April 15, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Judge urges progress with Ryder Five charges: Manslaughter pleas?



If the five men who stand accused over the death of Kwementyaye Ryder accept a guilty plea to manslaughter, the Supreme Court hearing of the case could be brought to a conclusion as soon as this weekend.
On Monday this week Chief Justice Brian Martin pushed for the hearing to go ahead tomorrow (Friday) if the five men agreed to entering guilty pleas on a count of “engaging in conduct that caused the death” of Mr Ryder on July 25 last year.
The Chief Justice told counsel if a start could be made tomorrow, he had in mind to sit again on Saturday in order to hear all five pleas.
If they were not heard this week there would likely be a significant delay (until July), because of other matters before the court, and, said CJ Martin, “these young men are in custody”.
Given that the pleas go ahead, the men will be formally charged, guilty pleas entered, the agreed facts will be read out and a copy of them given to the Chief Justice.
The accused will also give an explanation of their conduct and their personal circumstances.
All that will be left is for the Chief Justice to consider the sentencing options.
It will have become clear in court of this morning (Thursday), as the Alice News hits the streets, whether the guilty pleas have been agreed to and whether the hearing will go ahead tomorrow – check for an update.
At last week’s arraignment in the Supreme Court (on April 6), counsel for the accused responded to a new indictment from the Director of Public Prosecutions, effectively offering to drop the charges of murder (Count 1) in exchange for pleading guilty to manslaughter (Count 2).
A murder conviction in the Northern Territory carries a mandatory penalty of imprisonment for life.
A person convicted of manslaughter is also liable to imprisonment for life but the penalty is not mandatory.
Counsel for Anton Kloeden, Glen Swain and Timothy Hird all indicated last week that they would accept a plea to the charge of manslaughter, subject to the facts being agreed upon with the Crown.
Counsel for Joshua Spears and Scott Doody at that point did not have instructions about whether to proceed with a plea.
The matter was adjourned until Monday, April 12.
Counsel had that morning received some fresh facts from the Crown and had not yet had a chance to speak with their clients about them.
Acting for Mr Spears, Tony Whitelum said he would want to take advice about the facts from senior counsel in Adelaide.
CJ Martin said it would be “unfortunate” if the only thing holding the matter back was advice from counsel.
Mr Whitelum said he would make some calls that day.
Murray Preston, acting for Mr  Doody, said he had some difficulty with the facts that he had received and he had some doubt that he would be ready for Friday.
He said he would be speaking to his client that day but discussion with the Crown would be necessary.
CJ Martin urged counsel to put aside other things, find time to get together with the Crown and to be able to indicate on this morning whether or not they would proceed with a plea tomorrow.
One complication to all this is that the manslaughter count, involving all five, would have to be formally separated from a further charge, Count 3, which in the new indictment only Mr Kloeden faces.
The Crown is alleging that he “engaged in conduct that gave rise to a danger of death to Tony Cotchilli”, that he “drove a motor vehicle through camps being reckless as to the danger of death” and that the reckless conduct was aggravated by “use of an offensive weapon, namely a motor vehicle”.
The penalty for recklessly endangering life is 10 years, but for an aggravated offence, it is 14 years.
At committal in the Magistrates Court, all five of the accused were facing eight counts of recklessly endangering life.
It was alleged that a white Toyota Hilux, driven by Mr Kloeden, and in which the other four were passengers, was driven at speed at two camp sites, endangering the lives of those camped there.
At the conclusion of the committal, lawyers for Mr Doody, Mr Swain, Mr Spears and Mr Hird, all made submissions that their clients should not be charged over this conduct as there had been no evidence that any of them had been at the wheel of the vehicle.
However, the Crown prosecutor at that stage said that the four had been passengers in the vehicle for an extended period of time and had been in a position to get out of the vehicle if they’d chosen to do so.
He also said there had been evidence of more than one voice coming from the car when it was driven at the two sites.
Magistrate David Bamber said that a jury could consider that the four were involved with the alleged crimes on the basis of complicity and found that there was a sufficient case to answer. The Director of Public Prosecutions now obviously has a different view.
In court last week Russell Goldflam, acting for Mr Kloeden, said that this matter would either require further discussion with the Crown or would “need to be fixed for trial” – in other words, Mr Kloeden would not necessarily be pleading guilty.
Mr Goldflam last week also expressed some concern about the wording of Count 2 being “a little open in that it has the phrase ‘being reckless or negligent’”.
This wording reproduces that of Section 160 of the Criminal Code under which the charge has been made.
Mr Whitelum (Spears) and John McBride (Hird) expressed similar concerns regarding the wording.

