May 27, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Ryder sentences appealed. By ERWIN CHLANDA and KIERAN FINNANE.
The Alice News broke this story in this online edition on Monday.

Anton Kloeden, one of the five men convicted of the manslaughter of Kwementyaye Ryder, is seeking leave to appeal the non-parole portion of the sentence imposed on him by Chief Justice Brian Martin.
His lawyer Russell Goldflam asserts in documents filed last Friday that the non-parole period of four years of a “head sentence” of six is “manifestly excessive”.
He also claims this is “manifestly disparate” with the sentence of co-offender Scott Doody who will be released after 12 months in prison, from the time of his arrest, without supervision, but required for three years to abstain from alcohol and drugs and to obey several other conditions.
In April Mr Kloeden, Mr Doody and three others pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Ryder on July 25 last year.
In the application Mr Goldflam relies on a previous decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal that in fixing a non-parole period “the starting point must be the minimum period which the prisoner must serve before being eligible for parole … taking into account the … gravity in the scale of crimes of its type ... the danger which the offender presents to the community ... further progress of the offender ... including prospects of rehabilitation”.
In the case of Mr Kloeden, and given the circumstances of the offence, this should be three years, or half the head sentence, asserts Mr Goldflam.
He says: “The learned Judge Chief Justice should have given reasons” for his decision to fix the non-parole period.”
Mr Goldflam also relied on the findings of the Chief Justice that the crime was “at the lower end of the scale of seriousness for the crime of manslaughter” and Mr Kloeden had been “negligent rather than reckless”.
The Chief Justice had also found that “the attack [on Mr Ryder] was not sustained” involving a “relatively low level of violence at worst,” inflictng “relatively minor external injuries”. 
Mr Kloeden’s role was “aiding and abetting” and “he did not directly participate in the assault or alight from his car while the assault was being committed”.
Mr Kloeden’s action of making a U-turn and driving up to Mr Ryder was done in a “spontaneous moment of anger in response to the conduct of the deceased in smashing a bottle on the side of [Mr Kloeden’s] car.”
The Chief Justice found that Mr Kloeden was “appalled by the consequences of his conduct when he found out the deceased had died”, that Mr Kloeden’s conduct was “out of character” and he was “deeply sorry for what he had done”, and that the sentence was “particularly harsh because of the requirement that he be kept in protective custody”.
Tony Whitelum, acting for Joshua Spears, confirms that he too will be seeking leave to appeal the severity of the sentence.
“Basically we’ll be saying the judge got all the facts right, but got the sentence wrong,” says Mr Whitelum, who was intending to file documents with the Court of Criminal Appeal today or tomorrow.
He will go further than Mr Goldflam, appealing the severity of the head sentence as well as the non-parole period.
Lawyer John McBride says his client Timothy Hird has accepted his sentence and will not be appealing.
“I think the Chief Justice got it right,” says Mr McBride.
The Alice News understands that Glenn Swain (sentenced to five and half years, with a three and a half year non-parole period) will not be appealing. Unsurprisingly neither will Mr Doody, likely to be released in August.

Desert Centre: Work, not programs.

The Desert People’s Centre (DPC) is attempting to build a new institutional culture, where the emphasis is on working with people to achieve a practical outcome with their education and training, rather than on just delivering the programs.
The centre, which brings together on one campus the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) and Batchelor Institute for Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE), will be opened tomorrow by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and MLA for Stuart Karl Hampton.
Over the last two years the centre has been working with around 80 individuals in town “walking them through” training and work experience to get them to the point where they are employable, says Keith Castle, the DPC’s business development manager.
Most of these people had been unemployed for a long time.
Mr Castle says around 25% of them have gone into employment and another 30% have continued in training.
He says it is a big step for someone to go from long-term unemployment into a job.
He says the experience of organisations working with the long-term unemployed in the cities is that it takes six to nine months for people to develop reliable work patterns.
So it is with people here and the approach of the DPC with their “Livelihood Pathways” is to maintain the relationship with them until they get over this hurdle.
The DPC is expanding this approach into their work with the Central Desert Shire, developing with each of the shire’s major population centres Community Action Plans that cover training needs, work experience and transition to employment with the shire’s CDEP program.
What will be taught and who will teach it will be molded around the particular community’s needs, says Mr Castle.
The DPC is also attempting to create “social enterprises” in which long-term unemployed Aboriginal people can work together to gain job experience and confidence. Such enterprises could undertake contracts, for example a landscaping. – Kieran Finnane

Speed stats tell the story.

