July 1, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Working in the real world.

When you talk to Ingkerreke’s Scott McConnell about Aboriginal employment get ready for a shock: we don’t need programs to get Aboriginal people back to work, he says.
Indeed programs are part of the problem.
“Programs deliver outcomes to the people running them, not to Aboriginal people.
“Certificate I in painting rocks on roadsides holds people back.
“We need full trade apprenticeships for people to become electricians, carpenters, plumbers.
“We need to invest in people, not programs, to give individuals the ability to make choices about their own lives.”
The way to achieve this is by “operating in a real live commercial environment.”
And that means no grants or subsidies.
“As soon as you engage in that subsidy-driven world, you have to engage in all the baggage that comes with it and it aint worth the trouble,” says Mr McConnell.
“It also builds a culture of dependence and we want to build a culture of independence.”
For Ingkerreke Commercial to become independent they had to find a product or service for which there was a market and apply to it commercial principles: customer service; quality control; production best practice.
They identified one product and one service and concentrate on those.
In their boiler-making room they produce vehicle trays, which have found a strong local market because they’re cost compettitive, good quality and delivered on time, says Mr McConnell.
There are five boiler-makers and two apprentices employed, all on full-time, permanent, competitive wages.
Ingkerreke also run an “all trades” building company specialising in renovations.
At present, a lot of their work, as for many other builders, is coming from SIHIP.
They are doing renovations, supplying all trades, at Santa Teresa and Amoonguna for the New Futures Alliance, and at Palmers’ camp and New Ilparpa camp for the Territory Alliance.
They’ve also got the contract to renovate the old Imparja building in Leichhardt Terrace, have restored a historic building at Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff), and built an elevated walkway at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, among other projects.
Mr McConnell rejects any suggestion that as “Aboriginal contractors” they are getting “Aboriginal work”.
“Our contracts are based on price and productivity.
“I am held accountable by my board of directors to maximise Indigenous apprenticeships and social outcomes but that’s not relevant when we respond to an invitation to tender that’s in the newspaper.”
The big influx of money for Aboriginal housing won’t last forever, as Mr McConnell points out, and he intends to make sure that Ingkerreke Commercial can respond when the market changes.
“We want to prove that being an Aboriginal company is not a disadvantage, and nor do we need any kind of favouritism.
“We compete in an open market. If you learn to walk with a crutch, you’ll always walk with a crutch.”
Ingkerreke was originally set up 25 years ago as an outstation resource agency, servicing its 12 member outstations to the north and east of town that came into existence after successful land claims on old stock routes.
This is still Ingkerreke’s core business for which they receive government funding and these days, while the organisation is still controlled by its original membership, its delivers local government-type services to 45 outstations.
Ingekerreke Commercial came into existence five years ago.
The organisation “could see the writing on the wall”, says Mr McConnell.
It was clear that the Howard Government would drive a massive restructuring of the way government was doing business in relation to Aboriginal people.
A turning point for Ingkerreke came with the acquisition by the Indigenous Land Corporation of the site in Kidman Street, in Alice’s industrial area, from where they operate today.
The acquisition came with “a high level of accountability”, says Mr McConnell.
“They wanted to see real outcomes, tangible things that they could measure.”
Mr McConnell joined the organisation in January, 2005 and helped drive the establishment of Ingkerreke Commercial.
The company has around 90 staff, all in “real” full-time jobs and apprenticeships. The only subsidies are those that apply to apprentices anywhere. About two thirds of the staff are Indigenous, as are all 12 of the apprentices.
They are variously in their first, second and third years, in electrical, boiler-making, carpentry and plumbing apprenticeships.
In their five years Ingkerreke have turned out one fully qualified gasfitter / plumber who is still with the company.
They will take on temporary staff when they’ve got a big project, as they did with the clean-up of town camps late last year.
How does Ingkerreke deal with the problems typically said to plague Aboriginal employment – unreliability, absenteeism, cultural pressures?
“By treating people with expectations,” says Mr McConnell, without blinking. 
“As an Aboriginal corporation we do understand where people come from and what their cultural obligations are – funerals and men’s business are the main ones that impact on us.
“But we do draw a line in the sand because we have to operate in a commercial reality.
“We keep people informed about our expectations, we share with them what we are trying to achieve, and people respond.”
Employees are entitled to five days’ bereavement leave and five days’ cultural leave.
Mr McConnell also sees a lot of the generalisations around Aboriginal employment issues as unhelpful at best, racist at worst.
He says reduced productivity and absenteeism related to alcohol consumption is a major workforce problem across the board in Alice Springs.
“It is a big issue for Aboriginal people but I just wish we would recognise that it is a major issue for non-Aboriginal people as well.
“There are big mobs of workers across town who don’t come to work because they’re grog sick.
“And sure we lose some work days to cultural obligations but white people have cultural obligations too.
“So many of them have their family elsewhere and their obligations to visit them are also a major issue for productivity.”
Mr McConnell points to the transience of many non-Aboriginal people as another problem.
But isn’t that matched by Aboriginal employees not staying in their jobs long-term?
“Sure you might employ someone and it doesn’t work out, but the investment you’ve made is in someone who is committed to staying here and sooner or later you might intersect with that person again.”
He gives an example: when a man they’d employed decided one Thursday that a “liquid lunch” was his priority, he was sacked on the spot.
Three months later he asked to be re-employed. They gave him a second chance and so far so good.
“He’s been working for us in a remote community since before last Christmas, proper number one.”
Mr McConnell says the man was motivated by undertaking a good job, “lots of hard work which makes you feel like you’re contributing something”, and getting paid properly.
He sees welfare as “actively keeping people away from employment” and calls on the community to openly acknowledge this.
He believes many people share this view though they may not openly state it.
“We won’t drive change until we talk about it,” he says.
“An old Anangu man told me about a horse that died of thirst trying to get a drink from a dripping tap when nearby there was a rockhole full of water.
“That is what is happening to many Aboriginal people.
“The dripping tap is in direct relationship with alcohol abuse, family violence and low self-esteem.
“We’ve got to help them turn towards the rockhole of having a job.”
He agrees that reform of the welfare system itself, making it impossible to stay on the dole if there’s work available and you’re fit to do it, would be the easiest way to tackle this challenge.
CDEP falls into the welfare category, he says, believing it to have been “the single biggest barrier” to meaningful Aboriginal employment.
Ingkerreke had a large CDEP workforce, some 200 participants, and did try to maintain it through the transition phase to the new-look CDEP of the Federal Labor Government.
Mr McConnell says this scheme is a con, nothing more than a work-for-the-dole scheme, and although it has been hard for Ingkerreke to be cut loose from it, they have treated the change as an opportunity.
He excuses himself as a non-Indigenous person for speaking on a matter of Indigenous identity, but says, as someone who has associated with Indigenous people all his life, he believes that it is possible to be “highly capable, recognised and accountable in the Aboriginal way” while also participating in the non-Indigenous social and economic environment.
“They are not mutually exclusive.”
He believes this view is shared by his board – “very forward thinking people with an optimistic view about the future”.
Action about the future of Aboriginal people needs not to be left to politicians and bureaucrats.
Aboriginal people themselves need to be empowered to make the changes.
Ingkerreke’s contribution is to get people through as fully-certified tradesmen, so that they are in a position to own their own company, work in their community as a tradesman or “take a job with Sitzlers or Probuild”.
If Aboriginal leadership on this front – of addressing welfare dependency and achieving employment – is lacking, Mr McConnell believes it is because “we have invested in programs, not people”.
On this point, he welcomes the different approach of Desert Knowledge Australia’s Alice Springs Desert Leadership program – “it’s investing in individuals”.
“It’s incumbent on us to deal with the issues, not just keep talking.
“You only need employ one person at a time.”
Looked at this way, there’s a lot of scope across the community to make a difference.