Remembering Stuart. By KIERAN FINNANE.

They may be a little older and greyer but their voices and musicality are undiminshed.
The return of Alice’s much loved folk quartet Bloodwood was a highlight of last Sunday’s occasion which had brought them together on stage for the first time in years –  the celebration of the 1860 epic journey of John McDouall Stuart into the Centre.
Together with companions William Kekwick and Bejamin Head, Stuart was the first white man to reach this part of the country.
Sunday’s was a joyful event. Heavy rain had caused it to be moved from Owen Springs to Simpson’s Gap but if anything, the majestic qualities of the red sandstone ranges rising either side of the gap against the sombre sky only added a fitting impressiveness.
As Kekwick descendant Rick Moore said, the excitement of the Stuart story is “all about country”.  This was also what Bloodwood’s Dave Evans wanted to convey in the song he and Barry Skipsey composed for the occasion.
His sense of Stuart, of what made him tick, was that  he  “was at home in the bush”.
In the song, “What drives a man?”, this translated into a chorus line – “The unknown was the only known comfort John McDouall Stuart desired”.
Stuart was the spearhead for non-Aboriginal people to develop relationships with the bush in the Centre, for it to become less unknown and for many, cherished.
Love of the land, of ways of living on it is what many of Bloodwood’s songs are about and listening to them, variously funny and moving, as the sky pressed down and kites wheeled above the cliffs softened by a mist of green grasses, was a memorable experience.
The centrepiece for the day was a reenactment of Stuart’s arrival in the Centre.
In the role of the explorer was fourth generation Centralian and pastoralist, Billy Hayes.
A man who has made his living from working on the land, he was well placed to take the measure of what Stuart achieved: “How he ever got through Central Australia with just two other men to help him I don’t know.”
“What a remarkable man he must have been,” he said.
Mr Moore, who is president of the John McDouall Stuart Society, makes the point though that Stuart was not without his faults.
In his failure to provide adequately for the nutritional needs of the expedition, Stuart showed that he was ready to let himself and others die.
The knowledge of what was required was available, says Mr Moore, but Stuart chose to ignore it. Why he did so “remains a complete mystery to me”, he says.
Benjamin Head certainly paid the price, as event organiser Stuart Traynor pointed out on Sunday: the 18 year old lost half his body weight on the 1860 expedition and never fully recovered his health.
But, says Mr Moore, Stuart also paid the price: he died in 1866 at age 50, only four years after he returned from his last expedition, while Head lived on for another 40 years.
Mr Moore is sure that Stuart’s “severely compromised nutrition over many years” contributed to his early death.
Mr Moore clearly has a passion for the Stuart story. It was awakened initially by his ancestry but kept alive by “the country”, he says.
He has made his living in the livestock industry, knows how to cook on a campfire and get from A to B using a GPS (and “probably a compass”, he admits), but when you get a sense of the country that Stuart traversed and begin to appreciate his toughness and resourcefulness, “it all changes”, he says.
It was an all-male cast on Sunday and they were the achievements of men that were celebrated, but one man made sure he remembered the often unacknowledged role of women in the bush.
Ted Egan, singer-songwriter, historian and former Administrator of the Northern Territory,  had his own song about Stuart, “Rider in the mirage”, honouring him as “intrepid man number one”, but he closed his set with the recital of a poem, “The Bushwoman”, inspired by a station woman he once met, a woman with her own kind of fierce courage and determination.
Mr Egan alluded to the problems Alice Springs faces to day but imparted a sense of optimism about the way forward.  And if on Sunday we were remembering the start of something, of the venture that paved the way for most of those present to be in this country, there was also a strong sense of vitality, blessed it seemed by the scattered drops of rain that began to fall as Bloodwood sang their last song.

