March 11, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Grog rehab: kids miss out. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

There is one alcohol rehabilitation or treatment bed for every 485 adults in Alice Springs. There is one for every 2000 people aged between 12 and 25.
Yet the need for a facility catering for young abusers of grog, ganja and “volatile substances” – mostly glue, plus the odd amount of amphetamines, is acute, growing and uncharted territory.
At the moment Bushmob is filling the gap, underfunded, stretched to its limits and inappropriately located, says its manager, Will MacGregor.
The premises are “co-located” – by decision of the NT Government – on the block of the Drug and Alcohol Services Association (DASA).
In plain view, just a few metres away, is DASA’s sobering up shelter, not the kind neighborhood youngsters trying to kick a habit should be exposed to, night after night.
Bushmob started 12 years ago and two years ago it split away from DASA.
Mr MacGregor says the service, which gets $700,000 a year from the NT and the Commonwealth, is meant to have five “funded” beds but in fact the average occupancy is eight.
And that is pretty well as far as government interest goes: “We applaud that the government has had the foresight of starting an urban facility.
“Apart from that, the funders give us money and then leave us to our own devices,” he says.
In fact in two years of operations Bushmob has had just one audit and one review.
The clients are mostly Aboriginal, and from backgrounds where nothing is done “until there is a crisis”, says Mr MacGregor.
Some should, for a long time, have had treatment for schizophrenia or psychosis, but they didn’t.
Their families “did not have the capacity to know about it,” says Mr MacGregor.
The kids are being admitted to Ward One, the “psych ward” at the hospital.
Beds there, too, are limited and so the young people are released back to the family.
“Medication goes out the window,” says Mr MacGregor. “Blood levels and dosage cannot be monitored.”
So the young people “self-medicate with booze or drugs to take away the bad feeling”.
Then it’s back to Ward One ... and so on.
For another group of Bushmob clients, substance abuse, mostly practiced in public places, is the main way of dealing with life – neglect, boredom and hunger.  They band together: “We’re tough kids. This is how we survive, look out for each other”, is their attitude, says Mr MacGregor.
There isn’t a textbook in The Centre for dealing with kids from such extreme backgrounds.
Often parents are unable to cope and “therefore have put in place very limited boundaries so far” for the kids.
Where will they end up?
“I don’t know,” says Mr MacGregor, “probably in a further engagement with the criminal justice system.”
There are increasing calls for a locked facility.
Bushmob is entirely open, and most youngsters have asked to be admitted.
So Mr MacGregor and his staff of eight are finding their own ways, building rehabilitation in town “through programs in our house, as well as around trips out bush, adventure therapy”.
But there, too, the picture is grim.
Two of the four bush places taking in kids have shut down – Injartnama (formerly run by Barry and Elva Cook), and Ipolera, run by Mavis Malbunka.
This leaves Mt Theo near Yuendumu and Illamurta Springs, run by the legendary Barry Abbott.
As often as possible, Bushmob go bush, working with horses, being taught by people such as Chris Wallace, and “Gibbo”, a former ringer at Santa Teresa, 60 years old and still riding in rodeos.
Or they join traditional families who teach them how to collect bushtucker and go hunting, and tell the stories that make up the law.
But it’s not a perfect arrangement: there is no or little access in the bush to clinical treatment.
And in town there are few of the diversions that can keep the kids out of trouble.

Grog woes are common

COMMENT by Professor DENNIS GRAY, Deputy Director of the National Drug Research Institute 
Curtin University and an alcohol researcher in Central Australia for 20 years.

I am not able to comment on the specific claims made in your recent articles on the provision of alcohol and other drug services at Aranda House and the financing of them. Nevertheless, the claims are reflective of issues that have arisen across state and territory jurisdictions and which are not unique to the Northern Territory.
There are various regions around the country in which the need for residential treatment outstrips available places. Residential treatment is effective but expensive to provide, and there is a reluctance by both governments, and the tax-payers who are among those who elect them, to raise or allocate the revenue to provide and / or adequately resource such services.
The shortage of adequately qualified service providers, raised in your reports, resonates with concerns that have been raised elsewhere. Again this is a complex issue and has to do with service conditions and levels of remuneration, stressful working environments, high staff “burnout” and turnover, and inadequate allocations of resources for appropriate levels of training.
A third issue has to do with service planning and coordination and integrated case management of clients. Most people, especially those living in regional and remote Australia, would agree that the planning of services should not be imposed from ‘on high’ but should be undertaken locally and should include a wide range of relevant stakeholders. However, such planning and coordination is unlikely to occur simply because it makes ‘good sense’. Again, it requires adequate financial resources and appropriately trained staff.
The issues raised in your articles are symptomatic of broader systemic problems.
There is little doubt that existing resources can be more efficiently utilised.
However, the gains from this alone are not likely to be great.
As a broad community, we need to recognise that effective alcohol and other drug treatment is costly but that investment in it – and other supply and harm reduction strategies – can reap substantial benefits both for those who are dependent and for the community as whole.

