September 30, 2010. This page contains all major
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Uranium: what consultation? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The three major lobbies in Alice Springs, the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Central Australia, say they have not been consulted by the NT Government on its decision announced this week to oppose the planned Angela Pamela uranium mine south of the town.
This is contrary to claims by Chief Minister Paul Henderson in a media release on Tuesday that “we have listened to the concerns and views of the Alice Springs community”.
Mr Henderson’s announcement came a little over a week before the Araluen by-election on October 9.
Deputy Mayor Brendan Heenan says the council was still in the process of making up its mind about the project: “The council still does not have a view,” he says.
Arrangements had been made for a presentation by water expert Graham Ride.
“We want more information,” says Mr Heenan.
“There are different points of view in the council.”
He says the government had not approached the council for its views on the mine: “Not at this stage.”
The chairman of Tourism Central Australia, Ren Kelly, says neither he nor the group’s manager Peter Grigg had been asked by the government for their views on the issue.
“We have not made any decision,” says Mr Kelly.
The association surveyed its 400 members last year, asking them whether they were in favour of uranium exploration on the Angela Pamela site.
Mr Kelly says there was a “reasonably strong margin in favour, enough for us to say we are in favour of exploration”.
The Chief Executive of the NT Chamber of Commerce, Chris Young, said the first he heard of the government’s intentions was on an ABC report on Tuesday morning.
Mr Young, who is based in Darwin, says the chamber’s office in Alice Springs, where the chamber has 300 members, would have told him if any consultation had taken place here.
(The organization’s Alice Springs chairperson, Julie Ross, and deputy, Steve Shearer, are both on leave.)
“There was no consultation at all,” says Mr Young.
“Our committee in Alice Springs discussed the deposit prior to today.
“The general view was that it was good for the local economy, and that’s the view of the chamber as a whole.
“We have no objections to uranium mining” provided safety considerations are followed.
Mr Young says he disagrees with claims that uranium mining is bad for tourism: “Kakadu National Park has a uranium mine right in the middle of it and it doesn’t affect tourism.”
Country Liberals candidate for Araluen Robyn Lambley says: “The major concern people are expressing is the proximity of the mine to Alice Springs and its potential environmental impact.
“We have been waiting for environmental impact reports to indicate whether this mine could be dangerous to our health and our future.
“To our knowledge these reports have not been provided. The decision today allays the fears and concerns of many Alice Springs people.
“The timing of Mr Henderson’s announcement would suggest a political motive, however the Country Liberals support the government on this one.”
Labor candidate for Araluan, Adam Findlay, in a media release said he had been “receiving feedback very strongly while doorknocking the electorate that residents do not want a mine on their doorstep”.
He was “delighted” that the NT Government had “listened to the wishes of the electorate”.
Mr Henderson did not respond to requests from the Alice Springs News for an interviews.
Executives for mining company Cameco were overseas. Decisions about the mine ultimately rest with the Federal Government.

IT award for Territory’s only philosophy teacher. By KIERAN FINNANE.

