ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
April 8, 2010. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Bushfires: we’re better prepared. By
Just because buffel grass is almost waist high in some areas around
Alice Springs, does not mean we’re in for a shocker of a fire season.
Historical data shows that at least two summers of above average
rainfall are what produce landscape-scale fires, says Grant Allan,
Scientific Officer for Bushfires NT.
At this point the Centre has only had one, 2009-10, and it followed a
dry summer in 2008-09 and before that a very dry summer in 2007-08. And
there is no guarantee that a second summer of above average rainfall
This means that whatever grass is growing now – and it’s pretty well at
its peak – has started from a low base.
Also, this summer’s wet was shorter and not as wet as the summer of
1999-2000, the first of three consecutive above average seasons a
decade ago, so the present stimulus to growth has been more limited.
Everyone who was in the Centre 10 years ago remembers the massive fires
that even in 2000, following that first wet summer, burnt out 80,000
square kilometres of the Tanami alone.
Large fires went on to occur in the next three years, with an estimated
half of all the land in the Centre being burnt.
The different conditions now though do not mean that we should be
complacent: the rainfall and growth that we’ve experienced should
rather be a “trigger” to action, says Rod Cantlay, Senior Fire Control
Officer (South) for Bushfires NT.
There will be fires in the fire season – August to November – and now
is the time for landholders to start assessing the risk and then to
look further ahead, to the risk that will build if we get above average
rainfall again next summer.
Fuel reduction should start this winter, bearing in mind the further
work that can be done next year if necessary.
Animals will be doing their bit, by trampling and grazing.
Although cattle numbers are relatively low following the recent dry
period, some properties are increasing cattle numbers.
The grasshopper “plague” that is devastating suburban gardens is also
having an impact at a larger scale, says Mr Allan, consuming herbage
and / or suppressing plant growth when they consume the active growing
Camels will also contribute, but their greatest impact will be in areas
outside the pastoral lands.
The widespread rains have also moved the camels into the desert areas
away from communities and waterholes.
Territory legislation requires every landholder to manage fire risk on
their land – from the suburban house block to vacant Crown land, from
national parks to pastoral leases and Aboriginal lands.
A critical difference to the risk of devastating fires, compared to a
decade ago, is the greater preparedness of Aboriginal land managers,
says Mr Allan.
The Central Land Council’s recruitment of a fire management officer and
expansion of their land management unit, as well as the development of
a 200-strong Aboriginal ranger force, has “dramatically increased their
capacity to manage fire on Aboriginal lands”, he says.
As well, the CLC now has its own incendiary device, which means that
they can operate in very remote country and use helicopters to do
Last year they undertook three such exercises – in hundreds of patch
burns, burning some 50,000 hectares of the Tanami – and this year
have another four planned.
“Ten years ago fires on Aboriginal lands were largely not responded
to,” says Mr Allan.
“Now there are trained people with equipment to manage the landscape.”
At a recent meeting with the CLC in Tennant Creek Mr Allan showed the
land managers satellite imagery that indicated the areas of greatest
fire danger later this year (at present there is too much moisture
around for a fire to carry).
They’ll be particularly looking at establishing fire breaks along the
boundaries of Aboriginal land and pastoral land, as well as around
communities and mining camps.
The largest of the high risk areas is an arc between Mount Doreen and
Tennant Creek which has not been subject to fire since 2001, so the
mass of fuel present is considerable.
At a landscape level – in the Tanami, around Uluru, in the Simpson
desert – the most important fuel to control is spinifex, says Mr Allan.
Spinifex country to the north of Alice that has not been burnt in the
last decade and has received above average rainfall needs action to
reduce the fuel load.
Current weather conditions, combined with a variety of fuel moisture
provide a good opportunity for prescribed burning now in this area to
reduce future wildfire risk, he says.
After meeting recently the Alice Springs Regional Bushfires Committee
strongly advocated that all land managers undertake bushfire mitigation
as the opportunity presents itself.
They noted that in the Tennant Creek area work had already begun
because their fuel had dried out earlier than that further to the south.
The country south of Alice has received much less rainfall, both
recently and since 2002, so its bushfire potential is lower.
Closer in to Alice over the years buffel grass has replaced a lot of
The introduced grass is densest around Alice, “the buffel hot spot”,
followed by Harts Range.
Throughout the rest of the Centre, it presents problems mainly along
roadsides, the responsibility of government authorities, and
Bushfires NT are not “overly concerned” about buffel grass on a big
“It’s not quite the bete noire that many suppose”, says Mr Cantlay.
“Our catch cry is, ‘Manage the landscape, manage the fire’.”
All fuels, which include pasture grasses with buffel as one of them,
can and must be managed: “If we lose that thought in the NT, then we’ve
lost the plot,” he says.
But what about action?
There is as yet not much sign of preventive action taking place around
Alice to reduce the fuel load – trips into the East and West
MacDonnells over the last few weeks and around the rural areas have not
revealed any slashing, burning or grading to make fire breaks taking
In town the council is directing its resources at the open
drainage network – slashing and spraying of property
lines backing onto open drains.