Ross River doomed? By KIERAN FINNANE.

Ross River Resort, the only facility of its kind in the East MacDonnells, will be “left to the nation as a conservation zone”, says its current manager, because as a resort it can never make money unless the government agrees to connect it to the electricity grid.
The manager says the diesel bill alone to keep the present minimal operation going is $20,000 a month.
He says he charges $3 for a cup of coffee but it costs him $5.50 to produce, once power and water costs are factored in.
Going solar is not an option, he says, because the facility would have to be rewired, “costing millions”.
He says the owner – Melbourne property magnate Reno Grollo – was prepared to spend $22m on general upgrades at the facility if the government agreed to the grid connection but this was knocked back “by a Cabinet meeting at the resort about four years ago”.
The Alice News asked media advisor to Tourism Minister Malarndirri McCarthy to corroborate this and for a comment from the Minister on “whether the government would reconsider the issue in order to boost tourism to the East MacDonnells”.
We had no reply, which isn’t unusual, but when we called, the advisor, Ursula Raymond, said she hadn’t looked into it because she didn’t have time.
And in the future? She would not be looking into it in the future either.
Such helpfulness aside, there is more to our interest in the Ross River Resort than this. 
Is Outback-style friendly service consistent with denying visitors the use of toilet facilities at a tourist resort?
Bea Winkel and her husband think not.
After spending a day, just before Easter, hiking and swimming in the East MacDonnells they decided to drop into the Ross River Resort for a coffee and a toilet stop.
No go.
The resort was booked out to a conference, “exclusively”, and they couldn’t be served a coffee, nor could they use the toilet.
Ms Winkel, who has lived and worked in Alice for the last 10 years, says her husband then had to “make use of a tree” and they left, disappointed.
“That kind of experience is bad for our tourism industry,” she says.
“People spread that around and other people decide not to come here, or if they do, stay only for a day or two.”
The resort manager, however, won’t accept the criticism.
“This is a private property,” says Raymond, who declines to give his surname.
“Our toilets are for the exclusive use of our clients.
“There are public toilets at Trephina Gorge, which visitors pass on their way here.”
In fact, the Trephina Gorge toilets are several kilometers from the Ross Highway and at the time the road to the gorge was closed due to flood damage
Raymond says the road closure is not his problem.
Repairs to that road are the government’s responsibility and it is the government who should be asked why they are not making these repairs a priority.
Department of Construction and Infrastructure’s regional manager Henry Szczypiorski advises that the road is now open to high clearance 4WD only “due to debris in the floodways”.  He says DCI staff will clear the floodways “as soon as possible”.
Raymond also says that the toilets at Trephina are “covered in redbacks”, that tourists don’t like using them and prefer to come on to his facilities, which are clean.
But “this is not a piss stop”, says Raymond.  Neither is the resort’s phone available for use by the public.
Telstra took the public phone out, he says.
He says he does not advertise for business, yet the Alice News pointed out to him that the resort has an attractive website promoting its facilities.
He says he would shut the website down if he knew how.  But while he doesn’t advertise he still wants people to know that the resort is generally open and he is “more than happy” to receive people’s business. 
The camping grounds and cabins are available for people arriving between 8.30am and 4pm daily.
The restaurant and bar are also open unless the facility has been hired out for a private function, in which case a notice is posted on the door: “Closed to the general public.”
Tour operator Harry Osborne is also based at the resort and runs Ossie’s Outback tours from there, with advance bookings required.
Raymond and his wife are the only other permanent residents.
People should phone from Alice Springs in advance to know whether or not the resort will be open when they want to travel.
In any case, says Raymond, casual visitors should not be coming through at the moment because the road is closed from the Alice side of Bitter Springs Creek (past the Trephina turn-off and before you reach the turn-off for N’Dhala Gorge).
Raymond says he put in the sandy by-pass around the huge washout at the creek so that he could service his property, but it is not for use by the general public.
(The DCI ‘s advice on this differs: they say that the Ross Highway was closed “for a short time about four weeks ago”.
“A detour has been put in place around the damaged section of the road to allow traffic through.
“Repairs will be carried out as soon as the current weather pattern subsides.”)
It would be a mistake, however, to think that Raymond does not want to help anyone. 
He says he has pulled about 20 cars out of bogs since the big rains of this year, “putting at risk his own life and machinery”.
But again, that should not be his job, he says.
First, people should not travel on roads that are closed, and second, rescuing them should be a ranger’s job, not his.
Meanwhile, the heavy rains and flooding have cause $200,000 worth of damage at the resort, says Raymond.
Apart from extensive erosion, “we lost the bore and the pump, and the cabling from the generator shed to the campsite”.
He says the owner is ultimately intending to bequeath the property to the nation as a conservation zone.
As for other roads to destinations in the East Macs, Mr Szczypiorski advises that Emily Gap, Jessie Gap and Arltunga Heritage road are all open.
N’Dhala Gorge is “impassable” due to flooding, meaning that the road is subject to “potential short-term water depth changes which may delay the passage of vehicles”.
Ruby Gap access is closed due to extensive damage and will remain closed “until the current wet weather pattern has passed and a full repair is complete”.
A repair program is being discussed with local park rangers, says Mr Szczypiorski.