Enforcing no
show, no pay

A way of tackling welfare dependency that is frequently canvassed is to apply penalties if a person does not take available work which they are fit to do.
A new job seeker compliance framework was introduced on July 1 last year.
The previous toughening of compliance rules  saw automatic “breaching” – no dole payments – for eight weeks after three “failures to participate”. A failure could be not turning up to a job interview or not turning up to work.
After July 2009 a “No Show No Pay” penalty was introduced, applied for each day of failing to participate. If there are three failures in six months, the job seeker has to attend a “Comprehensive Compliance  Assessment”.
If it’s found that the person is persistently and deliberately non-compliant then an eight week non-payment period may be applied.
Recent reporting on the Federal Intervention provided non-compliance statistics for the 73 relevant (“prescribed”) communities.
There were 12 penalties (the figures do not discriminate between the “No show No Pay” penalty and the eight week non-payment period) for 12 people since the introduction of the new framework.
While the figures are not strictly comparable, the six month period August 2007 to January 2008 saw 66 eight week non-payment periods for 65 people (Labor came to power in November 2007); February ‘08 to June ‘08, 33 for 32 people; January ‘09 to June ‘09, 12 for 12 people.

One job creation ‘program’ with real results was government action, again in the context of the Intervention, to properly fund CDEP positions that were involved with government service delivery.
This led to the funding of 2211 jobs – 1670 in Australian Government service delivery and around 400 in local government service delivery.
At the end of last year 2158 of these positions were filled.
However, there is concern at present that some local government jobs are under threat.
The Territory Government is extending funding for transitioning CDEP to real jobs until the end of 2010 but it is unclear what will happen after that.
According to the President of the Local Government Association of the NT, Kerry Moir, shires are wanting to transition people into housing jobs because that is where funding is available.
But LGANT is concerned that shire core services will suffer and some employees may even lose their jobs.

