June 3, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Council rate hike? By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Alice News understands that the Town Council rates will rise between 5% and 8%, with the majority of the aldermen favouring the smaller increase.
A reliable source says Alderman Jane Clark and one other member are promoting a rise of 8% or similar.
Ald Clark declined to comment on the level of the rates, wanting to respect the “confidentiality of council’s deliberations” and saying there are still more meetings ahead.
However, she says there will be few surprises in the business plan.Simply keeping abreast with existing major commitments – the landfill, the Aquatic Centre, parks and sports grounds, Alice Solar City – means spending more money, she says.
“Either we have to reduce spending and programs or we have to put up rates.”
As work continues on the draft budget the council on Monday night considered a report by the Director of Finance, Christine Kendrick, about the sale of local parks.
The report was prepared at the request of aldermen and presented in the confidential section of the meeting. Ald Clark, speaking after the matter was moved “out of confidential”, says such a sale won’t proceed at this point in time.
She says the sale of some parks is regularly considered because there are a large number – 85 – and they’re obviously expensive to maintain.
She has always opposed getting rid of any of the town’s open spaces.
Although the town has a lot more per head of population than in the cities, she believes the parks and the system of laneways that connect them to their neighbourhoods are an important part of the town’s “liveability”.
There may in future be some small gains that can be made from efficiency measures and aldermen voted on Monday to support Ald Clark’s motion for quarterly reports from the Director of Finance on the efficiency of council operations.
Ald Clark says she does not suspect that there is wastage or inefficiency but believes aldermen need a clear picture.
She took her cue from Treasurer Delia Lawrie’s recent announcement of a 2% target for spending reduction in all departments.
“I thought if the Territory Government can do it, why not local government.”
She says Mayor Damien Ryan has been lobbying hard to maintain the level of council’s financial assistance grants from the Australian Government, but there will be less money coming from this source, with the new shires being given their share of the pie.
Ald Clark believes council’s biggest responsibility – “as boring as this may seem” – is to provide for the town’s present and future waste management.
Aldermen voted last year to start putting aside money for what will become a major expense as the current landfill nears the end of its life, some 15 to 20 years away.
Ald Clark says regulations on the operation of landfills are becoming more stringent and council will have to revise – no doubt upwards – how much to keep putting away.
The Alice News asked whether the liquor litter litigation (set for hearing in September) is a big impost on this year’s budget.
Ald Clark says it is not possible to predict the exact cost yet, declining to make further comment until the matter is concluded.

Lots of smiles and a fair bit of tough talk. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Desert Peoples Centre has achieved its first triumph: it’s open.
It was 10 years in the making and cost nearly $20m: $10.4m from the NT and $8.4m from the Feds.
The DPC’s “journey” – as it was incessantly referred to at last Friday’s opening – required careful navigation by people like Bruce Waker, then director of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), the partner in the new centre with the Batchelor Institute.
The Institute for Aboriginal Development was meant to be part of the deal but pulled out.
Given its ongoing infighting this is probably not a bad thing for the DPC.
If submission writing was an Olympic discipline, according to a wit at the opening, Dr Walker would come home with gold every four years.
While he generously paid tribute to a string of other players, he can certainly take a bow for the centre being his brainchild and for being its prime mover.
In fact, as he recalls it, he presented a fairly intemperate discussion paper at a CAT board meeting in 1996.
Dr Walker’s message was blunt: “If we’re doing in 20 years what we are doing now, we will have failed.”
Sparks were flying.
Next morning, a Saturday, CAT’s mild-mannered chairman Jim Bray rang Dr Walker.
The two went for a drive and finished up at the old drive-in site – across the road from where the Desert Knowledge precinct is now.
The two men agreed: This is where we need to be, where people can see us. Not in a back street of the industrial area.
This was the genesis of the DPC.
In his speech last week Dr Walker said the DPC is the “biggest single education investment in remote Australia,” presenting an extraordinary “complexity of communications and keeping the project on the road”.
During the planning period, “Batchelor Institute had four changes in their executive leadership, and three chancellors.
“The Department of Infrastructure had 11 project directors just through the design and the capital works phase.
“There have been five NT Ministers of Education, four chief executives of the Department of Education, and we have survived four Territory election cycles.
“Yet here we are today with two of the four original Aboriginal proponents, Jim Bray and Harold Furber.
“Rose Kunoth Monks is in Canberra today, hassling Senators at the moment, and we have fond memories of the late Gatjil.”
The guernsey for opening the centre went to Deputy PM Julia Gillard, who visibly enjoyed the great weather and the friendly crowd, was eloquent in her speech without notes, and agreed to at least two dozen requests from individuals – mainly Aborigines – to have their photo taken with her.
Her doorstop at the end of the function was remarkable for two reasons.
Firstly, the major media there – ABC (Kirsty Nancarrow), the Advocate (Dan Moss) and the Alice Springs News (Erwin Chlanda) – focussed mostly on how Ms Gillard, the Federal Education Minister, would manage to get all Aboriginal parents to send their kids to school.
After all, she had just opened a multi million dollar taxpayer funded education facility and was about to give Yirara College a $2m grant for an expansion of its boarding facility for Aboriginal students.
Secondly, Ms Gillard replied with an unswerving commitment to bring this about.
“Attending school is the first vital step for getting an education,” she said.
“Our expectation is that kids are at school each and every day.”
In answer to a question from the Alice News how she would achieve this: “Welfare payments are contingent on school attendance. That’s a last resort option but we have trials working in various parts of the country, so we can push the importance of making sure that kids attend school.”
The Advocate put to Ms Gillard that so far, no-one had had their welfare payments cut.
She said: “It’s being trialled and the feedback is that we are learning as we go and the Centrelink staff are learning as they go [in a] process to engage schools, families and Centrelink.”
She said reforms including housing, health and employment “are about working with Indigenous communities to transform them so that we can have high expectations for every child, high expectations for Indigenous communities.”
The ABC said Yirara College had an enrolment of 249 but only 152 students were in attendance last Friday.
Ms Gillard said: “Is school attendance important? Absolutely yes.
“We could have had this conversation a decade ago and a decade before that. We understand the degree of change that is necessary.”
Canberra would provide an additional 200 teachers in the NT.
Asked to comment on demands for the Intervention to be discontinued, Ms Gillard said: “We want to make sure that when welfare payments are made that the assistance goes to kids, to women, and the evidence from here in the Northern Territory is that this makes a difference to make sure that kids are fed, that bills are paid, that women feel safe.
“And in those circumstances the government is committed to the income management systems, which are consistent with the Racial Discrimination Act.”

