunity for public comment – on February 5.
Now it turns out that plans submitted by Master Plan are dated December 2, 2009.
That is two weeks before Chief Minister Paul Henderson first mentioned that his government is inviting proposals for the workers’ village, and two weeks and a day before the first advertisements appeared on December 15.
Neither Mr and Mrs Bernie nor Mr Smith responded to requests for comment, but a spokeswoman for Mr Henderson said there’s nothing unusual about the sequence of events.
“It may have been that the plans for the application were produced in early December as you suggest but it is not unusual to spend some time getting the paperwork together before an application is lodged,” she says.
“The applicant may have tailored this particular submission to address the NT Government’s proposal after seeing the ads or hearing about the call for submissions.”
No, they couldn’t have, because the “call for submissions” was made more than two weeks after the plans were drawn, judging by the dates.
That seems to suggest the applicants did hear about the government’s plans well before they were made public.
Says the spokeswoman: “No decision has been made on who will develop and operate the short-term workers’ village in Alice Springs as per the call from Government on December 16.
“The Government does not have a commitment or agreement with any party related to the workers village in either Alice Springs or Darwin.”

Eisteddfod times are a’changing. By KIERAN FINNANE.

In its heyday the annual Central Australian Eisteddfod attracted a thousand participants.
Recently the numbers have declined to fewer than 500 while in 2009 fewer than 400 contestants took part.
This decline is the major reason pushing organisers – volunteers all – to have a rethink.
Should they put the event on at all?
Should the name be changed?
Is timing a factor?
Is its competitive nature a factor?
Are the categories relevant to today?
Can more Aboriginal people be drawn to get involved?
And where is a suitable venue, one that will work for both participants and the organisers?
Back a while, the hall in the youth centre on Wills Terrace  was used.
It had the advantage of being readily available and cheap but the organisers had to do everything, remembers eisteddfod veteran and current president John Cooper, from cleaning toilets to bringing in a piano and having it tuned.
“I simply can’t do that,” says Jan Jennings, publications officer (really the 2IC).
“I haven’t got time, none of us on the committee have the time and we haven’t got the great levels of parental involvement that we used to.”
In recent years Witchetty’s at Araluen has been used for most of the program and the main theatre for choirs, big bands and the grand finale concert.
Now the use of Witchetty’s for exhibiting visual art, with the program decided well in advance, has put the squeeze on the venue’s availability for the eisteddfod.
Dates in March this year were proposed to the committee but March is too close to the start of the year, says Mrs Jennings: “We can’t organise it in such a tight timeframe and it doesn’t give teachers enough time to prepare their students’ participation.
“The Convention Centre may be an alternative but it is likely to be much more expensive.”
A Town Council Community Access Grant has subsidised the use of Araluen, but wouldn’t be available for the Convention Centre.
For years May was eisteddfod month but it is also the month of the national Naplan literacy and numeracy tests and in 2008 it was decided to hold the eisteddfod in August.
This ran into its own problems, as it was very soon after the mid-year break and again there was not much time for preparation.
As Naplan affects only Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine the committee is now thinking that they should disregard Naplan and reschedule for May but that still leaves questions of relevance and venue.
A focus group last Saturday, involving some young people, some teachers, parents and others, may come up with some fresh ideas.
The committee also hope to hear from others, especially young people, who can complete a survey on-line (for those who have not previously particpated: <>; for those who have: <>).
As committee officials Mr Cooper and Mrs Jennings were not allowed to take part in the focus group, but were teasing out the issues on the sidelines.
“We’re not struggling for committee membership and we’ve got funding,” says Mr Cooper, “$6000 from the Department of Eduction and $3000 from the Community Benefits Fund.
“Adjudicators are still wanting to come.
“They’ve always been keen as we have a reputation of being a fun eisteddfod.
“But our product may not be quite ‘2010’.
“Maybe it should become a ‘let’s try’ event, with some of the competitive pressures removed.
“Maybe we need new categories.”
A teacher new to town has suggested a short film competition, for example.
There seem to be fewer students learning instruments like the piano, but there may be many more learning the guitar and drums.
The eisteddfod traditionally requires music contestants to sing or play from a score.
But it seems many guitarists and drummers may play quite well but not know how to read a score, so should that still be a requirement?
“The eisteddfod was started to encourage talent, performance skills,” says Mrs Jennings.
“It’s about singing and playing in front of your peers – that’s the essential thing we want to focus on.”
Mr Cooper, well known former principal of Anzac Hill High, says having participation assessed as part of the school curriculum could help boost numbers – “it could make us more useful to students, teachers and schools”.
But the eisteddfod is not only for young people. Adults, as individuals and in groups, used to take part.
“There used to be 10 to 12 adults competing in the Open Modern Song Category,” recalls Mrs Jennings.
“It used to be talked about, well thought of.
“Many of those people are still here but perhaps don’t want to keep doing the same thing and there’s not much fresh interest.
“Last year there were only two contestants.”
Mr Cooper is ready to concede that “maybe the eisteddfod is simply not needed any more”. 
“We’ll take our guidance from what comes out of this process,” he says.
The local group is a member of the Association of Eisteddfod Societies of Australia and may send a representative to attend the upcoming annual general meeting, to find out whether eisteddfods are widely in decline – they have heard that some are, but others are doing well.
Hopefully the AGM might also offer some inspiration for a revitalisation of what has been part of Alice Springs cultural life for 23 years.