Correctional Services Community Support teams are currently
assisting council with weed control and this Friday will start hand
slashing operations along the property lines of the businesses
bordering the Charles River (behind Beaurepairs, heading North to
Fire-fighting in the Territory is based on a bottom-up model of
decision-making and action, says Mr Cantlay.
Firstly, there is the legislated obligation on the landholder to manage
their land for fire; then there are volunteer fire brigades; then
regional committees (made up of landholders with a good understanding
of fire management); and finally the Territory-wide Bushfires Council,
a statutory authority.
This structure in the southern region has been importantly strengthened
by the participation of the Central Land Council and Aboriginal land
Bushfires NT, situated within NRETAS (the Department of Natural
Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport) and for which Mr Cantlay
and Mr Allan work, are there to provide expert advice, training and
some manpower (boosted by trained volunteers) but it is the Bushfires
Council which directly advises the government on policy and strategy.
This is a structure unique in Australia, says Mr Cantlay: “Some states
have forgotten the importance of involving landowners and have put
their resources into high tech.
“Our structure works because it is driven from the bottom by people who
are responsible for fire management on their own land.”
Parks and Wildlife have or are preparing fire management plans for each
of the parks and have submitted their annual plans to Bushfires NT for
feedback and advice.
These plans, as with all fire management plans, address in order of
importance the protection of life, assets and environment.
On Aboriginal land, assets include cultural assets.
Every management plan has to include an approach to monitoring seasonal
Has enough prescribed burning been carried out over the last decade?
Enough to mostly break up the continuity of fuel types, says Mr Allan,
even though more could have been done.
The critical point though, he says, is that the two coming winters are
the “windows of opportunity” to catch up and get ahead.
But no matter how much the fuel load is reduced, there is still always
the risk of fires taking off in the high fire danger season after being
lit either inadvertently or deliberately.
Mr Cantlay says every fire service in the world knows that the four
main causes of fire are “men, women, children and lightning strikes, in
He has to hope, however, that “continuing education of the urban and to
a lesser extent the rural community, will ensure that if there is a
fire season of some magnitude in the foreseeable future that
landholders will be far better prepared to manage the situation”.
Victory for cheap and nasty. By
“The nastiest news the town could have had” at the start of the Easter
weekend is how Mayor Damien Ryan has responded to the news that a
“compromise agreement” has been reached about the reinstatement of the
sandstone mural on the Kmart Wall.
The mural was damaged during the destructive storm of September 22,
2008, and was subsequently dismantled.
The Town Council – to whose satisfaction the mural is supposed to be
maintained, according to the original development permit – has always
called for the complete reinstatement of the mural to its original
condition, using the original sandstone and freshly quarried stone
The owners of the property, Centro Properties Group, will now be
allowed to use “block work in a mix of colours” for the upper levels of
the mural, contrary to the express wish of the council and an earlier
ruling by the Development Consent Authority (DCA) (see
Centro appealed the DCA ruling and following mediation the Lands
Planning and Mining Tribunal “recently approved and endorsed
a compromise agreement”, according to DCA chair, Peter McQueen.
“A development permit has subsequently issued,” said Mr McQueen in
response to an enquiry from the Alice Springs News.
Salvaged sandstone will be used for the lower portion of the
wall and block work for the remainder, with the mix of colours
“selected to resemble as closely as possible, the original colours and
In a letter to Centro’s Mario Boscaini, Mr McQueen wrote:
“Reinstatement of the mural solely with the original sandstone is not
considered essential to maintain the amenity of the streetscape.”
To the Alice News Mr McQueen said: “Discussions which take place at a
mediation are confidential,” says Mr McQueen.
“I can say however as the delegate of the Alice Springs Division
of the Development Consent Authority present at the mediation that
I consider the compromise as reflected in the development permit is
consistent with the provisions of Clause 8.2 of the NT Planning Scheme
[promoting “site-responsive designs” which are “attractive and pleasant
and contribute to a safe environment”].
“In addition the mix of materials to be used as required by
the permit will achieve an enhancement to the blank wall in character
with the original mural and when completed, the wall will continue
to reflect Alice Springs architectural style.”
Mr Ryan expressed his “total disappointment”.
“There has been no consultation whatsoever,” he said.
And no information either, as once again he learnt about a decision
concerning the wall via the Alice Springs News (see our earlier report
at www.alicespringsnews.com.au/1636.html). He says he will take the
issue to every relevant Minister.
“There’s a lot of talk in the Territory about being conciliatory but it
seems to stop at certain levels.”
He says the Town Council CEO will be lodging an objection at the
earliest possible moment.
“It seems there is not much the council can do legally, but I have
written to the DCA amd Minister McCarthy,” says Mr Ryan.
“I’ll keep going on this.”
Can NT govt.
wash its hands of Carey fiasco? By
Two of the 23 home buyers who are victims of the collapsed Carey
Builders and Framptons Real Estate new homes scheme met with NT
Construction Minister Gerald McCarthy last week.
Ald Murray Stewart says he and John Stafford told Mr McCarthy about the
financial loss and heartache caused by the fiasco, and the failure of
NT Government officials and agencies to prevent the losses, despite
troubling signs as long as a year ago.
It was known that the builder was an undischarged bankrupt and had
problems with registration and licensing.
Ald Stewart says the group is asking for financial assistance from the
This seems to have little chance, as the government, its bureaucrats
and agencies are protected by law from such claims – see below.