Sale of Imparja TV floated at fiery CAAMA meeting. EXCLUSIVE by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Imparja TV could be put up for sale for $35m.
This possibility was floated by Owen Cole last Friday at a special general meeting of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), according to sources who attended the meeting.
CAAMA owns a 63% share of Imparja.
Mr Cole was the CEO of CAAMA, a position now held by his partner Jennifer Howard, until he resigned when he was facing charges of aggravated assault.
The charges, later proven, arose from the the notorious brawl following the 2007 football grand final.
According to our sources, the meeting, called by 28 members, was also told that:-
• The organisation, which gets $2m in grants from the public purse, and is due to celebrate its 30th birthday in a few days, is in an ongoing critical financial situation.
• It borrowed $2m with the former Imparja building in Leichhardt Terrace as security, possibly in contravention of a Commonwealth caveat regulating the use of that building.
• The meeting was told that the building (pictured), after renovations, will be let out to the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, a health organisation, for $400,000 a year. This may be used to re-pay the $2m loan.
• Imparja, which gets a $2m a year Commonwealth subsidy for its satellite use, and is a de facto relay station of the Nine Network, pays no dividends to CAAMA.
• CAAMA Radio head Jim Remedio, a Torres Strait Islander from Queensland, resigned last week.
• Although CAAMA and Imparja have state of the art TV production equipment, they have not produced anything substantial for about two years, when CAAMA had a $2m commission from National Indigenous Television (NITV), also in financial difficulties at present.
• There is only a minimal income from CAAMA Music and none from CAAMA Productions.
• About $300,000 was paid out in consultants’ fees, including $50,000 to Mr Cole.
• A motion to sack Ms Howard was not put but members of the board undertook to review management issues, including financial management, of CAAMA.
Our sources say there was vigourous discontent at the meeting about Imparja’s failure to carry out or commission major productions, especially Aboriginal ones; about its diminishing Aboriginal identity and the absence of a substantial local news service.
It is unclear why Imparja is not paying dividends to its major shareholder, CAAMA, which – after 30 years in operation – remains dependent on government money.
The sources say although a structure for paying dividends is not in place now, it could easily be put into place.
Eight CAAMA board members are sitting on the Imparja board of 12.
Ms Howard did not respond to an offer from the Alice Springs News of a right of reply, and did not respond to our requests for corroboration of the information provided to us by the sources who spoke on condition of confidentiality.
Meanwhile the Alice News on Monday put the following issues to Federal Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, with a request for comment.
We had not received a reply from him by the deadline for this print edition.
“CAAMA has been funded by the governments – mostly Commonwealth – for 30 years, receiving many millions of dollars.
“It has accumulated state of the art gear but hardly uses it, and hardly ever hires it out.
“CAAMA’s income [other than government grants] is very low, and they’re constantly on the verge of insolvency.
“They own 63% of Imparja yet receive no dividends from it, and continue to be depended on the public purse, which continues to be generous with them.
“Where do Imparja’s profits go?
“It receives $2m a year in satellite subsidies.
“It has a dispensation from government programming requirements, (for example, it is allowed to have no news service; it is allowed to be a de facto relay station for the Nine Network; it fulfills none of the programming pledges CAAMA made when it applied for the licence ... see our web archive).
“Only one other TV organisation in Australia has such a dispensation – Seven Central – the only other commercial TV station in Central Australia.”
[Parts of this report appeared in the Alice Springs News online edition.]