Killing the goose that lays the golden egg? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The greed of Alice Springs landlords will destroy the town in which they have invested their own money.
This is the view not of an activist, politician or academic, but of the manager of a business where people go to buy cartons to pack their belongings when “leaving town”.
And it’s where they store their possessions – mostly much longer than expected – because they can’t find a home, or where they leave them, “just for a few weeks” when they’re hoping to come back to The Alice – but never do.
Michael Kallweit is confronted daily by the misery created by debilitating rents and the cost to buy real estate.
He is the manager of Self Storage which rents out garage-size sheds, more than 300 of them, in the industrial area.
Mr Kallweit says there are, broadly, two types of people leaving town: those who’ve been here for a long time, 10 to 20 years, and who are sick of the growing ant-social behaviour in public.
And those who come here with a trade or profession, whom the town needs desperately, but who simply can’t earn enough to pay rent and feed their families. They’re leaving at the rate of five families a week, in Mr Kallweit’s observation.
“We are losing good people,” says Mr Kallweit who stresses he’s speaking as a concerned local and not on behalf of Self Storage.
“The quality of services here will drop.”
He says the statistics may be bland but the human tragedy all too real.
“Relationships can’t be formed or they are shattered by these pressures.
“Young people can’t leave their parents’ home to start their own families.
“They cannot become independent.
“They may be too young to have the communication skills to cope with these problems.
“Family units collapse.”
Mr Kallweit says he’s also encountered many young single mothers in dire straits.
The drama is not just at the bottom end of the income scale – in fact housing for the poorest is getting a shot in the arm with a Federal allocation of $150m for town camp housing, apart from the ongoing subsidies for public housing.
But the middle class is getting a hammering: Mr Kallweit says he’s seen many health professionals leaving town, heading for other regional cities just as appealing as Alice Springs, but offering housing at half the price.
Victor Burge, who works with Mr Kallweit, says he knows one tradesman who has four children and an Aboriginal wife.
Mr Burge says when this man sees a real estate agency, one look at his wife is usually enough to be shown the door.
When he approaches an Aboriginal organisation for help, one look at him usually brings the same result.
Another tradesman has most of his possessions stored in one of the Self Storage sheds.
He sleeps in his car.
Mr Burge is also a victim of the system.
Notwithstanding that he was a good tenant and punctual payer of rent, he was given notice.
He says the real estate agent told him “the owner wishes to have possession of the property back” but the morning after being thrown out Mr Burge saw the flat advertised for rent – with an increase from $330 to $450 a week.
The Self Storage facility, while providing an important service, is not cheap.
Monthly rents for the units range from $125 (for a 1.5m x 1.5m x 3m space) to $250 a month (4m x 6m x3m).
That means the annual rent per square metre for a windowless room with a tin roof and no facilities ranges from $125 to $660.
Office space in the CBD costs around $220 per square metre. 
Says Mr Kallweit: “Our prices are some of the lowest in the country.
“We have not had a price rise in 15 months and at that time by only by 5 to 10 dollars extra for the month.
“We understand the hardship in Alice Springs.”
Tenants of flats and homes can make, under Section 42 of the NT Residential Tenancies Act, an application for a declaration that rent is excessive.
The NT Commissioner of Tenancies (in South Australia it’s a tribunal) can make such a declaration, (in part) whilst “having regard to the general level of rents for comparable premises in the same or similar localities”.
A telephone enquiry with Consumer Affairs NT reveals that such an application would be quite tedious: “Please attach any paperwork that will support your claim: eg rent receipts; condition reports; copies of quotes, accounts or receipts for work on the premises,” says the form.
And the application needs to be supported by evidence about rents in the area from a licensed valuer who would charge “in the vicinity of $1000” for his service.
It’s a fascinating proposition: the word “excessive” conjures up notions of fairness and reasonableness.
Would the commissioner, for example, look at the initial investment for the dwelling, say 20 or 30 years ago?
And would he or she then determine a reasonable rate of return on the investment, say 10 to 15%?
The guidelines seem clear: if everybody is ripping off tenants then it’s a perfectly OK thing to do.
This was all the Department of Justice said: “Consumer Affairs has no further comment to make beyond pointing out that if a Tenant has specific concerns about Tenancy matters to contact us directly.”