The group is also urging the introduction of government insurance
covering the non-completion of buildings, already in existence in all
Mr Stewart says he and Mr Stafford were not “pressuring” Mr McCarthy
for answers at last week’s meeting, but have asked him to attend a
meeting with the entire group on Saturday, to which he has agreed.
Meanwhile, this scandal, and one surrounding building work in Danielle Eisenblatter’s home are revealing a
morass of largely meaningless building regulations presided over by Mr
They leave the public devoid of any reasonable protection,
notwithstanding the fact that a house is, for many people, the biggest
investment of their lives.
Can anyone be a builder? Yes. If he or she doesn’t have a licence
he or she must be “supervised by a prescribed building contractor in
accordance with the Regulations” (NT Building Act, Section
And what do the Regulations require?
“The prescribed building contractor must supervise the person by the
level of personal oversight the contractor considers appropriate,
having regard to the person’s skills and experience.” (Building
Regulations, Section 41D).
Could that supervision mean, say, a phone call once a year, such as
this: “Is everything OK, mate?”
“It’s all good, mate.”
Would this be adequate if the supervising contractor considers it
“appropriate”? Apparently so.
Nothing in the Act says that the supervisor is liable for the work.
A spokesman for Mr McCarthy says the supervising contractor is
responsible for the supervised builder’s work.
Territory Building Certifiers in Alice Springs says Mr Carey’s
supervisor was Darwin bulder Damien Golding.
Mr Golding says: “I am not responsible nor liable for Mr Carey
These apparently utterly dysfunctional arrangements were allowed to
unfold without any authority intervening, such as the Building Advisory
Committee or the Building Practitioners Board.
In any case, these bodies, if the Carey / Frampton / Eisenblatter cases
are any indication, don’t consider it necessary to monitor such matters
as a builder operating without a licence or being an undischarged
And they can fail to do so with complete immunity.
Says the Act: “No matter or thing done, or omitted to be done, by the
Director [of Building Control]; the Advisory Committee or a member of
the Advisory Committee; the Practitioners Board or a member of the
Practitioners Board; the Appeals Board or a member of the Appeals
Board; or a person acting under the direction of the Director, the
Practitioners Board or the Appeals Board, subjects [them] to any
action, liability, claim or demand, if the matter or thing was done or
omitted to be done in good faith for the purpose of performing a
function or executing a power under this or any other Act, or the
performance or exercise, or intended performance or exercise, of the
functions or powers of the member, Director, Board, Committee or
person.” [s153(1)(a) to (e)].
OK, but surely you can at least sue the certifier, usually a private
company, if he approves shoddy work?
Nope – not unless he’s committing fraud or another crime: “No matter or
thing done or omitted to be done by a building certifier; the Director;
or a person performing a function or exercising a power of a building
certifier in relation to a public authority, under this Act in good
faith or relying on a certificate under section 40 shall subject the
building certifier, Director or person, or the Territory, to any
action, liability, claim or demand.” [s153(2)(a)(aa)(b)].
And: “No matter or thing done by a building certifier under this Act
shall subject the Director or the Territory to any action, liability,
claim or demand.” [s153(3)].
And again: “No action or other proceedings may be brought against the
Director, the Territory or an employee, as defined in the Public Sector
Employment and Management Act with respect to information included in
or omitted from a register maintained under this Act.” [s153(4)].
This does not augur well for the group’s hopes for compensation from
Who was an April fool?
Yep, most of you got it right: Our “interview” with Warren Snowdon
(pictured) last week was an April Fool’s Day spoof.
Well, yes and no.
The questions were authentic, based on actual events and facts, but
Warren’s answers were all our own work.
We’d put some of these questions to his staff, with requests for an
interview, and would have asked further questions had we been granted
But after being fobbed off several times we thought we’d give him a bit
of a hand, and April 1 provided the opportunity.
What was remarkable was that, of the several dozen people contacting
us, while most of them smelled a rat, their uncertainty was strong
enough to check with us: Did he really say that?
Clearly, they thought he just might have.
We’ll take a bow for this, and look forward now to the real interview.
Camels: resource or rubbish? By Dr
Is there money in camels?
An estimated million of them are roaming The Centre, spread over about
3.3 million square kilometres.
To put this into context, that is roughly one camel per thousand acres.
Keep that in mind when talking about harvesting them.
Are they a substantial commercial asset?
Reports commissioned by the Desert Knowledge Co-operative Research
Centre, whose funding was stopped last year, give information about the
fledgling camel industry, including local operators Ross Morton and
Gary Dann, and input from Peter Seidel formerly of the Camel Industry
Association, as well as research from various universities around
Australia. Visit www.desertknowledge.com.au/publications
I have rounded-off and averaged some of the figures for the sake of
clarity and brevity.
Many of the figures given are a couple of years old, as is usual for
The camel population growth rate is calculated to be 7-8% per annum.
The reports document considerable enviromental and economic damage.
Population growth appears not to be naturally limited yet, except
possibly by water.
To just stop the population increasing would require 70-80,000 camels
harvested every year!
In 2007 it was estimated that the Australian camel industry harvested
around 5000–6000 camels: about 4000 for pet meat, fewer than 400 for
live export, and 1000 for mainly domestic human consumption.
