July 22, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Alice won’t get Gillard grant: Regional centre but a whisker below required population.

Alice Springs misses out being even a contender for a share of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s promised boost to regional city housing, coming in under the 30,000 population threshold.
The Building Better Regional Cities Strategy was announced by Ms Gillard last weekend as she hit the campaign trail for the federal election on August 21.
Mayor Damien Ryan says Alice missing out drives home once again the consequences of the undercounting of the town’s population.
Dean Carson, Principal Research Fellow – Population Studies at Charles Darwin University, says undercounting at the Census is “substantial” and in some parts of the NT it may have been as much as 20% at the last Census in 2006. However, he says undercount is measured and accounted for in the official figures.
Says Dr Carson: “The estimates of population that the ABS uses are based on acknowledgement of that undercounting (and sometimes overcounting) and adjustment for it.  
“So it is these adjusted figures not the straight Census counts which are used as the official population estimates.
“These estimates are then updated every quarter between Census, taking into account births and deaths and migration.
“It is obviously a tricky business as Australia has no formal register of migration within Australia.
“The ABS uses Medicare registration data [but] a lot of people either don’t change their Medicare address when they move, because they are planning a short term move, or don’t change it for a while – until they next go to the doctor, for example. So it is really hard to track migration – and migration is a huge impact on population in the Territory, more so than other places in Australia.”
Dr Carson says it is quite possible that Alice Springs could have a much larger population than the official figures say, but that depends on what is meant by ‘population’.
“Are the government workers and contractors based in Alice Springs for a few months, or flying in and out regularly, Alice Springs population? Or do they still belong to Perth or Melbourne or wherever it is they consider ‘home’?
“Are Indigenous people, who have come in for health services and are spending a few months in town, population? Or do they belong to their home communities? “The ABS has a pretty strict definition – you can only have one ‘usual residence’ and it is where you plan to spend most of the year.
“We might look around and see a whole bunch of people we consider to be residents of Alice Springs, but who consider themselves to be resident elsewhere.
“But critically – is it Census undercount which deprives Alice Springs of claiming more population? Probably not – because undercount is measured and accounted for in the official figures.”
Figures aside, there’s no denying that Alice Springs is a regional centre, faces a housing shortage and has a strong demand for labour.
And in the context of Ms Gillard’s strategy “to get people to shift to regional cities”, the disqualification of Alice in the basis of population “is a great disappointment to me”, says Mr Ryan.
The Alice News put to Mr Ryan that the Federal Government has made a large investment in housing in Alice Springs, through the SIHIP construction program on the town camps.
Mr Ryan says that investment is appreciated but it is responding to an existing need, not supporting growth.
Country Liberals candidate for Lingiari, Leo Abbott, has also protested over the Alice Springs being “shut out” of the regional cities plan.
“This comes despite reports over recent months of people being forced to live in tents and caravans and of people actually leaving the town because they can’t find an affordable house.
“It’s staggering that the Member for Lingiari isn’t banging down Julia Gillard’s door for a share of the money on offer.”

More money for Yuendumu but none to keep pool open.