Some level of speed is always a factor in car crashes, but a crash is deemed speed-related if the speed was excessive.
As reported last week, the Town Council has been asked by the Australian Public Health Association to reconsider its stance on lowering the default speed limit for Alice Springs, one of the few urban areas in the country to have a default limit greater than 50km/h.
In 2004 the NT Government gave local governments authority to determine their own default speed limits. All NT town councils except for the Alice one chose 50km/h as their default speed.
Defending the council’s position, Alderman Murray Stewart wanted to know how many of the accidents causing serious injury or death on local roads have been speed-related.
These statistics are collected in a Vehicle Accident Database by the Department of Lands and Planning’s Road Safety unit.
They advise that speed-related statistics relate more accurately to a driver breaking the speed limit or travelling at a dangerous speed, rather than to speed as a causal factor.
This being said, they provide the following account of accidents in the Alice Springs police region, that is south of Elliott, for the years 2005-2009.
The region takes in roads affected by the NT Government’s introduction of speed limits for rural roads and highways from January 1 2007.
In 2005 there were 212 casualties, eight of them speed-related  (3.7%). Of the 10 fatalities, none were speed-related, and of the 91 admissions to hospital, none were speed-related.
Of the 226 casualties in 2006, 20 were speed-related (8.8%); 12 were fatalities, of which one was speed-related; of 87 admissions to hospital, eight were speed-related.  In 2007, total casualties were 190, 25 of which were speed-related (13.15%). There were 11 fatalities, five of them speed-related; there were 99 admissions to hospital, 15 of them speed-related.
The following year, 2008, there were 231 casualties, 32 speed-related (13.8%). There were 16 fatalities, five of them speed-related; of 121 admissions to hospital, 21 were speed-related.
In 2009, there was a significant drop in casualties – 88, seven of them speed-related (7.9%). There were eight fatalities, none speed-related; there were 49 admissions to hospital, five of them speed-related.
On average over the five years, 9.47 % of vehicle accidents with casualties were speed-related.
Of the admissions to hospital over five years, 10.9% were speed-related.
However, of the fatalities over five years, 28% were speed-related, a statistic that would appear to support the argument that speed increases the severity of vehicle crashes.
And this statistic is in the ball park with national surveys and studies
The other main causal factors for crashes are alcohol, fatigue and failure to wear a seatbelt.
Ald Stewart says council officers will be preparing a report on the speed limit issue for aldermen to consider in the June round of meetings.
He continues to support a default limit of 60km/h in Alice combined with a number of speed limiting or calming measures in sensitive areas.
He says this is a “common sense approach”.
He says anyone in the community with concerns about traffic safety in particular areas can approach council.
He says council has responded to concerns in the past with action on signage and with speed-calming devices.
“We’ve been proactive about safety but I’m concerned about this ‘cotton wool’ approach,” says Ald Stewart.
“Crawling around at 50km/h will add unnecessary stress to what is on the whole a serene town.”
He says drivers involved in speed-related accidents would not take notice of lower speed limits anyway.
“These people are by definition hoons who can and must be dealt with by the law.
“Lowering the default limit to 50 km/h won’t change them at all.”
People might have expected Ald Stewart, as a vision-impaired person, to err in this debate on the side of the vulnerable road user  – the people most at risk of serious or fatal injury as a result of speeding, according to the Public Health Association’s local spokesperson, Dr Rosalie Schultz.
But Ald Stewart says vulnerable road users, such as school children, are already protected by road safety measures in place – such as the 40km/h speed limit in school zones.
“I am not advocating uniform or unrestricted speeds,” he says.

LETTER: Elusive numbers.

Sir – I’m a little confused as to your assertions in last week’s edition of Alice Springs News.
On page 3 you assert in your interview with Leo Abbott that “our town’s population has been stagnant for years” yet the graph of ABS statistics on page 11 in your same edition indicates precisely the opposite. The graph indicates there has been a slow but steady growth from around 26,500 in 2002 to almost 28,000 in 2009.
Further in your interview with Leo you assert that “tourism is in decline” yet in 2009, the NT secured a 3% growth in visitor numbers compared to a 6% decline in the holiday markets reported by other juristictions across the country.
The Centralian Advocate reported in last Friday’s edition that “Centering ads hit the bullseye” outlining some “Get CeNTred In The Red Centre” campaign statistics from mid February through to the end of April delivered by the ever delightful Maree Tetlow, Tourism NT CEO, and our sensational incumbent Tourism Minister, the Hon. Malarndirri McCarthy, on Thursday evening at a tourism industry function.
Phil Walcott
Alice Springs
ED – There are newspapers (and readers) that swallow the government’s spin hook, line and sinker, and there are others that don’t. We like to count ourselves in the second category.
Ms Tetlow and Ms McCarthy, respectively, may well be ever delightful and sensational, but transparent and responsive to probing questions they are not (see report below).
Mr Walcott overlooks that our interview with Leo Abbott last week did not refer to tourism in the NT, but to tourism in Alice Springs. We recently ran several independently researched stories (not government handouts) about trends, especially that the big spenders are at The Rock, that a major role of Alice, of late, is to bus low budget visitors to The Rock, and that the East MacDonnells, as well as other erstwhile popular destinations, are now little visited.
We could not get from Tourism Central Australia visitation figures to Alice Springs for the last five years, comparing them with the current ones which we published, although the lavishly funded Tourism NT is surely obliged to supply them to the local industry lobby. TCA’s Peter Grigg says he will be will be asking questions.
Mr Walcott can now refer to the population figures of Alice because we published them last week.
In his apparently unshakable devotion to “good news” he overlooks some salient points: The population peaked in 2001, dropped the following year and resumed a very slow climb, growing some 2% over seven years.
We are well advised to examine the – still minute – increases, of some 2% a year, in 2008 and 2009.
What influence was exerted by the urban drift? Is it replacing skilled people heading through The Gap for the last time, being replaced with unemployable welfare dependents? Have workers for the new shires and the Intervention, coming to town to take up largely welfare jobs, snapped up scarce housing whose price was inflated artificially?
We’ll keep asking the questions, and sooner or later, we’ll get the answers.