Drunk driver in council vehicle wipes out drag car on a trailer. By KIERAN FINNANE and CHRISANNE WALSH.

A Town Council employee was immediately dismissed for serious misconduct after he crashed into a trailer carrying a race vehicle on Sunday, May 9.
He was driving a council vehicle without authorisation and when police attended, it is understood he was charged with drink driving.
The Alice News understands that council has received a substantial insurance claim by the owner of the race vehicle.
The council declined to comment but through their communications officer made the following statement: “Council regrets the damage and inconvenience to those involved caused by the unauthorised misuse of a council vehicle.”

Tourism season start well overdue. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Being a reporter covering tourism in Alice Springs is a frustrating experience at the moment: Operators are talking, or grumbling, but mostly off the record.
“Don’t mention my name,” is a frequent answer.
In what is normally the start of the high season, operators are offering up to 50% discounts.
“That’s what we do in summer, it’s an out of season strategy. 
“We should not be discounting now,” says Craig Cotterill, of tour operator Alice Wanderer.
He says the international market has dried up – the dollar is too high.
Another operator, of 15 years’ standing and formerly employing half a dozen people, now works on her own and says when her old dog dies “I’ll be outa here.”
The start of the season – usually around Easter – is well overdue so far as the average tourist is concerned, the one who books tours, stays in hotels, patronises local knick-knack shops, wanders around town in the evening, has a meal, after forays into the magnificent MacDonnell Ranges, west and east.
Industry sources say there are some bookings from this kind of visitor for later in the year but, who knows, they may be cancelled.
A season getting under way in July would be a very short one, indeed.
Convention Centre sales and marketing manager Karen Lock says 2010 is a “very strong conference year”.
However, there were no conventions in January nor February, which are “traditionally non conference months nationally”.
There were three events over three days each in March with 338, 250 and 331 delegates respectively.
In April there were two four-day conventions (185 and 220); in May two events (four and three days, 320 and 250).
There is one booking for June, three days for 200 people.
There are three conventions booked for July, two for August, four for September, two for October and one for November.
The total number of people attending conventions between July and November, on current bookings, will be 4220.
Ms Lock says the average spend per convention guest is $410 a day, including about $160 for accommodation, and they stay an average of five nights. That’s up from $270 and three nights four years ago.
There are quite a few backpackers, but they are spending very little, lured to the town by holiday jobs that are far more plentiful here than in the southern states. 
Many backpackers come to save, not to spend.
The NT Government’s Tourism NT (budget: $40m) and its Minister are making extravagant claims but ignore requests for substantiation (“Malarndirri big on spin,” Alice News, May 27).
There is usually a slump in the second half of June when people stay home and attend to end of financial year chores says tourism pioneer Jim Cotterill, who owns Jim’s Place at Stuart’s well.
On the Stuart Highway 90 kms south of Alice Springs, he has a great vantage point to monitor sections of the industry.
He has free camping for caravanners who pay for showers, beer, food and souvenirs, and give their cameras a big work-out with Dinky the Singing Dingo.
He says grey nomads in caravans and mobile homes are plentiful. But they watch their pennies, compared to past years.
The caravan parks are doing fairly well, but the road travellers are camping “out bush” whenever they can.
Jim, together with his father Jack, opened up King’s Canyon in the 1960s. 
Jim and wife Mardi ran the bush resort Wallara Ranch for decades but were kicked off the land by the Liddle family in a dispute over the lease.
Jim says the grey nomads have an infallible network of information about facilities, good and bad.
News of rude staff, too high admission fees to parks, bad food and anti social behaviour does the rounds very smartly, in campfire chats, caravan park laundry gossip or on the CB radio network.
But so does the good news, says Jim: a friendly face, a kind deed, a great meal are the stuff of “word of mouth” propaganda that works fast and best.