Reflections upon a mirror’s image. Naturally with ALEX NELSON.

Birds are renowned for their superior vision and hearing – their colourful plumage and vibrant calls and song are vital aspects to their identities and survival.
With most bird species it is the males that are gaudier or noisier than their female counterparts, especially during breeding. At these times the males need to demonstrate their virility to prospective mates and drive off rivals for territory through colour and song.
This might escalate to chasing each other around but physical combat is a last resort and usually resolved quickly.
Birds normally never get to see what they look like themselves; all their feathered finery is for the benefit of others. So when a male bird sees an image of itself in a mirror or highly polished surface, he perceives not a reflection but rather a rival.
He’ll respond by singing but his rival – dammit – seems to sing back at him. He might show off his colourful feathers to best advantage – and cops an eyeful of his perceived adversary doing exactly the same thing. The situation immediately escalates – right, sport, this means war!
There ensues endless singing, preening and physical combat, hour after hour, day after day, as an affronted bird vainly seeks to vanquish its mirror image.
It’s a funny sight but often it’s annoying, too. How tiresome hearing a rufous whistler repetitively singing the same notes by a shiny window while you’re trying to read or watch TV.
And damn that pee-wee for crapping all over the freshly washed family car as it endlessly fights its reflection in the windscreen.
Many birds do this – I’ve seen brilliant blue male variegated wrens through rufous whistlers and pee-wees (mudlarks) to roosters and supposedly clever crows, all crankily confronting themselves in front of shiny surfaces.
They can expend a tremendous effort doing so.
Once I startled a rufous whistler that was constantly singing at its image in a ute’s side mirror – the bird flew through the open window into the cabin, where it was trapped inside. I caught the little fellow, and was surprised to feel beneath his feathers he was nothing but skin and bones. He was singing himself close to death.Why do they do it? 
In nature there are no real equivalents to our invented mirrors.
The nearest natural example is the still surface of a small pond (lay a mirror flat on the ground and birds will try to drink from it).
But with water the quality of a reflection is compromised by the colour of rock or soil at the bottom, and is easily disrupted by a breeze or other disturbance. Consequently animals have great difficulty comprehending perfect images of themselves.
But birds are not the only creatures fooled by mirrors – we are, too.
Most of us are familiar with the declaration in the Book of Genesis that man has been created in the image of God. We perceive this as a flattering description of ourselves, affirming our special place – indeed our superiority – over all else in the natural world.
This notion lies at the core of secular society where our scientific insights and technical prowess have permitted us to rise to dominance like no other creatures have ever achieved.
Now comes the rub taking the shine off our polished selves.
The scribe from Genesis had the opposite meaning in mind, and I infer this from a common historical oversight –  he lived in a time when there were no mirrors.
The images that people saw of themselves in ancient history were little different to what birds and other animals see – reflections in a pond or clay pot of water, maybe on some burnished bronze; but fuzzy or brief at best.
The scribe’s intention surely was not to exalt mankind’s position in nature but to emphasize our frailty and humility.
Mirrors reflect not just our images but also our history of vanity. Modern mirrors were invented during the Renaissance but were difficult and expensive to make. The opulent Palace of Versailles is adorned with mirrors because, at the time of its construction, only the rich and powerful could afford them.
Mirrors have only come into common use since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, precisely reflecting the period where humanity has come to dominate the Earth, now seriously stretching the capacity of the natural world’s environments and resources to sustain us.
So our featherbrained friends singing in combat with their mirror images, like canaries in coal mines, may be sounding the alarm for our own folly.