Malarndirri big on spin. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Northern Territory Government’s tourism marketing campaign for the Red Centre has proven to be a huge success.
So says Tourism Minister, Malarndirri McCarthy, but she dodges requests to substantiate her claims, and questions about how $2.1m of public money was spent to obtain “6000 bookings”.
The Alice News wanted to know how many individual visitors this figure represented and how much was spent to get them here.
We put to Ms McCarthy that the cost of the campaign was an average of $350 per booking. So if each individual made three bookings – an airfare, accommodation and one tour – then the cost to Tourism NT per visitor was $1050.
At this rate it might be just as effective to hand out $1000 vouchers for spending in the NT.
We also asked Ms McCarthy:-
• What was the total value of the bookings?
• Please detail spending on airfares, accommodation and tours.
• What was the spending in Alice Springs area and at Ayers Rock Resort / King’s Canyon?
• Are all the 6000 bookings confirmed and paid for, or are they subject to cancellation?
• How much was the Seven Network paid?
Ms McCarthy said: “This year a partnership was formed with Channel 7 and Yahoo!7 which acted as the backdrop to AFL legend Russell Robertson’s adventures in the Red Centre through a series of webisodes.
“This was the third Get Centred domestic marketing campaign which attracted 2.8 million viewers to the Channel 7 television commercials every week.
“In total 6,000 bookings were made for tours, accommodation and airfares during the campaign period – this is an outstanding performance.
“The Get Centred domestic marketing campaign was tracked by Tourism NT and hit the mark with its key target market, Spirited Travellers, by increasing their preference to visit the Territory on holiday in 2010.
“The Seven Media Group partnership resulted in a 510% increase in online clicks to partner products such as hot deals, compared to the 2009 Red Centre campaign.” The campaign ran from 14 February to the end of April 2010. 

Shires: it isn’t how many people but where they live that counts. PART TWO of a report by
See PART ONE in last week’s issue.

One of the arguments in favour of local government reform – amalgamating in 2008 myriad small councils and associations to create eight regional shires – was the supposed achievement of economies of scale, that is, cost savings.
Thomas Michel, a PhD student working with Charles Darwin University’s Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government, is looking at whether the new model of local government in the bush is more sustainable than the old.
He recently presented his preliminary research at the CDU campus in Alice.
He said it is “totally unrealistic” to expect economies of scale to take hold in the shires, with some exceptions.
Shires can achieve better insurance deals and better deals on vehicles by bulk procurement.
They may also be able to make better use of capital equipment, such as by sharing big items like graders between communities, and they have the potential to manage payrolls and similar administrative functions more cost-effectively by centralising services.
But important factors “inhibit” the achievement of economies of scale, he said.
One is the huge infrastructure backlog. He did not yet have an official costing for this, but suggested half a billion dollars may not be “too outrageous”.
Similarly he did not yet have firm data on wages and salary costs but his “guess” was that they had inched up with more people being employed at senior management levels.
These people “may be more effective but they also cost more”, he said.
Then there are some inherent costs imposed by the “tyranny of distance”, for example, the cost of holding council meetings – transporting and accommodating elected members and staff to the meeting location, whether out bush or in town.
And a major push against cost savings is the isolation and dispersion of populations.
“It’s not about how many people live in a shire, it’s about where they are living.”
A lot of services delivered by local government have to be delivered where people live and there may be limited scope to make savings by delivering them at a broader scale or more centrally.
Waste management is an obvious example, although comment from the floor was made about the potential of regional waste management, “clustering” the municipal and shire services.
Mr Michel agreed that there were opportunities for such economies of scale, mentioning recycling as another example, but said the dispersion and isolation of the population will inhibit them to a degree.
There is also a strong expectation out there – at a political level and a local level – of better, not cheaper services, he said.
Furthermore, for economies of scale to hold shires would need a stable revenue stream.
This remains “sorely wanting” for shires, as for their predecessor councils, because of their reliance on grants revenue and because of the 12-month funding arrangements for many programs.
There has probably been more money available to the shires since July 2008, but it is “all over the shop”, said Mr Michel.
He pointed to an example from Central Desert Shire, which in 2008-09 received at least 82 separate grants, 16 of them alone related to the provision of child care.
No other tier of government has to operate like this, he said.
Professor Rolf Gerritsen added from the floor that local government in the Territory gets about one fifth the funding that it should from the Commonwealth, because it is calculated on a per capita rather than a needs basis.
The NT Local Government Grants Commission then distributes funds on a needs basis but the bucket simply is not big enough.
Rural local government across the country suffers systematic disadvantage in terms of its financial capacity compared to the non-rural areas, said Prof Gerritsen, arguing that needs-based funding formulae (“horizontal fiscal equalisation”) need to be applied to local government across the country.
Mr Michel asked why justifications and beliefs that shaped the shires, such as economies of scale  remain so persistent and how much they are fed by our assumptions and views rather than empirical evidence.
Based on this, he challenged the assumption that economic and financial data should define sustainability.
His research will also investigate how “meaning” is given to the shire experience – “who are we listening to about sustainability?”
“And how do community residents’ definitions and meanings of sustainability sometimes differ from government’s and management’s definitions?”
To date, his contact with communities has been mostly in the Top End. He has found a widespread viewpoint there that the shires represent a loss of power and control for local people – they see their governance structure as having been taken away, replaced by another which is external.
Mr Michel said he found the degree of negativity he had encountered in this regard “alarming” .
From the floor, there was comment from a shire employee about the confusion in people’s minds between local government reform and the Federal Intervention, which has added to people’s feeling of “disengagement”.
There was also comment from the floor that the work of the local boards is flowing through to council meetings and it’s “good stuff”, addressing real issues, though not all of them within the province of the shires.
In response, this particular shire has taken on more of an advocacy role in relation to such issues, with some successes in attracting attention from the other levels of government.
It was also commented from the floor that, apart from the loss of representation and ownership, people perceived that the locus of decision-making had moved to shire headquarters, that they could no longer go down to the local council office and expect their problem to be attended to, that the shire service managers were disempowered.
Mr Michel said it would be too simplistic to see the divergence of views on the reform as Indigenous versus non-Indigenous.
Some prominent proponents of the reform have been Indigenous – John Ah Kit, Elliot McAdam, Pat Dodson, Marlandirri McCarthy – but the tension between their views and others is real, he said.
He said it is analytically useful to think of the shires as an inter-cultural space, where different voices and values connect and disconnect.
Some shires have made this explicit in their logos and mottos: the West Arnhem logo shows a black and a white hand grasping one another; the Central Desert Shire has the motto, “Two ways, one outcome”.
He said these idealised ways of thinking about the shires can get a “bit wishy-washy” but the shires are nonetheless social structures that are real and rich political and cultural spaces, shaped in turn by inter-cultural conflicts and cooperation and many different internal and external structures, an important one being economic scarcity.
Mr Michel intends his research to be practical and relevant, to foster “strategic knowledge” that can be used by the shires and the people living in them.