Henderson stifles Anderson. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Chief Minister Paul Henderson has rejected a request from Independent MLA Alison Anderson for additional staff.
Ms Anderson (pictured) has no staff other than an electorate officer, fully occupied, she says, in attending to matters in the vast bush electorate of MacDonnell.
She says it’s a long standing convention in the NT as well as other parliaments to afford staffing resources to Independent Members to allow them to do their parliamentary work.
Loraine Braham, former Independent Member for Braitling, now retired, confirms that she and Member for Nelson, Gerry Wood, shared a researcher in the last parliament.
“It was great to have,” says Mrs Braham.
“Your electorate officer has enough to do.”
Ms Anderson put her request to the Chief Minister on February 24. He replied in a letter dated February 26 that any request for additional staffing must be made to the Remuneration Determination Tribunal.
Ms Anderson says he is mistaken, that regulations specifically exclude the tribunal from determining the allocation of staff to an Independent Assembly Member.
She is now pursuing the matter with Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Jane Aagaard.
Ms Anderson says she would accept a .5 position, as was supplied to Mrs Braham and Mr Wood.
“All I’m asking for is the assistance I need to scrutinise legislation and ask questions in the House – that’s democracy in action and what’s expected of me as a Member of the Parliament.”
A spokesperson for Mr Henderson, in response to our enquiries, made the following statement: “Alison Anderson is entitled to the same staffing and resourcing as any other Member of the Legislative Assembly.”
The statement does not make clear whether that means that Ms Anderson will now get some assistance.   
Meanwhile, Ms Anderson says she will pursue her focus on government spending on Indigenous affairs at the next sittings, moving to have a parliamentary committee oversee such spending, but without demanding that it be made up of the Indigenous Members of Parliament.

Liquor litter litigation continues. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Proceedings against the Town Council over their liquor litter charge are continuing in the Supreme Court.
The council wants to charge owners of buildings accommodating bottle shops for cleaning up litter in public places – about half of it made up of liquor containers.
The owners of the premises of the big four liquor traders are facing new charges of $60,000 each per annum. Smaller premises will attract a  charge of $7500.
Peer Schroter is the lawyer acting for the plaintiffs.
They are Yeperenye Pty Ltd, operator of the Yeperenye shopping centre, and Loechel Management Pty Ltd, the land owner of the Todd Tavern premises, which it leases to the operator of the hotel business conducted from those premises.
Loechel Management Pty Ltd in its trustee capacity is also part land owner of the property on which the Gapview Resort Hotel business is conducted by another entity, says Mr Schroter.
“Neither of the parties in the Supreme Court proceedings conducts a business of a takeaway liquor outlet, however as commercial landlords they have been rated by the Alice Springs Town Council for the liquor litter charge,” he says.
The remaining eight parties in the matter, says Mr Schroter, “comprise either operators of takeaway liquor outlets (some as lessees of premises and others as owners), and commercial landlords which lease premises to such operators.
“Whilst the Australian Hotels Association NT Branch is not our client in this matter, I confirm that we are liaising with each other in the course of the matter,” he says.
The matter came before the Registrar of the court in mid-February in relation to the filing of further material by the council.
Mr Schroter says the plaintiffs have submitted a proposed statement of agreed facts to the council “for them to consider and agree as they see fit, with a view to limiting any potential factual disputes relating to the circumstances of the promulgation of the liquor litter levy”. 
“We are currently waiting on their response, their junior counsel having indicated that they are interested in attempting to agree facts, and not seeking to delay the listing of the matter for a hearing,” says Mr Schroter.
Council CEO Rex Mooney says council has always been keen for the matter to be heard, however a mid-year date proposed by council did not suit the court.
Mr Schroter says the matter may proceed to hearing in Darwin, “due to the matters already listed for hearing in Alice Springs”.
However Mr Mooney says  council’s latest advice is that the matter will be heard in Alice Springs, “subject to confirmation”.
See also our report on council’s bid to have the Local Government Act changed to allow the charge at <>.