Carey, Framptons scandal escalates as govt. agencies are out to a long lunch. EXCLUSIVE by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Damien Golding, who is claimed to be the “supervising builder” under whose control Carey Builders Pty Ltd were constructing 11 homes in Alice Springs, said last week: “I am not responsible nor liable for Mr [Randall] Carey whatsoever.”
Mr Golding was issued a NT builder’s licence in 2006.
On June 26, 2007 he was sentenced in the Territory Supreme Court on several cannabis offences to an aggregate term of imprisonment of 15 months, to be suspended after two months.
According to the Building Practitioners’ Board, his builder’s licence is still current today.
Mr Carey’s company is in liquidation, with uncertainty over hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments made for work not done, and debts to suppliers and sub-contractors.
Buyers have made demands of the real estate firm Framptons who have given undertakings with respect to the projects.
Robin Cantwell, of Territory Building Certifiers, told the Alice News on Tuesday that Mr Golding was the “supervising builder” for all the 11 homes.
Mr Carey’s builder’s licence expired on January 1, 2009. It is understood an application for renewal was rejected in August last year.
Mr Golding’s lawyer, Ian Rowbottam of the Darwin law firm Withnalls, says: “Mr Golding will be dragged in the mud, but he has never received any money [under the Carey / Frampton deals], has never signed any contract, has never met Framptons nor met any of the home buyers.”
But one of the home buyers, John Stafford, says he spoke to Mr Golding in early November last year, seeking assistance in signing off certificates required for a permit to occupy.
“Mr Golding provided the relevant signed documentation.
“He told me he used to work for Mr Carey in Queensland, and he – Mr Carey – had asked him a favour with respect to ‘finishing off a couple of homes’.
“When Mr Golding realised there were several houses involved he told Mr Carey he was to no longer use his licence.”
Mr Stafford says he reported these events last year to the office of then Minister for Construction, Delia Lawrie, asking for an appointment.
“I spoke to the Minister’s adviser who said he would take up the matter and get back to me.
“I heard no more from the adviser nor from Ms Lawrie.”
Meanwhile two of the 23 home buyers 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 Mr Carey was an undischarged bankrupt and had problems with registration and licensing.
Ald Stewart says the group is asking for financial assistance from the government.
This seems to have little chance, as the government, its bureaucrats and agencies are protected by law from such claims (see below).
Opposition infrastructure spokesman and Braitling MLA, Adam Giles, was scathing about Mr McCarthy’s “inadequate response to the plight of victims”.
Mr Giles said Mr McCarthy’s “response to their concerns was deflating at best.
“I anticipated that the Minister would turn up with a suite of solutions for these victims.
“However his opening declaration was that he ‘doesn’t have a cheque book’, adding that getting ‘a cheque book is a big gig’ and that ‘the Government cannot provide taxpayer money to assist in this case’.
“In other words, he was ruling out any substantial help to families.”
Says Mr Giles: “It was this Government that licensed Randall Carey despite his chequered history in Queensland and, after a number of complaints, finally cancelled his license in 2009 and then failed to tell his clients.
“As the Minister left the meeting he said, ‘I wish you guys all the best’.
“The Chief Minister should attend the next meeting, scheduled for April 17th.
“Meanwhile, the affected families continue to make mortgage and interest payments with no results.”
[Parts of this report appeared in the Alice Springs News online edition.]