An investment of more than $2.5m, two thirds of it public money, and the initial benefits that it has reaped in a remote community, may be allowed to go to waste, at the same time as new investments of a similar amount of money are being made in the same community.
As the Alice News reported last week, the swimming pool in the western desert community of Yuendumu, opened with political fanfare less than two years ago, is facing imminent closure because no-one is coming up with operational funds to keep it open.
Will this become another example of the absurd stop-start investments that have dogged the development of remote communities for decades?
The pool cost over $2.5m to build, with the Australian Government, the Territory Government and the community, through royalties and donations, each contributing a third.
The funding agreement, a “Shared Responsibility Agreement” (SRA), for construction of the pool stipulated that the Australian and Territory Governments would not be liable for operational funds (an estimated $250,000 pa), rather that they would be sourced from other organisations.
Local member and Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton makes this point:
“Under the SRA other organisations at Yuendumu had agreed to make contributions to the continued operational costs of the Yuendumu pool.”
However, as the application for construction funds and the ultimate SRA was made, the political and financial context of the deal completely changed.
The application to the Pools in Remote Areas (PIRA) scheme was made on behalf of the then Yuendumu Council.
The funding was approved at the same time as the council was declared insolvent and since then community councils have been absorbed into the so-called super-shires.
In the initial planning the body that now has carriage of the pool’s operation, the Mt Theo-Yuendumu Substance Misuse Aboriginal Corporation, was only to become involved once the pool was up and running, as a community stakeholder, not as the operator.
When the council was declared insolvent, says Mt Theo CEO Susie Low, the interim council clerk contacted her to say that he would have to reject the funding offer.
Ms Low says her board did not want to lose the opportunity of a pool for the community, and instructed her to ask PIRA if Mt  Theo could manage the construction. PIRA agreed.
She says a pool steering committee was put together, made up of representatives from Australian and Territory Governments, Newmont Mines, Central Desert Shire and Mt Theo.
Among the projected sources of operational funding it identified, the agreement stated that “Traditional Owners, through GMAAAC (royalties association) has committed to provide substantial ongoing financial support for the operational costs of the pool”.
Ms Low says this support “was to be in the form of casual salaries for some of the lifeguards, and GMAAAC have continued to be true to this”, providing $50,000 per year for casual salaries across all Mt Theo activities, out of which some of the lifeguards are paid. 
Ms Low says the steering committee identified from the outset that the operation of the pool was not ‘core’ Mt Theo (youth) activity, and that Mt Theo would hand over to the shire after 12 months of operations.
Ms Low says she and Rowan Foley, then CEO of the shire, signed an MOU to this effect.
She says discussions with current shire CEO Roydon Robertson in October 2009 made it clear that the shire did not have the funds to operate the pool and if they took it on, they would in all likelihood have to shut it down.
The News reported last week that Mr Robertson is unaware of this MOU but says in any case the shire does not want to take on the pool without funding in place to operate it.
He also says that Mt Theo have not made a formal approach to the shire.
Mr Hampton says that the Department of Local Government provides the shire with funding for the delivery of services in the region.
“The Yuendumu pool is considered one of the services that should be provided using this funding,” says Mr Hampton, who would be “keen to work with shires, the Federal Government and local community organisations to ensure the pool stays open”.
Meanwhile, the office of Warren Snowdon, MHR for Lingiari and Minister for Indigenous Health – among the politicians only too glad to celebrate the opening of the pool – says they would “welcome the Central Desert Shire to contact our office to talk further about the issue”, while at the same time pointing to the latest funding announcements for Mt Theo.
These are $150,000 to help construct a pool manager’s house and $2,587,500 to construct stages 2 and 3 of the Walpiri Youth Development Complex.
Mt Theo, of course, is extremely grateful for this funding, but it raises some rather obvious questions.
The $150,000 (from the Aboriginal Benefits Account, which distributes mining royalty equivalents) actually comes on top of $400,000, also from the ABA, successfully applied for two years ago but only recently released.
So are we to have, as present circumstances would seem to indicate, a $550,000 house for a pool manager with no pool to manage?
And are we also to have significant expansion of infrastructure for Mt Theo-Yuendumu, in terms of this Walpiri Youth Development Complex, while already completed infrastructure, the pool, is allowed to go to waste?

Rent complaints harder in the NT. By

Tenants in the Territory wanting to complain about high rents would be discouraged by a  “completely excessive” requirement to provide a valuer’s report, costing around $1000, says Shadow Minister for Central Australia, Adam Giles.
The Alice Springs News disclosed that Consumer Affairs, which is a branch of the NT Department of Justice, before considering an application for a declaration of rent being “excessive”, requires “any paperwork that will support your claim: eg rent receipts; condition reports; copies of quotes, accounts or receipts for work on the premises,” according to the application form.
And the application also 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 (Alice Springs News, July 1).
We made enquiries with consumer affairs in Queensland, Victoria and NSW.
None of these require a valuer’s report paid for by the complainant.
In Victoria consumer affairs will send out their own inspectors, where necessary, to investigate rents.

Black and white paintings for The Mall, seat doubling as dunny will be removed. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Debate about people selling paintings in the mall has been entirely about the activity of Aboriginal artists, but non-Aboriginal artists will equally be able to apply for a permit, says Town Council CEO Rex Mooney.
The permits, whose conditions are likely to be voted on at next week’s council meeting, cover the selling of paintings only.
This is because once a permit is issued, the permit-holder will be covered by the Town Council’s public liability insurance.
This arrangement extends only to paintings “due to the low risk nature of these items in comparison with other potential items”, says Mr Mooney.
Meanwhile, the Uniting Church Council has written a “preamble” for the permit application and other suggestions which they are putting to council for consideration.
The greater part of the Todd Mall lawn area, where council wants to see the selling focussed, belongs to the Uniting Church.
By agreement with the church as the majority landholder the area is subject to public place by-laws and the enforcement of them by “authorised officers”.
However, the church council wants to see a positive tone permeate the whole issue, including the permit documents. 
“The church’s objective is to recognise the rich heritage that Alice Springs has as a place where travellers have met for eons, shared stories with one another and built relationships,” says Reverend Kate Fraser.
“Healthy boundaries about behaviour in a public place need to be part of the framework, but not the predominant feature.”
Rev Fraser says the green space of the lawns, opened up with the development of Todd Mall in 1987,  is an important part of the church relationship with the whole town.
The Alice Springs church is about to consult with the Northern Synod about the redevelopment of their landholding.
“What we ultimately will do will be an expression of the mission of the church and of who we are” says Rev Fraser. “We see ourselves as a sanctuary for travellers, a community of reconciliation and as connecting with the community of Alice Springs.”
Rev Fraser says one of the features of the redevelopment that she will be pushing for will be an accessible and free public toilet block, as an expression of welcome to the community.
She says she hopes the facility will deal with the “public toileting”, including defecating, that is a daily problem for the church in managing its grounds.
The issue has forced the church council to decide to have removed “for hygiene reasons” the S-shaped seat between the Church and Adelaide House, created as a community project.