Power & Water busts deadlines for stopping Perfume Creek flows. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Discharge from the sewerage ponds into the Ilparpa Swamp and thence to St Mary’s Creek alongside the Stuart Highway can be done in all weathers until the commissioning of the various phases of the Water Reuse Project.
The latest deadlines for the commissioning have all passed.
If they had been met, we either would not have the current discharge or the Power and Water Corporation (PWC) would be in breach of its licence.
Dubbed “Perfume Creek” the discharge has been flowing along the course of St Mary’s Creek since at least June 21, the second time in this dry month it has done so.
News about the once-feted $10.4m Water Reuse Project has dropped from view.
The most recent “update” of it on the PWC website is dated October 2, 2007.  
Intended to reduce environmental impacts associated with overflows from the ponds to the swamp, the project began in 2003 with a commitment of $6.3m for stage one.
A pipeline was put in to take treated water to the Arid Zone Research Institute, where it was to be stored in the aquifer for late reuse by a horticulturalist. It appears that no such end user has been found (the job of the Department of Resources – Primary Industry).
PWC announced its last anticipated dry weather discharge in 2007, in anticipation of the water reuse scheme kicking in.
However its current licence, issued in January 2008, allows it to continue discharging whatever the weather but stipulates dates by which the reuse technologies and site would be commissioned.
The Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) Plant was to have been commissioned by January 31, 2009.
The Soil Aquifer Treatment system and the reuse site were to have been commissioned no later than January 31, 2010.
And PWC was to have reported to the licensing authority, the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS), by March 31 of this year on the final effluent quality achieved from the SAT commissioning phase.
Once the DAF and SAT had been commissioned, the licence stipulates that PWC was to change its discharge regime to wet weather only.
As the current discharge has occurred during dry weather we can assume that at least some of the deadlines have not been met.
Our questions to PWC on whether they had been and if not, why not, had not been answered at the time of going to press.
There have certainly been no media announcements of progress.
The most recent release associated with the project dates from 2008 when the Water Reclamation Plant described as “the ‘engine room’ of the Alice Springs Water Re-Use project”, destined to  produce 600 million litres of recycled water a year, won an architectural award.
On the Department of Resources – Primary Industry website the project is referred to in the future tense: “A portion of AZRI will be used to recycle wastewater from Alice Springs using underground water banking.”
Elsewhere on the site  the “research project” is described as aiming “to investigate the suitability Alice Springs recycled waste water, and the suitability of the identified soil types, to successfully grow horticultural produce”.
Meanwhile, on the current discharge, licensing authority NRETAS supplied the following statement: “The Waste Discharge Licence issued by NRETAS to Power and Water Corporation allows for any excess wastewater not evaporated or recycled to be discharged to the swamp.
“The licence specifies the Discharge criteria of a range of parameters including suspended solids, E.coli, total Nitrogen and Phosphorus for which the licencee is required to meet.
“The present discharge is the result of three factors: heavy rainfall earlier in the year when mosquito breeding made it difficult to release water to the swamp; present cold weather reducing evaporation; and an increase in visitors to Alice Springs during the Finke Desert Race.”
Our statement from PWC in last week’s report on this subject referred to permission from the Environment Protection Authority.
It should have referred to NRETAS.
The Environment Protection Authority does not have a regulatory role nor does it issue licences.


We published a comment piece headed “Disturbing questions about government appointed regulator” in last week’s edition.
This contained a reply by solicitor Peer Schroeter, of Povey Stirk.
We said he was writing on behalf of the Agents Licensing Board.
In fact Mr Schroeter was responding on behalf of the real estate firm Framptons.
The Alice Springs News regrets the error.

Zero tolerance for payback: police. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A family was in fear for their lives when during a home invasion on Saturday, car keys were taken, the home’s door was blocked, the car stolen and torched – all suspected to be part of an ongoing cycle of paybacks.
The owner of the home says she was afraid the house would be set alight after the perpetrators used a rope to tie the front door so it could not be opened, preventing a fast escape for her and some other family members.
“I’m worried there will be more trouble,” says the owner, speaking on condition of not being named.
“It’s an ongoing family feud. It’s wrong.”
She says the perpetrators should be brought to justice but after that “it should stop.I’m speaking as a mother.
“Our family will not continue this payback.”
Superintendent Sean Parnell says police have a zero tolerance approach to payback.
“We don’t condone it,” he says. “If it does happen and it is against the law we will take action.
“The court will decide what the punishment will be.”
Supt Parnell says there is no clear evidence that payback is becoming more frequent in town, but concedes an increase may be the result of “urban drift” from remote communities to Alice Springs.
“Communities don’t want certain people and they get pushed into town, or they want to get away from payback,” he says.
The car stolen last week was found burning in a creek soon after the theft.
Supt Parnell says several items were seized from the wreck “for forensic examination of finger prints and DNA testing”.
We put the following question to Karl Hampton, Minister for Central Australia: “We are now aware of several payback events in Alice Springs in the recent past.
“Do you think there is a case for legislating to make payback an aggravating circumstance in violent crimes, attracting much higher penalties?
“Do you think payback itself should be a crime?”
An aide to Mr Hampton said he’s on holidays but a government spokesman said: “A crime has been reported and is currently being investigated by police.
“The Northern Territory has some of the toughest penalties for assault, home invasion, car theft and arson in the nation.”