Jim says it’s never one thing that’s makes or breaks the industry at any given time: “We may lose 10% to the volcano in Iceland, 5% to rude people in roadhouses and 15% to stupid restrictions at Ayers Rock and, bingo, we’re down 30%,” he says.
Jim’s son Craig, who owns Alice Wanderer offering local tours and Larapinta transfers, has been able to expand his business by opening a travel agency across from the Tourism CA office, expanding his online booking facility and promotion on the web, and taking on a sub-licence for Greyline Alice Springs.
“Diversify the core product” is his motto, says Craig.
Jim says big events such as the Masters Games and Finke are great but their downside is, there isn’t room for anyone else at those times.
And at a time when many “beds” have disappeared – with the razing of Melanka, the North Edge subdivision taking the place of a resort, and conversions to long term accommodation for Intervention staff – that’s not a good thing.

Ryder death: Spears appeals.
The Alice News online edition broke this story on May 24.

Chief Justice Brian Martin erred in the sentencing of Joshua Spears for the manslaughter of Kwementyaye Ryder by giving “too much weight to deterrrence, punishment and the marked disapproval of the community”, according to an affidavit by Mr Spears’ lawyer, Tony Whitelum.
The affidavit, filed on May 25 in the NT Court of Criminal Appeal, outlines grounds for an appeal of Mr Spears’ sentence which Mr Whitelum asserts is “manifestly excessive”. The Alice News reported last week Mr Spears’ intention to seek leave to appeal.
Mr Whitelum also asserts that the Chief Justice failed to “give weight or sufficient weight to matters personal to the Applicant”.
These matters are that Mr Spears:–
• was aged 18 at the time of the offence and was severely intoxicated;
• had no history of prior offending at all;
• did not give any thought to the consequences of his spontaneous actons and – quoting the the Chief Justice’s Sentencing Remarks – “lacked the maturity to make decisions independent of the collective response” (Para 87);
• was genuinely sorry for his actions;
• had done well in his life and had set himself up for a good future;
• was a person of very good character (Para 92);
• was “an honest, hardworking and respectful young person” who “lived and worked with Aboriginal people” and was “welcome to resume employment with his employer” (Para 92);
• had both “the character and the capacity to re-establish your life when you are released” and his conduct was “totally out of character”. Further, his “prospects of rehabilitation are excellent” and he is “highly unlikely to reoffend against the criminal law” (Para 95).
Mr Whitelum’s affidavit recognises that the Chief Justice took into account concepts of general and personal deterrence, as he is obliged to, but says he also recognised the limitations of notions of general deterrence in circumstances involving severe intoxication and the incapacity to think rationally. (Para 115-118).
The affidavit notes that this “very unusual case” was correctly categorised as “toward the lower end of the scale of seriousness for crimes of manslaughter”.
Having identified features of aggravation often to be seen, the Chief Justice “correctly found” that “none of these types of aggravating features existed” (Para 111).
He further found, according to the affidavit:
• “none of the offenders had an awareness of a substantial risk of causing death”. Their conduct was “manslaughter by negligence” and therefore “involves considerably less moral culpability than manslaughter by way of recklessness” (Para 112).
• Mr Spears acted spontanously with anger and with an intention of physically attacking the deceased.
• None of the offenders intended to kill or cause serious harm.
• None foresaw the possibility of death resulting from their actions.
• But for the unknown pre-existing aneurism, Mr Spears’ offending would represent an assault causing minor harm at worst.
Given all of this, and that the Chief Justice acknowledged that for manslaughter “a significant number of cases resulted in head sentences in the approximate range of four to six years” (Para 114), the affidavit asserts that the starting point of a seven and half year head sentence is “properly to be regarded as manifestly excessive”.
The final head sentence for Mr Spears, as for Mr Kloeden and Mr Hird, was six years allowing for his plea of guilty, with a non-parole period of four. Had the starting point been six, the final head sentence and the non-parole period would have been lighter. In a closed session three judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal will determine if there are grounds for appeal; if so, leave will be granted and a hearing date will be set.