Government may force alcohol traders to sell, despite the clean slate

The Licensing Commission may cancel the liquor licenses of three small traders in Alice Springs if they do not agree to sell them back to the government.
The traders are Hoppy’s Cash Store (North Stuart Highway), BP Gap (Gap Road) and Heavitree Gap Store (Palm Circuit).
The BP Gap licence has been held since 1962 and there has not been one single complaint against it.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Alcohol Policy, Delia Lawrie, says: “If proprietors don’t agree to the buy-back, then the Government will ask the NT Licensing Commission to consider using section 72 of the Liquor Act [which] allows the Commission to hold a hearing in order to decide whether to cancel a license which no longer meets the needs of the community.
“The Northern Territory Department of Justice undertook an assessment of take away liquor licenses in Alice Springs against current licensing conditions and standards.
“The three outlets identified under the buy-back were assessed as being inconsistent with current standards and would not have been granted under current licensing practices.
“The assessment for the buy-back of take away liquor licenses wasn’t based on volume of alcohol sold but rather the type of businesses and where outlets were located.
“All licensees will be compensated.
“If agreement on the amount can’t be reached then a court can determine a suitable amount.”
Other questions which the News put to Ms Lawrie included:-
• How come the BP Gap licence (started in 1962 and not a single complaint; Alice News, July 15) has just gone through a complicated and expensive licence renewal and amendment process?
The commission even commented about the uncertainty of the buy-back process. It seems one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.
• By far the biggest alcohol dealers here are Woolworths and Coles (not locally owned).
Their business will now be enhanced at the expense of local owners. Please comment.
• How much [of the buyback price] for that will be contributed by the NT and the Feds, respectively?
We did not receive a response to these questions.

Todd River: A bridge too late. COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.

The proposal for a bridge to replace the Wills Terrace causeway, under consideration by the Alice Springs Town Council, is not new.
The footbridge beside the causeway was constructed in the mid-1950s as a temporary measure to ensure residents of the new eastside suburb (now the Old Eastside) had access to the town proper whenever the Todd came down.
The footbridge was expected to last 10 years, to be replaced by a bridge to carry all traffic. Solidly built – each pylon post was percussion drilled into the riverbed – the distinctive footbridge remains an outstandingly successful civil engineering project for more than half a century. Why isn’t it heritage listed? (It is on the National Trust’s Register of Significant Places.)
Plans changed, and the Stott Terrace Bridge was built further downstream in 1978. This bridge provides the only vehicle access to the eastern side of town when the Todd is in moderate to heavy flow.
It was built to service the new Eastside and Sadadeen subdivisions but before there was any suburban development of the Golf Course area. It has long been evident this bridge has insufficient capacity to service the needs of the town’s eastern suburbs during major flows of the river.
It may seem excessive to build full-scale bridges over the normally dry Todd River but they afford a significant environmental benefit for the health of the river, too – they have a minimal impact disrupting the flow of water and deposition of sand. It is unnecessary to remove sand from the vicinity of the Stott Terrace Bridge, or the John Blakeman Bridge south of Heavitree Gap.
The same cannot be said of any of the causeways (including Taffy Pick Crossing, the notorious “casino causeway”) which seriously interfere with the natural flow of the river.
All, except perhaps the Schwarz Crescent crossing, are incorrectly engineered as they are built higher than the natural bed-level of the sand. Consequently, each time the river flows, sand piles up on the upstream side of each causeway but is eroded on the downstream sides, in effect creating a series of artificial cascades. This invariably requires the mechanical removal of the deposited sand.
The Wills Terrace causeway is easily the worst of a bad bunch – there is a clear difference of at least a metre in riverbed levels either side of the road.
But the problem has been considerably worsened by the extensive (and expensive) removal of sand from the riverbed adjacent to the town centre a few years ago as a flood control measure.
It is perceived by many people that the prevalence of couch and buffel grasses in the riverbed is increasing sedimentation of the riverbed through the town, increasing flood risk. This is incorrect.
One has only to observe the base of the trunks of the river red gums in the bed of the Todd to discern that, in fact, the natural level of sand has fallen.
The junction between the trunks and roots of the trees mark the riverbed level at the time of their germination, and many of the older trees near the CBD now sit well above the current sand level. These trees were present long before the introduction of the grasses; some may be older than the town itself.
The increase in the height of the Wills Terrace causeway and removal of sand downstream was unnecessary and is now causing serious erosion that is undermining some of these trees.
The stream pattern has changed, too, leading to undercutting and erosion of the river’s east bank, and all this from only minor to moderate flows of the river to date.
Considerable effort was made to fortify and buttress large river gums next to the causeway to assuage concerns of Aboriginal traditional owners but the trees further downstream are at increased risk of being toppled in a major flow as a result of this ill-conceived project.
The construction of a 12m wide bridge will cause the loss or damage to some of the trees protected by the earlier reinforcements but would be far more preferable than the current shoddy arrangement risking so much damage further downstream.
Unfortunately it is likely there will be a major flow of the Todd River long before the mooted Wills Terrace Bridge is built; and for some of the iconic big old river red gums it will be a bridge too late.