The summer of love in the death throes. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Totem theatre. River flowing outside. Little theatre not used enough. Totem totem.
Sitting inside tiny not used enough theatre.  Walking through threshold short but deep. Feels like the room is going underground. Not used enough. This riverside Totem. Old old place. Older than most of the trees guarding it. Giant gum tree bouncers. 
Most of the time. You go to local theatre. Knowing that it’s going to be good. Knowing that it’s not going to be that good. Butterflies are free will exceed most expectations. 
Heads in the way. Feels warm inside. Looking at people’s backs. Intimacy in reverse. 
Pop and appear.  Actors creaking the boards. Natasha Raja. Felix Meyer. Isabel Dupuy. Kallum Wilkinson. Butterflies are free. Written around death throes of the summer of love by Leonard Gersche.
Story of love. Film adaptation launched the career of Goldie Hawn. Beautiful little set. Tiny stage wraps itself around the storyline. This is 3D cinema. Don’t worry about those migraine inducing pieces of cardboard horror glasses.
For actors theatre air can be brutal. A slavish devotion. Multi-personality chess games and playtime. It’s a rush to get it nailed. It’s a rush rush rush to relax.
Felix. Fresh from the theatrical birth canal. Tense from the start, relaxing into the role as the story unfolds. Good diversity in the part. Good for cutting teeth. Maybe move less at the beginning. Cool to watch the outer tantrum. 
Natasha. Confines of Alice Springs theatre. Not enough plays in central desert. Not enough plays with Natasha in them. The elasticity of her portrayals. Free spirited crossing over to anger. Cool watching the inner tantrum.
Natasha needs to go over to screen. Fantastic to see what she could achieve if there were ‘takes’. Ellen Paige-like expressions. But a bit taller.
An actor knows when they have reached the next plateau when they don’t have to audition for parts. This will happen for Natasha soon. Should have no local auditions.
Isabel. Plays the motherly part convincingly. Like cat to fish pond. Down to the comical relief.
Kallum. Battering ram accent. Sticky merchant of sleaze. Fits shoes with a presence that leaks out of his shoes. Nice cameo. Nice.
All key players gel. Towards the end give moving performances. Goosebumps a bit.
Kirryn Wilkinson. Director. Let it all submit to performance. Empties actors movements into tiny bucket of space. Uses outside. Uses inside. Needs more room to play. More lights to burn out.
The air seemed tight at the start. Expanded as actors melted into their roles. Fantastic ever evolving magic. They go far and seldom lose touch. Intermission. 
Few anachronistic problems. Props need to be used. Go without dinner and have a picnic on the floor. Something needed.
Play runs a better part of two hours. Bar near door. Door near bar. Intermission.
Watched a person that had never seen a play before. Folded arms from the start.
Finished with laughing. Finished with clapping. Long clapping. Louder than rain clapping.
River flowing because rains clapping. People standing around after. Not circles of silence. Little pools of choir. Singing praise. Only seventeen fifty the ticket. Could go twice.

Tapping out an old story.

Once again members of the Morsecodian Fraternity are bringing the post office at the Old Telegraph Station to life.
Last Saturday was the first day of Heritage Week and the tiny stone building was crowded with visitors wanting to send telegrams. They’d write out their message on an “originating form”, then it would be tapped out in Morse code and transmitted – these days via a telephone line and a modem, as telegraph lines no longer exist.
The messages were received in Sydney, at a station in the Powerhouse Museum, where they were printed out and posted. Once upon a time a “telegram boy” would have delivered the telegram to your door.
The Morsecodians in Alice were also receiving telegrams from Sydney, which they in turn were printing out and posting in special souvenir envelopes.
The annual heritage activity is a way  of reminding people that in 1872 the Old Telegraph Line enabled for the first time the transmission of instantaneous messages between Adelaide and Darwin and thence to the outside world.
The fraternity’s trip to Alice Springs was paid for by Telstra and they are accommodated here by the Parks and Wildlife Service.
Last Saturday they sent around 65 telegrams for visitors to the OTS, and if it’s anything like last year’s effort, by next Sunday, their last day, they will have sent some 1600.
Pictured is Leo Nette (Beechworth, Victoria) explaining to visitors how it all works – and asking them to “cross my palm with silver”.
With him in Alice are Brian Mullins (Sydney),who has been awarded an OAM for his contribution to the preservation of Australia’s telecommunications history, Charles Spalding (Perth) and Keith Macrae (Parks, NSW).
Mr Mullins and some 20 volunteers maintain the Telstra Museum at Bankstown, Sydney.
– Kieran Finnane

Alice’s future leaders.