Chief Justice: Courts can’t cure the causes of crime.

ERWIN CHLANDA interviews Chief Justice Brian Martin who is retiring after six and a half years on the bench in the Northern Territory.

NEWS: What influence do the processes of law and law enforcement have on the enormous lawlessness in the Northern Territory?
CJ MARTIN: Courts are at the tail end of the cycle of life experiences, and particularly, dysfunctional life experiences, which are the root cause of crime. We’re a bit of a blunt instrument in that way. More importantly, we need to work at the cause of crime rather than stop it with punishment which does not work particularly well.
NEWS: In your six and a half years in the Territory, have you seen an improvement or a deterioration in matters of crime?
CJ MARTIN: It’s very hard to tell because the [Federal] intervention has resulted in a greater reporting and law enforcement. But I don’t think it’s decreased in terms of crimes of violence. [The figures may be increasing] but perhaps more through detection rather than an increase in the volume. It’s hard to know.
NEWS: What role does tribal law have in our legal system?
CJ MARTIN: Are you talking about tribal law in terms of punishment?
NEWS: Yes, and in terms of judgement.
CJ MARTIN: There is no question that tribal law can co-exist with Territory law, in terms of punishment, provided that the punishment is inflicted with the consent of the offender, and provided that it is not unlawful punishment. I can consent to a certain amount of violence being applied to me, I do it if I am in a boxing match or on the football field. An offender can also consent to a certain amount of violence being applied, but an offender cannot consent to really serious violence. [In one case a suspended sentence was imposed] where the offender was punished by the community, with his consent, [he had] to go out bush and spend time learning about his culture, learning the laws.
NEWS: Where would you draw the line with traditional punishment? Would you condone spearing in the leg?
CJ MARTIN: The law cannot condone a spearing in the leg which is too serious a violence with potential for great harm and possibly death. [Otherwise] precisely where you draw the line is hard to express, you have to take each case as it comes.
NEWS: What’s your comment on mandatory sentencing? The current government was elected on a platform of abolishing it, but it still exists with respect to a number of offences.
CJ MARTIN: Mandatory sentencing has always existed in one form or another but if you try to extend it to fixing minimum sentences then it’s going to cause significant injustice. And it won’t work as a deterrent [for] types of crime that are of great concern to the community. One of them is alcohol fuelled violence. Those who are severely intoxicated or “full drunk” are not deterred by the prospect of imprisonment. They are not thinking rationally, and they are not thinking about the consequences. In those cases mandatory sentencing serves no useful purpose, and in other types of cases experience has demonstrated that it can cause injustice.
There is a potential for injustice with the mandatory minimum relating to assaults that cause harm, because they are committed in such a huge variety of circumstances. There may be cases which ordinarily would not attract imprisonment but imprisonment must be imposed even though it may be suspended at the rising of the court. But the very fact that someone has had a sentence of imprisonment imposed is a serious imposition.
NEWS: [There is a saying] that justice delayed is justice denied. It seems that some matters go on for a very long time. I wonder if that’s an especially serious problem in an area where a lot of people have only a scant understanding of the law.
CJ MARTIN: I think it is a problem and we work very hard to try and get through the cases as quickly and efficiently as we can. It is a problem particularly in the Aboriginal community where, in their tradition, things are disposed of quickly, and with finality. Have them waiting around for a long time can create difficulties. In the meantime you have people in a state of uncertainty. The trauma is ongoing for both sides. [But] there are limited resources and we have to do the best with what we’ve got.
NEWS: Imprisonment rates in the Territory, especially for Aboriginal people, are very high.
CJ MARTIN: It’s just terribly unfortunate, it really is. But, the crimes are being committed and we have no option when serious crimes are committed but to impose sentences of imprisonment. And this is why we need, as best we can, to start addressing the root causes of crime.
Secondly, if we could, we’d like to put more effort into rehabilitation, both in gaol and out of gaol, so we don’t have the repeat offenders.
NEWS: Some sentences have been comparatively light in the case of Aboriginal people, apparently in recognition of disadvantage and cultural aspects.
CJ MARTIN: I don’t know that they are disproportionally light. Whenever a judge has a sentencing exercise the dysfunctional background and causes of crime are relevant considerations and may attract some mitigation.
It depends how serious the crime is. If the crime is a particularly serious one, then the personal history is there but it can’t be given much weight because much greater weight must be given to questions of punishment, deterrence, marking the disapproval of the community.
On the other hand if it’s a relatively minor crime then perhaps you can give greater weight to the unfortunate background of the particular offender. I don’t know that I would say they are getting lighter penalties overall.
NEWS: How important is news reporting of court cases?
CJ MARTIN: It is very important. It serves a very useful purpose to get the message out to the community about the type of conduct we’re seeing, how the community disapproves of it, how the court is responding, and that the serious crimes do attract sentences of imprisonment. It gets the message out there that the conduct is unacceptable and will attract punishment – not just punishment, but that it is unacceptable conduct.
Accurate reporting on the work of the court is absolutely critical. Public confidence in the system is going to be damaged if the reporting is inaccurate.
NEWS: How good is the reporting in the NT?
CJ MARTIN: It varies. I have seen and heard some excellent reporting and I have also seen and heard some pretty shoddy stuff. It’s difficult – this is why we put our sentencing remarks on the internet.
NEWS: What’s the difference in being a judge, and especially the Chief Justice, in the NT and in South Australia, where you came from?
CJ MARTIN: They are very similar, but in the Territory there is a greater percentage of work in the criminal law for the judge, and a greater volume of alcohol induced violence that we have to deal with. I don’t want anyone to think the system is not working. It is working, but there are these problems, that we’re at the tail end of that cycle of life experiences that lead to crime. And we can’t cure those things.

