June 17, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Two probes into Frampton, Carey homes scandal. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Two investigations are now under way into events surrounding the collapse of Carey Builders, and the involvement of Framptons Real Estate, following which some or all buyers of a dozen homes may lose millions of dollars.
The group formed by the buyers, the Framptons New Home Broken Promises Group, has lodged a misconduct complaint against the agency with the Agents Licencing Board.
And police are investigating whether fraud has been committed, as the Alice Springs News understands, especially whether signatures on some documents are forged.
Det Sgt John Beer says: “We are investigating a fraud.
“We cannot go into specifics as the investigation is in its early stages.”
Sgt Beer says police are looking “into fraud around Carey Builders” and it is not appropriate to comment at this stage whether the investigation “is extending to the real estate agents”.
Sgt Beer says it may be “widened”.
As Randall Carey, the principal of Carey Builders, lost his builder’s licence part-way through the construction it was claimed a “supervising contractor” had been engaged. 
Territory Building Certifiers in Alice Springs told the Alice News that Mr Carey’s supervisor was Darwin builder Damien Golding.
But Mr Golding told the News: “I am not responsible nor liable for Mr Carey whatsoever.” (Alice News, April 8.)
The News understands Mr Golding signed off only on one house, but there are allegations that copies of the signature may have been used on other documents.
The following information was given to the News by one of the affected home buyers, on the condition that we will not disclose his or her name.
The applicant for the building permit was Framptons New Homes and the application was signed by Framptons employee Jeff Hardyman.
The nominated Builder was Damien Golding (his signature is not there).
The NT Building Permit lists Mr Golding as builder.
This is contrary to the understanding of the buyer who had signed with Carey Builders.
As to the Evidence of Building Contract: the buyer says there seems to be no original.
The buyer says: “I don’t think I have ever seen this document before Carey went broke.”
When the buyer did see the document it was a copy, not the original.
The buyer’s signature was on it but the buyer suspects it may have been copied there.
Mr Golding’s signature was on it, the buyer was surprised to see: this was the first time the buyer had ever heard about Mr Golding.
The digital copy the buyer now has is not clear enough to determine whether the signatures are a forgery or authentic. The buyer says information may have been photocopied onto the document.
In fact the buyer never received copies of the evidence of building contract, nor the building permit, nor the application for permit. All this information came to hand after Carey Builders had gone into liquidation.
The original building contract was signed in Frampton’s office, by the buyer, Framptons (by Mr Hardyman) as a witness, and Randal Carey for Carey Builders.
That was before the application for a building permit was made.
The buyer asks how come Framptons later made an application with Mr Golding as the builder, without the buyer’s knowledge.
The Alice News offered right of reply to Framptons but they declined to avail themselves of it, saying the News should contact the police.

Accused shooter just out of gaol.

One of the men charged over the May 29 shooting at Junction Waterhole, just north of Alice Springs, had only been out of gaol for a fortnight when the shooting occurred.
Reuben Nadich had been in custody since his arrest for drug offences on March 20 last year.
On May 14 this year Mr Nadich was sentenced in the Supreme Court to two years and five months in prison  but the sentence was suspended and he was released the same day.
In the shooting it is alleged that Mr Nadich pulled the trigger, seriously wounding the victim (see last week’s issue). He has been charged with attempted murder, among others. 
His drug offences sentence was suspended for an “operational period” of two years with “quite stringent conditions” around reporting, residence, employment, counselling, and associations.
Failure to adhere to the conditions or committing an offence punishable by imprisonment would bring Mr Nadich back before the court, to possibly have the balance of the sentence restored, as well as being punished for any further offences.
Mr Nadich had pleaded guilty to unlawfully supplying the dangerous drug MDMA or ecstasy in a commercial quantity (505 grams) and to supplying cannabis.
The drugs had a street value of more than $100,000.
Summarising the facts of the case in his sentencing remarks Justice Leslie Olsson said Mr Nadich had made arrangements to purchase the MDMA and cannabis from a person in Adelaide.
He took delivery of them in the evening of 20 March 2009 at the Power and Water substation on the Stuart Highway, about five kms from the turn off to Adelaide.
He believed that he was receiving two pounds of cannabis but, as Justice Olsson understood it, one pound was still secreted somewhere in the car that had driven from Adelaide.
Mr Nadich placed the drugs in the foot well of the front passenger seat where he then sat, and he and his driver headed back to town.
They were stopped by police near the front of the 8HA radio station on the Stuart Highway.
The police found the drugs and arrested Mr Nadich.
In his formal interview the next day, Mr Nadich denied any knowledge of the drugs and denied meeting with anyone that evening on the south Stuart Highway.
Justice Olsson outlined Mr Nadich’s background.
At the time of the offences, he was 21. 
He was born in Darwin, but his mother brought him to Alice Springs shortly afterwards. 
He seemed never to have had a relationship with his biological father.
He dropped out of school at age 16 and obtained casual work. He had had fairly constant employment, most recently as a security guard.
Justice Olsson said Mr Nadich’s mother had had relationships with two men, neither of whom had been good role models for her son, and one seemed to have encouraged Mr Nadich to become involved in drug use.
He began experimenting with drugs, particularly to help him in working long hours late at night.  He had noted that other security staff were in the habit of taking drugs to keep awake.
“You seem to have had a successful career in the security environment and were commended for your bravery on one occasion,” said Justice Olsson. 
About two years ago, Mr Nadich went to live in Adelaide, where he worked with a security company.  Two short relationships with young women were unsuccessful and caused him some distress.
“It seems obvious that you fell into the wrong company whilst you were in Adelaide, and your drug usage escalated dramatically over time,” said Justice Olsson. 
“You originally used drugs socially and to assist in coping with long hours of employment, but then obviously became addicted. 
“You were encouraged to sell MDMA in particular, to help pay for your personal drug usage, the cost of which was steadily increasing. 
“You were ultimately arrested in Adelaide and found in possession of a substantial quantity of drugs. That arrest resulted in the loss of your security licence and the termination of your employment.
“At the time you owed a large amount of money to drug suppliers, and were under very serious pressure to pay your debt.”
Justice Olsson said there are outstanding charges against Mr Nadich in Adelaide, and he could yet be extradited to face them.
He had returned to Alice Springs on bail to live with his mother and help care for his grandmother, who is very sick. 
He obtained some casual work in Alice Springs, but remained under strong pressure to repay his very large debt. 
“You have received threats in relation to your indebtedness, and I am told that you owe about $30,000 to a bank,” said Justice Olsson.
Had the plan to import drugs and sell them in Alice Springs been successful, it would have liquidated these debts.
The two men Mr Nadich was dealing with in Adelaide were intercepted on their journey to Alice and arrested, and then helped police in linking Mr Nadich to the transaction.
Both men had already been dealt with by the court at the time of Mr Nadich’s sentencing. 
Justice Olsson had received a detailed psychological assessment of Mr Nadich, indicating a number of psychological problems, including limited cognitive abilities, a degree of emotional instability, as well as poly substance abuse and addiction.
However he had also received seven written references in relation to Mr Nadich. 
As well, while in custody, Mr Nadich had actively supported another person in custody, who had health problems. 
“Referees speak of your sensitive and helpful nature and the fact that you have striven to assist your mother in relation to your grandparents, and have been generally hard working and reliable in your employment,” said Justice Olsson.
“I am told that you are anxious to get your life back on track, and to do whatever is necessary to achieve that. 
“I accept that your offending was the product of desperate and foolish behaviour, and that you simply did not think through the gravity of what you were doing.”
Justice Olsson commented on the “very serious problem” of the illicit drug trade in the Territory.  “Activity of this nature is often not easy to detect, and very considerable public resources are required to attempt to control it.”
Bearing in mind, however, Mr Nadich’s age, circumstances, his prior general good character and the desirability of his rehabilitation, Justice Olsson resolved on treating him with “a degree of leniency that might otherwise not be possible”. 
Mr Nadich was also accorded a reduction of sentence  in recognition of his guilty plea, although it was not an early plea.