Jol has the Finke in his blood. By CHRISANNE WALSH.

I’ve often read and heard about local legend Jol Fleming but never had the opportunity to actually meet him.
So the other day, I called in and had a chat about his involvement with the upcoming Finke Desert Race.
I was amazed that we both know a lot of the same people but had never met until now and I can assure you that there’s not much that Jol can’t tell you about the famous race which was originally known as the “There and Back”!
In 1977, while he was still living at Ayers Rock, Jol became involved with the second “There and Back” as a helper for motorcyclist Phil Stoker.
This was enough to get him interested in having a go himself. He raced a TT500 in 1980 and a Yamaha 465 in 1981.
Unfortunately, in 1980 he blew the engine near Mount Squires on the way home and the next year in 1981 he only made it to Rumbalara on the way down.
Further to that Jol’s racing days were put on hold, when in October of 1981 he was a passenger in a single vehicle rollover on the South Stuart Highway and lost his ability to walk.
Despite the setbacks that life can throw at you, you can’t keep a good man down, and so it was with great determination and grit that Jol and some mates came up with the concept of an off road racing club. 
After discussing the idea with his former employers at Orange Creek Station, Jol’s proposal for a lease arrangement was considered and accepted and the Alice Springs Off Road Race Club was formed. The first race was held towards the end of 1984 and Jol held the position of president for the next 14 years.
Once established, the club’s membership rapidly rose and this then led to cars participating in trial runs for the popular Finke Desert Race which had until now been an all motorcycle event.
The first trial run was held in 1987 on the roughest part of the track – a 200 kilometre stretch from Rodinga to Mount Squires and back.
Local drivers such as John Fidler, Allan Hall and Brian Cartwright took part and were thrilled to see another local driver, Nicky Balmer, completing the gruelling  trial only six minutes slower than the fastest bike. This then led to the Finke Desert Race becoming a joint race for the first time in 1988.
Jol became the race director, coordinator and sweep driver for the first-ever officially entered 12 cars. Starting the race at 5am and battling against the desert landscape, the darkness and the bitterly cold weather, Jol was forced to put cardboard in front of his car’s radiator to enable the heater to work.
Amazingly, this was the first and only time that all of the cars entered have made it all the way down to Finke and back!
Times changed and by 1995 it looked as if the Finke Desert Race was going to be no more. People who had worked tirelessly since its conception were beginning to burn out and as a result, morale was getting low. Not wanting to see the end of what was becoming a legendary race for locals and interstaters alike, Jol again put his hand up.
As race director in 1996 and working out of the Emergency Services Headquarters in town, Jol recalls how “bloody frustrating” it was to run a race such as this from a building in town using radios.
The next year saw Jol and other officials working out of a tent from the start/finish line with a set of UHF radios (that actually worked) provided by Richard Williamson of Comspec.
The following year, a demountable was seconded for use in place of the tent – things were finally on the way up!
It’s hard to imagine these humble beginnings but as Jol says, priorities change and with the use of computers and other technology and electronic gadgets, things will keep growing bigger and better with time.
This is Jol’s 15th year as the race director and I suppose it won’t be his last – he tells me he actually wanted to give up after the first five!
Jol believes this year’s will be another interesting race and as we already know, you don’t have to be the favourite to win. He says it will be cold and due to the recent rains, predicts that the track will be drivey but dusty, because after rains such as this, the bulldust rises to the surface.
Referring to one of the hardest parts of the track, known locally as “the whoops”, between Bundooma and Mount Squires, Jol laughingly says it’s a “s..t section consisting of vertical S bends and if you were to iron them all out, you’d add another five kilometres to the overall length of the track!” I asked Jol about his thoughts on the ups and downs of such a big event. Part of the upside in his view is the growth and professionalism of all concerned, from the committee and many volunteers to the competitors and spectators.
The downside relates to things such as more and more headaches about insurance and occasionally, the poor behaviour of spectators. As we are all aware, accidents can and do happen and when they do, everyone involved feels bad, including race officials and volunteers.
Jol can’t stress enough that people must have a sense of responsibility about their behaviour. Acts of stupidity and things like people leaving rubbish everywhere give him a very nasty taste in his mouth. Competitors have invested a lot of time and money in the event and don’t need these kind of problems. Being a straight talker, he urges people to not be afraid to “dob in a dickhead”.

Roasting a chook to reading Proust.