The estimated gross sales value was about $2 million including $300,000
for live exports, $1 million for meat production for human consumption,
and $800,000 for pet food. The total export value is around $500,000 or
24% of the total sales value.
It is not clear if the live exports were for meat, or for the zoo/camel
The mustering costs for ferals are on average about $75 per camel in a
high camel density area such as Docker River.
Transport from where the camels are trapped is a major cost for the
feral camel industry. Camels need to be transported on a single level
trailer because they are so much taller than cattle. Additionally,
camels are more safely transported over long distances while seated.
This means they can take up to 40% more space than cattle. It would
cost about $135 per camel from Docker River to Alice Springs, a
distance of approximately 700 kms.
So, over $200 per camel to get a live one to Alice.
Probably the same again to Darwin.
Then there would be handling and feeding costs. The animals would have
to be ’tamed’ and accustomed to the shipboard fodder. Price is the
major factor that determines Australia’s capacity to penetrate overseas
The current Free On Board (FOB) value of camels in Darwin is between
$750-$1000 per camel.
Recent research in Pakistan has found that at the Mangrota Camel Fair
camels were traded at an average price of about $1000.
The transport space requirements for trucking would apply to shipping,
but unfortunately no figures are given for shipping costs, but they
would be substantial, and would seem to make live shipping uneconomic.
However, I personally would argue that any attempt to base a camel
harvesting industry on live shipping export would be doomed to failure.
Apart from the huge costs, the concept of large, wild, desert animals
cooped up on ships for weeks would infuriate the animal welfare lobby,
and I think rightly so.
I suggest the largely beat-up furore about culling would be minor
compared with the national and international reaction to large-scale
long-distance live shipping of wild camels.
There is a large international trade in camels, but almost all of it is
to and from North African and Middle Eastern countries. Somalia has
seven million camels, and Sudan three million.
Gary Dann optimistically suggests that there would be markets for
“boxed,” that is butchered and frozen, meat if an export licence was
However, market research has been done, and this is not the case. They
like fresh meat in the Middle East, and Asia cannot afford the high
It has been suggested that the growing “middle classes” in the Middle
East and Asia will be able to afford and cope with frozen meat in the
future, but I suggest, that like us, they will prefer beef and lamb to
The UK is identified as a “possible” market, but given the lack of
penetration in the domestic market this seems unlikely.
Dann tallies the cost of mustering, transport, handling, and processing
to $550 per camel (2007 prices) to produce about 200kg of meat, worth
about $2.75 / kilogram.
He needs to wholesale that at $5.50 per kg to make ends meet. He is
being offered $3.50 per kg by potential domestic buyers.
If there is demand for camel meat, at a reasonable price, there are a
few stations in central Australia that currently run a camel herd,
including Dann’s station Aileron.
So there is a ready supply to meet current demand. However, the herd
owners would obviously need to turn a profit, and when acquisition,
pasturing, mustering and transport costs are factored in the cost to
the abattoirs would probably be similar to the “harvested” camels.
Which leaves the petfood industry, currently the biggest user of camel
Small-scale pet meat operations are very economically sensitive to
market price, camel weight, and transportation costs.
A pre-harvesting arrangement with pet meat processors for carcass price
and demand capacity is regarded as critical.
A case study is reported. This was a very basic chase, shoot, hack off
the big chunks, and carry to the chiller operation, and the viability
The prices (at gate) proposed by different pet food processors were
about $0.70 per kg for bone-in meat and $1.00 per kg for bone-out meat.
The market price for kangaroo meat (as pet meat) was suggested by some
pet food companies as a benchmark price for camel meat.
From personal knowledge I know that much of the ‘roo meat is
harvested in western NSW, only 400-500kms or so on bitumen road from
the major abattoirs at Peterborough. ‘Roo density is about 50 animals
per 1000 acres, the area is well supplied with roads and station
tracks, and ‘roos are much easier to harvest. This would suggest that
the pet food industry is always going to have strong competition, and
that it will be at best a marginal industry.
I do not have the resources to do a cost / benefit study on a mobile
abattoir for human consumption. However, unless a viable, economic
market for “boxed” camel meat is established from the present
suppliers, it would be unlikely to be viable. Dann estimates $7-$8
million to establish an export licenced abattoir in the Alice.
A basic mobile “boning and boxing” facility may make pet meat
operations more viable, but they would still be small operations with
little return to Aborigines, and small effects on camel numbers.
I sum up with some excerpts from the reports’ conclusions:-
“Feral camels have potential commercial uses. A camel industry has been
emerging in Australia over the last 20 years, but it is still very
“The industry has struggled to gain momentum because it has been based
on the ad-hoc harvest of a feral animal herd that is located in very
remote parts of the country and a long distance from domestic markets,
let alone international markets.”
“The farming of camels could support a sustainable alternative pastoral
industry but would not contribute to the management of feral camels.”
“Commercial utilisation could potentially remove enough animals to have
a significant localised impact …However, a flourishing camel industry
alone can not bring down the camel population in the short term…”
“The contribution (to feral animal control) from commercial activities
will depend on the development of secure markets that are prepared to
pay the real costs of harvesting and transport.”