Loving, leaving Alice. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

“Until you’ve lived here you don’t know what beauty is,” says Suzanne Visser.
She’s very much in love with Alice Springs and its region, and found her second life partner here, yet last week she got on a plane to make a new life in Nimbin, NSW.
“Because of the exorbitant cost of housing. Let me tell you, that’s the only reason,” she says.
For $340,000 she bought a well-kept, architect designed house in Nimbin, close to the CBD, with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, double garage and a beautiful garden on a quarter acre block.
She was offered a similar house here, “half as nice,” she says, in Larapinta. The price was almost double.
In some other suburbs the difference would be even greater.
Suzanne is the kind of person Alice Springs can ill afford to lose.
She left Holland after the early death of her first husband, a furniture designer with an international reputation.
She has written 11 books in Dutch, one of which was translated into German, Spanish and French.
She lived in Japan for 10 years, and is fluent in Japanese and English.
She worked in Alice in real estate, bought the backpacker lodge Alice’s Secret, ran it successfully for three years and sold it at a price she seems to be pleased about.
She wrote another book while in Alice, “A Bloke With Beautiful Legs,” not yet translated into English, about a Nigerian con man looking for a marriage of convenience in Alice Springs to get permanent residence papers for Australia.
“There is a fair bit of that in Alice,” she says.
Suzanne has lived in Nimbin before. When she first arrived in Australia, she bought a 50 acre farm there.
She had mixed feelings about the place the first ‘time round.
This time it will be better, because she will be with Mike, due to retire from his job in Alice next year.
Her move to Alice, which she’d explored on several earlier visits, was copybook stuff, driven by immediate employment opportunities.
She walked into a shop in the mall selling home made soap and the owner offered her a job.
She told the real estate agent who showed her some homes around town that she was looking for a job.
“You can start tomorrow,” said the agent.
Suzanne did.
She was also looking for a change of scenery for her foster daughter, a Nimbin street kid: “I had to get her out of there.”
Suzanne felt immediately at home in Alice Springs.
“It’s rough around the edges, not polished,” she says.
Trips through the Simpson Desert with the bush driving legend Jol Fleming opened her heart to The Centre.
She will come back on many visits, and wants to make a film about Jol.
But the housing situation was all along fraught with constant disappointment and frustration.
The first house she bought here she sold after a short time because “I couldn’t get the smell of the previous owners out of it.
“I must be the only person in Alice Springs who sold her home at a loss.”
When she was running Alice’s Secret Suzanne experienced day after day the despair of other people : “People would come to me in tears, absolutely desperate, begging for a bed.”
In the end she had half the hostel occupied by Asian people working in housekeeping in other hotels, sleeping six to a room, as permanent residents.
“I felt so sorry for them,” says Suzanne.
She wanted to buy a property to set up permanent accommodation for rent.
The property was offered for sale for that purpose, but it turned out the zoning was wrong.
She says council, health and building regulations pose huge obstacles: “Everything is against you.
“You can’t move.”
Suzanne and Mike have bought a cafe, employing 10 people, in the centre of Nimbin, for $140,000, a fraction, she says, of the asking price for a similar business in The Centre.
“It’s the best coffee shop in town,” says Suzanne.
And so she’s taking to another town her money she so dearly wanted to spend in The Alice. 