Storms skirt Todd catchment. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Todd River didn’t breach its banks during the recent rains, yet one man drowned and there was traffic chaos for several days when the causeways were closed.
It could have been much worse if heavy rainstorms in the region, including Alice Springs and the airport, had fallen in the river catchment, on Bond Springs cattle station, north of the town.
Recordings from six rain gauges are used in the “modelling” of likely flooding of Alice Springs.
They are at the Bond Springs homestead; at the turn-off from the Stuart Highway to the homestead; Colyer Creek; Big Dipper (near the high bridge across the Charles); Mt Sir Charles (on the eastern side of the catchment) and Mt Lloyd (on the western side).
For example, on February 23, during the entire day, just 15mm and 12mm, respectively, fell at the Bond Springs and the Bond Springs Turnoff rain gauges.
Yet the Alice airport recorded 59.8mm of rainfall between about 4pm and 6.30pm.
The downpour at the airport – the heaviest ever recorded there – was the kind of ferocious, brief storm that triggers flooding of Alice Springs.
The Alice Springs News asked the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NRETAS), and Minister for Central Australia, Karl Hampton, what flooding of the town would have occurred if the airport storm had been in the catchment area of the Todd.
Both refused to give an answer.
The NT Government explains: “The flood forecast information NRETAS collects comprises technical data that is provided to the Northern Territory Emergency Services only.
“It is not appropriate for us to give our technical data information to members of the public or to divert these valuable resources to test hypothesis by members of the public.”
On January 18, 2007, 246mm – nearly 10 inches, more than that area’s annual average – fell on Numery Station, some 150 kms east of the Todd River catchment area.
A massive 215mm of it pelted down in the six hours from 3pm.
The Alice News was told when this figure was put into the computer model, the result was the inundation of Alice Springs at twice the Probable Maximum Flood (PMF).
The PMF is the most catastrophic flood imaginable, well greater than a Q100 which in itself is likely to cause grave loss of life and massive destruction.
The relevance of the Numery calculation cannot be confirmed nor dismissed.
The reason is that just one rain gauge was used. 
So the Numery storm may have been covering an area the size of the Todd catchment – or it may not.
There is no doubt that there are significant variations in rainfall in the region.
Daily falls between February 25 and 28 at Bond Springs were 33, 21, 21 and 37mm, respectively, while the corresponding figures at Anzac Oval were 66, 12, 65 and 84; at Alice Plaza 52, 12, 51 and 66.
So while this time the Todd catchment remained comparatively dry, next time it may not.
And until a flood mitigation wall is built, when the big one comes, all the help from the NT Governments will be telling locals: “Run.”
The town has no flood protection.
It has a forecasting system which can provide the basis for telling people in the flood plain to abandon their homes and businesses and move to high ground.
About this strategy the authoritative Power & Water report (Alice Flood Mitigation Dam, October 1990), says there may be less than an hour’s notice of a Q100, a one-in-100-years flood “and if it occurs at night, an efficient evacuation would not be possible”.
Yet this is considered adequate by both NT Minister for Central Australia, Karl Hampton, and Federal Member Warren Snowdon, whose government is continuing to block the construction of a flood mitigation wall because it would impact on Aboriginal sacred sites.

Desert knowledge is not (always) a dry argument.

Desert knowledge can be relevant to countries that don’t have deserts, as John Huigen, CEO of Desert Knowledge Australia, is finding out.
He is sharing “unique desert leadership ideas and intercultural leadership tools” with our Pacific neighbours involved in the Emerging Pacific Leaders’ Dialogue (EPLD) being held in Samoa this week.
The dialogue brings together 120 individuals to examine, discuss and report on current strategic issues across the Pacific.
Says Mr Huigen: “Desert Leadership is relevant because there are amazing parallels between desert and pacific regions: isolated communities; high transport costs; distance from markets and decision-making; high levels of indigenous knowledge and traditional lifestyles.”
Desert Knowledge Australia Leadership Development Mentor, John van Geldermalsen, is accompanying Mr Huigen and the NT is also represented by Australian Army Captain Mark Pearson.
Participants in the dialogue come from American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, East Timor, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Northern Marianas, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
As part of the dialogue, a study tour group will be hosted by DKA in Alice Springs for a three day program focusing on the key challenges confronting those in positions of leadership and influence.

A short history of violence.

Sid Murphy Impu was sentenced in the Supreme Court last Wednesday (March 3) to six years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of four years, for causing serious harm to a woman with whom he has a child. The offence, to which Mr Impu pleaded guilty, took place on April 2 last year at Whitegate camp (this photo) in Alice Springs. This is an edited transcript of the sentencing remarks by Justice Southwood.