What it means to be an Aboriginal person.

It’s always a pleasure to run into Margaret Kemarre Turner OAM, or MK as she has become known: there’s a smile, a warm touch on the arm, sometimes a hug, and a genuinely inquiring, “How are you?”.
She extends this warmth to a very wide circle of people, a seeming one woman force for black-white friendship in Alice.
This spirit infuses her newly published book, Iwenhe Tyerrtye – what it means to be an Aboriginal person (IAD Press).
As you read you understand that it is fired by an experience of life lived to the full, in all its sadnesses and joys,  unshakably rooted in the Land from which she arose.
The book is first and foremost for Arrernte kids.
There’s an urgency to this: over and over again MK (pictured with Ken Lechtleitner, who launched her book) comments on the lack of instruction for today’s children in their traditional ways, including their language.
For her, this is calamitous because without that knowledge of land and kin and the ways of conducting themselves that flow from these relationships, Aboriginal people cannot know who they are.
“There is no such thing as ‘myself’ for urrperle mape,” she says, “ because we are so connected to one another.”
So the book lays out in Arrernte (with reflection and analysis of the meaning of many words) and in English the way those connections work so that “Arrernte kids will learn”.
But this record, enhanced by MK’s own artwork, is also there for other Aboriginal people and for non-Aboriginal people as well, with the deep recognition that it is only dialogue that will take us into a shared constructive future.
Such a dialogue goes beyond good will. MK is interested in deep understanding and the hard work that goes with that: “... it’s really hard to describe to others the picture that we’ve got in our head. If they can’t see that good picture, then there’s no answer. Sometimes non-Aboriginal people go away with no answer then, and we’re left with no answer as well.”
The answers, it seems, can’t be neatly summed up. Instead they are infused through layer after layer of explanation, digression, repetition, story, faithfully recorded and translated.
This oral account offers a halting read even if after a while you slip into its rhythm.
I do question the publisher’s decision to efface the voice and the writing and editing skills of the person, Barry Donald Perrurle (pictured), to whom MK told all this. At times I particularly wanted some scene-setting and contextualising as well as some of the to and fro of the dialogue that must have taken place between them. Occasionally you get a glimpse of it – “look here nephew, outside this window” – but then the ‘ghost’ recedes.
It would certainly have been a different book.
As it is, there are many wonderful passages such as this poetic eloquence when MK talks about “What Land Means”: “The sun shoots its rays into the Land and the people and brings it all to life ... it reflects back onto the Land, filling everything there with its light ... the sky lies on the Land, the sky is from the Land ... the night falls on the land and sleeps there and brings out the spirit of the Creation and its Stories.”
It is reassuring to learn from her that this deep connection to the Land is not eroded by building over it, even by ‘wearing it out’: “Never mind the surface, the part that looks worn out, “ she says – the beauty is what’s inside.
“And still now,” she says later, “ there is no piece of land, anywhere in Australia, that doesn’t have someone [an Indigenous person] to speak on its behalf.
It doesn’t matter how built over it is.”
MK also offers insights into contemporary life, like this one: “Trying to break away from your relationships as an Aboriginal person, to achieve something in a good job or something like that, well, you’re the same person always, and you can never really change anything ... You might think it can achieve something for yourself, but it wouldn’t ... If you’re that Aboriginal person from that land, you can’t be different, there’s no way that you can change, not really change deep down.”
This a fraught area for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike and it’s where I would have appreciated a departure from the oral account to explore it further.
Reservations aside, this book is a rich and often uplifting experience for all who, like MK, want to hold together: “We can’t have blaming business today, now.
“We can’t do that, because we’re living together ... Two cultures can hold each other very strong.”