Alice host to Charlie and Di gets seven years for drug deals. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A former prominent Alice Springs businessman, who was host in his home here to Prince Charles and Princess Di during their visit in 1983, was sentenced in Brisbane last month to seven years in gaol, with a three year non-parole period.
Dino Joseph Antonio Diano had pleaded guilty to supplying 4.53 kilograms of methylamphetamine or amphetamine worth about $400,000 in 2003.
Judge White, in her sentencing remarks, said: “It is important that I should place on record that you were aged 54 years at the time of this offending conduct and were completely without any previous criminal convictions.”
She also acknowledged Mr Diano’s substantial contributions to the society in both Alice Springs, where he had arrived from Italy as a boy, as well as in WA where he moved after committing the offences in 2003.
Judge White gave no explanation in her sentencing of the long time between Mr Diano’s offending and sentencing, but said: “It will be immediately apparent that the offending conduct which has given rise to these proceedings occurred a very long time ago and it certainly is most undesirable that that should happen.
“People in Perth with whom you have made a new life [expressed] some puzzlement at how useful it is to take you out of the community where you are regarded as such a valuable member, in Western Australia. But I think, as you would readily recognise, this is a serious offence.
“And whilst ... I have no doubt that you won’t be offending against the law again, it must also be seen as an appropriate penalty which will operate as a deterrence against persons who might be tempted to do like things.”
Judge White summarised Mr Diano’s business affairs, “as related” [in submissions to the court], saying that had it not been “for the failure of the Bank of Adelaide, you would probably have continued as a prosperous businessman in Alice Springs or perhaps relocating somewhere else in Australia as you got older.
“But that meant that you were left with next to nothing and you came up here to Queensland in order to follow some business which proved fairly disastrous involving as it has, touching base with people in the criminal world.”
She said Mr Diano had been Honorary Consul for Italy in the Northern Territory for some 19 years “which means that you made a great contribution to the Italian community in the Territory.
“That you did so is demonstrated by a Certificate of Appreciation presented to you by the then Prime Minister of Australia in relation to the terrible earthquake in southern Italy in November 1980.
“[A] letter from the Chief Minister of the 28th of March 1983, Mr Everingham, also attests to the work which you did in relation to the Ash Wednesday, South Australian and Victorian bushfire disasters, where you raised money and collected clothing and food stuffs and furniture to assist those people.
“Nonetheless, you were driven to commit this crime for money and there are many people in our community who face much greater hardships than you and don’t fall into this temptation.
“The account which Mr Farr [Mr Diano’s defence counsel] has given as to how you became involved in this enterprise, you have been a man of no criminal history and no association with known criminals in the past, was that you operated a short-term money lending business.
“You understood that some $30,000 would not be repaid, but that it could be recovered from the sale of drugs.”

By-laws blast-off.

The Town Council’s controversial revised public places by-laws are a step closer to becoming law.
Council has written to Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy asking her to notify the by-laws in the government gazette.
Once this has been done the by-laws will be legally binding, even before they are tabled in the parliament.
The council sent the by-laws to the Minister in February.
Only on June 7 did she write back, attaching her advice from the Solicitor-General.
Council CEO Rex Mooney says in-house solicitor Chris Turner has examined the 15 pages of advice, covering 68 dot points, and found no real issues for concern.
The Solicitor-General did have a legal query regarding the by-law on consumption of liquor in a public place, to which council has responded, and pointed out a matter of procedure which council has since corrected.
“In many respects, the Solicitor-General ‘s comments reinforce council’s view that we have followed due process,” says Mr Mooney.
“Generally, across the board there are no breaches of NT Legislation.
“That being said, any by-law can be challenged and it will be council who will be called upon to defend it.”
In the event that the by-laws were revoked or appealed, their enforcement would still be legally binding for the period from gazettal to rescission or an appeal judgment, says Mr Mooney.
The most controversial of the original draft revised by-laws were those perceived as targeting itinerant Aboriginal people.
Many of these were modified in further revisions.
The word “begging”, for example, disappeared in favour of it being an offence to cause a nuisance to another person by “asking for alcohol, cigarettes or money”.
The by-law covering impounding and disposal of abandoned items had written guidelines attached to it.
A total ban on camping in a public place was revised to a prohibition between 9pm and 9am.
A requirement for individuals to have a permit to demonstrate or protest was dropped; instead a permit has to be sought only by the organiser or leader (assuming there is one).
However, the area covered by this by-law was extended to the entire municipality.
A proposed ban on swimming in a public place became a requirement to leave “dangerous waters” if so directed by an authorised person.
Owners of property bearing graffiti are still to be penalised if it is not removed, although the penalty was revised from five units to one.
Council is also revising its controversial permits and charges for people undertaking commercial activities in Todd Mall. The charge of $205 a day appears to be prohibitive for those most frequently involved – Aboriginal people selling paintings.
Mr Mooney says the charges are being reviewed and new arrangements are being looked at together with the Uniting Church which owns the lawn areas favoured by the art-sellers.
The review is at officer level at present but a report will go to aldermen, probably in the July round of meetings.

Jumping in, perks and all.