In all of the Territory’s state schools there’s only one teacher of philosophy – Penny Whiley, who’s based at Centralian College.
Her students are scattered from Darwin to Alice, with a handful in Katherine, Jabiru and Nhulunbuy, 36 of them all up, 17 in Stage 1 (Year 11), 19 in Stage 2 (Year 12).
That they can study the subject at all has been made possible by Miss Whiley’s use of information technology. This week she was awarded the 2010 Microsoft Innovative Teachers Award for the Northern Territory.
And this for a woman who describes herself as “a luddite”.
“Two years ago I couldn’t even cobble a Powerpoint presentation together.
“I could scarcely use a mobile phone!” she says.
Now she’s a pro and says it has renewed her sense of excitement about teaching.
Distance education is not new, and the Schools of the Air have long provided for voice contact between teacher and students.
What’s possible now and essential for the study of philosophy is having lively, real time discussions between the whole class and their teacher, using video conferencing technology and MSN Messenger.
The on-line classes are scheduled twice a week.
Instead of filing into a classroom, students log on and Miss Whiley admits them – this includes the Alice Springs students who, although they’re in the same room as Miss Whiley, communicate with her and their fellows in the Top End via their laptops.
They can all see her on their screens but in class discussion the students can choose whether they want to be seen – up to 10 at any one time – or communicate in a “chatroom” using text.
These lessons are recorded and stored on-line so that students can go back to them to revise – particularly useful if someone has missed a lesson.
Discussion is guided by a series of Powerpoint materials as well as by Miss Whiley’s verbal input.
When a student wants to say something they use a “raise hand” icon and Miss Whiley invites them to speak.
They can be put into small discussion groups called “breakout rooms” to battle out questions like “What is freedom?” or “What is friendship?” and then come back together.
In between the two on-line sessions the distant students have to use their virtual classroom to work on their assignments, while the Alice students have the advantage of three more hours of direct teacher contact.
This seems to be a question of resourcing and will hopefully change in the future, but Miss Whiley goes the extra mile to fill in the gaps for her Top End students, using email and phone if necessary.
The virtual classroom is on a secure website called the Moodle.
It’s got most things that you’d expect to find in an actual classroom – resources like the Encyclopedia of Philosophy and relevant films, both dramas and documentaries, course information, the off-line activities that the students need to do including due dates, presentation tools such as Office, Photostory and MovieMaker that the students can use, and the students’ work complete with visuals, just as if it had been thumb-tacked to a wall.
There’s also a philosophy forum, where students can pose questions (in writing) to one another.
A sticky one recently was “Is God real?”.
“They battled it out for two weeks. I finally had to put an end to it because the student who’d asked it was getting worn out,” says Miss Whiley.
There’s still room for good old-fashioned books and the Alice classroom at least is well equipped with some weighty tomes.
While working with the technology has been a learning curve for Miss Whilely, she says the students have taken to it “like ducks to water”.
They feel as closely associated as they would if they were in a standard classroom: “We have a lot of fun and I never have attitude problems with this mode of learning,” says Miss Whiley, who will go on now  to represent the NT at the Microsoft Regional Innovative Education Forum taking place in Thailand in March 2011.