Process, not productivity? By KIERAN FINNANE.

The reconstruction of cyclone-devastated Darwin in the years 1975-76, at the same time as a massive housing and infrastructure program was pursued elsewhere in the Territory, puts into unflattering perspective the achievements of the present-day SIHIP (the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program).
When Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin on Christmas Day, 1974 half of all houses were destroyed, and of the other half  45% had suffered substantial damage to roofs and walls.
There was no water supply, no power and 90% of power distribution lines were destroyed. The majority of all roads were blocked by debris. Major commercial and public buildings had suffered degrees of damage, with an estimated 70% having lost their roof sheeting.
Against this background of total upheaval and personal hardship, and within six months, a $108m reconstruction program was authorised and committed, then a record for Darwin for even a 12 month period.
This is according to a report from the then Department of Construction, Northern Territory Region, 1974-76. This was a Federal Government department – self-government was conferred on the Territory on July 1, 1978.
A task force was assembled, assessed the damage, and produced a series of reports as recommendations for reconstruction activity.
In early February, 1975 an Interim Reconstruction Commission approved the calling of tenders for groups of 200 permanent houses up to a maximum of 2000.
A performance tender document for design and construction was prepared and advertised  in Darwin on February 20, 1975 and interstate on February 22 – not quite two full months after the disaster.
27 tenders were received and the commission examined in detail the lowest seven as to their technical, physical and financial capabilities.
"Investigations and negotiations were inevitably time consuming," writes the report's author, Director of Construction L. G. Redmond. He would have blanched at the duration of negotiations today.
Four contracts for a total of 1600 housing units (with an option to extend to a total of 2000) were awarded on May 15 "which meant that by the time the contractors built their worker accommodations and assembled their workforces, construction of houses did not commence until 1 July, 1975, leaving only five months of that dry season for construction".
Meanwhile, among other efforts, a huge weather-proofing program of residences still standing but damaged had taken place: 4232 houses and 473 flats had been weather-proofed by June 1975.
The first new house was complete by 8 December, 1975 – under a year since Tracy.
Thereafter "house unit turn-off increased rapidly to a maximum rate of nine units per day," writes Mr Redmond. 
Check this against the now notorious SIHIP chronology: the program was announced in April 2008, and although not a measure of the NT Emergency Response, the NTER was its background landscape – that is, a sense of urgency was meant to prevail. 
In May expressions of interest from building consortia were called for and the three successful consortia were announced in October.
Total funding for the scheme was $672m for 750 new houses, 230 rebuilds and 2,500 refurbishments of houses in remote Northern Territory communities and targeted town camps by the end of 2013.
Famously by July 2009 it became clear that over $40 million of the allocation had been spent yet not one new house had been built.
Work had begun on repairing houses in the Tiwi Islands, Groote Eylandt and Tennant Creek during May 2009, 13 months after the announcement of the scheme, and finally by August work had begun on the first new houses at Groote Eylandt.
The reasons for the delays and expense were various and have been investigated in a number of reviews and widely reported on.
One of the factors identified was the difference in perspectives of the NT and Australian Governments – a complexity that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission did not have to deal with.
Another was the employment of contractors at a much higher cost in a number of positions that would normally be expected to be filled by government officials.
Remoteness, of course, has been a factor but the upheaval, if not chaos in post-Tracy Darwin and that city's remoteness from the rest of Australia, makes a comparison in broad terms possible.
Although private interstate companies carried out the government-driven reconstruction of Darwin – leaving local companies free for the private sector rebuilding effort –  it was administered by Commonwealth public servants, rapidly reorganised after the evacuation of some among them.
And,despite the enormity of the effort in Darwin, it was not the only place in the Territory where major new construction was undertaken in those years.
In 1974-75 the construction of 80 new houses – the same number as expected to be built on Alice town camps under SIHIP –  in Alice Springs was authorised, and a further 24 flats.
This was followed in 1975-76 by a further 25 houses and another 24 flats.
Tennant Creek got 20 bedsitters and 20 other flats as well as 20 houses. And remote communities were also in the picture: Alyangula got three houses; Elliott got one; Woolwonga got two and various other buildings.
Three administration centres were built in Ngukurr (completed), Umbakumba (almost completed) and Maningrida (well advanced).
Docker River and Hooker Creek got health centres and staff accommodation units.
In these years Alice Springs also received its new post office, telephone engineering centre, CSIRO Rangelands Research Unit Stage 1, Braitling School, School of the Air, and the new Australian Government offices (Greatorex Building).
The Alice Springs Hospital was on the way to being completed.
The sealing of the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Erldunda was well underway, with the completion to the SA border expected by the end of 1976.
The dual carriageway along Telegraph Terrace in Alice, constructed by departmental "Day Labour", was near completion.
This list is not comprehensive but there's enough there to warrant the question, have we become masters of process, not of productivity?
Note: This interesting old report was picked up by a reader at a local school fete, complete with a personal note by Mr Raymond, the report's author, to an Alice resident who had shown him hospitality. He wrote in part: "Alice seems to be still on the move.
"I hope the tourist industry will continue to grow to support all the major facilities presently completed and proposed."