The offender is an initiated Western Arrernte man who has a strong connection with his traditional cultural beliefs and practices.  His first language is Arrernte, however, he has a good command of English. 
He is 25 years of age.  He was primarily raised by his grandmother and his uncles who removed him from his parents because of his father’s domestic violence.  He grew up at Haasts Bluff, Undurana and Hermannsburg. 
He completed years 7, 8 and part of year 9 at Yirara College and completed year 9 and started year 10 at Alice Springs High School.  After he left school he obtained a welding certificate at Tjuwanpa Resource Centre ... and obtained employment with his uncle’s yard, building and fencing. The offender has been unemployed since 2006. 
The offender started drinking alcohol when he was 11 or 12 years of age.  He started consuming cannabis when he was at Yirara College.  He suffers from chronic and severe alcoholism.  He also misuses cannabis on occasion.  He uses cannabis to increase the affects of the alcohol he consumes.
While the offender was growing up he witnessed a lot of domestic violence and on occasion he was beaten by his father and his uncles. 
His father behaved in a violent manner towards his mother. 
The offender’s father was killed in a fight when the offender was eight or nine years of age.  The offender was also greatly affected by the death of his brother [who] died of a heart attack two days after the offender was initiated. 
The offender formed a domestic relationship with the victim in 2003. The relationship started to fall apart from 2004 onwards when the offender started seeing other women and behaving violently towards the victim. 
He has been convicted of assaulting the victim on four previous occasions and of breaching restraining orders obtained by her on two occasions. 
His past offending against the victim includes the following: on 17 May 2004 the offender assaulted the victim on Sadadeen Road by taking hold of her hair, causing her to fall to the ground and dragging her along the ground.  At the time he did so he was armed with a knife ... 
On 16 June 2006 the offender breached a Domestic Violence Order by punching her three times to the left and right side of her face and then striking her on the back of the head twice with a rock.
The offender and the victim have one child from their relationship, a son, who was born in early 2004.
The offender’s criminal history extends for seven pages.  Of relevance, he has been convicted of five aggravated assaults, being armed with an offensive weapon, of threatening behaviour in public, and of two breaches of restraining orders.  Most of the offender’s crimes have involved the consumption of alcohol.
The facts of the offending [for which Mr Impu has now been sentenced] are:
On 2 April 2009 the offender, the victim and others, consumed alcohol at various town camps around Alice Springs. 
Late in the evening the offender and the victim went to House 3 Whitegate Camp where they continued consuming alcohol.  The offender was sitting on a boot of a parked vehicle and the victim was sitting on the mattress on the ground a short distance away.  The offender climbed off the vehicle and approached the victim.  Nothing was said.  He then stabbed the victim once in the upper back and in the mid-region near her neck with a knife.  As a result the victim fell to the ground. 
The offender then stood over the victim and stabbed her in the left forearm as she attempted to defend herself.  The offender then repeatedly stabbed her to the upper and lower back region on both left and right sides and twice to the left upper thigh.  The offender did not say anything as he continually stabbed the victim.
At this time the victim’s uncle intervened and a brief physical struggled ensued.  The offender then fled the area with the knife.
Police units attended.  The victim was found to be covered in blood and lying motionless on the mattress.  One of the police officers staunched the bleeding of two of the stab wounds while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. 
On Monday 6 April the offender was arrested and taken to the Alice Springs Police watchhouse.
The victim suffered 11 stab wounds to her body; none of the wounds penetrated bones or organs. 
The harm caused from the 11 stab wounds was serious harm.  Without medical attention there was a reasonable chance of the wounds becoming infected and thus causing significant and longstanding injury.
Mr O’Reilly, who appeared on behalf of the offender, admitted the truth and accuracy of the facts to which I have referred. 
A Victim Impact Statement was tendered in evidence: “I felt pain when he first stabbed me. I could not believe it when he kept going. I was terrified that I might die. I had to have surgery. I was admitted to hospital. Now I feel scared when I am in a group drinking or when I see people fighting.”
The offender had been drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis since 5.30 am [on the day of the offending] with the victim’s brothers.  At some point in time he met up with the victim. 
She had money which they used to purchase more alcohol and she joined in the drinking. 
The offender says he does not recall anything to do with the offence. 
Prior to committing this offence the offender was and must have been aware that he committed all of the crimes of violence against the victim while he was under the influence of alcohol or alcohol and cannabis.
The psychologist who prepared a report for the court stated, in his opinion, the offender is an extremely and perpetually angry young man with a short fuse who can rapidly become violent whether drunk or sober.  He is highly stressed and anxious due to inter- and intra-family conflict. 
Following the commission of the crime the offender experienced an alcoholic blackout which has restricted his capacity to remember what he did.
The offence is a very serious offence, towards the top end of the range of such offences. 
There is little by way of mitigation.  The level of violence that the offender has inflicted on the victim over time has increased. 
He has not learned from the previous sentences that have been imposed on him by the courts. He has a violent character and he has continued to behave in a violent way towards the victim over a period of about five years. 
The offender’s prospects of rehabilitation are very problematic indeed. Despite his past violent offending, he has continued to misuse alcohol and cannabis. 
However, given the offender’s youth, his level of education, the fact that he has shown some remorse for the victim of his crime, and the insight he has started to have into his offending, it could not be said that his prospects of rehabilitation are without any hope at all. 
I note that he has indicated a willingness to undergo rehabilitation courses to assist him manage his anger and control the misuse of alcohol and cannabis.
The community strongly disapproves of the crime committed by the offender.  It is the sort of crime which causes alarm and concern in the community.  The offender and others must be discouraged from committing the same or similar crimes in the future.  Such terrible violence will not be tolerated. 
The victim has a right to be safe and to go about her life in a dignified manner free from such violence, degradation and abuse. The courts must do what they can to keep the victim and others safe in their community.