“There is clearly a market failure in play at present that has allowed
camel numbers to increase in an uncontrolled manner.”
Animal liberationists may target aerial
Animal liberationists may buy into the controversial issue of shooting
from helicopters feral camels in Central Australia.
Recent court cases in other jurisdictions suggest campaigners are
unlikely to get leave to prosecute cases in court themselves.
But if they have strong evidence of cruelty to animals, they would be
able to force the hand of the Attorney-General, or the police, to
proceed against their own government’s instrumentalities involved in
this form of cull.
Mark Pearson, from Animal Liberation Limited (ALL), points to court
cases the group has fought in NSW to stop the shooting of feral goats
from choppers. In 2003 ALL took action against the Director General of
National Parks and Wildlife Service, and was granted an injunction for
several weeks, blocking the culling of feral goats in the Woomargama
(Mr Pearson says ALL withdrew because no shooters who had shot from
helicopters would give evidence in court and the NPWS called off the
cull because of the cost of the delay caused by the interlocutory
But a later case, in 2006, against the Director General, Department of
Environment and Conservation, seeking to stop the aerial shooting of
goats and pigs in Nattai Reserve and Wollondilly River Nature Reserve,
failed for two reasons.
Said Justice Hamilton, who presided over both cases: “The first [reason
for failure] is in the quality of the evidence showing the potentiality
or likelihood of cruelty to the animals in previous operations.”
And unlike in the earlier case, the defendant now successfully objected
“to the standing of the plaintiff to seek an injunction” – in
other words, they were deemed not to have a legitimate interest in the
matters, so far as the court is concerned.
Said Justice Hamilton: “The case sought to be made out by the plaintiff
[in 2003] is that shooting goats from a helicopter is likely to cause
cruelty to the animals, contrary to the statute on that subject matter.
“The way the cruelty may be caused is that if animals are shot and only
wounded, they may be left to suffer for some perhaps protracted period
before dying and that the chance of discovering that animals are
wounded only and administering a coup de grace are less if the shooting
is from a helicopter.”
In 2003, unlike in 2006, said Justice Hamilton, “there was objective
and expert evidence that showed that goats shot in a previous shoot on
Lord Howe Island had moved considerable distances after having been
shot and had died lingering deaths”.
The government wildlife service’s successful argument that the group
did not have “standing” meant, in a nutshell, that the right of
government officials to carry out their duties in relation to feral
animal control, as determined by government policy, cannot easily be
In the 2006 case Justice Hamilton cited a decision given by Justice
Gibbs in Australian Conservation Foundation v The Commonwealth (1980):
“It is quite clear that an ordinary member of the public, who has no
interest other than that which any member of the public has in
upholding the law, has no standing to sue to prevent the violation of a
public right or to enforce the performance of a public duty.
“The assertion of public rights and the prevention of public wrongs by
means of those remedies is the responsibility of the Attorney-General,
who may proceed either ex officio or on the relation of a private
“A private citizen who has no special interest is incapable of bringing
proceedings for that purpose, unless, of course, he is permitted by
statute to do so.”
The judge asked “counsel for the plaintiff, to
state the special interest which the plaintiff claimed [to] have in
order to permit it to make this application.
“He replied as follows: ‘The interest of the community that animals who
do not have a voice of their own should be able to be protected through
the actions of concerned citizens.’
“This is obviously a worthy sentiment. However, to succeed in an
application for injunctive relief, a plaintiff must demonstrate
standing in the fashion required by the law.”
All this seems to suggest that a private person or group would find it
difficult to succeed in court against a government instrumentality
bumping off feral camels from choppers, although Mr Pearson suggests
the Attorney-General can grant standing.
On the other hand, it seems if evidence is produced that not every shot
leads to instant death, and laws preventing cruelty to animals are
breached, then the Attorney-General, or the police, would be under
obligation to prosecute the shooter, the helicopter pilot and the
people from whom they take their orders.
The secrecy surrounding the cull near Docker River last year seems to
indicate the authorities are well aware of this.
One-on-one rehab for booze addicts. By
A new individual-intensive alcohol treatment service is entering the
field in Alice Springs. Safe and Sober Support Services, run out of
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, will combine individual
rehabilitation plans with medical treatment and social support.
Its $5.4m worth of funding has come out of the Alice Springs
Eight casework teams will consist of an Aboriginal AOD (alcohol and
other drugs) worker and an AOD therapist.
Clients will be identified either at Congress, by Drug and Alcohol
Services Association Outreach Workers, or through an alcohol related
admission to Alice Springs Hospital.
According to a media release from the National Drug Research Institute
(NDRI) at Curtin University of Technology, the clients will be offered
a brief intervention followed by a full assessment leading to the
development of individual rehabilitation plans that involve three
streams of care:
• medical, including pharmacotherapies;
• psychosocial, providing focused psychological strategies; and
• social and cultural support, including assistance with employment,
housing and accommodation.
Prison inmates will be among the clients, according to a media
statement by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin.
To provide “culturally appropriate” support, earlier this year the
program was looking for one senior AOD therapist (at $96,842 p.a.), two
other AOD therapists (maximum salary, $95,248 p.a.), an administrative
assistant, a senior Aboriginal AOD worker (maximum salary, $75,290) and
two other Aboriginal AOD workers (maximum salary, $75,290).