Trials in Alice and Darwin delayed as jury array quashed by full court. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Full Court of the NT has found that the Sheriff failed to summon jurors in accordance with the law, resulting in the quashing of the jury array in Alice Springs.
This has led to the trial of the two men accused of the murder of Ed Hargrave, originally due to start on September 14, being pushed back to March 7 next year.
The men, Julian Williams and Graham Woods, both Aboriginal, have pleaded not guilty. When their trial commences they will have been in custody for almost two years.
Mr Hargrave, a non-Aboriginal man, died in April, 2009.In the Supreme Court in Alice Springs on Monday Justice John Reeves, in formally quashing the jury array, said any other matters requiring a jury trial in the current sittings of the court would also be affected.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said one other trial, due to start on October 4, has been adjourned to a later date.
The same procedures had been used by the Sheriff to summon jurors in Darwin, and one trial there has also been affected.
In this trial, due to start yesterday, there was a challenge to the array last Friday via oral application. The application was allowed and the trial was re-listed to start on 22 November.
In relation to other jury trials in both districts already conducted during the current sittings, the spokesperson says no appeal can be made as the challenge to the array would have had to be made before the jury was selected.
Monday’s quashing of the jury array was the result of the Full Court’s answer to one of the legal questions put on behalf of the accused men, which asked whether the Sheriff had failed to summon jurors in accordance with the law.
Lawyers acting for the accused had also challenged the validity of the Juries Act (NT) on the basis of inconsistency with the Racial Discrimination Act and infringement of the Australian Constitution.
The Full Court did not uphold these parts of the challenge.
The reasons for the Full Court’s decision are not yet available.
The court heard, among a number of issues raised, that the disqualification of people randomly selected from the electoral roll for jury service was done by a body, NT Safe, a division of NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services, without specific authority to do so.
This procedure had seen the disqualification – most likely on the basis of serving or having completed a sentence of imprisonment within the last seven years – of 25.4% of people from the list.
This was described in the hearing by Justice Reeves as a “startling figure”.
John Tippett QC, appearing for Mr Woods, said that the result had the “distinct appearance of a lack of fairness” and “a miscarriage of justice”, which not only has to be done, but be seen to be done.
Acting Chief Justice Dean Mildren was less surprised, given the “very extensive mandatory sentencing provisions we’ve had in the Northern Territory over a very long period of time” and the multiplying effect of them over seven years.
Also appearing for Mr Woods, lawyer Russell Goldflam provided a comparative disqualification and exemption figure from Victoria –  0.3% – as well as a NSW estimate of 0.5% of the general population over the age of 21 having received a prison sentence.
He described the disparity between these figures and the 25.4% figure as “gross”.
He also made submissions about the NT’s disqualification provisions failing to distinguish between short-term and long-term prison sentences (and hence the degree of seriousness of the offence).
He argued that there is implicit discrimination in the disqualification provisions in that they disproportionately affect Aboriginal people, who are over-represented amongst the prisoner population (83% of the NT prisoner population in 2008 was Aboriginal).
The broad net of the disqualification provisions contributes to a skewed result in the jury array, an “unrepresentativeness”, which together with other deficits in the system infringe on Mr Woods’ rights to a fair trial and a jury trial, argued Mr Goldflam.
He said Mr Woods, like an ordinary Australian, will take “the cards he’s dealt” but not if the deck were stacked against him.
He was not arguing that a jury panel must be made up of a proportionate number of Aboriginal people – as true random selection would not necessarily achieve this –  but rather that selection procedures must provide for the possibility of representativeness.
Luck of the cards might produce an all white jury panel, said Mr Goldflam, but that would not be complained about if the panel had been fairly arrayed in the first place.
Among the other deficits in the system, argued by Mr Tippett, was the mailing of summonses, given the way that mail is delivered to residents of the town camps.
It is in fact not delivered to town camps, but to Tangentyere Council where it is held for approximately six weeks to be collected although only small proportion of it ever is (these arrangements are expected to change next year as part of the Alice Springs Transformation Plan).
Mr Tippet argued that this service of summons does not comply with the Juries Act, as the mail is not delivered to the summonsed person’s address, and that this skews the jury panel.
He pointed out that of the jury array that has now been quashed, 14 people had addresses on town camps and none had responded to the summons.

Planning not profit will make Alice a better place, claims a new group.