It started with a name – All the Perks.
Then came the business idea, or several.
Her studies and experience in marketing and communications told Krystal Perkins to look where there was a niche to fill.
Her background as “a proud Eastern/Central Arunta and Namal woman” meant she was well placed to respond to the lack of public Aboriginal cultural events in Alice Springs that are not specifically cultural tours.
Her “Gen Y” character led her to jump in, boots and all: “We love a challenge!”
Although the business was only launched in May, Krystal and her collaborators are already working on quite a few projects including a big one: a biennial Aboriginal cultural festival that takes its cue from the hugely successful Yeperenye Festival held in 2001. 
That was a national Indigenous event, held to mark the Centenary of Federation. This one will be an Arrernte-led, Central Australian Aboriginal event, to promote and celebrate the cultural resilience and richness of the desert tribes.
Krystal has pulled together a festival committee and a cultural advocacy team to deliver the first event in 2012.
She’s had meetings with the Territory Government, looking for major events support. She says they are interested and want to see a full proposal.
The next step is to get organisations and communities involved: “That process will have to be very consultative.”
She envisions a two day event, presenting visual arts as well as performance on multiple stages and dance grounds, and speakers’ tents.
Apart from the obvious attraction of such a festival for a broad audience – local, national and international – Krystal also wants to involve young Aboriginal locals.
“They experience a lot of issues, socially and emotionally. I want to have activities that they can get involved with and work on.”
In the immediate future All the Perks is organising this year’s NAIDOC Week, funded by the Australian Government, and they are also dealing with the convention market.
National companies are coming to Alice Springs for its unique social and natural environment, says Krystal, but there is not enough contact for them with Aboriginal people.
This market wants more than a visit to art galleries and a cultural tour; some businesses are looking to involve their people with community projects.
They may be able to support projects financially, but Krystal says there is also a desire for hands-on contact, getting in there and building something, helping.
All the Perks also contributed to website creation and communications for the National Congress for Australia’s First Peoples ( the new Indigenous representative body) and has marketing contracts with the Richmond Football Club and CAAAPU.
Krystal is not the only “Perk”. In the Alice Springs office first point of contact is her cousin, Jenny Perkins, who ran the local Baskin & Robbins franchise for three years.
In Melbourne, Krystal’s sister Hope is going to be fronting the on-line marketing and communications side of the business. The sisters intend to open an office in the southern capital towards the end of the year.
Working alongside the dynamic pair is father Neville Perkins. He manages Arrulka Business Pty Ltd, among whose activities is the operation of K2 Indigenous Recruitment Australia, a franchise arrangement with K2 Recruitment, with an office in Sydney
Overarching all this is parent company, Arrulka Business Aboriginal  Corporation, of which Neville is the chair. Arrulka is the family’s clan name.
Neville and his daughters are executive directors of the corporation, and are joined on the board by Frank Woodbury (mining sector) and Aaron Perkins-Kemp-Berger (hostel manager for Aboriginal Hostels), both local Aboriginal men, as well as Craig Green, a Gurindji-Luritja event specialist now based in Sydney, and Megan West, a non-Indigenous lawyer, also based in Sydney.
Krystal met these last two while she was working to help set up National Indigenous Television (NITV).
After graduating from Melbourne University with a BA in Media and Communications, she joined Telstra for three years in their national Indigenous cadetship program.
From there she went to NITV (18 months) before joining News Limited (six months) to deliver major brand and advertising campaigns for The Australian and The Weekend Australian.
But she had always hoped to work in the Indigenous communications area and also wanted to “come home”.
She had grown up away from the desert and reaped the rewards of a good education and broad experience of Australian society and corporate culture. Now she felt she had something to offer.
“Really it’s an exchange of skills and understanding. I’m from here, these are our beginnings but I haven’t had a lot of the culture.
“On the other hand there are young Aboriginal people who may not have the confidence to go to the next level.
“I want to help youth in my community to realise that there are plenty of opportunities in life.
“I want to show leadership in that way to my community.”
Krystal was one of the first Indigenous business leaders to do company directors training with the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
She reads business publications like BRW and rarely sees an Aboriginal person mentioned.
“Australia has a lot of successful family businesses. I want us to be a successful example of one of them, in the Indigenous and mainstream context.
“And I want to see other Indigenous people get into business, to sit on commercial boards, combining their Indigenous identity and values with the mainstream – that’s what’s driving me.”
To set up Arrulka Business Aboriginal  Corporation and its activities the Perkins obtained a business loan from Indigenous Business Australia, matched by their own equity.
A grant from the NT Department of Regional Development helped them establish their office.
All the Perks will work full-time on the festival from May of next year. In the meantime the focus will be on getting the other areas of their business established.
Could they be doing a bit too much too soon?
Ever confident and with her big smile, Krystal says she’s weighed that up.
“I think we’re taking a healthy risk!”

Buffel: The good and the bad. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The good and the bad of buffel grass, that controversial weed or fodder – depending on who you’re talking with – came into sharp focus again for Peter Latz after the heavy rains earlier this year.
Mr Latz, born to missionaries in Hermannsburg, is one of Australia’s leading botanists, an expert in Central Australia’s flora, and co-owner of a 20 acre block at Ilparpa.
He says he has 40 species of native grasses on his block – plus at least 160 other species of plants.
His neighbours on both sides have mostly one: buffel grass. 
Mr Latz estimates he’s spent two man-years, spread out over a decade, to get rid of buffel, “and I still haven’t won the battle”.
Earlier this year it looked like he’d lost it, after rains brought the plant back in huge numbers, threatening the Central Australian paradise Mr Latz had re-created.
He picked thousands of new buffel plants, filling a garbage bin with seeds, perhaps as many as half a million of them, each capable to becoming a plant, which in turn could produce 300 to 500 seeds.
Over the years the Alice News has published many stories about buffel, plus comments for and against, most recently reporting that local environmental campaigners ALEC are confident they have interested Federal Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett in the problem: he could declare buffel grass a weed of national significance.
That’s something that Territory authorities, so far, have shied away from, bowing to the demands of the powerful pastoral industry lobby.
But it may be that the cattlemen turn out to be the biggest losers if they let the foreign plant – introduced by the CSIRO and others to suppress dust – take over.
Mr Latz, backed up by CSIRO research, is the first to admit that buffel isn’t all bad.
It came to The Centre a long time ago, possibly from India, in the stuffing of camel saddles.
That was just one strain which was not aggressive.
But about 30 years ago the boffins set about getting strains from all over the world, which hybridized, creating “a super strain superbly adapted to our local conditions”, says Mr Latz.
The “good news / bad news” story started.
Buffel likes fertile soils with high phosphorous content.
That’s good because there isn’t all that much of that kind of land, mostly creek banks and levees.
Trouble is, that’s where the highest number of native species are and buffel is crowding them out: biodiversity in our best country is being reduced.
Buffel grass has left its enemies behind in the countries it came from, it grows fast and is highly tolerant of fire and grazing.
That’s good for the cattle men who like buffel as long-lasting fallback pasture  which is getting a further boost from the increase of carbon dioxide causing global warming.
Buffel makes cattle stations more drought resistant and aids in reducing soil erosion  – to a point, says Mr Latz.
But buffel is not the first choice for cattle themselves. So far as they are concerned, it’s just one step up from spinifex. Cattle won’t get fat on buffel but they will eat it when there’s nothing else.
To do well they need a balanced diet including the sweet, nourishing natives – the very fodder buffel is displacing.
Because cattle – and camels, kangaroos, rabbits, grasshoppers and pigeons – prefer the foliage and seeds of native grasses to buffel, they eat the natives first.
That makes more space for buffel which is bad especially on Aboriginal land and in national parks where there are no cattle grazing it down.
Extrapolating from the massive effort on his block Mr Latz says it’s fair to say that we would need all of the Australian Army up here in the hottest time of the year for at least five years to make a dint on buffel, if eradication efforts rely on pulling or chipping out plants and zapping them with Roundup.
Roundup is not a poison but a super fertilizer that induces a growth spurt which kills the plant – the botanic parallel of an overdose.
All that parks people can do, and are doing now, says Mr Latz, is stop the grass coming into areas where it has not already taken hold, and where it has, concentrate on protecting areas of biological importance. 
It’s more likely the demise of buffel will be brought about by biological control, either induced by man or Mother Nature herself.
Mr Latz says some years ago “I noticed a sick looking bunch of weedy Castor-oil plants on Mt Riddock Station.
“Closer examination revealed brightly colored caterpillars chewing the bejeezus out of these plants. Now they are no longer a serious threat.
“The solution just came – we don’t know how.
“Whenever you have a monoculture, huge areas dominated by one plant, sooner or later there is a fungus or an insect that says, this is too good to be true.
“I think that’s our only hope with buffel.”
And, of course, there may be a downside to defeating buffel, says Mr Latz.
“If there are not enough native grass seeds persisting in the soil, we may end up with a worse weed, unpalatable to cattle, that takes over and leaves us in an even more desperate situation.”

