ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
June 17, 2010. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Two probes into Frampton, Carey
homes scandal. By ERWIN
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
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
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
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
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
The original building contract was signed in Frampton’s office, by the
buyer, Framptons (by Mr Hardyman) as a witness, and Randal Carey for
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.
just out of gaol. By KIERAN FINNANE.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Alice. By ERWIN
“Until you’ve lived here you don’t know what beauty is,” says Suzanne
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.
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
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
“I felt so sorry for them,” says Suzanne.
She wanted to buy a property to set up permanent accommodation for
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
blast-off. By KIERAN FINNANE.
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
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
“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
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.
perks and all. By KIERAN FINNANE.
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
Her “Gen Y” character led her to jump in, boots and all: “We love a
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
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
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
“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
“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
“I think we’re taking a healthy risk!”
Buffel: The good
and the bad. By ERWIN
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
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
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
“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.”
years of love and anguish. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.
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
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
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,
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
Moss could not have known what a poignant record this photo would
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?
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
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,
What community needs to think about and do something to change these
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
The Town Council will not guarantee that mature trees won’t be
disturbed by these works – apparently laying fiber optic broadband
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
Rubbish strewn over the red dirt makes Central Australia look like a
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
They’re seldom seen hanging around street corners and ATMs, looking for
opportunities to transgress the systemic machine that churns them into
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.
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.
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
By 1999 the Swedish Government dramatically altered its position by
taking the view that buying sex promotes exploitation and is violence
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
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.
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
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
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.
MLA for Port Darwin and Shadow Treasurer
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
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
2. Require that all businesses selling dirt bikes and quads provide a
map or information identifying areas in which off road riding is
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
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
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)
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
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.
CEO, Heart Foundation NT
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.
CEO, Macular Degeneration Foundation
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
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
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
That is by the by, I stayed in Alice because of the wonderful people.
People like Adam, who is moving on. Cya mate.