The Alice Springs Desert Leadership Program has its first 19 participants, representing a broad cross‐section of the Alice  Springs community, says CEO of Desert Knowledge Australia, John Huigen.
“They were selected based on the potential for leadership they have already shown and their commitment to the future of the town,” says Mr Huigen.
The program is an initiative of Desert Knowledge Australia and the Alice Springs community to increase leadership capability within the town.
Participants aret: James Nolan (NT Police), Lyndon Frearson (CAT Projects), Mark Lockyer (community advocate), Kristy Bloomfield (CAALAS), Nichole Kerslake (Red Dust Theatre), Donna Lemon (Congress), Thomas Newsome (Low Ecological Services), Skye Thompson (Ingkerreke), David Quan (NT Fire and Rescue Service), Fionn Muster (Michels Warren Munday), Georgina Davison (Public Library), Jade Kudrenko (CLC), Kellie Tranter (Hospital), Barbara Shaw (community advocate), Benedict Stevens (Hospital), Lynda Lechleitner (Tangentyere), Ian McAdam (Clontarf ), Sam Osborne (Dare to Lead) and Joe Clarke (Clontarf).

ADAM'S APPLE: Have a go!

I thought I might take this opportunity to clarify a couple of things.
In Alice Springs there is a wonderful sporting culture that not only helps many of us try and get fit but also provides a real sense of community.
When discussing some of the sporting nomenclature of the sports we play here in the centre, there are occasions when things get a little confused.
The confusion stems from the melting pot community in which we live. There are so many people from so many different places that sooner or later a Babel-like confusion was bound to take place.
You see when I talk about watching “the footy” or going to “footy training” I bring to the conversation a New South Wales sensibility. Therefore I am talking about Rugby League or Rugby Union. When a South Australian sensibility is brought to the discussion, “footy” refers to Australian Rules.
This difference becomes problematic when allegiances are being discussed. “Who do you follow in the footy?” is a question with an answer that relies on the respondent knowing the heritage of the questioner.
For those of you from the states dominated by Australian Rules, here is another clarification. When you say “rugby”, you refer to either Rugby League or Rugby Union. This is slightly incorrect.
Rugby Union is referred to as “Rugby” while Rugby League is “League”. A small but helpful differentiation to avoid confusion.  No matter what you call Rugby League or Rugby Union I love playing both games. I will however be the first to admit that my love of playing the game is in no way a reflection of the level of proficiency to which I play them.
I’m not that good. I wish I were a footy playing superstar. Nothing would make me happier. I’d like to think that I am enthusiastic but am under no illusions that for the most part I am making up the numbers.
In life, making up the numbers is frowned upon. It is preferable to dedicate one’s life to pursuits in which one demonstrates competency.
Sport or more particularly, grass roots sport is great in that way. I am able to play a game I love although I am not at all good. Golfers will understand this concept better than most.
There are other pursuits that can remain enjoyable in spite of the pursuer’s lack of proficiency. Monopoly and crosswords are among the many hobbies that lend themselves to this phenomenon. And how many truly awful pieces of art or offensively horrid throw rugs or structurally unsound bookshelves are here in Alice Springs alone?
The planet is full of shining tributes to having a go in the face of a complete lack of talent.
Now I’m not advocating that we should all follow our dreams in spite of our lack of qualification. Alice Springs Hospital has just found out why that is a bad idea. No one should have to suffer for your unrealistic ambitions.  But when the only person who could be hurt is you, why not reach for the stars?
Why not have a crack at building a bookshelf? Why not try your hand at growing carrots or making pasta from scratch? Why not buy a cheap lemon and try turning it into a luxury vehicle? 
What? You say you only just figured out where the petrol goes? Who cares? That’s what Google is for.
Alice really is a land of opportunity. Wages are higher than average. You can get a job here and if you don’t like it, you can get another. 
In their spare time, people turn their hands to a myriad of activities and who knows, you may just find one you love doing.
So do it!

LETTERS: Many buffel grasses unsuited for grazing.