Jobs draw Sudanese to Alice. By KIERAN FINNANE.

New Sudanese migrants are arriving in Alice Springs every week, says Christine Keji (below), chairwoman of a local African association.
There are people from many African nations in town – Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Liberia, Cameroon – but the recent arrivals are mostly from South Sudan.
They are streaming into town from Melbourne, where work is hard to get, to the jobs and warm weather of our desert town.
They bring friends and relatives and all find work, even if it’s not at first the work they aspire to.
“They don’t want to rely on the government,” says Christine.
“We were not brought up like that – we don’t have Centrelink in our country.”
She introduces me to a countryman, who prefers not to be named.
He arrived in Alice in March last year, after obtaining an advanced diploma in human resources in Tasmania. After a month spent looking for work in his field, he was ready to take whatever he could find: “I had to sustain myself,” he says.
He worked for a year in a butcher’s shop before he landed a job in HR with a local hotel and is continuing to study on-line to get his bachelor’s degree.
This man is not married but many are.
“The men come first and settle and then they bring their wives,” says Christine.
“Some are separated from their wives and go back to Melbourne to see their kids.
“Sometimes getting a job here helps them unite with their wives again – they’d been fighting in Melbourne because the man didn’t have a job and was sitting in the house all day.
“Some are doing two jobs – a day job and then they work as a security guard at night. The young boys are working at KFC, MacDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Subway.
“Most of us are refugees because of war in our country but we have come through different countries to get to Australia.
“Some came through Egypt, others through Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya.”
Christine had been in a refugee camp in Kenya for five years before she received her “calling letter” that began the process of being accepted by Australia as a refugee.
She arrived in Australia on March 4, 12 years ago, spending her first year in Queensland, working on farms, before Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke, from the then Migrant Resource Centre, tracked her down with a special mission in mind.
A woman from Christine’s part of Sudan, with one young child and expecting another, was in Alice with no-one to help her through the imminent birth.
Christine agreed to come over. That was 11 years ago. Now Alice is home.  She works as a patient services assistant (PSA) and is studying to become an enrolled nurse.
Her countryman talks of one day returning to Sudan. A peace agreement between north and south was reached in 2005 and next year there will be a referendum about whether or not the country will re-unite.
He thinks the best chance for long-term peace lies in self-determination for the south. Once things have settled down he hopes to go back and help rebuild his war-ravaged country.
Christine thinks she’ll be an old woman by then.
She has helped bring young relatives to Australia after their parents were killed. A niece has joined her in Alice Springs; a nephew is in Melbourne, studying medicine.
They have a brother and sister still in Sudan and Christine has a brother and son in Uganda – a scattered family, the price of surviving war.
Alice Springs on the whole has been welcoming.
“Anywhere in a country there are good people and bad people,” says Christine.
“Here the majority are good people, a few are bad, that’s how they are and you can’t change them.”
Her countryman says he feels welcome, including by Aboriginal people.
“Their arms are open to Africans,” he says, “every time I pass by they say ‘Hello brother’.”
The major issue for the migrants is housing.
It’s hard to get and when they do find somewhere it’s expensive: “That’s why they’re working two jobs,” says Christine.
Some have had to go back to whatever Australian city they’ve come from because they haven’t been able to find housing in Alice.