LETTERS: Was there ‘due process’ in the so called ‘Tui Ford Jnr Saga’?

Sir – Question: So whatever did happen to the “victim” of the now so called infamous Tui Ford Junior saga?
The news has been bigger than Ben Hur as they say. Does it really warrant that much attention? I mean really?
I thought I perhaps should investigate further, just in case it was just a matter of “small town” syndrome, where what might be big to us, in fact is not at all.
It took some “Sherlock” investigative techniques, but I discovered there are in fact three sides to this story, no four, well actually five.
Deep breath. Once upon a time, during a rugby game in a comp made up of just four teams, in a desert town population of 30,000, a player from Devils, Te Ara Armstrong, was illegally knocked clean out of the game by a brutal, cowardly head high tackle. He was the victim!
His nose was broken in two places, he received two black eyes, his consciousness took a vacation, and before he knew it, he wasn’t working for two weeks due to the severity of his injuries. Te Ara is married, has two children and was enjoying his first season of rugby in Alice Springs.
He knew if he played with the Devils, he was playing with a good bunch of guys. Skilful, family orientated, most church-going for the last 20 years. Don’t drink or smoke either, guys that cover your back when the traffic gets heavy.
So, was it Tui Ford Jnr who committed this dastardly deed? Did he apologise? Was it intentional? How on earth could he account for such an act? He should simply man up, face the consequences as Pat Torres suggested in his [recent] heart to heart to the Advocate.
But NO, it wasn’t Tui Jnr. Nor was it Tui Snr. They, father and son, play alongside Te Ara. Both have impressive records as leaders, on and off the field. Both have enviable reputations as highly talented and skilful ball players having more than their fair share of Rugby trophies and championship wins from NZ  to Sydney and yes little ol’ Alice Springs. Tui Snr works with the disadvantaged, has six children and been married 30 years.
Tui Jnr also works with youth, those with the least. Only a few years back he returned from the Philippines, after serving a two year mission for his faith, something he believes in, saved every penny too, not a paid position. He volunteered, just as he turned 19, at the peak of his sporting prowess. I suppose it must have been tougher than any game of rugby he’s ever played.
So then, who was the culprit (the other side of the story)? I guess we’ll never know. I did eventually find out, but like the Advocate, have decided not to reveal it to your readers.
So what the hell did Tui Jnr Ford do to gain all this attention? He questioned the ref, Jeff Tubbenhauer.
Understandably, after the knockout blow tensions were raised to a yellow alert. After that disappointing act by the anonymous Eagles player, four of Tui Jnr’s team mates were yellow carded and sinbinned. Go figure.
Tui Jnr actually didn’t “question the ref”. He asked a question of the ref. There is a difference.
There’s another side of the story, the ref. Four send-offs please, and to the team that has now lost five players, including the victim of the crime that CSI hasn’t been able to get to just yet, and unbelievably all within minutes. Some might say “the fastest gun in the west”.
Hey, I don’t mean to bag the guy; we need our refs here in Alice. Maybe that’s why it seems “illegal” to criticize officials in Alice Springs, though officials can criticize players through the Advocate. There’s irony for you and perhaps worthy of three yellow cards and a send off.
Tubbenhauer has been here some time and certainly given long service. But what of his performance that day? I don’t think he’s biased, a bad guy even. But it was too much for him that day. We all have our off days, right? 
Tui Jnr was given time, for “bringing the game into disrepute”. I thought our silent assailant from the Eagles might have been afforded that title but no. He played last week. I hear he’s actually not a bad bloke either. I don’t know if he’s apologised to Te Ara, the victim, who still doesn’t play. I don’t know if he’s apologised to Devils who seem to have the world against them, or at least Alice Springs, thanks mainly to the Advocate and sloppy journalism by Chris Ward.
So with tensions now moving to a terror alert of “orange,” the Devils in their wisdom, under the leadership of their Elder player, decided to “walk”. Defusion is better than explosion, surely?