25 years of love and anguish. REVIEW by

If the Hard Light of Day reveals to us a “hidden face” of Alice Springs, it is in the qualities of friendship that have sustained Rod Moss’ enduring relationship with the Whitegate families – the Johnsons, Neils and Hayeses.
People who live in Alice Springs with any degree of awareness will already have  some grasp of the things that might have threatened the survival of this relationship, primary amongst them alcohol-fuelled violence very often turned on those closest – partners, brothers, cousins – and more directly, a high level of demand for assistance, in particular for transport (Moss’ car or perhaps he himself became known as “the little white taxi”).
What is rare is to see these things through the lens of intimate relationship, and to have them brought into some kind of balance by moments of warmth, laughter, companionship, shared adventures and deeper still, love, generosity, compassion, trust – going both ways.
It didn’t take years to get to this point. The book is presented chronologically, from 1985, drawing on Moss’ journals, and already in the second chapter he is writing: “At Whitegate, I encountered the most amazing family communal warmth I’d ever experienced ... It’s hard to describe this viscerality. I was taken in to bodies, passed around – in a word accommodated.
“It was like, I conjectured, in the absence of substantial housing over the millennia, people operated with the same warmth we expected of shelter ... The cohesive energy in the camp was a given, greater than the stresses it endured. And it exercised a peculiar, addictive power over me.”
What is rare too is to have vividly drawn portraits of individuals and a tracing through time of the friendships developing with them. These portraits are particularly brought to life by direct speech, in rich Aboriginal English. It shows Moss as a good listener and underlines the value of his journal-keeping. All these years later, the exchanges spring off the page with freshness and authenticity – you are meeting fully-fleshed people.
In the early chapters Xavier Neil looms large. It all started with him asking Moss for a light. (So many of us have been asked this, but not many have responded to the contact in the way Moss did.)
It doesn’t take long for the brutal aspects of Xavier’s relationship with his wife Petrina Johnson to be revealed but there’s an equally strong sense of their connection. Most striking is the charismatic charm Xavier exerts in his friendship with Moss.
You can see this in Moss’ early (1986) painted portrait of him reproduced in the colour plates at the end of the book, a very sensual image, and also in Moss’ photograph (1985) of the Whitegate men that opens the book, the “football team photo” as they called it. There’s a self-aware languidity in Xavier’s pose. He’s right in the middle of course, as Moss is his whitefella (“I been find him first”), and his eyes, unlike the rest, are turned away, as if his thoughts, alluringly, are elsewhere.
Even without the preface text that follows, this is a memorable photograph. While Xavier distinguishes himself from the group, the group itself packs quite a punch, with their direct looks to camera and assertive stances. They’re a good-looking, tough-looking bunch. And how fitting, in a way, that Jude Johnson’s face is partly obscured by Xavier’s tilted head. Jude also becomes quite close to Moss, but a quieter, more serious person, he remains somewhat in Xavier’s shadow. 
Moss could not have known what a poignant record this photo would become.
Writing close to the present, he lists the fate of each individual. Most of them have died prematurely. Even the child in the front row is already dead. He is R. Ryder who, as I have reported in these pages, died following a series of medical mishaps when being treated for stab wounds inflicted by his own cousins. He was only 28. Knowing his ultimate fate through a coroner’s report, it is strangely moving to encounter him on and off throughout the book .
There is only one man in the photo about whom Moss can write he is “well and happy”. Is it significant that he lives mostly out of town? Probably.
Xavier is still alive, to Moss’ amazement.
Moss writes that he’s been to over 60 funerals of his “Aboriginal family” in his 25 years in Alice: “Only a war zone or plague would offer comparable figures.”
Then he asks: “How does our community normalise these frequent deaths? By wilful unconsciousness? By denial, ignorance or psychic numbing? There isn’t a war. And attempted genocide has been unfashionable since our early nineteenth-century Tasmanian experience. Have we sided not with survival, but with death?”
These are clearly questions being asked of the non-Indigenous community. I wonder if he ever puts them to his Arrernte friends.
Not all of the violence and suffering he observes can be sheeted home to dispossession and its outfall or to contemporary racism, though some can. The first fight he witnesses between Xavier and Petrina – they are hitting each other on the head with rocks – happens after a bikie rode into their camp and shot their dog in front of them: “What most appalled me was the impotence of their rage as they turned it on one another,” writes Moss.
But Xavier is a fighting man: “I be die fighting,” he later says to Moss, as he ignores the violent protests of Petrina and goes looking for trouble – from his own brother (the pair have already seriously injured one another in a protracted dispute).
Petrina’s body is described by Moss as “a carapace of wounds inflicted by Xavier”. In one of the book’s most chilling moments, Moss reports that Xavier told him he had cut off Petrina’s finger while she slept because she wouldn’t give him money for grog. He believed she would get compensation for the mutilation.
“I found it difficult to reconcile the way he’d rationalised his violence as being of pecuniary advantage to them both,” writes Moss, but soon he sees them together again and seemingly carefree.
One of the men in the list of premature dead, Jamesy Johnson, is “sung” after he rolls a car and kills two of the Hayes men. He’d been drunk, warned not to drive, and had walked away from the crash.
But the singing of Jamesy isn’t enough. There’s ongoing trouble between the families, forcing the Johnson families from Whitegate to even more precarious itinerancy around town.
Jude Johnson will die of pneumonia.  
From the start there is a shadow over him. He tells Moss that his father was killed because of a misdemeanour by Jude in the course of his initiation.
Later his “wrong skin” wife is killed when, drunk, she walks in front of a car.
“As a result, he would be speared or knifed in the thighs from her relatives,” writes Moss, wondering “what lightness, what levity might enter [Jude’s] life”.
The list could go on, never as sad as when sick and dying people are left alone, unassisted, unvisited, because of fears of being blamed, paid back.
What community needs to think about and do something to change these sufferings?
The book would be hard to take if such accounts were unrelieved. They are interwoven, as in life, with much else: the touching expressions of his Arrernte friends’ attachment to Moss and his children; their exchanges with him about their two cultures, the explanations, misapprehensions, accommodations; their lively humour.
Funny stories about lust – “too much larrikin for woman” – and sexual liaisons – “jig-a-jig”; dog names – “Flat Battery” for one with a stuttering bark, “It’ll do” for another “that seemed to limp on every leg”.
Their “vivid surrender to the present moment”, as Moss writes.
And then there’s country. Country as non-Indigenous people understand it, in all its rigours and magnificence (though Moss’ prose in these passages is often burdened by his tendency to use an over-sophisticated vocabulary); and rich entrees into country as his Arrernte friends revealed it to him.
This starts early with hunting and gathering trips in the company of Gregory Johnson and his wife Janet and children and dogs.
Once Moss meets Arranye Johnson the excursions deepen along with their friendship.
Arranye is another charismatic figure, a senior man with a prodigious knowledge of country and memory for its songs, and confident of his place in the world. He has a strong work history and broad experience with non-Indigenous people, becoming a forthright spokesman for the Whitegate families on land rights matters: “I not sit around not speaking it like some other mob when whitefella be ask question. I talk it right back to them,” Moss quotes him as saying.
He entrusts Moss with his knowledge; they start with recording bush tucker stories.
“People be come after me might want to be learn. Gotta keep story line rollin’, my boy.”
His sons don’t ask for the stories: “Want car but not toolbox,” says Arranye.
Moss is alive to the significance of his experience. Lying in his swag out at Santa Teresa, listening to Arranye’s songs, he writes: “On that warm night, so far from any place I had called home, I was immersed in the ethereal beauty of language formed from the very country I was lying on. I lacked such historic reach. This was the Johnsons’ centre.”
They do some arduous but very special trips into Arranye’s country, where he shows Moss sacred places and they record stories and songs.
Moss writes: “[Arranye’s] confiding in me made me feel less inconsequential. Apart from having kids, it was the greatest privilege.”
Arranye is referred to as Moss’ “father” by his other Arrernte friends and this becomes emotionally true for Moss: Arranye is a benificent guiding presence for him, loving and often generous, and in turn Moss looks after the old man as his health declines with great filial tenderness, cuts his hair and beard, his nails, does his shopping, washes his clothes, brings him fresh bed linen.
Even without the inter-cultural dimension this would be deeply moving; in the full context of the relationship between them and the country they are in (town and bush are all ‘country’ for the Arrernte, Moss learns) the account becomes a haunting elegy for something larger than two men.
I’ve touched on some of the things that will make, is making Moss’ book noticed far and wide. Alongside them, his writing about his marriage, woven into the narrative, is likely to be scarcely remarked upon, but for me it detracts from the book. There is no sense of the personhood of this wife, no insight into what the writer’s own role might have been in the foundering of the relationship – human affairs are never one sided.
I wonder why this material has made it into publication. Perhaps to balance with some whitefella dysfunction the exposure of so much dysfunction in his Arrernte friends’ lives? But we are left with the impression of an undigested, wounding experience, censored of much of its actuality, unfair for all that, and thus uninteresting. (I disclose that I was a friend of the couple, of their family, in these years of upheaval.)
It would not be fair to Moss’ overall achievement to end on this note. With openness, curiosity, kindness, reserves of patience and affection, and a proper sense of the preciousness of what was being offered in return, he went with friendship into country and a community where few go. And, in the book and his paintings over 25 years, he has deployed his intelligence and artistic gifts to share the experience in a unique and gripping record. Many will be thankful to him for the privilege; none should be more so than we who live in Alice Springs.