26 years as a ‘race mum’. By CHRISANNE WALSH.

Ask Jill Brookes how it feels to have three kids involved in the Finke Desert Race and the answer is “horrendous”!
Jill’s sons, Rick Hall and Ben Brookes, are well-known motorcycle riders, while her daughter and son-in-law Paddy and Lochie Weir are a buggy team.
She says the hardest part of having loved ones involved in the race is not knowing if they’re OK or have made it safely between fuel stops.
Jill’s enthusiasm as a “race mum” and volunteer has spanned the last 26 years.
As spectators, we are usually unaware of the many behind-the-scenes duties which are performed by a variety of volunteers over the Finke Desert Race weekend and Jill Brookes is most definitely one such person. To give you an example, each morning of Jill’s three day weekend begins at 4am when she lights the fires at the start/finish line to keep the spectators warm. This is followed by putting the urns on and making sure that all the food for the volunteers is ready. Originally, volunteers were given food vouchers to use at the barbeque stands but this became an expensive exercise. These days, it’s much quicker, simpler and cheaper for the organisers to supply the food themselves.
Aside from her usual duties, Jill not only worries about the safety and well being of her own family but is also there to support and reassure the relatives of others.
Many years ago, she was at the start/finish line awaiting news of her son Rick, only to discover upon reading the result sheet, that he was unaccounted for.
He was later found in one of the worst spots of the track, out near some old ruins where there were very few spectators and very little wood to make a decent fire. 
With this experience as well as a background in nursing, Jill finds it easy to read worry on the faces of spectators and competitors and it’s usually because of not knowing the whereabouts and safety of their loved ones.
As she explained to me, there’s no sure way of knowing what’s happened down the track, unless you’re an official and privy to such information. Even then, the information sometimes still doesn’t get through. So she decided to get involved and try to make a difference.
The faces of relatives light up when she tells them everything must be okay because the ambulance hasn’t gone anywhere.
This is one of the most difficult but often the most rewarding parts of her job. Due to the friendliness and hospitality of locals, one of the most frustrating areas of the race is when a competitor has crashed and been rescued by well-meaning campers who don’t let Race Control know what’s happened.
This often leads to race officials wasting many frustrating hours looking for a needle in a haystack.
Jill recalls the time when race officials searched until midnight, only to discover that the long-lost competitor was in a pub!
The Finke Desert Race seems to bring people together from many different backgrounds.
Jill recalls a group of older ladies who volunteered their time and parked their motorhomes at the start/finish line.
She fondly refers to them as the “Grid Grannies” because every morning they emerged from their trailers with hair, makeup and nails in perfect condition.
One lady in particular worked as a cook at the barbeque from about 7am until 3pm, before quietly retiring for a well-earned rest.
Later Jill was told of this woman’s recent diagnosis of cancer – another humbling yet positive experience.
Jill encourages people to put their hand up and have a go – everyone can make a difference with some of the smallest gestures having huge outcomes.
One of the many unsung heroes and another quiet achiever – thank you, Jill.

Finke persistence pays off. By CHRISANNE WALSH.