Tui Senior and Junior have, with their extended family, assisted every team in CARU to win championships in small town Alice Springs. They’ve been a positive force for years, often playing for the worst performing team and building them up to championship teams. Yes, they did this with the Eagles too, not too far back winning two.
Here’s the rub. Tui Jnr was given suspension for addressing the concerns of many readers, who shot from the lip and weren’t there. He wrote into the Advocate, he wrote sincerely, and eloquently explaining the Devils’ actions in walking. Me, I wouldn’t have bothered.
The Advocate, as media is prone to do in creating a “story”, revealed only a small part of that letter. No one stands a chance against the press when your words are used to match their “angle” for the story they want. Hey, it’s a business – truth is sacrificed for the story that sells.
CARU saw it as disrepute. Tui Jnr saw it as clarifying the dispute. He was willing to accept any punishment that came his way but not once did he receive any formal written directive from CARU. Sure, someone said something to someone about telling Tui Jnr about something.
So he turns up to what he thought would be a meeting to decide his fate. He waits, he waits, he’s the only one waiting, he leaves one hour later. A letter would’ve made a difference, I’m sure. You know, things are clear. You have some evidence of what’s required of you. We call that “due process”, or justice. People sacrificed their lives for that privilege. CARU didn’t provide that. They didn’t turn up to their own meeting.
Yeah, so TJ decides to play in “The World’s Hottest Sevens” in Darwin. He initiated it three years ago with local legend Jono Shwalger, his good team mate, and family. They took it upon their own shoulders to carry an Alice Springs team to Darwin to represent. Well you heard the story, they won their division. Third time in a row now. TJ played one game, then someone told someone about something and TJ was warned about partaking any further. They won anyway.
If only CARU reacted as quickly as that anonymous individual in Darwin who reacted like Al-Qaeda was upon us when he saw TJ on the field. You have to smile.
This inflamed CARU more. Not looking at their own lack of processes and how they dealt with TJ already up to this point, they meet in secret informing no one but themselves, and perhaps the Advocate (how else did they get the story in time for release?).
By good fortune for TJ, his uncle [the author of this letter] arrives. CARU invites him to stay, well he’s there already isn’t he, and they were discussing the fate of his nephew, even though nephew’s not there. This is where Pat Torres dramatically resigns.
Uncle’s well versed in the CARU constitution, speaks up for his nephew, no one else has, speaks about a clear and fair process. There’s another side of the story.
So, who is Tui Ford Jnr? He’s one of six kids. He’s still only in his twenties. He grew up in the desert. He’s a talented sportsman right across the board. He got himself into university. He works with disadvantaged youth. He hardly speaks, shy type really. But he will stand up for his rights and perhaps yours or those without a voice (particularly if you’re unconscious). He’s not a bad bloke, his father neither.
What did I get from all this? Often in life, it is far easier to sit down, than it is ever to stand up but if I ever had to choose who I’d have on my team when it really got down to the crunch, I know who that would be. There’s the other side of the story.
Percy Bishop
Aka Uncle Percy
and “Indigenous Anonymous”
Alice Springs
ED – The Alice News offered right of reply to Jeff Tubbenhauer as referee and as president of CARU (Central Australian Rugby Union). Mr Tubbenhauer  declined to comment except  to say that “the matter has been dealt with by the [CARU appointed] Judiciary”. He explained that the Judiciary is made up of “persons who are not directly associated with Rugby”.
The Alice News also offered right of reply to the Advocate. Editor Gary Wasserman responded: ‘’The Centralian Advocate rejects any notion that it sacrifices the truth for a story that sells and we stand by our sports journalists who have built up strong relationships with many sports organisations across Alice Springs based on mutual respect and trust.’’