67 down, 683 to go

As of July 15, over two years since the announcement of SIHIP,  67 of the program’s new homes had been built and another 53 were under construction, according to Chris Burns, Territory Minister for Affordable and Public Housing. 
Almost 350 refurbishments and rebuilds had been completed with another 78 underway.
The locations of 67 new houses are: Tiwi Islands – 19, Wadeye – 17, Maningrida – 11, Alice Springs Town Camps – 8, Groote Eylandt – 6, Gunbalanya – 6.
The program is also providing training and job opportunities for Indigenous Territorians – over 35% of the SIHIP workforce is Indigenous, said Dr Burns.
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin on the same date said that the NT had exceeded its target for new houses by seven. 
She said the NT had refurbished 344 houses, exceeding that target by 192.
“At the Australian Government’s insistence, the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing [of which SIHIP is a part] was renegotiated in December last year when it became clear that progress was insufficient to meet the targets,” said Ms Macklin.
 “A new competitive process was established for the allocation of Australian Government funding to provide strong financial incentives for states and the NT to deliver on new houses and refurbishments.
“These reforms have created a renewed sense of drive and urgency across all jurisdictions.”

All in the family. MOTOR SPORT with CHRISANNE WALSH.

Janelle Carragher’s speedway sidecar career began by chance rather than choice.
Her husband Brian had been racing for about a year and a half, with Janelle’s brother Darren.
They had travelled up to Darwin for a race meeting and as Janelle recalls, “The boys were coming stone motherless last when they hit the only hole on the track that everybody knew was there!”
Consequently Darren had a broken collar bone just when their home track in Tennant Creek was going to host Mount Isa the following weekend.
On the way home, Brian and Darren had been trying to work out how they would get around this problem, when they both decided  – “You’ll have to do it, Janelle”.
Janelle went out for a practice, donning her brother’s helmet, the following Friday afternoon.
“When we came in, I didn’t realize I was speaking aloud and I said, ‘Please dear Lord, I’ll never do it again!’
“It was a bit like having kids, it was that kind of mentality, true story!” 
A junior solo rider loaned Janelle his helmet for her next ride and from thereon everything seemed to come together – she could actually see where she was!
It was 1984, Janelle was 24 years old and had only given birth to her second child, Arlen, a few months earlier.
Once her brother’s collar bone had mended, he went out and bought his own sidecar, leaving Brian and Janelle to become the tight-knit team they are today.
They fell in love with the sport and for many years travelled constantly between Mount Isa, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, enabling them to race nearly every single weekend.
 “We used to keep the nappy bag permanently packed along with our clothes bag,” says Janelle, who by then was the mother of three.
“We’d get home and I’d wash and re-pack for the next weekend away. We’d leave straight after work on the Friday, drive to Mount Isa and race, stay up all night socialising, have a barbeque breakfast and then drive back to Tennant on the Sunday. “Sometimes we’d stay too long in Isa or Alice and Brian would get dressed in the car as I drove and I’d drop him off to work on the Monday morning before driving myself and the kids home!”
Speedway had become a pastime that work interfered with!
One year they raced 37 or 38 meetings for the year and covered a total of 46,000 miles. Janelle couldn’t believe the mileage they got out of that set of tyres!
One memorable weekend in ’87 Brian and Janelle rode in Cairns. It was pouring rain. The clay track had a bitumen windrow and it sloped towards the infield. They watched a couple of competitors have a practice and thought it looked OK, before somebody took the grader out and removed the top layer of the track.
The first group went out on their new beaut machines and as they started, they just slid down towards the windrow because it was so slippery and wet. The Carraghers went out in the second group with their leathers soaking wet, and did the same thing. In the end, the promoters canned the meeting, leaving the competitors with their $10 start money. It was a long way to go for $10 but they both reckon it was well worth it!
But there also came a downside: on May 28, 1993 Janelle had a serious accident causing compression fractures to her T7 and T11 vertebrae, bruising to the brain and a broken toe. At the time it happened, a high windrow had been erected on the Tennant Creek track for the cars to put their wheel over. Trying to compensate for its height, Janelle went down on the side too soon, which dragged the bike into the windrow and finished the job. Janelle can remember going straight up in the air and straight down again before being knocked unconscious.
One of the solo riders was in the pits working on his bike and told them how he heard the crowd gasp and looked up in time to see Janelle in the air at the same height as the top of the fence.
Brian believes that when they hit the windrow, Janelle was trying to get back up over the bike and she was in the wrong spot when the bike came up under her and sent her flying.
Her experience of the accident was that St John was excellent but in hospital in Tennant Creek she was told that there was nothing wrong and to try and walk as much as possible.
Many weeks later after a visit to another doctor and going to Darwin for scans, the extent of Janelle’s injuries were uncovered but by then healing had commenced. Luckily, the bone could no longer slip out and put her in a wheelchair permanently.
Janelle was told to rest for 12 months. 
“You know why it happened,” she tells me, “you know how it happened but the worst thing in the world is not having any control over your life all of a sudden.
“All you want to do is go back out there because it wasn’t your decision to stop. I didn’t want to go out and watch – I wanted to race.”
While all this was going on, Brian was still racing with Shane Aldrick as his passenger. The following March – just 10 months later – Janelle received her medical clearance and was back on the track doing what she loved.
Brian and Janelle moved to Alice Springs ten and a half years ago and their two younger children Arlen and Melody are now also heavily involved in sidecar racing. Arlen, 26, is racing his own bike at Arunga Park while Melody, 24, is swinging for Scott Lohmann in Cairns.
Melody’s speedway career began at the age of 16 as a junior streetstock driver in one of Bob Baldock’s cars at Arunga Park. She always wanted to have a go on an outfit and finally had the opportunity at a practice session with the late Neil Anderson.
Like her parents, she loved it and has been racing ever since, commencing her first season as a passenger for her dad.
Arlen rode as a passenger for his dad in Tennant Creek last October and had his first ride here in February this year although he is yet to find a permanent passenger.
On the first night his carburettors let him down while he was leading and he didn’t get anywhere. The following night he won his race and was proud to be placed in the program with all the big guns.
“Arlen and Melody rode together once,” recalls Janelle.
“Arlen was on Brian’s bike with Melody on the side and as he went to turn out from the middle, all we could hear was Melody yelling ‘you’re going the wrong way’ at him.
“That was their first and final go at it together – it didn’t work out too well!”
I asked them how it feels to be racing against their own children.
“Pretty unreal,” was the reply.
Janelle laughs when she tells me how Arlen nearly beat his dad.
“It was the funniest thing. Brian and I were going down the back straight and as I went to go down for the corner I looked across and could see this huge grin through Arlen’s helmet. His eyes were like saucers and lit up like a Christmas tree.
“I grinned back at him before going down on the side of the bike and as I went to go down I saw Brian look back. He got the biggest hurry up because Arlen was coming around the outside but he wasn’t quick enough to get past us.”
Brian and Janelle haven’t raced against Melody and Scott yet. Organisers in Cairns would like bikes to go across for a big meeting in October but a family decision hasn’t been made at this stage.
“Our kids all grew up around speedway and our kids would rather watch the solos because the sidecars were all old hat to them,” says Janelle.
“The sidecars were a natural part of life and didn’t really mean anything to them.
“Now the two younger ones are both heavily involved”.
 Competitors who have raced against Brian and Janelle many years ago are now competing against the second Carragher generation.
Ex-Australian number one Gary Moon first competed against Brian and Janelle in ’87 and met them on many different occasions at various tracks before both Brian and Janelle, and Arlen and his passenger, competed with him earlier this year. Gary has also competed with Melody and Scott on many occasions in Cairns.
As well as giving the best part of the past 26 years to the racing side of speedway, Janelle has served on the committees in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
She has also managed the time to squeeze in her dedication to the CWA, work full time and raise her three children.
She shows true grit and strength in all she does and may she and Brian’s love for the sport continue for many years to come.