Cable laying: residents fear trees may be damaged.

The Town Council will not guarantee that mature trees won’t be disturbed by these works – apparently laying fiber optic broadband cable.
Concerns about the fate of stands of beefwoods, mulga, ironwoods and other trees on the southern verge of Ilparpa Road were brought to aldermen’s attention by chair of the Alice Springs Rural Area Association, Rod Cramer.
Mr Cramer queried whether the company carrying out the works had a permit. Yes, they do, according to council’s media officer.
Mr Cramer was worried about the impact of bulldozers.
They are not being used, said the media officer, even though one can be seen in this photo.
The equipment being used is a trench digger, said the media officer (it too can be seen).
Council will work with the permit holder to have the area returned to pre-work conditions at the completion of the contract, she said.

An askew review of alternative land art. POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Rubbish strewn over the red dirt makes Central Australia look like a giant cupcake.
Take the coffee cup to go. ‘Bio cups’ are biodegradable. They even have a green leaf emblazoned on their chest, to better camouflage them when they’re discarded in surrounding bushland while they biodegrade.
The greater part of this caffeine vessel does in fact decompose. But the lid that keeps its precious nectar at a moderate temperature is still made of good ol’ plastic.
It is the little Roman shield to be excavated by a generation to come.  The carcass of the coffee cup will have rotted away, but its miniature warrior shield will remain, a parody of Western culture getting it, almost, but not quite. 
Luckily enough these little troops of decomposing deceit march straight from coffee machines to office desks then eventually out with the weekly pick-up.
They’re seldom seen hanging around street corners and ATMs, looking for opportunities to transgress the systemic machine that churns them into existence.
Then there’s the brown bottle militia, the glassware legion that descends on the town at night. Passed out and broken in the mall, waiting for the god-sized sweepers to come and hide them from view of the bustling human traffic.
Can you imagine a stop frame animation about all the discarded liquor bottles rising up to claim ownership of the town? 
The little petrified soldiers in the dirt. Attacking from the gum tree shadows of the river, flinging themselves at passing cars, pushbikes and people. The Victoria Bitter Fruity Dyslexia Red Label Liberation Front. Imagine it!
Those containers locally dubbed the “Todd River box fish” the secret meeting huts as the liquor bottles plot their next place to shatter in the way of barefoot fall. 
Plastic bottles through the river look like suspended jellyfish.
Smokers are, and have been for a while now, the lepers of today. Shunned and oppressed, their cigarette butts trampled on confetti of some stale, long forgotten wedding. 
I once found a bridesmaid’s dress in a giant blue dumpster, the ultimate statement of a one night stand. Loved so intensely for a day then given over to its fate as garbage. 