From racing to restoring Mo’s followed his dream. By CHRISANNE WALSH.

By rights he should have been Darwin’s not ours: Murray McCosker, affectionately known as Mo, had been living and working in Sydney when he applied for a job in Darwin.
Cyclone Tracey got in the way and the job fell through, so it was after a seven hour flight from Sydney on a Fokker Friendship that he arrived in Alice Springs in late January 1975.
A plumber by trade, he was employed by John and Judy Dona at their Dona Sales business in Hele Crescent. In those days it was common practice to engage in a basic six month contract on the tools before being given an airfare to go to any capital city in Australia for a break.
Mo recalls how after the first six or eight months most tradies would take the money and live it up until they were broke, before returning to the job for another six months.  Mo was living at the Melanka Hostel at the time and this way of life went on for a couple of years.
In late 1976 or early 1977 he met Shorty Maclean, which led to his riding in a few motocross events and involvement with Arunga Park Speedway on the working bee side of things.
By 1978, Mo had met Angela Spangler and they were living on site at the speedway and Mo’s love for Formula 500s came to the fore when Arunga Park held its first Australian Formula 500 Title the same year.
When he and Angela went to Perth for a holiday in late ‘78, they returned with their own Formula 500 – complete with a B33 BSA engine and a Norton gearbox.
Shorty, while racing stockbikes and swinging on an outfit, became Mo’s pit crew.
In late ‘79 or early ‘80 the McCoskers went back to Perth for 12 months. Mo’s main aim was to do some racing and have a bit of fun before returning to the Alice in late 1980 so Angela could run her own florist shop.
In 1981, they bought out June Smith and Mo continued his passion for the sport, winning the Northern Territory Formula 500 Title. 
At the same time, life progressed, children were born and Mo assisted in the shop for a couple of years. By 1985 Mo had backed out of racing due to business commitments but remained involved with the Formula 500 division.
When Arunga Park once again held the Australian Titles in the following year Mo was heavily involved with the promotional side of things .
At the end of 1986, Darwin’s Northline Speedway was in financial difficulty so Mo moved to Darwin and became their manager for the next two years.
He was a little taken aback to learn a fortnight later that they were to host the ‘87 Australian Sprintcar Titles!
With only three months and an enormous amount of work to get the event organised, the title was successfully hosted in November 1986.
 Returning home, he continued to race another two or three seasons and became fairly competitive before destroying a race car.
Although more business commitments had to take first place, Mo served on the speedway committee on and off but stayed away from racing for the next 10 or 15 years.
He’s returned in the last few years and was heavily involved in promoting the ‘94 and ‘02 Australian Formula 500 Titles as well as the ones held recently.
These days, Mo’s become interested in classic bikes and restoration to a degree, particularly on the speedway side of things. He’s bought a couple of solos including a complete 1970 Mark 1 Neil Street Conversion bike and a nineteen-something 4 stunt, long stroke, JAP.
The Street Conversions were the very first of the 4 valves developed by Neil Street and Ivan Tighe. They were built especially for Street’s son-in-law Phil Crump, who was right up on the world speedway scene in those days.
Although Mo’s Street Conversion is pretty well complete apart from a missing carburettor, fuel cap, handlebars and seat, he tells me there needs to be a bit more research carried out on the JAP.
He’s hopeful that he may have sourced a carburettor from Darwin which hails from the same era as the bike.
With Shorty giving a helping hand, Mo intends to strip the Neil Street bike down first and have it sandblasted.
The idea is to rebuild both bike engines completely and take them back to as close to original as possible.
I asked if he intends to ride either of them.
He laughingly tells me that he’s never ridden a solo and besides, he’s “too old and fat and ugly now to hop on one”.
And he values his bones.
He adds that if the bikes come together nicely, he might let someone “have a pedal on them one day”.
About 12 months ago, Mo says he “went stupid” and bought a fully restored 1955 D Series Vincent Rapide – his little pride and joy.
This bike was originally found running a Mount Hagen sawmill in New Guinea: complete except for the wheels and handlebars and a few minor bits and pieces.
It has matching engine numbers, frame numbers and rear swing arm which is pretty rare to find.
The fellow who found it in the late ‘70s spent a lot of years rebuilding it, tracking parts and getting his money together for the rebuild. In the early ‘90s, he sold it to a fellow in Brisbane who then sold it to Mo. The jetting had to be sorted out for the Centralian climate and due to this it had a few hissy fits when it first arrived.
Mo doesn’t take her out that often but hopes she’ll stay in the area for quite a number of years.
Mo’s regular ride is his 2003 Anniversary Fatboy, which was bought when he went into the shop to buy a set of valves for his son’s Formula 500!
He says the Rapide probably doesn’t compliment his Harley but it doesn’t matter because as we get older we can afford these little luxuries and besides, the old girl’s bloody beautiful to ride!
Mo reflects on how age and time, along with business commitments affects people – particularly in the past couple of years when new business ventures have tied him up heavily.
He believes that as life goes on we should look back at things that happened and just enjoy it as we get a bit older.
He’s met a lot of really lovely people from speedway over the years, and could probably go anywhere in Australia and still have a good old chin-wag with people he’s raced with in the past.
On the other side of the coin there’ve been some real shockers but the good times far outweigh the bad.
I asked him if he has any other restorations on the horizon.
He says he’s still looking and will keep his ear to the ground – he’d like to track down a couple of old sidecars just for restoration; and although he can’t afford to buy a HRD at this stage, he’d love one regardless.
He has a couple of old Jawa engines at home which may end up as a restored Formula 500; and another thing he would passionately like to have would be along the lines of an old triple Kawasaki or a Suzuki water bottle.
The list seems endless but then it depends on whether a man ever gets the time to actually do it all or whether he’s got a big enough shed to put all the junk in!