The talented Miss Sometimes.

She plays guitar, she sings and performs, she speaks Pitjantjatjara – all this picked up since coming to The Centre.
Now it is apparent that she can also draw.
Beth Sometimes’ first exhibition opens this Friday at Watch This Space.
She did a year at art school, her only bout of formal tertiary education, sometime before venturing into the desert.
Originally from New Zealand, later living in Melbourne, she arrived at Ernabella, an Aboriginal community in the far north of South Australia, in 2001, tagging along with artist J9 Stanton who was giving a workshop there.
She went on to volunteer at the art centre for a year, then took on the job as coordinator for eight months, before moving on to other projects, notably Big hART’s Ngapartji Ngapartji and its offshoot production, Nyuntu Ngali. In the course of all this she picked up the Pitjantjatjara language, becoming a fluent speaker, able to work with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service.
And she also taught herself guitar “when I was bored out bush”. 
Looking back, she talks of the “abundance of love, interest and enthusiasms” she had then for the people and the country, as if these feelings belonged to someone else.
They’ve changed certainly, experienced “a maturing, preceded by a kind of death, if that’s what you call burnout”, she says.
“Originally I had no drive other than connecting with the people but over the years I became increasingly involved with projects, that had responsibilities and necessary outcomes pertaining to funding.
“I became more and more frustrated with people on both sides.”
Now she’s looking for fresh ways to channel her creative energy.
The exhibition works its way through these emotions, striking an elegiac note, coupled with affection and playfulness.
Almost all the drawings are portraits. Sometimes works from photographs she has taken and has the skill to produce a convincing likeness, but the drawings are more than this – they achieve an emotional presence.  
Several of them blend two figures – like playing cards – some the same person, some different people, and they are mounted on boards that are able to spin.
This makes it possible to choose which way to see the figures and  has a metaphorical meaning for Sometimes: “I’m looking at the way we all have the capacity to put a spin on our lives and see what it is we want to see.”
She takes this theme further with 50 spinning tops which will feature on opening night, handcrafted by her wood-turner father, and by her exhibition title, “gold is spun with the hands and tongue”.