Distance no barrier for language. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Meet the Year 12 French class: Rory McCleod and Edden Levy from Centralian College and Nicole Blakenspoor and Jaymi-Lee Ryder from Tennant Creek High. Normally there’s also Stefan Wright from Darwin.
During the Alice News visit, each of the students read aloud a prepared text in French about school and family, listening to one another and to feedback on their pronunciation from their teacher, principal of the Alice Springs Language Centre, Dominique Castle.
The sound was loud and clear, they could see one another and interact in the way they would in a normal classroom.
In their separate day schools the students might have missed out on being able to do the language of their choice.
But the School of the Air model for bringing education to isolated students is a way of maintaining a wide range of subjects for the Territory’s secondary school students.
As from May the Language Centre will have its own facility based at the Centralian Middle School and including an Interactive Distance Learning room.
No more dashes to the School of the Air for French; in fact, “we’ll never have to leave the Language Centre again!” says a delighted Mrs Castle.
It’s a merited boost, with the Language Centre having doubled its enrolments in eight years.
There are close to 2000 students a week doing classes with them now, drawn from all state schools in town as well as those further afield.
Japanese has become the most popular language choice, possibly to do with the popularity of Manga comics amongst the students, says Mrs Castle.
A sister school relationship with Imamiya School in Osaka, Japan adds to the appeal.
A group of 30 Japanese students and three of their teachers are expected in town next week, while local students will make a return visit in May.
Enrolments in Chinese are also growing, with some 350 students each week, one of the largest Chinese language student groups of non-Chinese background in the country. That’s attracted the attention of the Chinese consul who has donated substantial resources to the centre and wants to be present when it celebrates the opening of its new premises.
Other offerings for school students include Arrernte, Indonesian and Spanish: “We go to conferences and meet language principals from all over Australia and are amazed at the trouble they say they are having attracting students,” says Mrs Castle.
“We’re a small centre but we cover a lot of distance and we’re thriving.
“All our teachers are proficient in the languages they teach, with the majority being native speakers, and all are language-trained.”
After hours classes are offered as well for groups of five and over, in Arrernte, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese.
Arrente is the most popular, as many professionals working with Aboriginal people use an introduction to the language as a way of developing some understanding of Arrernte culture.
These classes are self-funding, with fees used to pay the teachers and any money left over helps to fund scholarships for students going on language study tours.

Thunder home in triathlon.

“Team Thunder” were the fastest overall in the annual teams challenge run by the Alice Springs Triathlon Club las Saturday, and sponsored this year by bike shop, Ultimate Ride.
Janelle Snigg, Ron Guascoine and Kaleb Hart completed the five laps of the pool, 5km bike ride and 1km run in 12 minutes and 41 seconds.
The Thunder were one of five police teams fielded, thanks to the hard work of Senior Constable Naomi Beale, although (astutely) they roped in young Indigenous runner Kaleb to help in his training for the New York Marathon in November.
Kaleb, 18 years old, is doing a preparatory course at CAT in readiness to start a carpentry apprenticeship with Territory Alliance, and is in training five days a week for his tilt at the marathon.
Indefatiguable organiser Loie Sharp (above) also thanked police for marshalling the course and Town Council staff for filling potholes and sweeping the roads at short notice after the previous week’s heavy rain.

Art and craft from women of Titjikala. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“Here we have a typical Titjikala exhibition,” said Desart’s Christine Godden who last Friday opened  the Kungkas of Titjikala exhibition at Central Craft.
“The artists are never afraid of having a go at everything.
“In the past they have made jewellery, ceramics, beanies – and lately, have been trying their hand at screen printing on fabric and making these delightful soft sculptures ...
“As well the kungkas have been doing their Tjanpi weavings, and the paintings that we know and love.”
Ms Godden commended the artists for their strength and leadership, having come through a  difficult 18 months and emerging now as Tapatjatjaka Art and Craft, a fully incorporated Aboriginal association.
Manager Jane Easton was also congratulated, as were the Desart Aboriginal Artworkers program, in particular Raewyn Kavanagh, Batchelor Institute and “their fine teachers” and Indigenous Community Volunteers “who have worked closely with Jane and sent in a number of very useful volunteers.”
Showing until March 19.