Beanie Fest inspires a play.

Beanie culture has surely reached another level when a full-length play by an experienced writer draws its inspiration from the annual Alice Springs rituals around this no longer humble item of headwear.
Beanie Festival goers had the opportunity on the weekend to watch a reading of the play, Head Full of Love, by Alana Valentine, commissioned by Darwin Festival and being produced by them. It will be staged in Darwin in August and then at Alice Desert Festival in September.
A play about the developing friendship of two older women, one Aboriginal, the other white, meeting in Alice at Beanie Festival time might sound too warm, fuzzy and predictable, but it is saved, mostly, from these things by its characters taking on flesh and bones.
This is partly due to the authenticity of Colette Mann and Roxanne McDonald in their roles – even reading from their scripts – but also in good part to their dialogue, entertainingly full of cultural misunderstandings, which are nonetheless not over-played, as well as of quite intimate disclosures about their lives, which are often moving.
The beanie which Tilly, a resident of Hidden Valley town camp, is making to enter in the festival competition, is the thread holding the play together. It’s a story-telling beanie, with each of its bands of colour representing one of her family members.
As she tells their stories to Nessa, who’s fleeing a city life of loneliness, dissatisfaction and an episode of mental illness, Nessa responds in kind and little by little a touching portrait of the pair and their friendship emerges.
Nessa might sound a bit like a stereotypical empty white vessel waiting to be filled by meaningful relationship with Aboriginal people and culture, but despite her problems she comes across as having a quite a strong sense of herself, of what she wants from life and the courage to go out and get it.
Valentine, who has a string of writing credits and awards to her name, navigates most of the potential pitfalls of her subject matter well and has a good ear for dialogue.
Someone more expert might fault her representation of Aboriginal English but for me it mostly rang true.
The play is being directed by Noonuccal Nuugi man Wesley Enoch, also a reputed talent and recently appointed artistic director of the Queensland Theatre Company.

Art & music, today, tonight and pretty soon.

The Beanie Festival may be over but winners of the National Beanie Competition are on display at Araluen till July 25.
Pictured (above right) is Winged Aviator by Emma Bruce, winner of the New Wave Beanie Prize for a school-aged advanced beanie maker.
There were 14 prize winners in all, including a people’s choice.
• Then and Now looks back over 10 years of textile works by Alice artist Kathryn Frank.
She has explored many techniques and show includes Shibori works, wearable art, recycled “sustainable couture”, silk scarves and bags, as well as felted jewellery and scarves.
Opens tonight, 6pm, at Central Craft’s June Marriott Gallery and continues till July 14.
• Byron Bay’s the Lucky Wonders play tomorrow (Friday) night at the Firkin and Hound.
They are singer songwriter duo Jessie Vintila and Emma Royle, as well as Brent Calcutt on bass and Anastassijah Scales on drums, touring the country in their WonderBus.
Their debut single “Happy Pill” went straight to the top of the Triple J Unearthed Roots chart.
Their album, Thirteen O’Clock, is described as “a delicate blend of roots tunes with a pop underbelly”.
• One of Australia’s most recognized ukulele players, Rose Turtle Ertler (at left), is in Alice next Monday and Tuesday.
She’ll share her ukele skills in a workshop on Monday (call 0413 007 605 for info) and will perform at Annie’s Place on Tuesday.
Rose has being performing solo for over 10 years, tours regularly in Australia and has performed overseas at  Ukulele Festivals in New York (2008) and Auckland (2009).
All Rose’s instruments are vintage 1930s or ‘40s and will mostly be played acoustically, although for some songs, Rose  will return to her old style of Uke playing. 
• For youngsters, on school holidays art workshops at the Desert Park are continuing on Wednesdays.
July 7, 10am: How to Take that Perfect Shot (with your digital camera). $10, minimum age 10 years.
July 14, 10am: Botanical painting  with Patricia Weeks. $37 includes art supplies; minimum age of 15 years.
July 21, 9am: Jewellery Making. $10, minimum age 10 years.
July 28, 10am: Botanical Painting with Patricia Weeks. $37,15 years.
• Central Australian filmmakers are being called on to make new screen works of up to seven minutes for the Lens Flair competition.
The competition is part of the much-loved Cinema In the River project which will expand from two to three nights of screenings, on October 21 to 23, to include a showcase evening of winning entries.
Four free development workshops will be held in Alice in August.
The competition is an initiative of the  Alice Desert Festival and is supported by the NT Film Office.