Alice cancer patients: ‘queues’ not the issue

Sir – Regarding “No queues for cancer patients” (Alice News, Feb 18), the headline relates to the radiotherapy element of cancer treatment, applicable to some, not all, cancer patients.
March 2010 is the anticipated  start-up date for the NT Radiation Oncology Unit,in the grounds of the Royal Darwin Hospital.
To date, all NT cancer patients requiring radiotherapy have had to access such services interstate, and have received PATS support to do so.
In the nine years of this group’s existence, we have not encountered any complaint of waiting times for radiotherapy.
Rather, it has been with accessing diagnosis in the first place, and in a timely manner, and with follow-up and co-ordination of care that some cancer patients have had the most difficulty.
Once the Radiation Unit becomes operational in Darwin, the NT PATS policy guidelines become effective: ie, no travel or accommodation subsidy will be applicable for interstate radiation treatment as the service now exists in the NT.
Cancer patients can still choose to go interstate for radiotherapy, but will have to self fund any travel and accommodation costs. The cost of the radiotherapy itself is largely covered by Medicare.
Our group of breast cancer survivors, together with people in our region experiencing other types of cancer,  have consistently advocated for choice  to travel where patients can best have the support of extended family and social networks during the five to six weeks or more of radiotherapy.
Medical opinion at all levels has supported the need for choice for those in this region who have at least a 1500km journey from home and immediate family. This includes Professor Ian Olver, former visiting oncologist to the NT and now CEO of Cancer Council Australia.
At the public forum (not advertised in any local paper) last week, local residents, most affected by cancer, were very frustrated about the absence of any representative from the Department of Health and Families.
Local residents were also very angry about transport and meal provision related to the accommodation facility in Darwin.
Located at Stuart Park, it is a former nursing home. Advocacy led to major internal works to provide ensuites in 23 of the 27 rooms. The building is large – everything under one roof, with grounds and gardens. It was the size of rooms which people questioned.
In concert with other patients familiar with Darwin, I feel Stuart Park is not ideal, being distant from the hospital and Casuarina, and certainly not in walking distance for most patients to the CBD, which has fewer facilities.
From the presentation given at the forum by the representative from the YWCA who have won the tender for the Stuart Park patient accommodation, it became apparent that the transport arrangements are far from being realized and that the meal amenities are a far cry from those of the excellent Greenhill Lodge in Adelaide. 
Former Minister, Chris Burns, after a fact finding trip to Adelaide in October 2007, assured us in writing that the Darwin “dedicated supportive accommodation facilities ... will be at least of equivalent standard to those you visited with me in Adelaide, offered by the Cancer Council of South Australia”.
The dining room at Greenhill offers at minimal cost a variety of excellent meals prepared on site and a well equipped large kitchen for those who choose to cook for themselves.
The Darwin facility has small kitchen/dining areas as well, but no onsite provision of meals.
For those not well enough to cater for themselves, the forum was told a prepacked meal could be ordered from the hospital.This is what upset people greatly.
Our concerns, and those relayed to us since the forum, have already been communicated directly to Minister for Health, Kon Vatskalas.
Lesley Reilly
Bosom Buddies NT
PO Box 9099
Alice Springs NT