Much review about nothing. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

In this town you make your own fun ...  if you don’t have to make your own fun then it’s called being entertained.
And entertainment through the week can look like an unstruck match, doing a great job of looking like anticipation until Friday when it is finally struck.
It glows brightly over the weekend,  then fizzles by Monday and becomes a pop cultural dead black stick.
It’s then put back in the book and replaced by another.
Or maybe it’s more like a wind up toy, twisted enthusiastically for five days then turned loose at the week’s end.
Or maybe a shuttle ready for crazy stratosphere action.
Or a Yo-Yo! A time bomb.
A grasshopper. An alarm clock. A firework. A kettle. A storm.
A kettle cooking up a storm. A Lava Lamp even. 
Whatever way you look at it, the metaphors of longing for evening liberties are pretty much the same.
A Lycanthrope metamorphosis, the shackled nine to fiver turns into the full moon party werewolf.
Theatrical release takes on all forms, disguised in every day abnormality. 
The flyer for last Friday’s session at the Bean Tree made it look like ‘Bros’ was playing.
I thought this was funny as hell, but not many seemed to share that joke. Given that the only cultural legacy these two have offered up extends little beyond deliberately ripped jeans.
It would still be kind of cool to see what they would do if they did play a whirlwind return tour, stopping by the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens for one night only.
But they really do “Owe Us Nothing” as they once so badly put it.
Replace cinematic theatre experience with attending Anonymous meetings – they’re free and so is the coffee.
Or take up a ‘Coca Cola’ chair in Todd Mall and wait for live street theatre!
My theory is that the minds at Coke proprietary limited designed those chairs to be comfortable for the same time frame that it takes to consume one 375ml can of coke, so you may need to rotate through reserve sections A, B and C.
Then there’s the drunken operatic choir that assembles itself in selected barroom theatres each evening.
Later at night you can catch the wandering un-dead crooners as they appear in a laneway near you, this week only keep an ear out for ‘Joseph and his Intoxicoloured Dream Coat’. 
Why not try and get some strange type of ‘Pied Piper of Hamlin’ going as you follow people around the supermarket, voyeur as they put the puzzle together of if being what they are is really what they eat.
For dialogue go to the returns section of a department store.
For international cinema, get drunk at a hostel.
If you need sub-titles then drink more! Most of them are dubbed in English anyway. 
For a tour de cuisine: dumpster dive.
For red green lighting B-Grade mutant horror: dumpster dive.
If it’s a chase scene you’re after: dumpster dive.
For dance, ‘big fish, little fish and card box’ in anyone of the three elevators in town, you can hit the alarm button if you feel that the track playing is calling out for your own piece of ‘free jazz’ contribution, freewheeling musical compositions around Alice Springs is an entirety unto itself.

LETTERS: Getting kids to school is what counts.

Sir – In reply to Frank Baarda and Gavan Breen (Letters, March 4): Take your concerns about teaching the first four hours of each school day in English to the relevant government departments but do not undermine what is now government policy.  Too much criticism out on the communities will encourage parents to allow their children to wag school. 
The native language will be learned at home and at play, and through this home learning the local culture will remain strong.  What will not become strong if English is not learned is a chance to partake fully in the national adventure.
Surely the optimum time to become bi-lingual is in early childhood.  It is not necessary to teach the native language in school, but it is necessary to teach the national language there.
As for what works in Canada, I think it’s important to remember that indigenous Australians are not Eskimos.
I am sure we are all arguing from the same page here, one that says all children need the best chance to grow into fully participating Australian adults.
I wonder if the same can be said for the driver of the school bus who made a female student walk from Larapinta into the Central Middle School.  I have been told she was wearing her school uniform but didn’t have her bus pass.  So what if sometimes a non-student cadges a free ride into town?  Get the students to school.  Nothing else matters as much as that.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Bring on the nukes

Sir – I notice that some of our Alice Springs anti-nuclear activists broke all land speed records in order to attend a demonstration meeting in Tennant Creek in respect to the proposed Muckaty Station nuclear waste suppository.
Knowing the ideological bent of some of these people, I know some of the views they support include unconditional welfare for Indigenous people, and homelands that are permitted to be cut off from the rest of Australia, code for black and white segregation and socioeconomic disaster for Indigenous people.
The NT Government should seize this opportunity, whilst the discussions are taking place with traditional owners, to head straight to Canberra, and put on the table a list of requests that could see Indigenous and non-Indigenous Territorians lead the way in becoming Australia’s alternative energy leader. 
Both Darwin and Katherine could be the home of Australia’s first nuclear power stations. Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, with our more arid environment could house solar plants. 
Excess nuclear energy could be sold and powered into the national grid, adding up to a healthier, and very much wealthier, Northern Territory.
Have no fear, Territorians, the extreme regulations and cutting-edge engineering that sits with these facilities will ensure our safety. The decision about this project should lie between the traditional owners of Muckaty and the Federal Government.
Would it concern me if this facility was to be close by Alice Springs?  Absolutely not!  In fact, if I had some spare acreage I would be in Canberra right now knocking on the doors of influence.
Murray Stewart
Alice Springs