NANCARROW ARROW: There is a Moose in the Hoose.

No, there isn’t a refugee ruminant from Canada roaming the streets of Alice Springs to trouble you.
The full sentence should run (Scottish accent please), “thair us a wee moosie in the hoose but ah dinnae ken where ut is” which is lowland Scots for “there is a mouse in the house and I don’t know where it is”.
Monsieur Mouse reveals itself in many ways, but most particularly by the gnawing sound in the bedroom roof when I’m trying to sleep in. I assume that it has escaped the inclement weather by coming indoors and does not wish to leave. And I should probably say they, as in my experience there is no such thing as one mouse.
Rather like immigrants to another country, dad mouse move in, works hard to make a nest and invites the wife and kids to come and enjoy the benefits of the new world. This would be OK except I don’t want boarders of the squeaky persuasion, thanks very much.
I prefer my food un-nibbled and my rest undisturbed by crunching noises. The street full of barking dogs (including my own) is quite sufficient to get me out of bed on the weekend.
This is not the first encounter I have had with rodents invading my patch. Our house was the only one on the hill when we built there, surrounded by wheat fields and sheep grazing quietly on the pasture. This rural isolation was idyllic except for the fact that when it came to beasties moving in for the winter, we were the only place available.
So we had mice, not in plague proportions but certainly the traps were kept a-snapping most of the year.
There was however, a more substantial nocturnal visitor to the house. This fellow mocked the small traps baited with bacon rind and went for the fruit bowl, where it caused major damage.
Mum took one look at the teeth marks the next morning and decided to upgrade the armoury, purchasing a rat trap that very day. For that was what we had folks, a fruit loving rat.
I can’t for the life of me remember what we baited the trap with (an apple tied on?)  but I do remember the dog being locked out of the kitchen for several nights before the fateful snap woke me briefly (my room was above the kitchen) and I went back to sleep satisfied that the rat issue had been dealt with swiftly and humanely. Oh, how wrong I was.
We used to have a stray kid wander in to the house at this stage (more houses had been built by then), chasing a second breakfast. He was about three at the time my sister was five years old and he would wander in, have toast with her and disappear again when she went to school.
As my room was above the kitchen I would usually start my day being woken up by little voices chirping away as Mum got the breakfast on.
Not this day. I was half awake and considering getting up when I head the most solemn little voice say very quietly, “Oh, the poor mousie”, followed by Mum swearing quietly and my sister crying.
I came downstairs to find the rat, at over 60 cm head to tail, in a huge pool of its own blood. The trap had caught it across the bridge of its nose, smashing it and causing it to bleed to death and asphyxiate at the same time. Except it wasn’t dead, pink froth bubbled up with every tortured breath it took.
Needless to say it was quickly dispatched and the mess mopped up in a manner that would have satisfied the CSI people that are so common on TV these days.
Hmm, perhaps the mouse can stay. Or maybe the dog can earn its bones and become a mouser …

LETTERS: Aborigines need jobs not programs.