At a workshop in Canberra last week the program was one of five
involved in putting forward recommendations to government on how health
services can improve alcohol treatment for Indigenous Australians.
All five had grown out of federally funded ($1.9m) research over the
last two and half years, led by NDRI’s Professor Dennis Gray.
Prof Gray says international research supports the effectiveness of
individual rehabilitation plans for alcohol dependence, especially for
people with other health conditions, including mental health problems.
He says people with complex problems can “slip through the cracks
without case management”.
He says alcohol dependence can’t be managed as “an acute disease”, but
needs to be managed more like other chronic health issues, such as
Relapses for the person who is alcohol dependent is the norm, he says.
Very few such people go into treatment only once.
Once they are stabilised, they require follow-up and without it, the
initial effort is wasted.
He says international research shows that even a follow-up phone call
just once a month will make a significant difference to relapse rates.
He says there is little on-going care available for alcohol dependence
in Australia, and programs adapted specifically to Aboriginal
people are particularly lacking.
“We invest millions of dollars in residential programs, lasting 10 to
“Then the clients are released back into the community with no
follow-up and we’re surprised when they get back on the grog.
“That means we’re failing to protect our big investment in the initial
programs by not providing after care.
“Case management is a significant part of after care because we need to
go beyond the health institutions and link people to other services
dealing with employment and social issues,” says Prof Gray.
Creatures come to life with metal magic. By
Just six months
after setting up their workshop, the Creative Metal Group are having
their first exhibition at Watch This Space (opening Saturday, 6pm).
In this time they have taken two groups through a training course and a
third is underway at present.
The exhibition will formally launch the group and gives the students an
opportunity to show their work.
A small grant from the Regional Arts Fund helped the group offer the
initial courses but they hope in future to be self-funding.
The workshop is well-equipped with a forge, welders, a couple of plasma
cutters, cold-bending tools and “every 15 amp plug we need”, says one
of the group’s founding members, Sheriden Appel.
A scroll-bender is the next item on the shopping list and eventually
they hope to get a furnace, to do their own casting.
Meanwhile, some members of the group are extending their interests to
bone-carving and jewelry-making – the latter “the same concept but on a
smaller scale”, says Sheriden.
She is pictured holding a clock she made using the forge and with a
horse made by student Linx McPherson. The horse has been designed for
Riding for the Disabled – to get children used to sitting up high and
in a saddle before getting on the real thing – and will be donated to
them after the show. Sheriden’s wine rack is in the front and the
collection of dogs is by Mark Gooley and one of his school students.
Also pictured are sandstone and reo rod tables by Mark Gooley , topped
with a dragonfly and a mosquito fashioned by Pat Organ. Mark and Pat
are the student instructors.
Some work at the show will be for sale.
Return of the inland sea.
NATURALLY with ALEX NELSON.
Exactly 150 years ago this week John McDouall Stuart and two companions
were the first Europeans to explore Central Australia.
Stuart, like other explorers, searched for verdant wilderness
interspersed with rivers, lakes, even an inland sea, ripe for
settlement and exploitation by civilized European society.
Stuart had cut his teeth with Charles Sturt’s exploration party of
1844/45 seeking an inland sea, even carting a boat overland as they
struck out from western NSW to Central Australia before nearly coming
to grief on the eastern margin of the Simpson Desert.
There are two ironies associated with these endeavours – the first is
that the explorers were about 22,000 years too late to find the fabled
waters of the inland.
It was a different scene that greeted the earliest ancestors of
Aboriginal people as they spread across Australia at least 43,000 years
ago – the Simpson Desert was a lake, one of many natural bodies of
water scattered across the eastern half of the continent that greatly
aided human occupation.
Generations of Aboriginal people lived for thousands of years during
relatively benign conditions but which steadily diminished as aridity
took a final permanent hold as the glacial maximum of the Ice Age
dominated the Earth.
The Simpson Desert is at the upper region of a crustal depression that
descends to the Lake Eyre system to the south. With the lowest land
surface in Australia, about 15 meters below sea-level, Lake Eyre is the
sump of a vast internal drainage system covering 1.3 million square
kilometers; it also has the lowest average rainfall, and the highest
evaporation rate, about 3.6 meters annually.
In 1860 Stuart’s party were the first Europeans to see and traverse the
MacDonnell Ranges, which forms the northwest watershed of the Lake Eyre
Basin (all rivers, north and south, drain into the Simpson Desert).
East of the MacDonnells is the Georgina River system, where the rivers
draining the region around Mt Isa flow south; and further east are the
Diamantina River and Cooper’s Creek systems – all ultimately, but
rarely, drain into Lake Eyre.
This sets the scene for what I suspect is the second irony for 19th
Century explorers – they were probably 200 years too soon to witness
the return of the inland sea.
In Australia most attention is focused on rising sea-levels and
worsening aridity across southern and eastern seaboards as climate
change grips the world. Northern Australia, by contrast, faces the
prospect of extreme rainfall events.
Locally we focus on the flood risk for Alice Springs but the
implications are much vaster than what is in store for our little town
– much of the arid inland may be affected by frequent and possibly
Generally it is expected that cyclones and tropical rain depressions
will become more frequent and/or severe, and extend further southwards.