Warren Snowdon useless

Sir – The Prime Minister reckons that any Premier who believes the public is happy with health care services is “kidding themselves”.  The PM is spot on, and Mr Rudd must now show that he really means it.
He needs immediately to ensure an end to the bickering and buck-passing over the treatment of end-stage renal patients who are forced to move more than 1400 kms from their remote home communities to Adelaide, rather than receive treatment in Alice Springs.
The SA and NT Health Ministers ducking and weaving and shifting positions are contemptible and speak for themselves.
As for Warren Snowdon, Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, he doesn’t so much duck as turn his back. The Commonwealth funds this treatment, including the extension of renal services currently underway in Alice, so how he can maintain [his government] can do nothing is a mystery.
It’s high time his boss Nicola Roxon and also Jenny Macklin got involved. These people are sick and they are being treated with contempt because they don’t live in marginal electorates. They have limited life spans on dialysis anyway (mean average five years.)
Say what you want about Tony Abbott’s bush bash last week, but at least he had the decency to drop in to the hospital room of a sick, scared old lady whom he’d met as Health Minister while addressing petrol sniffing through the provision of the highly successful low octane Opal subsidised fuel. That’s more than Minister Snowdon has managed.
Andrea Mason
NPY Women’s

ADAM'S APPLE: An adult thing.

How quickly we forget the foibles of youth. In my memory, my teen years were a Utopian place full of discovery and self improvement, adventure and wonder.
I had forgotten the awkwardness, the complete lack of attention from the newly discovered female of the species. I had forgotten the odours. I had forgotten about the social segregation of my teenage years until I saw it fully operational and in all its ghastly glory last week.
I like watching the absurdity of modern social interaction. Last week was certainly a great moment in people watching.
At a local eatery I observed a small group of teenage boys. They weren’t engaging in antisocial behaviour. They weren’t overly boisterous. They were kids having a meal, discussing movies, girls and music. When I was their age, these were the big three hot topics. Now that I’m well ensconced in my thirties the big three are renovations, politics and interest rates. Boring.
The three lads were all excited about an upcoming concert. In turn they decided to announce the bands they would like to see live in concert.  One member of the group offered that he was a fan of particular band that none of the others were all that keen on.
This admission led to the fan being derided in so clinical a fashion that his lineage, sexuality and intellectual capacity were all questioned within 20 seconds.
For the rest of the meal he was pretty much excluded from the conversation. As though he had spoken out against ANZAC Day.
I had forgotten just how important the opinion of others is when you are a teen. Now I don’t care as much I am able to hold a minority opinion without fear of social exclusion.
Which is just as well as I have come to the realisation that I hold a lot of minority opinions.
I don’t like the Twilight novels for example. I think they are no better written than a $2.99 airport romance novel and I like my vampires a lot less sparkly. I find it hard to understand how women like the books. The main female character, Bella, is a weak, man dependent wimp. But that’s just my opinion.
A large percentage of my friends will not like the fact that I really don’t like the Seven network’s My Kitchen Rules. It appears to have every aspect of food porn covered, but it is poorly made and quite annoying.
The hosts can’t talk properly. One has a French accent thicker than seafood bisque and the other uses dramatic pauses so often they fail to be dramatic. The contestants are horrid, unlikable and appallingly bitchy without any justification. But that’s just my opinion.
I would consider myself a centrist. Government can do some things better than private enterprise but all big business isn’t evil. The environment should be managed but I also think there is too much crap in the air. The community should care for those incapable of caring for themselves but the individual has a responsibility for their own welfare.
You would think that perching slap bang in the middle of the political spectrum might increase your chances of agreeing with politicians. Only now do I realise that being a centrist and being a populist are two completely different things. I cannot count the amount of times a week I find myself yelling at the television whenever a politician says they are going to do something.
I’m not a fan of AC/DC. I don’t like camping all that much. I don’t think Alice needs a lake. We need more funding but smarter way of spending public money.
And as a grown man I’m still able to talk at the dinner table.

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