Kids searching rubbish bins, begging for food

Sir – On the ABC News on February 14 Tony Abbott said he doubts that, “the Government has had any serious consultation with the women of Hermannsburg, for instance, or the women of Yuendumu, for instance, who have been so supportive of the Intervention, particularly the welfare quarantining aspects”.
I’m sure that he himself hasn’t had any serious consultation with the women of Yuendumu. I don’t know of any women here on income management who like it and want it to keep going.
The only ones I know who support it are not on income management or don’t live here. The women here say they never have any cash in their pockets anymore. Their basic card money is used up quickly after only two or three times shopping at our more expensive FaHCSIA controlled shop. They have given up trying to get their own money from the Centrelink-held kitty in an emergency.
The saddest thing about this latest experiment in enforced accelerated assimilation is, that at the end of the line, it hurts the very ones it was supposed to help, the at-risk children.
And there are more of them now with intensive policing, with more fathers in jail, more mothers in Alice Springs or other towns and children shunted back and forth, often left with very old people living on old age pensions.
These children used to get all the spare change from other relatives. Now they have no spare change.
When will there be an apology to these children who miss out on regular schooling and often go hungry?
We are back to Welfare days where some children search rubbish bins and beg white people for food. Jenny Macklin says children are putting on weight. If they weighed them all here, including the ones often not at school, they might find some are losing weight.
Wendy Baarda

Government whim

Sir –  I fail to see where Dave Price and his wife have taken up the “long hard battle for equality for all Aboriginal people” (letter from Janet Brown, Feb 18). 
They seem to spend all their energy on protesting against those opposing the NT intervention, even Aboriginal people. 
I cannot see how they are working with people or empowering people or advising them of their right to equal treatment before the law and by the government, or helping them attain those rights.
Their energies would be better spent on advising the government on where their policies are going wrong.  Mrs Price is in a prime position to do this, being the chair of the Northern Territory’s Indigenous Advisory Committee. 
Both she and her husband work for the government and other organisations providing cultural advice and information.  Mrs Price is also on the government’s Domestic Violence Advisory Committee.
It is obvious to anyone with an ounce of nous that the current method of taking over Aboriginal people’s lives and controlling them is not working.  This is evidenced by the extremely high incarceration rate of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, the high rate of crime, the increasing social problems, the increasing homelessness, endemic health problems. 
It is not good enough for the government or current so-called ‘do gooders’ to say it takes time to fix the problems. How long do people wait for life to become better? 
How many more people must we lose before the government wakes up to the error of its ways? 
I suspect only when someone adds up the figures and realises they have blown the budget big-time with the excessive Intervention spending (and most of it in the wrong area, by the way –  government business managers, huge blue and white signs, unused BMX tracks, plenty of houses for bureaucrats and none for Aboriginal people, the Centrelink waste etc, all taxpayers’ money).  Perhaps then autonomy will be given back to the people.
Aboriginal people are subject to the whim of government.  The current situation is a result of decades of neglect and under-resourcing.  Forcing people off their land, forcing them into larger towns or major centres, enforcing assimilation and social control – ‘normalisation’ – will only add to the increasing problems. 
Forcing them to work for the dole and then paying them with a Basics Card is not equal treatment.
The current government should have looked at what was working instead of following the Howard government’s policies and taking a jack-boot approach, undermining successful Aboriginal organisations and programs, whilst at the same time encouraging larger bureaucracies to expand by increasing their funding and pitting Aboriginal people against each other with the promise of money and the requirement for acquiescence. In other words: “We give you the funds but you don’t speak against us.”
By the way, anthropologists such as Dr Stotz seem to be resented for their expertise whereas utilisation of the skills that Dr Stotz and other anthropologists like Marcia Langton possess might have averted dilemmas such as the current dispute over the possible nuclear waste dump site at Muckaty and the disquiet over the granting of an exploration licence for the Angela Pamela uranium mine.
Marlene Hodder
Alice Springs
The language of separation