Most University of the Third Age (U3A) get-togethers are around particular interests – anything from challenging text analysis and Australian history study to armchair exercise and card games.
You don’t need to pass exams to go to this university, just be over 50, interested and join up for a modest $25 a year.
Based on an experiment that began in France in 1973 – aiming to improve quality of life for older people – the Alice association got underway in 2005. It now has 120 members.
The idea of a regular morning tea is new, suggested by Bev Regan and Patricia Pate as a way for people from the different activity groups to meet one another.
It’ll be on the third Thursday of every month at the Memo Club, from 10.30 to 12.
People can drop in whenever and stay for as long as they like, says Bev.
If it proves popular it’ll keep going, and if it doesn’t it won’t.
Some of the learning and other U3A activities are quite long-lived.
Chair of the association, Trish Van Dijk, has been running a literature group for six years.
Discussion ranges across traditional English literature, in which most of the particpants were schooled, to Australian and world literature.
A current favourite is the Australian poet Les Murray.
Secretary Maya Cifali’s French practice group has been going for five years.
That’s been long enough for people to revive their French language skills, dormant since school days, and now they’re reading French stories together – from Le Petit Prince to short stories by the contemporary writer, Anna Gavalda. 
The text analysis group, coordinated by Pat Beattie, has been tackling major works such as Ulysses by James Joyce, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower by Marcel Proust, and most recently Carpentaria by Aboriginal writer Alexis Wright.
Sometimes groups are attended by guest speakers. The history group were thrilled to get a series of 10 visits by historian of The Centre, Dick Kimber, while from time to time local writers present their work or work they love to the literature group.

Araluen solar plant will go behind the building.

The solar airconditioning plant at the Araluen  Arts Centre looks set to be located behind the main building, in the area known as the Circus Lawns, just west of the Big Sister sacred hill.
A public meeting on Monday night, attended by about 20 people, heard from the community reference group, set up specifically for this solar energy project, that they had recommended the lawns as a preferred location.
Araluen director Tim Rollason says Araluen and the government are committed to accepting the group’s recommendation.
“We needed a workable solution,” he says.
Two locations of the four considered were ruled out early in the group’s discussions after they received engineering information that the plant’s efficiency would be compromised by the distance of these sites from the building.
That left the original controversial location between Central Craft and the Museum of Central Australia and the alternative Circus Lawns.
The meeting also discussed the revised draft development plan for the cultural precinct. Mr Rollason says the discussion was “really constructive”.
He says there was general acceptance of the document and some good work done on refining it, particularly in showing the progression towards long-term goals in the short and medium terms.
He says people were comfortable with the way the new documents expresses the vision for the precinct.
While the document is focussed on the next five years, Mr Rollason says people at the meeting wanted to be thinking further ahead than that, to 2030, 2050, and to lay the groundwork for a sustainable arts precinct lasting into those decades ahead.
The role of the precinct reference group was also discussed, in particular how a process could be formalised for it to become the conduit for a two-way conversation between Araluen management and the broader community.
There were ideas too about the representation on this committee drawing on as broad a cross-section of the community as possible, not just art-related representation.

Ready, set, laugh – it’s all in the moves.

This circus isn’t coming to town – it lives here.
There’s no Big Top but the two person act that is Circosis will fill the big stage at Araluen with their first full length performance on Saturday, June 5.
At the launch of the Araluen program earlier this year we had a taste of the circus characters created by Andrew Cook and Sarah Mason for their show, A Circus Affair – billed as a “whimsical romance”.
After a year’s full-time training in New Zealand, earning them a Diploma in Circus Arts, the pair’s skills have jumped well ahead of their last performance with the Cat’s Meow Cabaret in 2008. This I remember as daringly exuberant, raucously sexy, slapstick funny.
At the Araluen launch we saw an exquisitely timed vaudeville-style performance, also very funny and sexy but more subtly constructed – a glance here, an unexpected move there.
As Sarita and Mr Kiko, the pair particularly play with gender role reversal. Andrew, or Cooky as he is known, is a slightly built guy with a goatee and glasses, while Sarah is a strong-boned, big-breasted redhead who gives the impression that she can pick Cooky up with one hand and swing him around by the tail.
They won’t give away too much about the full length version, except to say there are surprises in store and that they are drawing on other local talent.
Now a couple in real life, their love affair with the circus started with a performance by Circus Us, a local group led by Adelaide Church.
Cooky had never done anything like it before but landed the lead role and loved it.
Sarah recalls the performance as “one of those magic Alice Springs moments” – “the circus skills weren’t that high but the theatrics were great”.
They’d met through friends “at the pub” and had decided to travel. To raise funds they started selling trick sticks, or devil sticks as they’re sometimes called, a circus apparatus, at the markets.
This brought them into contact with more circus people and soon they heard about the Tasmanian Circus Festival, held every two years. The acts they saw there and the masterclasses they got involved with “opened our eyes to the possibilities”, says Cooky.
“It was very humbling, comparing their amazing abilities and fitness with our basic skills,” recalls Sarah.
They knew then that this was what they wanted to do, full-time, and for artists, took the unusual step of doing a small business course to help them work out how they could earn a living as a circus act.
It taught them about delegating, organising, compartmentalising – working on different things at different times and drawing on each other’s particular skills.
They didn’t want to have to rely on grants, so set out to find a steadier source of income, which they’ve found in teaching circus skills to children, particularly out bush.
“The course taught us that we had to work out our value, which is hard to do as artists, and not to shift too much from that. You want the work but you don’t want to undercut your value,” says Sarah.
“Business and arts can seem like two different worlds but for us, our business provides the foundation for what we do, it’s made it sustainable.”
On the strength of it they have been able to buy a house and also funded their year’s training in New Zealand. They employed staff to do the teaching while they were away and ran the admin side of things from there. It was hard but it meant that they had something to come back to.
After the show at Araluen they’ll be heading back to teaching in communities themselves, work they find both challenging and rewarding, while they also plan an interstate tour for A Circus Affair.
They’ll always come back: Alice is home. Cooky was born here and moved away before returning, while Sarah grew up in country Victoria. She arrived in town 15 years ago and was immediately attracted to the desert landscape but then “what hit me big time was the sense of community”.
Now there are so many local kids they’ve taught and watched grow up, the connection runs deep and they reckon “you can’t beat the vibrant arts scene” here.