Ken Callanan is one of the Finke Desert Race’s “quiet achievers”.
During 1982, ‘83 and ‘84 while still living in Katherine, he was a pit crew member for the Greg Hersey / Allan Halls Pro Cycle Team which consisted of riders such as Phil Lovett and Kurt Johannsen. 
In 1985 before cars were allowed in the event, Ken rode his own bike, an IT175 in the 0-200cc Class and finished 5th in his class and 50th outright.
Even with such a good result for a first-timer, Ken decided to give up the bikes as they’d become too dear (almost doubling in price) and the logistics all seemed too hard when he was still living in Katherine.
This all changed when he relocated to Alice Springs in 1987 and was a Sweep with Jol Fleming during the Alice 6 Hour.
In 1988 Ken bought a buggy and signed up the next year for the Finke.
Trouble was, he didn’t finish building the buggy until 1am the day before and missed the start.
He was too tired and the suspension was too soft!
Back again in 1990, Ken attempted to race the same buggy but this time he ran out of tyres.
It was very disappointing as he was in contention but he had two flats before he even got to Deep Well.
Ken recalls arriving at Mick Cotter’s infamous camp and being offered two 15s off a Toyota – a fantastic and well-meaning gesture – but sadly one he couldn’t accept.
Ken decided to take a break from racing and in-between times, got married and started a family.
In 1996 he built his current car: a 1380cc 4WD Suzuki Sierra, modified to an extreme engine, which he raced in Class 8 Extreme 4WD (0-6 litre).
While leading Class 8 and his nearest rival Bruce Garland, Ken parked the Suzuki on its door.
He ended up as a track Sweep on the way back, finishing last.
This year will be Ken’s 11th Finke Desert Race and he’s still racing the same Suzuki with its original paint.
After achieving second outright in his class in 1998, he says his best result so far was during the big wet in 2001 which saw the Finke River crossing under water.
A number of vehicles hit the mighty river at speed with disastrous results, but for Ken, local knowledge and being able to read the river were definitely an advantage. 
With the water coming up to the wheel rims only, he knew exactly where to go, and went on to take 5th in the 4WD class and 20th outright.
This year Ken’s co-driver is Sarah Kerr, daughter of Phil and Leonie.
Although this will be her first Finke, Ken says she’s a natural and not the slightest bit fazed.
He says she’s very quiet but there’s a good chance this will change somewhere along the way.

LETTERS: Revive the old drive-in!

Sir – I see no insurmountable barrier to relocating the villa development proposed for the drive-in site to an equivalent and more suitable site: a win-win for the developer and the community.
Did the proponent or their agents object to the original heritage listing? Did they simply take advantage of a good price, possibly affected by a heritage listing which they now seek to remove? The applicant purchased the subject land in full knowledge of its heritage listing.
The proponent refers to the old drive-in site as an eye-sore. I know a lot of people who would apply this description to a bizarrely placed residential enclave and would view a refurbished outdoor theatre as a huge community asset.
This is the last remaining drive in theatre in the Northern Territory. Imagine the outcry if Darwin’s famous deck chair theatre was to be demolished in the name of affordable housing. Clearly some local developers cynically sense advantage in our aloof and remote government.
I’m sure this town’s claim to film making fame easily eclipses that of Broome where the historic outdoor theatre is a major tourist attraction.
I remember the line up of cars crawling from Heavitree Gap to the Drive-in on a Friday or Saturday night and I have no doubt this facility kept thousands off the streets who would otherwise have increased the burden on police, hospitals, courts and gaol.
Long-term residents wonder why their young people look to a life elsewhere in a city with facilities and options. Brilliant!    
Mike Gillam
Alice Springs

Broken promises

Sir – In response to Rod Cramer’s letter (May 6): It does not surprise me to read about a lack of consultation involving matters that ASRAA should be consulted on but what does surprise me is the mention that a government website negates its duty (and promise) to keep residents of Alice Springs informed about matters discussed at its meetings.
I further support Rod’s claim that Alice Springs Council should seriously consider the implementation of a policy to consult fully with ASRAA about planning matters/issues south of the Gap.
I am fully aware that in consulting with others, particularly stakeholders, this can be a longer and drawn out way of getting things done, but we must at least be seen to get it right.
So Rod, I empathise with your position and commend you on your efforts to keep your constituents informed, as stated in your letter.
Jerry Fitzsimmons
Alice Springs

Getting rid of buffel

Sir – In reference to your article on April 1 about buffel  grass, I’d like to share with readers the positive rewards of weeding it out.  Coming home from our Xmas break after all the rain, we were most pleasantly surprised to see that all the green growth that greeted us in the ‘buffeled’ zone, with terrific help from a neighbour, was overwhelmingly native grasses.  So, have a go and watch the results!
Franca Frederiksen
Rangeview Estate
Alice Springs

Papunya Tula changed?