NANCARROW ARROW: What a great time to get scared.

How exciting – a weekend where we get to make things that go bang as well as the opportunity to scare ourselves silly on the newest rides at The Show.
We have as yet managed to avoid the fun police who want to make our world into a safe and sanitary place in the Territory. That’s right – we still have the inalienable right to hurt ourselves in a myriad of ways using fireworks. Set them off in your face, shoot them at each other or that heart stopping moment when you realise you did not securely fasten the base of the fire ball launcher (as instructed) and run, run, run as blazing balls of coloured light smash into the walls and foliage all around you. Joy.
Of course it’s the near misses that excite, not the hits that people turn up presenting at the emergency ward, dazed and holding burned bits and wondering where it all went wrong.
So, I’m not the one to point the finger and say, “No you can’t”. That’s for the fun police to do. But be careful, the eye you save might be your own.
And then there is The Show to look forward to. Was there anything more exciting as a kid? Pestering parents and grandparents for jobs so you had spending money, the planning of showbags and the rides you would try. Heady days and you hadn’t even gotten there yet. The size of it, the noise, the smell of the pig pens – oh yes, what a place! Until you got lost, that’s when you’d realise that heaven could indeed turn to hell as you spun and turned and there was no one you knew, anywhere.
Then the next stage in Show life experiences, awkward adolescence. It’s never been a strong point of mine, chatting up girls and certainly not at an early age. I liked girls a lot, certainly thought about (dreamed) a lot about them and was even able to be friends with most. But in the game of teenage love I was generally on the bench when the first team ran out, unable to translate friendship into the snog that would, I was sure, change my life.
The Show helped things along a bit, one could present hard won toys to the object of desire, shout dagwood dogs and just occasionally, if gravity and the ride conspired together and the stars aligned, touch bits of girl accidentally that would take weeks of manoeuvring to achieve. If at all, in my case. Is it any wonder that I love The Show so much and look forward to it every year?
Except the Show bags, which is God’s way of telling me I’m getting old, far more effectively than my achy knee. I can’t do it, I have to go outside or else I spoil it by saying loudly “You’re going to pay how much for a plastic bag with a (enter latest fad here) blow up thingy and a packet of lollies?” It embarrasses the kid and the nice people who sell the bags unnecessarily. Supply and demand drives the market after all.
I used to be right into scary rides when I was a kid but now I know too much about metal fatigue and just how easily and silently nuts can undo themselves. Team that up with an active imagination and an overactive adrenal gland and I don’t really need to get on a ride at all. I can be terrified standing on Terra Firma, watching the screaming (and occasionally, vomiting) faces spin round and save myself ten bucks in the bargain. Due to peer pressure from wife and son I still go on and the knowledge of just how reckless I am being makes the thrill of getting off in one piece all the sweeter.

The highs and lows for backpackers in Alice. By ANNE-LAURE POLIAN.