Neo communications. POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Welcome to the ever expanding nation of FriendFace and Twitte rature, the mutating wedlock of the two neo communication platforms.
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Going to the Melbourne comedy festival on Thursday ... didn’t know it happened 2 days in a row!! WTF!!
43 minutes ago
Best of last three years ... LOL so much ars hurt!! Maybe they should ask for local stand ups to do a 10 min thing at the start!?!!?!?!?
41 minutes ago
Did you see there was Jimeoin last saturday night as well!! ... LOL ... was so funny years ago ...
38 minutes ago
OMG ... not true. i think he has just reached that comedic plain of enlightenment where all he has to do is stand there and people will laugh ...
37 minutes ago
It’s called the funny spot of the stage, LOL ... you first walk out into the stage light, and walk around without saying anything and listen and feel the laughter following you, the generous shadow of guffaws!!! and when it peaks you know you have found the funny spot!! ... LMAO!!
35 minutes ago
33 minutes ago
likes this ...
32 minutes ago
Araluen has given out a giant smiley face this weekend ... BTW.
29 minutes ago
thinks that laughing keeps cancer away (it was in this really old book like a classic or something) so you can keep smoking and drinking etc ... and as long as your laughing you’ll never catch cancer xox
22 minutes ago
21 minutes ago
TGIF... Thank God It’s Funny... LOL!!!
20 minutes ago
Is off to ponder what to do with my and everyone else’s ego ...
18 minutes ago
Likes this ...
16 minutes ago
What’s going on in the world of local music these days???? Foot off the gas???
14 minutes ago
 i think it’s time for the centralian serpent to recoil, has been a record setting year with travelling acts. and a lot of local groups are taking up studio time, performance subsides when this occurs. there is a good spectrum of sounds about too!!!
12 minutes ago
likes this ...
seemingly infinite similar stories are occuring simultaneously ...
10 minutes ago
should try and set up a giant album launch, get a handful of groups launching at the same time!!!! Battle of the album sales!!!
9 minutes ago
WTF!!!! crass commercialism ... the institute of commercial crass!!!
8 minutes ago
CACCA!!!! Central Australian Crass Commercialism Award ... LOL ...
6 minutes ago
likes this
5 minutes ago
is shoplifting his way into the hearts of many!!!!!
4 minutes ago
BTW has just discovered the cultural roots of slam dancing and stage diving ... its origins lie deeps within the bowels of jewish wedding traditions ...  where the bride and groom are  jettisoned through the air on chairs ...
3 minutes ago
... LOL it’s called the HORROR!!!!!!!
2 minutes ago
has just hurt himself with food ... eaten number 42 at yummy noodle box until he was sick. xox
1 minute ago
is feeling a little under data siege!!!

LETTERS: We would have paid Docker $450,000 for their camels.

Sir – It’s timely to remind people that camels can be more of a resource than a feral pest if there is sufficient political will to make it happen.
Our Company, Samex Australian Meat Company, is in the process of renewing our contracts for 2010-2011.
So far, we have already exported nearly 2000 mt (metric tonnes) over the past two years and the demand is now continuing.
We are also seeing additional express interest in camel meat and this year we are exporting to more countries than ever before, currently processing in South Australia and Queensland.
We always have known the supply lines must be put in place to sustain a camel meat industry.
However the government programs worth hundreds of millions of dollars, such as Caring for Our Country, could assist in building these supply lines along the old stock routes, with holding paddocks on the way.
These fence lines could also be placed to protect sacred sites or sensitive country.
With continued high beef prices, the interest in camel meat continues to improve AND if structured properly could remove up to 100,000 camels and in time, more per year.
This would be enough to reduce the camel problem as a feral pest and return tens of millions of dollars to the Centralian communities.
Much better than shooting them where they stand and feeding the wild dogs!
Alice Springs or just South is the ideal location for a camel/cattle/donkey abattoirs, as it’s centrally located from the freight point of view. 
A plant capable of processing 400-600 camels / beef cattle per day would create permanent employment for well over 100 people as well as provide work for a lot of contractors, supplying materials and trucking where needed .
As an example of saving money instead of wasting money, the Docker River shootout last year could have been a positive – we could have bought all 3000 camels and paid the Docker River community about $150 PER HEAD on trucks at Docker River. Not delivered BUT at Docker River.
That would have returned a positive of $450,000 total to the Docker River community instead of a per bounty charge of at least the same amount of money.
Ignorant thinking and lack of co-ordination between government departments has cost the Australian tax payer about $1 million. Also, make no mistake, the export markets are there and sustainable. Arabs and Asians have been eating camel meat for 2000 years.
What we lack to make this work is collection, transport solutions and meat plant design to make this feasible. That’s simply a question of applying research resources to the problem. A lot, lot cheaper and more politically acceptable than a mass shoot out.
But in real terms, this camel problem could be turned into an industry worth over $70 million per year as evidenced with feral goats, where exports has built up to more than 25,000 mt per year by trapping and catching over two million mostly wild goats per year and worth over $110 million in export receipts to Australia.
So camels can also be a win win situation if there was enough political leadership to grasp the idea and run with it.
For me, I have just about given up …
R. Black

Shooting the messenger?