Sir – Papunya Tula Artists manager Paul Sweeney should not be surprised that the organisation is under threat of a hostile takeover. 
For many years Papunya Tula was highly responsive to community needs. For example, most of its artists were hardly recognised at all and the organisation supported them at a loss. 
The old Papunya Tula sales office on Gap Road displayed a mix of paintings ranging from the very ordinary to masterpieces. It was a strange mix but reflected the communities that owned the company and members liked it that way, they were pround of it.
Artists painted with kids playing around them. In turn, these kids learned about painting and some became artists themselves.
When Mr Sweeney took over all this changed. Papunya Tula became much more hard headed about who could paint for the organisation, the better known artists received much more money for their work and the unknowns were supported much less. 
The new sales office became a slick showroom for high quality works, the lesser artists were never displayed, their presence in the showroom was discouraged.
Kids were banned from the community painting areas. Much more direction was applied to what the artists painted.
Problems slowly surfaced, the focus on the big name artists alienated the rest of them. It didn’t help that the big name artists didn’t show much loyalty, they painted for whoever paid them the most money.
Restrictions on what and how the artists painted produced the paintings the market wanted and boosted profits but stifled creativity and annoyed the communities. Some say that nowdays the most original paintings are no longer coming from Papunya Tula but from the private art dealers.
While Papunya Tula transformed itself itself into a successful player on the international art scene, it lost its community roots. 
It desperately tried to counter this by donating large sums to community projects but that didn’t reverse the perception that it cared about money ahead of the people.
Lena Milich
Alice Springs

Statement by Mr Sweeney:

Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd has been made aware of rumours circulating relating to an immediate change of current management. This is untrue.
There have been reports that the artists, shareholders and Board of Directors of the company are unhappy with the current management and that they wish for the manager, Paul Sweeney, to be stood down from his position and replaced. This is also untrue.
The board expressed its absolute confidence in the management of the company. Another resolution was passed that there be no changes made to the current management. It is believed that a source outside Papunya Tula Artists is conducting an organised campaign attempting to destabilise the company by circulating false information.

Belief takes people on incredible journeys.

Over the past few months Hindus all over the world have been celebrating the Kumbh Mela festival.
The festival acts as a focal point for a pilgrimage culminating in the pilgrim washing in the Ganges River. The act of washing in the holy water is said to give the bather a new beginning, to purify the soul and forgive the bather of their sins.
Some 70 million people took part over the 45 days of the Kumbh Mela. Three times the amount of Australians alive today. I remember having to queue for a bath at a summer camp but a queue 70 million long takes the biscuit!
In the Islamic faith, the fifth pillar of Islam is the Hajj. The Hajj is a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in the lifetime of every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so.
There were 1.6 million of them last year.
The Catholic faith has its pilgrimages too. Two years ago, Catholic youth from around the world came to Sydney for World Youth Day. The largest World Youth Day pilgrimage took place in 1995 in the Philippines when four million young people attended.
Pilgrimages don’t have to be religious affairs either. There are great secular pilgrimages all over the world. Thousands flock to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris to pay their respects to a slew of famous names. Names like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Maria Callas.
Graceland in Memphis sees more pilgrims to Elvis each year than many churches see in a decade.
Australians are of late becoming a nation of pilgrims. The annual excursion of young men and women to Gallipoli is fast becoming a rite of passage for many. I also know of three groups in Alice Springs alone that are preparing to hike the Kokoda Track.
Regardless of your personal take on pilgrimages, one thing is certain. Lots of people like doing them. Lots of people means lots of money. Souvenirs, accommodation, food and drink, buses and planes are all needed for a successful pilgrimage.
There has been a pilgrimage of sorts in Central Australia this week as news of the miracle tap of Hermannsburg makes its way round the country.
For those unaware of the miracle tap, a woman claims that her illness was cured after she drank from the tap situated next to the old Lutheran Church in Hermannsburg.
Since the story broke, scores of people have been coming to Hermannsburg to take home some water from the tap. There are even stories of people sending the water to loved ones in hospital in Adelaide. I’m not sure if sending water to Adelaide is due to its healing properties or the rancid taste of Adelaide water.
There have been pilgrimages throughout the ages based on more flimsy evidence than a woman cured of illness so why not spread the word.
The “pilgrims of the tap” could start at my place. I have a tap that miraculously starts dripping for no reason and with no provocation. Then we can move on to the drinking fountain that has growing upon it a truly wondrous array of organisms some of which are unknown to modern science. The pilgrims could then make a quick stop at the “Sacred Tap Café and Gift Shop” where they could purchase mementos of the journey. Little phials on neck chains, t-shirts and patches for the parka all at reasonable prices.
They could then all pile on the bus and head out to Hermannsburg. The whole experience could be very tastefully done. Nothing gaudy in any way. We could even have music to enhance the spirituality of it all, available on CD or iTunes.
Is it just me or am I now starting to think like a real local?

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