Town planning activists say they are banding together so the future of Alice Springs isn’t left in the hands of business and real estate interests.
Their lack of confidence in the NT’s planning processes has prompted them to launch Coalition For A Better (or FAB) Alice with the aim of developing a “big picture” vision for the town.
Some of the recent decisions by the Planning Minister, Gerry McCarthy, and his Future Alice steering committee (actually appointed by Delia Lawrie when she was Planning Minister) have been the last straw, seen as “jeopardising the long-term sustainable future of our town”, says member of the group, long time planning and heritage campaigner as well as architect, Domenico Pecorari.
Other participants in early discussions have been Ruth Apelt of the Arid Lands Environment Centre, and David Havercroft, Central Australian Policy Officer for NT Shelter, with a  focus is on ensuring appropriate provision of housing.
The intention is to set up Coalition FAB Alice as a central “hub” linking the expertise of various organisations and individuals that already exist within the town.
The group would like to see the hub as both an actual physical space as well as a “virtual forum” where people could “drop in” in the mode that suits them, to peruse information, share ideas, respond to questions from the group and each other.
The goal – given that governments, both Territory and local, have failed to achieve it, says Mr Pecorari – would be to develop a Town Plan that is environmentally, socially, culturally as well as economically viable and sustainable.
It would incorporate the good work already existing in numerous reports, papers and plans which is presently not being acted upon.
And it would include consideration of external impacts on the town, such as “peak oil” and global warming.
Having the input of all interested parties and townspeople, it would reflect a united vision for the town and not just the interests of those in the business and real-estate industries.  
The coalition will soon be calling on the government to halt all progress on urban development south of the Gap until this work is done.
“We intend to go back to the original outcomes of the Future Alice Forum and build upon those with ideas based upon data and statistics rather than the present ‘gut feelings’ of our political leaders, none of whom are qualified to make such important decisions on our futures,” says Mr Pecorari.
“The longer-term interests of the town have already been undermined by the Minister’s decision to proceed with suburban-styled residential development at AZRI, a move which has seen an avalanche of similar proposals for the Alice Springs Airport land, the Old Drive-in site, Ragonesi Road, all using the ‘exceptional development permit’ system.  
“All of these planning decisions have been, or will be made without any study of their environmental, social / cultural or economic outcomes beyond the political and taxation benefits to the NT Government, additional ratable property for the Town Council and financial benefits to developers and the real-estate industry.
“We believe that the town is being saddled with an increasingly unsustainable way of life that we, as its citizens, will all have to pay for in the future as Alice becomes a needlessly more expensive place in which to live.”
The Alice News put to Mr Pecorari that the priority many in the community is to simply expand the number of dwelling units available and this has put pressure on governments to come up with some quick fix solutions.
Mr Pecorari says a more economical, attractive and rapid solution could be achieved by increasing the density in existing suburbs, especially around neighbourhood nodes.
He says he has identified blocks of land within walking distance of the suburban shopping centres – Flynn Drive, Milner road and Northside –  suitable for medium density development, that would increase housing capacity on each block six-fold.
There are enough such blocks to produce additional dwellings equivalent to the proposed subdivision at AZRI, he argues, with the extra benefit of a much lower carbon footprint due to minimised transport requirements.
“You could do good quality, secure developments, with mixed one to three-bedroom residences, almost creating little villages,” he says.
“I don’t believe we need to go outside our current suburban footprint to meet the medium-term needs of the town.
“Apart from the social benefits this would result in significant savings on infrastructure expenditure.
“The Power and Water Corporation could focus on improving trunk lines to specific points rather than chasing unplanned developments all over town.
“And transport could similarly be systematically improved.”
Mr Pecorari is providing these ideas by way of example rather than as a platform of Coalition FAB Alice.
The point of the work of this group will be to base all proposals on carefully researched and substantiated data collection and analysis.
The coalition will be officially launched at this Saturday’s DesertSMART Eco Fair at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
Ruth Apelt is organising speakers for a “Talk of the Town” panel discussion at 12.30pm, but will also work on a more structured forum, where hopefully members of the Future Alice steering committee will speak to the public for the first time.
The group have welcomed a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to conduct “a preliminary inquiry on the degree to which principles of sustainable development have been, and are, being incorporated into planning decisions in Alice Springs”, as well as the apparent decision to extend the deadline for public submissions in response to the planning reports, “Built Form Guidelines” and “Residential Capacity”.

The old ladies of Chewings Street. By ANNE PYE.