Sir – I am responding to a comment in your interview with the CLP’s candidate Leo Abbott  in last week’s News (May 20). Noel Pearson published an article in Quarterly Essay on education initiatives in Cape York schools among Aboriginal kids based on an American model called Direct Instruction (DI) late last year.  Mr Abbott’s comments about Mr Pearson staying in his own back yard is a point often made in Aboriginal leadership. 
I quote the Rev. John Flynn, pre-1951:  “Maybe I have been misunderstood on occasions, but that is a fairly common price to pay when one is working in a diverse field covering two million square miles, and especially when one has the habit of keeping people out of their beds till they’re too tired to listen.” (The Inlander.  1972).  
Noel Pearson’s new book, Up from the Mission: Selected Writings, contains essays which target national policy decisions at odds with Indigenous viewpoints.  For Mr Abbott to make a blanket dismissal of  Mr Pearson’s ideas is similar to what Rev Flynn went through in getting a national health care initiative, the RFDS, into a serviceable position.  Some ideas transcend ideological boundaries and sometimes the messenger gets shot at.  
Russell Guy
Alice Springs

Welcome mall art-sellers

Sir – From humpies and tin sheds, river beds and town camps, emerging like butterflies out of the chrysalis, beautiful paintings, like shining crystals of pure light – another renaissance in art is taking place on our doorstep.
We see the last fading remains of paintings on rock walls and sacred caves, painted in ochre at the beginning of time. Past small ice ages, drought and flooding rains, out of the very earth they came to walk some of the most ancient rivers in the world and leave untouched the land that is theirs by heritage.
I ask, “How can we continue to denigrate the Aboriginal artists and their culture, the culture that supports most of us living in Alice Springs and still feel like good people?”
My feelings are, the artists who sell their art in the mall, add a true sense of Central Australia. The reason most people come as visitors is to experience one of the oldest living cultures and the country they live in. They do not want a sanitized version of this experience.
Michael Hollow [Letters, April 29], why be bitter and twisted about the changing face of Aboriginal art business? You have made a great contribution to Aboriginal art and it being recognized around the world – why blemish that with a few misguided remarks?
I think we could find a way to accommodate those artists who want to sell their own work in the mall, and if there are other ways we can help, we could also look at those and try to assist.
It is absolutely stupid of us to enforce by-laws blindly, especially when they affect the livelihood of the most vulnerable in our society. We should be extending a hand of friendship.
If your shop window gets broken every week, it doesn’t mean you have to stop being friendly. If a few drunks make you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean all people are drunks.
We should not encourage this single story about Aboriginal people. It is really up to each person in our community to help change this single story.
Let’s do something good for a change, something positive. Let’s find a way for those Aboriginal artists to continue to represent themselves and sell their art in the mall.
Narayan Kozeluh
Alice Springs

Sir – I would like to express my support for allowing Aboriginal artists to continue to sell their art in the mall.
Last year my two nieces (aged 11 and 8) visited Alice Springs. The highlight of their visit was buying a painting from an old Aboriginal man in the mall.
They sat with him while he explained the painting (honey ants, waterholes, meeting places) and also had their photo taken with him. It was only a small purchase ($30) but it was a priceless experience for them.
They paid for the painting from their own spending money.
When they returned to school, they spoke about meeting the old man to their class, showed photos and their painting.
And now this year, the youngest is studying Aboriginal history in her class. Again she is leading the way in the class by drawing on this experience from her time in Alice Springs.
Visitors to Alice Springs want to interact with our indigenous culture.
Meeting and buying art from Aboriginal artists in the mall is a unique attraction for visitors to Alice Springs and we should be promoting it, not banning it.
John Bermingham
Alice Springs

ADAM'S APPLE: Magical moments.

Within the first few months of my move to Alice Springs from Sydney, the rest of the country got a melodramatic view of the new town I was beginning to call home.
Nine / Imparja’s “The Alice” was always going to ruffle a few Central Australian feathers on one hand and make the other prouder than a peacock.
This was our opportunity to be seen by the Chardonnay sippers in Sydney, the latte drinkers in Melbourne and the botoxed babes of Brissie. Channel Nine was our stage but sadly we were merely players.
The problem for us was that Alice Springs was nothing more than a quirky gag of a backdrop to the soap opera.
One of the themes running through the show was the magical qualities of Alice Springs and the country around Central Australia.
The makers of the show were right to make this a theme. Alice Springs is a magical place. In the five years I have been lucky enough to call this place home, scores of magical things have happened to me.
But the big mistake made by the writers was to think that the magic of which we speak is somehow otherworldly, somehow ethereal, and somehow describable.
Television is an amazing invention and television drama can be incredibly powerful. But there are some things to which television cannot bring full justice.
The first time I made the trip to Uluru, I was pretty non-plussed by the thought. After all, it is a long drive to just walk around a rock.
Once I had made my way out of town, I soon changed my tune. The country between here and Yulara is not only unique but also indescribably beautiful.
Never before had this city boy experienced such silence. Initially it was claustrophobic, then it became comforting. I’d never seen so many colours, such a diverse geography and never had I known majesty like my first look at Uluru.
My faith is based on thinking rather than feeling so they who claim to “feel” the presence of God or who “feel” spiritually enriched I generally approach with thoughts of skepticism. On that trip however, I felt something.
Along Lasseter’s Highway, not too far from Erldunda, I pulled over to take some pictures of this amazing new place. I climbed a dune. Barefoot, my toes sunk into the warm, superfine, orange red powder. I clambered my way to the top and as I found my feet and raised my head, I felt it.
There I was, standing in the silence, a couple of hundred metres from an empty road. With my back to it, for the first time in my entire life, I felt what it was like to be wonderfully alone. Out there, with new eyes, looking at the void filled with so much unbelievably beautiful nothing, I felt not like a son or a colleague or a friend. I felt solitude for the first time. With no thought of anything but my place in this creation I have never before or since felt such humility. It was overwhelming.
My self absorption was momentarily broken by movement near my feet. Like all city boys I obviously thought that the movement was some sort of deadly snake and so I did what all city boys do when confronted with a deadly snake, I froze. I looked down. It wasn’t a snake but a thorny devil scurrying across my feet.
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. This footy loving, bloke from the mean streets of western Sydney began to cry. The 15 minutes on that dune had changed my life. It was magical.
I didn’t talk about the experience for a little while then one evening over a beverage or two I shared my time on the dune with a friend who grew up in that country. I thought I would try and explain to him the magnificence I felt in his country. As I finished my story I saw a smile break across his face. “You bloody girl!” he said.
I was heartbroken. I had shared with a friend my life-altering experience and he had shot me down.
Afterwards I realised that some things can’t be adequately explained. Some times you really just have to be there.
That was the problem with “The Alice”. The magic they tried to convey is more powerful, more personal than television can ever dare convey.
After five years I am about to bid farewell to this place. I have two weeks left in Alice Springs before a new adventure begins. They have been the most transformative five years of my life peppered with such magical experiences.