Sir – Three cheers for straight-talking Scott McConnell of Ingkerreke Commercial (Alice News, July 1) who is struggling to create private sector jobs for local Aborigines.
Government-funded employment programs are well-intentioned but are no substitute for the real world of work, where most Australians spend a fair amount of their time. 
Working in a private sector setting builds skills and self-confidence, and is the way forward into the modern world, not harking back to the past and living in the bush.
When I first visited Alice 20 years ago I was shocked to see ragged-looking Aborigines of both sexes lining up in liquor stores and staggering out weighed down by gallons of alcohol. 
I could not believe that the government allowed this to go on.
Many years later, nothing much has changed. 
Governments at all levels are weak, scared of being labelled racist or simply do not care.  The binge drinkers are still laughing all the way to the Todd River. 
Thousands of Aborigines, including children, are condemned to suffer the stress and trauma of dealing with alcoholics among their close family members.
All the Aborigine problems are well-known – poor health and hygiene, substandard housing, poverty, lack of education and skills, unemployment, alcoholism, drugs, gambling, self-harming and criminal activities. 
So complex and inter-related are these problems that it is difficult to know where to begin tackling them.
It would be wonderful if simply increasing government spending automatically led to a better life for Aborigines.  But expanding government programs is failing to deliver results because they target every problem except the most important one of moving Aborigines into private sector jobs.
Instead governments offer welfare or subsidized work programs, but welfare is the number one enemy of progress for Aborigines.  Welfare is even more tempting and destructive than the grog because lifelong welfare destroys motivation, ambition and self-esteem.  Every welfare payment is another nail in the Aborigine’s coffin.
A terrible mistake was made when cattle stations were forced to provide white fella wages and conditions to their Aboriginal workers.  Instead of offering them alternative jobs the government simply dumped many families on welfare.
Of course there are strong and independent Aboriginal families where members have a job, but there need to be many more of them if the gaps between Aborigines and non-Aborigines are ever to be closed to some extent.
Short-term welfare is no problem, but living on welfare long-term can cause claimants to become completely dependent on government hand-outs and live a very restricted life of stay-at-home lethargy and DVD watching.
Instead of having a positive, confident, outgoing attitude, they regress to a victim psychology of despair and ‘why do anything?’ apathy.  They blame everybody and everything for their impoverished situation except themselves and the bad choices they have made.
Lifelong welfare claimants have no dreams of owning a car or their own house, pool and garden.  They have no incentive to work hard and succeed in any occupation to achieve the Aussie dream of a better life for themselves and their family.  They have no desire to save up and go backpacking around India or Europe.  Indeed, they can hardly summon the energy to get up in the morning.
Lifelong welfare dependency is the primary cause of the many problems facing Aboriginal communities.  Yet few people recognise this and make jobs the highest priority.  For instance, money spent on education is wasted if the children (and their carers) see no purpose or benefit in it because welfare provides money from the cradle to the grave in return for doing nothing.
A private sector job provides discipline, interaction with work colleagues of all races and ages.  It encourages a feeling of self-respect, and a precious taste of independence, of doing something yourself and not just relying on others for everything.  Providing for your own family instead of living on hand-outs brings a sense of responsibility and pride, giving a purpose and meaning to life.
With a real job comes a need to get up on time, and to save up and buy a car or bicycle to drive or ride to work.  Work gives a structure to the day, a reason not to binge drink, and an introduction to the modern globalised world.  Work provides an identity, a sense of achievement and a benefit to the wider community.
Long term welfare provides an income, but encourages laziness, alcoholism, a sense of failure, teenage pregnancy and often kills off positive attitudes, initiative and ambition.
Most government funding for Aboriginal affairs is counterproductive and only increases welfare dependence, helplessness and deskilling.  What is desperately needed are independent, self-confident individuals who can stand on their own feet, and families that do not want or need government help.
The aim should be for all Aborigines to have savings accounts, mortgages and passports just like run-of-the-mill Australians. 
Living in remote areas, living in rented accommodation, and living on welfare should all be discouraged and gradually phased out.  This means a complete reversal of present policies.
Aborigines are just like other Australians – they need a job and their own house.  Yet while the government tries to achieve this for non-Aborigines, it provides Aborigines with the opposite – lifelong welfare payments and segregated rental accommodation.
Unemployment is an evil for everyone, not just for whites, but until a government recognises this as the key issue, very little progress can be made.
Martin Robinson
Alice Springs

Painting sellers

Sir – There are no ‘others’ on the Flynn Church lawns, as was quoted last week in “String of Conditions proposed for mall art sellers” (Alice News, July 15). On the contrary, this site has a heritage of welcome “to all comers” (Alice News, April 27, 2006). This space is Arrernte country; Mparntwe is a place where traditionally Aboriginal Australians of The Centre camped together respecting customs and protocols of Arrernte custodians and owners.
The land was gifted by the colonial government to the Presbyterian church for the benefit of the whole community of which it was a part: Sunday School, dances, mah-jong and nursing care were available to the whole community.
When a church was finally built in 1956, the first act of the congregation was to become united with the neighbouring Methodists as one of the first United Churches in Australia.
Flynn himself had hoped for a ‘cathedral’ in the centre of Australia shared by all faiths. When the Uniting Church and Town Council developed their agreement for public access across the site in the 1980s, paths and lawns were specifically designed to encourage Aboriginal mothers and children to rest on the lawns.
When the NT government’s Alice in 10 program explored ‘redeveloping the CBD’ in Alice Springs in 2007-8, the Flynn Church lawns seemed the obvious place for designing a Welcome place, where diverse people could meet and come to know one another.
It greatly saddens me when any one subpopulation of this shared community would believe they had the right to “withdraw hospitality” (Alice News, July 15) or impose conditions above and beyond existing laws and by-laws that govern public behaviour for all of us, on any other group that shares this space. The proposed conditions on lawn artists on the Flynn Lawns create judgmental division, not reconciliation. The history of this community shows that we can be, and have been, better than that.
Perhaps a response to the stated concerns are to better address the needs of our community members – readily available drinking water fountains, culturally appropriate toilet blocks, Town Council and Church staff involved in ongoing cultural awareness training, community strategies to address racism, promotion of Lhere Artepe’s cultural protocols – and to focus on welcoming lawn artists into this space, after so many years of persecution under past by-laws and regimes.
I hope that the tenor of any “workshops” negotiating the detail of any conditions on lawn artists is one of redressing past poor treatment of lawn artists, and finding ways to make their participation easier, not harder.
I would also assume that lawn artists or their representatives would be part of any discussions about or affecting them, if reconciliation is genuinely intended in this process.
“Positive interaction” with lawn artists is not just for the tourists.
In the Gospel of John 14:2 Jesus describes God saying: “In my father’s house there are many rooms...” – surely there is space for all of us in the heart of our community.
Tracy Spencer
Alice Springs

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