Sir – While I share the concerns that our Parks are overrun by buffel, some solutions suggested recently are naive, misguided, and ignorant of many of the facts.
When buffel was “officially” introduced in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, a dozen or so different varieties were imported from various parts of the world.  Their characteristics varied, from palatable and generally smaller plants, to quite unpalatable and generally larger types. 
Field trials were carried out in Central Australia, but in the incredible wisdom of the same institution that gave us the cane toad, these varieties were planted side by side, and recent research, including DNA testing, has supported the suspicions of botanists that considerable uncontrolled and undesirable hybridisation has occurred in the field.
Almost all of the buffel growing about Alice Springs and in our Parks, and now along almost every road between Pt Augusta and who knows where, is of the less palatable/unpalatable, and most probably, hybridised varieties. 
A few years ago we took samples of these predominant varieties to the AZRI laboratory, for nutrient testing, and we were told that “a cow could not move its jaws enough times in a day to get a feed” from them. 
So even if it were logistically possible (and it’s not, for a variety of reasons that aren’t that hard to work out), to use cattle to reduce the buffel mass, you would not have a salable turnoff as a result.
Cattle are like children – they like to “eat their ice-cream first”.
Cattle will eat any available native plants before they will turn to these buffel varieties, and by that time the buffel is even less nutritious, and seeded. It is then also more problematic for cattle to eat, with considerable eye and pizzle damage.  Camels hardly touch buffel, and goats will chew on wire netting before they tackle buffel.  It is not digested by termites.
Fresh buffel (young plants, or those regenerating after fire or slashing), is more readily eaten, but apart from the risks, collateral damage and costs of getting buffel in that condition on the scale required, there are other problems. 
A high consumption of buffel leads to a condition in horses known as “bighead”, which I understand can be countered with supplements, but a more insidious condition occurs for cattle (and sheep I believe) called “oxalate poisoning”. 
In pregnant cows for example, this presents with “uterine inertia”, which if you are fortunate enough to have the services of a vet who knows what’s going on, may only result in the loss of the calf, but otherwise the cow will die as well, poisoned from the decaying carcass she carries but can’t expel.
To suggest that there is a direct correlation between high fuel loads and productivity is not sustainable; one only has to contemplate spinifex for example, which while it is useful in the grazing sense when seeding, it is in no way in proportion to its fuel load capacity.  With buffel, the correlation is inversely proportional to the palatability, physical size and age of the variety / plant. Far from enrichening the soil, buffel is a savage nitrogen depleter (something any half observant land manager would work out without the help of boffins). 
So much so, that in recent years one of the large Queensland universities has spent millions on a project to find a grass that will replace nitrogen in the soils ruined by “pasture improvement” – clearing all the native nitrogen fixing species, and sowing buffel. 
At least one State in the USA has outlawed buffel.  While there may well be a buffel variety or two that are of some benefit to the pastoral industry in Central Australia, unless we as a community, including pastoralists and governments at all levels, unite and address the threat of the rest of the varieties, those one or two won’t stand a chance.  Neither will our Parks or pastoral industry.
I suggest the first document on the further reading list should be “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen.
Rod Cramer
Alice Springs

Buffel replies

Sir - Following the article ‘An Easter trip into the land of buffel’ (Alice News, April 1), which contained quotes from myself, I’ve had a number of comments made to me.
These have come from a spectrum of the population, among them public servants, CSIRO personnel, housewives and others. I was told that I was a stirrer – for this I am grateful.
One man suggested, after a recent road trip to Glen Helen that the abundance of buffel along the way will lead to irretrievable fire damage.
There were other comments about the vast take-over by buffel in tourist areas in the mountain ranges.
One woman said that she never wishes to visit Simpson’s Gap again – it was a favourite place BBG (before buffel grass).
Comments were made in agreement with the lack of will power to get serious about the problem, the hopeless delay in getting anything done due to today’s procrastinating-type administration; and one woman, the wife of a hard-working tradesman, agreed wholeheartedly with the comment “just get to bloody work!”
I belong to an era, not too long past, when people were enthusiastic about their work.
When things needed to be done, you did it yourself.
There are some today who would faint at the sight of a shovel – if they knew what it was!
Des Nelson
Alice Springs

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