Company of brothers. By TIRAS GREENSILL.

Blue lazily rests across the world.
Clouds collecting and condensing, whispering of rain with the air on my shoulders, too strained by the heat to hold its own weight.
The singular trot of my feet adds a beat to the melody of nothingness. Dirt, dust and sweat singe my nostrils, staining my mind as a car roars and grinds to a stop in the gravel beside the road.
Where you off to mate?
Just heading into town.
My bags tossed amongst a jerry can, tools and other odds and ends. I watch the burnt red ground hop-scotched with dying green.
Alice? Yeah, it’s not a bad town. Cinema, Kmart, got everything you could want. Where you staying?
Ohh yeah? A lot of people just camp out.
That’s the Todd River just there.
Sadness tints his voice, a lot of people sleep along the Todd. Drink too much, cause problems, you know. Wasn’t this bad a few years back.
That’s the cinema over there. There’s the police station. Over here is McDonald’s. Where do you want me to drop you?
The sun beats insistently till finally aimlessness slinks me to the ground. I sit and watch an endless procession of ants march, scatter. A jovially concerned woman makes sure I’m OK or rather, why am I asleep on her lawn and I elaborate on my story. She laughs at the joke.
Don’t do that son, you likely to get stabbed. Here I’ll call the YHA for you, see if they got a place.
Hey… hey …
A man wearing age as his badge sits idly on the grass patting the ground for me to come sit beside.
See this. I painted this. This here. Kangaroo. Feet. Tail.
A silence, awkward, hangs in the air, my brain struggling to click through the unfamiliar accent.
Nice mate.
Twenty dollars.
Ritually I tap my pocket. Sorry mate all out of cash.
Ten dollars.
Sorry mate I’m flat broke.
Got a cigarette?
Sorry don’t smoke mate. The lie easily slipping between my lips.
The silence rolls back in. I make a petty excuse and walk into Wendy’s.  I order a milkshake and hotdog. Salt, fat, sugar.
We sit, stained fingers and smoke lingering behind bars, locking ourselves away from the outside world, watching the shadows creep lazily around us. A man walks up.
You got a smoke brother?
A woman screams in the background in a language none of us would try to learn. A smoke is rolled and passed out through the bars.
The woman yells again and the man roars back, leaving the women to walk off.
Cheers for the smoke brother.
No worries mate.
Having a bit of a problem with my woman, better go find her.
The man now out of ear shot, comes the automated response. Why’d you give that to him?
Kicked out or refused entry from the bars in town. The company fall into stupor or slumber. I pick up my six pack to stumble home. Click, fizz, another can being slowly consumed. The bourbon water falling down my smoke stained throat. A man’s voice beside me.
Hey brother can I have a drink?
Not wishing for the night to end I make an offer.
A can for a yarn brother.
Deferring to an off street park, not wanting our ambrosia confiscated, we sit idly and talk. He tells me he grew up in Alice, talks of the beauty surround. Says he’s getting a car soon. Asks for my number, says he’ll give me a call, take me out bush, show me the local way. The real outback. He’ll take care of everything. I just have to say yes. I hand him another drink. Palya.
A man still young walks over asking for a drink. The man older begins to shoo him off, disguised in a cultural canopy that I can’t quite see through.  The man younger stays.
We, all three, sit and talk. Swap stories of where and whence we’ve been and I offer our new companion a can. He talks of ending the useless fighting, pulling together to make something good but as always unsure as to what.
We swap drunken slander of our shattered communities.
So what have you been up to tonight? Myself and the older toast, knowing this night has been well spent.
Yourself brother?
Fear past forgotten lashes across the young man’s face. A group of fellas, they chased me. He taps his leg exposing a glint, a gleam of something sharp. That’s why I got this now, in case you know. I sit sullen watching as the older speaks.
Throw that thing away brother.
A shake of the head. What happens if they see me again?
I’m telling you get rid of it.
Hesitant, a ripple of dread, not wanting to shed the cold hard comfort pressed against his leg.
Look here how old are you?
I’m 36, get rid of it.
Finally relinquishing, the blade is tossed out of sight and mind.
Then finally my body rebels, repelling the disguised poison into a pool of vomit at my feet. It’s about time I go to sleep.
Have a good night brothers.

Tiras Greensill is in Alice for a few months, working before he continues his travels. He’s thinking about studying journalism. He likes gonzo, the style of journalism made popular by Hunter S. Thompson where the reporter is part of the story and tells it in the first person.

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