LETTERS: Red Centre Way sign an "abomination".

Sir – Bravo Kieran re the Red Centre Way abomination [last week’s issue, pictured at right].
My sentiments exactly. Who authorised this appalling thing?
It has the stink of Darwin bureaucrats and ‘marketing consultants’.
Was there any consultation? With anybody?
It certainly constitutes desecration of the Flynn Monument. Sign me up to the petition to pull it down.
Charlie Carter
Alice Springs

Don’t legalise sex trade

Sir – The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) takes the view that the NT Government should not be beguiled by sex industry lobbies with benign sounding names into legalising brothels.
The NT Sex Workers Outreach Program calls for brothels to be opened, [but] the government should look at better ways of protecting women – such as the successful “Swedish model” of managing prostitution.
Sweden came to realise that legalising the sex trade had resulted in a major increase in the number of women being trafficked into the country.
By 1999 the Swedish Government dramatically altered its position by taking the view that buying sex promotes exploitation and is violence against women. 
The Government therefore decided to criminalise the purchase of sex and the ownership of brothels.
The new laws saw the number of women involved in prostitution cut by two-thirds, reduced the number of men buying sex by 80 per cent, and led to a huge drop in the number of women trafficked into the country for sexual purposes.
Jim Wallace, ACL
Managing Director

Child protection leak

Sir – The Child Protection Minister should order an immediate review surrounding the protocols associated with child protection investigations following a leaked e-mail that raises serious questions about the urgency of investigations conducted on children at risk.
An e-mail obtained by the Opposition from a Royal Darwin Hospital social worker calls for suspected cases of children at risk to be discussed before they are officially reported.
The Care and Protection of Children Act clearly states it’s an offence not to report suspected cases of child abuse as soon as possible.
Any discussion should follow – and not precede – the immediate notification of the suspected abuse to Child Protection authorities.
To do otherwise is a clear breach of the law. It is a concern that a culture appears to exist where an urgency to act is replaced with a desire to consider options and adhere to bureaucratic niceties.
Jodeen Carney
MLA for Araluen

NT debt up 94%?

Sir – Territorians will be lumbered with Government debt for decades to come as a result of Labor’s reckless spending and poor planning – and there is no indication of how it will be repaid.
Estimates hearings identified a forecast 94% increase in public sector debt during the forward estimates period.
Debt will increase from $1.6billion in 2008-09 to $3.1billion in 2013-14, and this doesn’t include the Territory’s superannuation liabilities.
The Treasurer was forced to admit the Territory’s total net debt will be about $20,000 per person, including superannuation liabilities.
The interest payments from this debt will reach $226 million per year and will ultimately hold-back the development of much needed infrastructure like schools, roads and hospitals.
The Territory’s debt blow-out has been on the horizon for years now. The Government has failed to properly manage debt and plan for such projects in a timely manner and now taxpayers will be lumped with the bill.
Estimates also provided an insight into how the Government dives into the Budget’s cash reserves – held within the Treasurer’s Advance – to pay for its mistakes.
The Treasurer’s Advance is a contingency fund designed to be spent in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster.
However it has become a slush-fund for every Labor whimsy that takes the Treasurer’s fancy.
For instance, the Government pushed through an unbudgeted $400,000 spend on alcohol interlock devices. So far only one has been fitted.
As well, poor planning in SIHIP also led to a raid on the Treasurer\’s Advance to the tune of $20million.
Usually totalling around $40million a year, last year $190million was taken from the Treasurer’s advance.
Delia Lawrie explained this as being a consequence of the Global Financial Crisis. What she couldn’t explain was why in 2007-08, before the GFC hit, she plundered $170million from the Advance.
During Estimates on June 11 Ms Lawrie flippantly dismissed of $657 million – the GST windfall to the NT –  as “a small amount of money” that could employ a few extra public servants.
John Elferink
MLA for Port Darwin and Shadow Treasurer

Off-road vandals

Sir – I sent the following letter to the Greening the Territory administration from anger generated by a full page ad in a recent Friday Advocate.  For me it seems wholesale BS to promote land preservation while ignoring the destructive forces going on within the Territory:-  
All this green propaganda seems a marvelous idea, and I am 120% behind any efforts to protect and preserve our beautiful landscape.  Unfortunately you fail to mention anything concerning the most destructive threat to this environment, the continually growing use of off road toys like dirt bikes, quads, and the like.  
I live on the edge of the clay pans off Ilparpa Road and regularly witness and photograph individuals riding dirt bikes and quads.  Calling the police seldom warrants even a visit, much less apprehension or prosecution of these illegal riders.  They do serious damage to this supposedly protected fragile environment which, left alone, would take many years to recover.  
This area is also identified as a “sanctuary”.  When complaining to bike sellers and media I frequently get BS about the “responsible riders”. It has been my experience that there are as many responsible riders as there are honest politicians.
Until this “green movement” takes stern measures to stop these abusive practices and makes an effort to repair the damaged land your propaganda is not only worthless but represents an outright lie to the citizens in the Northern Territory, of which you ought to be ashamed.  
If anyone in this concerned group truly wishes to see a change for the positive I offer the following suggestions:
1. An automatic fine of $500 for anyone caught riding illegally on protected lands.
2. Require that all businesses selling dirt bikes and quads provide a map or information identifying areas in which off road riding is illegal.
3. Insist that schools include instructive units that tell children why it is important to protect our lands from destruction.
4. Encourage greater cooperation among our law enforcement workers to act on and prevent illegal riding.
5. Demand that our legal system acts positively and firmly to discourage illegal riding as well as other destructive activities, including those on private properties. Ownership does NOT grant the right to abuse the land.
6. Place restrictions on the number of businesses in a community selling dirt bikes, quads, etc.  There seems little sense in witnessing an increasing number of sellers of these destructive machines in an area where legal riding resources are shrinking.
7. Encourage more individuals to report illegal riding to authorities.
8. Use your web site to post pictures of illegal riders, illegal dumping and other destructive activities in a name/shame board.
9. Make citizens aware that they are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
These are but a few suggestions of regulations that ought to have been in place years ago to insure the protection of our most valuable commodity, our beautiful landscape.  
John W. Sheridan
Alice Springs