These systems generate deluges of rain, as much as several hundreds of
millimeters of precipitation.
Climate change increases the likelihood of these events over the major
northern catchments (including the MacDonnells) of the Lake Eyre Basin;
and also the adjacent Darling Basin to the east which feeds into the
Murray River (in 1990 some 220,000 square kilometers of land was
flooded between these two basins).
The saving grace for Central Australia is its relatively high
elevation, enabling rapid discharge of floodwater.
This isn’t the case for the rest of the Lake Eyre and Darling basins;
or for the arid regions of WA, which now receive 50% more rainfall than
the long-term average. These regions have very flat topography and low
elevation compared to sea-level (which is rising) so floodwaters spread
out over immense areas and drain slowly.
There is a pattern of major flood events about once per decade but my
concern is that unabated global warming will exacerbate these events
and increase the risk of such storms during the intervening periods.
This may be enough to counter the high evaporation rates of inland
Australia, leading to long term accumulation of water over the
landscape. This is especially pertinent to the Lake Eyre Basin which
has no outlet to the sea. This scenario has enormous environmental,
economic, social and strategic implications.
the small stuff helps the big.
We’ve all had “one of those days”. A day that begins like any other but
soon turns a familiar shade of brown.
A day full of promise and potential soured by other people’s idiocy.
Recently I experienced what I have come to call an “inexplicable one of
It started out as all days do in a fairly positive manner but by the
end of the day I was so frustrated, so annoyed, so cantankerous that I
found it difficult to sleep.
If someone was to have asked me why I was so grumpy I would have bitten
their head clean off. After re-attaching their head to their body, a
process that would have no doubt annoyed me, I would have been
flummoxed as to the cause of my frustrations.
Simmering close to the boil in my bed that night I tried to figure out
why I felt like storming the Bastille. Why I felt like the entire
planet needed a good kick in the pants.
The answer to that question was as illusive as slumber. I couldn’t for
the life of me tell you why I felt like that. Which was really
A couple of things didn’t go as well as I had hoped at work that
morning. But that’s nothing to get riled about. A couple of people at
work were a bit annoying. But this was not to a degree more than any
I got stuck behind a really slow driver when I desperately wanted to go
home for a wee.
My afternoon nano nap was interrupted by a call from my girlfriend who
wanted to have a talk about how poorly her day at work had turned out.
Something I’m more than happy to do.
I went back to work to find that a co-worker occupied the machine I
needed to use. This is a fairly regular occurrence.
After finishing work I went to the Coles complex to buy some dinner. I
do that most evenings. I walked through the sea of wandering, arguing
I made my way through the mindlessly dawdling shoppers, I queued at the
checkout and engaged in inane pleasantries with the operator.
When I arrived home, there was nothing on television.
Richard Carlson wrote a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. It was
a bestseller for two years and became one of the best selling books of
In the book Dr Carlson suggests small issues we face in our day to day
lives are only small issues and that we shouldn’t get bogged down in
I had sweated the small stuff. All the little annoyances throughout the
day had manifest themselves in an overarching sense of utter
But maybe it is the small stuff that is the problem. Maybe, just like
lead poisoning, problems in our lives, the frustrations and angsts we
feel are all products of being stuck behind a slow driver once too
If that is true then it follows that solutions to all the big issues we
have could be made simpler by fixing all the little things in our lives.
Maybe we don’t need more police in Alice Springs. Maybe all we need to
do to stop the kid who spray painted the obscenities on my wall is to
get his mates to tell him that they think he’s a dickhead for doing it.
This sort of philosophy is gaining some international clout. A member
of the Israeli Knesset, Carmel Shama, has taken “fix the simple stuff”
to a new level. You might think that the members of the Israeli
parliament might be concerning themselves with questions of settlements
in Gaza or conflicts in the West Bank. But Mr Shama is not.
This week he announced that he would introduce a bill into the Knesset
to limit the price of movie popcorn.
We all know the price of movie popcorn is more exorbitant than petrol.
But without rules and price caps we are held over a barrel. You can’t
go to the movies without it so you fork out the $27 or whatever number
has been arbitrarily assigned.
While the Israeli parliament might be wasting their time on matters as
trivial as popcorn, consider for a moment the broader implications.
Cheaper popcorn would allow movie goers to enjoy themselves more while
at the movies.
This in turn takes one of the little annoyances out of their day that
means that at the end of it they are a little happier. Maybe then over
time people will be happier overall.
And maybe happier people are more likely to be accepting of the
concessions needed to make peace in their world.
Maybe this is the start of a movement. It might be a movement that
improves the world one popcorn kernel at a time.
Parks should be grazed by shepherded herds.
Sir – Buffel is a grass. If you were to play with biological control
you could threaten all our grasses including the local ones.
You would threaten our entire nation’s agricultural industry, not just
the Territory, which basically does not yet have an industry worth a
mention, in the grand scheme of things.
Buffel is FOOD not FUEL! It burns hotter than local species because it
contains – produces – more energy than our local species off the
same given area, off the same given rainfall, which makes it, if
exploited properly, vastly more productive, adding to our GNP and
feeding the starving millions around the world.