Sir – I noticed in the Alice News (Feb 11) an advertisement for a leadership program for “Aboriginal and non-aboriginal leaders”. I wondered how different Aboriginal leaders were to perhaps Asian leaders, Caucasian or perhaps African leaders. Why was it necessary to make this distinction?
It’s this habitual and invariable use of labelling and classification that affects the national sub-conscious. It exacerbates the idea of them, descendents of First Australians and us, descendents of the other four races. If you must know what race I am to provide me with a service, instead of writing on your forms “Are you indigenous or non-indigenous?” why not “What is your race?”
While governments spend millions on so-called reconciliation programs, they defeat themselves (and the people) by perpetuating a system of entrenched apartheid, racist programs for a small minority of our population – separate schools, birthing units, health centres, job programs etc.
As long as we continue to tell people they are special, different and disadvantaged, they will remain special, different and disadvantaged and never become equal with mainstream Australia.
As Governor General Sir Paul Hasluck said perhaps 30 years ago, “We’ve homogenised the milk, but not the people”.
We need to eradicate this language of separation, racist policies and laws and use inclusive language that demonstrates a united Australia. Who really gives a rat’s if someone’s ancestors 30,000 years ago lived on the plains of Mongolia when there is so much to do today?
Until we begin to treat all Australians as Australians and provide help to people based on need and not genes, Australia will remain a country of division struggling to free itself from its history. The first step is to use language of inclusion and unity.
Robin Henry

Treating kids right comes first

Sir – Language is the key to a living culture’s survival for the simple reason that cultures don’t survive translation.  When translated into another language, a culture can become academically interesting enough to give rise to doctoral dissertations, or it can simply become a curiosity to tease the mind, but it’s not alive.
So it follows that if a culture is to remain alive, it’s original language must be preserved.
At the same time, the purpose of a tax-payer funded public school system is to enable students to succeed in the national culture. 
So I applaud the NT government’s decision to teach the first four hours of the school day on remote communities in English.  Where else will those students learn the national language?
Admittedly this means that communities and families wishing to preserve their own culture must teach their children their language in their own time.  This is done at home and at play, but not at school.
It is possible to stop there and not learn the national language, but this choice severely limits a child’s future.  He or she can never aspire to more than being on the outside of the national culture looking in. This would be a denial of the child’s rights.
We hear a lot about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), both measures originating in the United Nations. 
We hear less about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). 
To my way of thinking this last is the most important of the three. 
If we can get how we treat our children right, the rest will follow as a matter of course.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Suicide stigma

Sir – The Northern Territory has the highest rates of suicide in Australia, almost double the national rate.
In specific communities and regions, the suicide rate for Indigenous people is as much as 40% higher than for the Australian population as a whole.
Suicide is a difficult subject to talk about. It is surrounded by stigma, taboo, misunderstandings and silence.
It is for these reasons that Suicide Story has been developed by the Life Promotion program of our association. This training resource is to be officially launched on March 3 at 2pm at the Andy McNeil Room by Minister Kon Vatskalis. Suicide Story is a DVD and training package made up of nine short films using animation, Indigenous voices, music and art work. It was developed over three years out of a need for Aboriginal people to be better equipped to deal with the incidence of suicidal behaviour and the need for a training tool that was more culturally relevant to their lives here in Central Australia.
The intention of Suicide Story is to help create safer communities for Aboriginal people living and working in remote communities of the Northern Territory.
For more information call me on 8950 4600.
Laurencia Grant
Mental Health Assn.

Drovers’ reunion in May

Sir – Our 2010 Drover Reunion will be held on Labour weekend in May at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre, Longreach.  
We would like to get many old and young drovers to this reunion and hope young Australians and all sorts of media will come and listen to our stories.
I am 70 years old and I was droving out west around Kynuna, Longreach, Winton, and Julia Creek at the age of 16, back in 1956, ‘57.
The equipment we were using was the same they used in the early years, the 1800s, when they were droving big and small herds across Australia.
Today all the long paddocks are clear, you have a mobile phone to call for help or just to talk to your girl a million miles away, a caravan to sleep in, a micro wave to cook with, a lazy boy chair to rest in, electric fence to hold your stock for the night, no night watch.
You have an ambulance or doctor within an hour to see your injury, even a washing machine and a generator to supply you television and lights, even that computer, a cold beer each night, then to top all that off you have a modern toilet.
In our day, daylight to daylight, you had just three or four hours of rest. One kero light for the cook. Open fire with nowhere to sit or rest one’s weary bones, meals on the run.
You had just one horse for the day and one for riding at night, all timber and scrub, no way of seeing through it, little or no fence.
Your bed was just a tarp with your smelling clothing for a pillow. No water to drink only to be used for that cupper if you got time to make it.
Your toilet was anywhere in the bush, no dung beetle to keep the fly population down, you got carried away by the flies.
A bath? No way! A wash once a week maybe.  I could go on and on.
So help make this the best Drover Reunion and give us a chance to tell our stories.
Ken Hall
Hervey Bay, Qld