Alice Springs, what a poetic name for a town: an oasis in the desert, a place where to quench your thirst, a refuge, a home and a love for a woman as the story says …
As far as I remember, I’ve always wanted to come to Alice and Uluru, to breathe the immensity, to feel the heart’s beating of the country, in the middle of that red nowhere.
The desire to see Australia dates to my childhood: I was 11 years old when one day my father returned home after having spent four months working and travelling in Australia, his luggage full of strange and amazing objects, his head full of tales and his eyes looking vague and sparkling while thinking about that distant land.
It was 16 years later, grown up and fed up with Paris when I decided to get rid of everything – job, flat, car – and jumped onto a flight for Sydney.
And because I somehow wanted to keep the best for the end, it still took me eight months to arrive in Alice.
I had heard during my travels so many different things about the town that I had no idea about what to expect. Some said, “Alice is so boring, there’s nothing to do there and so many Aboriginal people drunk everywhere, plus the place is dangerous at night”, while others said, “I loved Alice, a nice friendly town, I enjoyed the pubs during the few evenings I spent there and you will find lots of jobs”.
I was prepared for the worst. I thought I’d discover a flat dry sunburnt and miserable land.
 Instead when I arrived by the Ghan from Darwin, I saw yellow, red and green hilly scenery welcoming me. I was glad.
Now let’s have a closer look: hop off at the station, take the photo every tourist takes – the statue of the Afghan riding his camel – then jump in the Annie’s Place shuttle, arrive at the backpacker’s. As the name suggests, it’s a friendly place and you can hear good concerts there.
Let’s go into town and find a job or my bank account will soon have a hard time! It’s Sunday afternoon, the mall is almost deserted apart from a few Aboriginal people sitting on the ground, trying to sell their paintings: “Hey sister, come here come here!”
So I come closer and find that some of their paintings are quite nice pieces. But they’ve called the wrong person: I’m a backpacker, which means no money in the bank account, sorry guys!
They soon realise that there’s no coin to expect from me, so next question: “Hey sister, d’y hav’ a c’garette?” And because I want to be friendly and haven’t got any experience, I give one to the guy who’s just asked.
As a result, the guy next to the first one asks me for a cigarette as well, which I can’t refuse, then the third guy and the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh and the eighth and so on: it’s like the whole street had decided to converge on me at that very moment for a cigarette! Funny, but it’s the first and the last time it happens.
That is my first contact with Aborigines. While walking through the centre of town, which is rather pretty with its painted walls, I can’t help thinking that what travellers have said to me about Aborigines is unfortunately true: some of these once proud first inhabitants of the country wander or sit in the grass idle, neglecting themselves and drinking the whole day.
At night you can hear yellings coming from the river and no-one wants to know what happens there …
One morning, a few days after my arrival, while walking down the mall, I see a man and woman howling and punching each other.
The woman even picks up a stick and hits her partner.
I am almost tempted to interfere, but I know what would be the result: they would strike me, so I just walk away.
This situation is sad, I feel so sad for them, sad about that violence between themselves, but I feel angry when that violence finds its way against me or some of my travel mates. Because it happens: it’s not rare that someone finds their car in the morning without any intact glass windows.
One night at the YHA, at around 11pm, we are chatting by the fence near the river, when suddenly we see a shadow throwing at us a glass bottle.
It explodes on the concrete, hurting no-one. Then a second one arrives, plus cans.
Finally two young heroes come by the fence defying one of my friends to go out and fight.
“We are gangsters,” they say, “we live in the river, this country belongs to black fellows.”
They are right, this land moulded and shaped by their long presence and legends belongs, at least partly, to black people.
That’s why I would like to thank Aboriginal people for letting me stay in their beautiful country, but for the fights, sorry, we are not interested: peace and harmony would be a lot better. 
Not that the fault for that current separation between our different communities is the Aboriginal responsibility only.
For instance, why is there a charge for the toilets in Woolworths if it is not for preventing Aborigines from using them?
Everywhere else in Australia toilets are for free.
Plus the tragic history of white settlement is still deeply present in all memories. Since then, it seems that sadness and a feeling of aimless life inhabits lots of these people. 
But apart from the “gangsters of the river”, I have fortunately discovered that other kinds of Indigenous persons exist and that communication is really possible. In the mall, instead of peeking surreptitiously at these dark cross-legged seated figures and secretly taking pictures of them without asking for their permission, you can also come closer, be respectful and sit by the side of some groups, having a nice chat.
Then they’ll tell you their skin names (or tribal names), they’ll explain to you their family and relationships.
One will also tell you old stories like this little one: “A long long time ago, when my ancestor saw white people for the first time, she thought they were ghosts.” Their babies will smile at you, and what is cuter than a black baby smiling?
Now, what about white fellows?
I’d say very friendly, covered with tattoos and piercing, drinking beer at light speed and speaking weird English with a bloody hell accent! It makes it hard for poor foreigner ears!
As expected the best place to meet them is bars: cheers for Bo’s saloon and the Rock bar for their atmosphere and their musicians.
Overall, a special thanks for local associations like the “bush walkers”, who invite travellers to join them for their walks through the splendid landscapes of the MacDonnell ranges.
But it’s not because Australians are friendly that life is always easy for backpackers. First problem: how to find a place to live if you want to stay to work?
After two days at Annie’s Place, I am gently told to pack my things and go away because the maximum stay is three nights. All right, then let’s go to the YHA, thinking that now I can put down my luggage and rest, alas no. There’s as well a maximum stay here, of two weeks, great!
How long is this going to last? And what about the holy quest for jobs? Is Alice Springs the jobs’ land of plenty?
For sure there is more work here than in other areas, but it may be difficult to find a full-time job which allows us to live properly and save a bit.
And backpackers will be often offered jobs no-one else wants to do or with difficult conditions: “You have to ring us each morning very early to know if you are summoned to work half an hour later.”
But these difficulties are part of the deal: if the strange species of human that is a backpackers wants to go on travelling through these thousand of kilometres of Australian land, then there’s no choice but to be contented with whatever we find. Then comes the reward …
So now I am waiting for the sun to rise again over these mountains and plains, and leaving the town, its mixed colourful inhabitants and their contradictions behind me, I will head to the desert and sleep under the stars, dreaming of yellow, red and green.

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