Transport softball

Sir –  Being an ex-Alice resident of the mid-1960s and having fond memories of my life there, I was wondering if the planned transport-inspired ReUnion 2010 in August [Alice News, May 20] might include something of the Transport Softball Team that was named, naturally, by some of the members who were involved in the transport industry in some way or another.
I was catcher on the Transport team during the 1966-67 season and still carry the result of collision with a Santa Teresa team member when trying to tag her mid-slide into home base.
The inevitable collision resulted in me being bumped into the air out of her way and the numb patch on my lower right calf always brings back memories of the softball/baseball matches held in Alice Springs.
I learned how to score games from Judge Hall on the top bench of the stand at baseball games and when moving to Mt Isa later in 1967, volunteered to coach girls at the two high schools. A group of us formed the Mt Isa Softball Association and the guys got baseball underway.
I wonder if there are any members of the old Transport Softball Team around the Alice district still ... they’d be in their 60s and 70s ... good grief, is that how old we are now!!!
Gillian Stewart (aka Charchalis)
Newcastle, NSW


Sir – Heart disease is the biggest killer of Australian women but eight out of ten women, still see heart disease as a men’s issue.
Fact: Menopause significantly increases your risk of heart disease. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 years, when oestrogen decreases and the risk of heart disease increases.
Fact: heart disease kills four times as many women as breast cancer.
The mother of 2008 NT Business Woman of the Year, Annette Gillanders, recently survived a heart scare.
“It made me reassess my lifestyle,” Ms Gillanders said. “The shock of how I saw mum gasping and grasping for oxygen just scared me. What a terrible way to leave this world.
“I have since restructured my diet and exercise and I make bookings in my diary to exercise and to eat in moderation.”
Manage your weight – reducing your intake of saturated fats and salt can be a big help.
Quit smoking – kicking the habit is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk.
Get moving – exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
People who don’t partake in physical activity are twice as likely to die of heart disease as those who regularly do.
Know your numbers – find out your blood pressure, cholesterol level and waist circumference and check these regularly.
Dorothy Morrison
CEO, Heart Foundation NT

Healthy eyes

Sir – Macular Degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia, yet many people are simply not aware of the disease.
There is an alarming risk that people experiencing a symptom of Macular Degeneration will dismiss the symptom, thinking they just need glasses or are experiencing computer related eye strain.
If you experience any sudden change in vision you should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist urgently.
Any difficulty with vision should never be dismissed as just needing glasses, getting older or computer related eye strain. Dismissing symptoms and not seeking advice risks blindness.
Symptoms may include:
• Difficulty with reading or any other activity with fine vision.
• Distortion where straight lines appear wavy or bent.
• Distinguishing faces becomes a problem.
• Dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision.
A free education seminar will be held in Alice Springs on July 1. Book on 1800 111 709.
Julie Heraghty
CEO, Macular Degeneration Foundation

NANCARROW'S ARROWS: Moving on party tradition in Alice.

It’s been a sad couple of weeks – a good and loyal mate is hitting the road out of Alice and there have been several soirees to mark the occasion.
The going away party is an ongoing thing in Alice. A new chum arrives and there is much fun as they settle in, tell new jokes and the extended Alice family accepts another like-minded soul who is prepared to travel away from home and set up shop. Some stay, buy houses and put down roots but some folk, well, they’re here for a good time but not for a long time.
They have cast their eyes on a far horizon and Alice is a gateway to this fantastical place.
This cycle is great for friendships of intensity and colour the likes of which I am yet to find elsewhere.
You simply don’t know how long the newbee will stay so you can’t take them for granted in the assumption they will be there tomorrow.
You cut through the whole “getting to know you stuff” in the first hour and away the friendship train goes, toot toot, chugga chugga, get on board and enjoy the ride.
I was going to be one of those people when I first arrived 14 years ago. I was on the run, too many ex-girlfriends and band mates back home (in Adelaide) for comfort, the job I was in was looking shaky (Bank SA crisis for those old enough to remember) and I had lived my whole life in the one state.
I was off for sunny Cairns in the north of Queensland via Alice Springs for a six week stop over to visit my bestest friend, who had been nagging me for ages to come up.
I decided to catch the bus as I was taking my music gear with me. So there I was, on the overnighter from Adelaide, feeling sorry for myself – the going away bash had gotten teary and I was wondering how Queensland was going to treat me.
The miles rolled by and we got closer to Alice, helped along by ambient music including – I kid you not – whale song.
So I was a bit nervy when I got off the bus opposite the library, standing with my huge pile of gear – and no mate. I was yet to learn the fine art of Alice time keeping.
Six weeks was too long without work so I expended great effort in making my CV look wonderful and almost truthful.
I arrived at a job interview acompanied by Late Mate, CV and can do attitude.
The employer asked Late Mate if I could do what I said I could, he said yes – I got the job and the CV went ignored. The word of a friend was good enough it turned out.
And that’s why I stayed, only getting to Cairns on a holiday 13 years later, wife and son in tow. 
It’s a nice place Cairns and if I ended up there who knows what could have happened.
That is by the by, I stayed in Alice because of the wonderful people. People like Adam, who is moving on. Cya mate.

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