ADAM'S APPLE: Get real, Country Liberals!

If I was a Country Liberal apparatchik, someone would have lost their job.
Did you get the glossy brochure titled 18 months hard Labor? I did. In fact I got a couple. I had to check the first one against the second to make sure it wasn’t a printing error.
On the front is a not as flattering as it should be picture of the CLP leader Terry Mills. Terry is never going to grace the cover of the sexiest man alive magazine. Truth be told neither will I, but surely there’s a photo of the Country Liberals leader out there with him looking less like the creature Gollum from the Lord of the Rings films.
What he looks like on that page is an Opposition Leader. Surely if you are starting to get into campaign mode, looking like a Chief Minister is more the aim.
But the facial expressions of the home intruder-nabbing pin up boy of the Territory right aren’t the reason heads could roll. It’s the placement of the picture.
In CLP style the main title reads in bold red on black: 18 Years Hard Labor. Did you catch the play on words? Under the headline was a sub-heading that began with “A lack of leadership…” Guess where Terry Mill’s picture was situated. That’s right, less than a centimetre away from that heading is a monochromatic picture of a stern Terry Mills.
Now I know those who took the time to read the poster sized piece of propaganda will realize that it’s a Country Liberals poster sized piece of propaganda, but most Centralians couldn’t give a monkey’s chuff what brand of politics you’re spinning unless you connect with them on an issue.
This pamphlet had plenty to connect with, but an initial scan made by the people in a town Terry Mills himself says has a significant literacy problem, would leave them having to chew through a muddled message before they made that connection.
It smacks of the Country Liberal spin doctors spending too much time crafting the next well worded epigram for the next door stop to worry about getting the message through clearly.
To be fair, the CLP doesn’t have as many troops in the bunker as the Henderson Government. When you see a list of the media liaison officers working for Territory Labor it is difficult to remember that the present government only represents a population of 210,000.
There are more spin doctors working for Territory Labor than working for Cricket Australia. Say what you like about the Henderson government but one thing is for sure. They have absolutely mastered the percentage versus real numbers spin. They have figured out that due to the small population, percentages in the Territory can be quite impressive or quite tragic and will use either accordingly.
Either by sheer weight of numbers or by careful planning, they have also succeeded in topping the grade for making the ministers they work for say absolutely nothing. Honestly, the last time the government actually said something instead of parroting the same management speak, Clare Martin was moving into her new office.
But just as the people of the backrooms have mastered their sinister arts, it seems the public wants something different.
The rise in popularity of Tony Abbott is a steep and amazing one. Three years ago if you were to suggest that Mr. Abbott would not only be the leader of the Federal Opposition but would be gaining ground on Kevin Rudd I’d have laughed in your face. Think back and remember that for a period there, Brendan Nelson was more popular. But the polls as well as the man on the street are warming to Tony Abbott. Why?
It’s not his policies which are as expensive and suffocating as anything conjured up by Rudd or Howard. It surely can’t be the speedos which now, with the invention of the shark skin racing suit, should only be worn by surf lifesavers and only then in the name of tradition.
No people are turning to Tony Abbott for the same reason they like Gerry Wood. He is real.
Rudd has appeared so micromanaged of late and occasionally the strings used to puppet him around have started to become twisted. Abbott slags off housewives, Muslims and the sexually active but people like it because it isn’t highly polished.
Maybe sound bites like “having said that, let me say this” have had their run. Maybe that’s what the Country Liberals can bring to the next campaign.

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