Buffel is not a threat to our parks, local grasses or anything else, if
it is managed properly. For instance, our parks should be grazed,
shepherded herds on licensed areas.
Very simple, already done elsewhere in the world and will intertwine
fantastically with the tourist industry, with visitors able to see
cattle, horses and so on at work in the most spectacular surrounds,
giving them an unequalled experience.
Even better than that, the parks will have a income stream that will
help with their management, maybe even paying their own way – that
would be a first for the Territory!
On a wider front the effect of buffel on the country is more than what
you see on the surface. The ability of buffel to hold the soil, break
up the soil allowing more moisture penetration – less run off – leads
to an escalating fertility in the soil which after a few seasons also
leads to an increase in growth of many of the local species.
In this last lot of rain we have seen better growth in the local grass
known as button grass than ever experienced in our 65 year management
of White Gums.
The overall effect is a massive increase in the land’s productivity
from a given rainfall.
As buffel further colonises the Centre the old scale of measure that
allowed a beast to the square mile disappears and a much more intense
level of grazing and management becomes necessary. In order to deal
with this, we should simply allow our surrounding pastoral properties
to sub-divide into more manageably sized properties, giving
opportunities to many who would like to make their living from the
This will also of course apply to the huge areas of Aboriginal freehold
land allowing families to generate a good living from smaller
The danger is if we sit back and procrastinate. Then we will see much
damage done to our countryside by rampaging wildfire.
As with most opportunities in life there is an upside and a downside.
But one thing is for certain: the rest of the country, which actually
does generate an income and keeps us going with their taxes, is not
going to sit back and let us threaten that income simply because we
either are too lazy or so dull-witted that we are not capable of taking
up the fantastic opportunity that has been provided by the hard work
and ingenuity of those who preceded us.
Parks are luxuries afforded by wealthy nations who pay for their
operation with their taxes. If you remove the basis of a nation’s
wealth then the parks are the first to go.
So if we start to formulate policy on the basis of how it affects our
parks rather than how it affects our productive lands then we are in
imminent danger of catastrophic collapse.
Think about it, let’s not let the tail wag the dog.
Camel case study
Sir – I respond to your call for some definite information on camel
harvesting and culling. I am disappointed that you found room to
publish the rehashed rubbish from Mr McHugh (Alice News, April 1), but
not my submitted letter which at least contained some of the facts and
figures that you are asking for.
I reproduce the gist of it here.
I quote from an article by Paul Toohey in the Daily Telegraph, March 3:
“Last year the young men of the Ukaka community (near King’s Canyon)
got together with neighbouring pastoralist Ian Conway to catch wild
camels, spending several months to muster 250 camels they sold for
“After employing a helicopter pilot, buying a car and outlays for fuel
and food there was no money left for the workers.”
Mr Conway is an experienced local operator. This is a “best case”
example of a harvesting operation, several unpaid men, several months,
business experience and expertise and ... 250 camels.
This newspaper report, from a reputable journalist constitutes a brief
“case study” and does have some numbers.
I will provide more (see Dr Carter’s report in this edition), most of
it from research reports produced by the Desert Knowledge Co-operative
Dr Charlie Carter
Rec & fun
Sir – There have been pockets of recent community discussion about the
current Town Council’s rate-payer funded priorities.
It seems to have been elicited by initiatives such as The Gathering
Garden (an artistic council lawn meeting place half funded by the NT
Government ), the Christmas Tree, and the riverside barbeques.
Personally, as an elected member, I welcome such debate. After
all, we are talking about the rate-payers’ hard earned money.
In reflecting on such debates, and in examining my own belief systems,
I believe a good councillor needs to strike a balance. I’m
not really a ‘bare-earth’ and ‘caged-in’ sort of bloke.
Surely our town and its families deserve some recreational and
playthings for their buck.
Should we be concerned about these nice outdoor facilities being
trashed? Of course!
But that is why, currently before the NT Government we have by-laws,
that, if governed, should give us our best shot at protecting these
Alice Springs is already the jewel of the desert. However, we
must continue to be progressive and inventive. Most of all, our
families must have facilities they can enjoy.
Electricity old style
Sir – Last week’s announcement by the Territory Government of the
purchase of two new turbine generators for Channel Island power station
flies in the face of the Labor’s commitment to a 20% renewable energy
target by 2020.
The government should explain how it can justify spending $120million
on non-renewable energy generation just two months after the release of
its climate change policy.
Infrastructure planning for the energy network is a long term
Unfortunately the government has chosen to take a short term approach
to the Territory’s energy needs rather than look to a greener, more
The Territory needs 100MW of renewable energy on the grid within the
next decade to meet national obligations.
Last year the Utilities Commissioner, Andrew Reeves, identified the
need for additional generation capacity in the Territory up to 2018.
For the government to rush into this commitment and purchase two
generators – one of which is significantly ahead of time – means the
forward planning of this government is a shambles and its environmental
credentials are in tatters.
A renewable energy source the equivalent of the new generators would
have cost upwards of $200million – an easily achievable target if the
government had shown foresight and an ability to plan.
What we are left with is a bolt-on expansion instead of a step change
in thinking. This decision by government pushes renewable energy in the
Territory back 10 years.
Shadow Minister for the Environment