Up until about two years ago there were three old ladies, all long widowed,  who had lived in Chewings Street in Eastside from the time houses were first built there in the 1950s when they were still young mothers and wives.
These women had all been very involved with the Alice Springs community and their histories are closely intertwined with that of the town.
The first of them to come to Alice Springs was Agnes Dubois (nee Draper). She was born out at Hamilton Downs in 1914 in the hills behind the old homestead. Her mother was an Arrernte woman.
Agnes (pictured) grew up with her four siblings in Alice Springs, where her mother worked as a domestic for the Commissioner of Police, Robert Stott. She went to school at the Telegraph Station, where her teacher was Ida Standley. 
As a young woman, Agnes worked as a domestic at the Residency, used by the local District Officer. (Her history there is detailed in one of the Residency displays.)
She was married in 1938 in the old Methodist Church on Bath St to Roy Dubois, a wolfram miner from Hatches Creek. They spent their early married years working together at Hatches Creek, Huckitta Station and Lucy Creek. 
Roy enlisted during World War II and got sent to Borneo about 1942. Agnes stayed in Alice and worked as a laundress from their home in Todd St. 
With their four children they moved into Chewings St in 1952, next door to the Burrows family. As was common at that time the family lived in the shed at the back of the block while they built the house they would eventually move into.
Roy had one of the first taxis in town during the ‘50s.
The family lived happily in Chewings St until Roy died in 1977. Agnes stayed on in the house with the children, in whom she instilled a strong work ethic. She was always a keen gardener and grew lots of vegetables at a time when that was the most reliable way to get your greens. Agnes died, aged 94, at the Old Timers Home in January 2009.
• • •
Joan Higgins (nee Scott) was also a long time resident of Chewings St.
She had first come to town as a Voluntary Aid Detachment at the Alice Springs Hospital when it was taken over by the Army after the bombing of Darwin in 1942. She stayed until 1945 while Alice was a major staging post between Adelaide and Darwin with thousands of troops passing through. The VADs (later nurses’ aids) lived in tents, washed with cold water and worked 12 hour shifts six days a week.
It was also the start of a life of partying as they picnicked at the local waterholes, went to dances, played sport and drank their issue of two bottles of beer a week. 
After the war ended Joan went to Adelaide where she married Jack Higgins whom she had met as an army orderly at ASH.
When they returned to Alice in 1946, Jack worked as a kangaroo shooter before getting a job as stores manager with the Commonwealth Department of Transport & Works in 1948. He worked there for the rest of his career.
Joan was best known around town in her role as director of the Youth Centre on Wills Terrace. She volunteered there for many years, before she became the director in 1966.
At this time the Youth Centre was also a community and fitness centre hosting weddings, balls and public meetings.
Joan remained until her retirement in 1989. She was thus an important presence for local youth from the 1960s to the 1980s. One of her proudest moments was being awarded the Order of Australia for her achievements in 1982.
Joan was always heavily involved with the many clubs around town. She had life membership of the golf club and volunteered with the Rover Football Club where her husband played.
With her friend May Burrows, Joan was an active participant in the Alice Springs Show, the National Trust, and Australia Day and citizenship ceremonies.
She was awarded the inaugural Centralian of the Year Award, an International Year of Volunteers award, and the Boronia Award for Service to Girl Guides, for her assistance to her daughter Sue Ride, who continues the tradition of community service as District Leader of the Alice Springs Girl Guides, a role she has held since 1966.
Like the other women in the street Joan had a strong family life, raising two children. She and Jack had moved into a government built house on Chewings St in 1952, together with Joan’s parents who also lived there for 15 years. 
After Jack died in 1977 Joan did a lot of overseas travelling with her friend May, and they were typically seen drinking champagne together at any and all of the town’s social and civic events right up until the end. Joan died at home aged 88 in 2008 only a month after her friend May.
• • •
May Burrows first came to live in Alice Springs in 1947. However she first came to the Territory in 1938 when she left South Australia to visit two of her brothers working in the El Dorado Gold Mine at Tennant Creek.
There she met and married Alan Burrows, also a miner, in 1939. Alan had come across from NSW when there were no sealed roads in a motorbike and sidecar with his mate Jack Litchfield, looking for work during the Depression.
At that time in Tennant Creek many of the miners lived in tents, with floors of beaten earth. There were very few white women and a family had to survive on a weekly delivery of water in a 44 gallon drum.
The miners wore white cotton drill clothes, but happily there was a Chinese laundry and market garden in town.
The local Aboriginal population was only allowed into the town proper on Saturday nights to go to the movies, or in the case of the women, if they worked as domestic help.
Alan had a bad mining accident in 1942 so the young family moved to Norwood, Adelaide for medical treatment until they were able to return to the NT in 1947, now with two young children.
Initially May worked at Heenans Milk Bar (also the local grocery store), on the corner of Todd Mall where Lone Dingo is now.
Groceries were usually delivered up from south once a week – and without the refrigerated storage we all enjoy now.
Alan, after initially doing some prospecting out at Arltunga with Jack Litchfield, ended up working for the Department of Transport & Works where he stayed for 28 years.
The family had first lived on Bath St and then Undoolya Rd but in 1950 they moved to Chewings St. They lived in the shed, lined with whitewashed hessian walls, while Alan and May built what was only the second house north of Undoolya Rd in Eastside.
The bricks for the house were handmade by an old Aboriginal man.
Alan and May both lived there for the rest of their lives. Alan died in 1980.
By the mid 1950s May had bought into a dress shop called “JBs”. At the outset she had two other female partners but over time she bought them out.
This was the start of a long career as an independent businesswoman at a time when not many women owned and managed businesses without the involvement of their husbands.
And there certainly weren’t the chain dress shops that now abound throughout Australia.
JBs was originally located in the Natalie Gorey arcade off Todd St, and after one relocation along what became Todd Mall, JBs had a third and final move out to the Diarama Village, owned by her son Bryce.
May ran JBs well into her seventies when she finally decided to retire. The store was always known for its quality merchandise – and for a long time she was the only stockist of wedding dresses in the whole of Alice.
May was also very active in the community. She was a foundation and life member of both the Alice Springs and the Memorial Bowling Clubs.
She and her old and dear friend Peg Nelson, whom she had known since Tennant Creek days, both went down to the Todd to collect and plant grass for the first bowling greens in Alice.
There is a small display case at the Memo Club with over 40 years of her bowling memorabilia and her impressive collection of trophies.
She was still playing and winning bowling events in 2002 at the tender age of 82! May was Lady President of the Memorial Bowling Club when she died in September 2008, aged 89.
All three ladies loved their gardens and often exchanged cuttings and advice.
May regularly had winning entries in the flower competitions at the Alice Springs Show and at the Heritage Spring Flower Show, while Joan Higgins together with her daughter Sue Ride were often the judges.
May also worked as a regular volunteer at the Residency until her last illness. 
Both May and Joan now have categories in the Residency Spring Flower Show named after them. Agnes too had started to favour growing flowers over vegetables as she got older.
All three ladies would be happy that their long time family homes in Chewings St are still occupied by their descendants – who are also keen gardeners.
Anne Pye is May Burrows’ granddaughter.

POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY: Stepping outside the Metal scene.

Giving youth an artistic outlet is something that moves beyond being vital.
Music is an ever-evolving medium, and the younger you get on board, the longer ride.
The music of this town’s young has a strong emphasis on Heavy Metal and Reggae, and with the electronic genre for the under twenties only seeming to surface once a year under the name Magic Mountain. (This happens over a certain weekend at the dawn of winter, and would be better explained with its own column ... one of these days.)
A young trio attending the Event Music Class at Charles Darwin University have decided to step outside the long shadow cast by the Metal scene, and brandish what they feel is their own unique style of Rock.
They are called The Unknown Artists and, having recently won the Department of Education’s Battle of the Bands, they will take the stage at The Concert before Sneaky Sound System and Empire of the Sun on October 22.
The boys draw their influences from recent contemporary musical acts such as Audioslave, Xavier Rudd and The John Butler Trio. But surprisingly they also delve into a pond of performers and artists from yesteryear, acts such as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones.
A group of us spent an hour or so talking with this uncovered one year old group. This is what we found out.
STEWART discovered: The Unknown Artists’ other influences include Powderfinger, AC/DC and Free.
A LADY WITH SPIKEY RED HAIR learnt: The Unknown Artists see their jam sessions as a professional collaboration – if one doesn’t like what the other is playing the trio is forced to evolve around it.
CARLY found out: Nick has a ball and chain, Evan is taking hold of another ball and chain, and Simeon is single and looking.
KIRSTY said: She didn’t want anything to do with this photograph thing!
MITCH uncovered: The three locals have been together for about a year.
DANNI asked: Pretty much what everyone else before her had.
THE PIECE OF PAPER ON THE TABLE unearthed: The group have time to rehearse a set for the Empire show with ‘Rocktober’ performance.
It wil be at the Alice Springs Youth Centre on October 2.

Alice fest from afar. By KIERAN FINNANE.

To longtime Alice Desert Festival fans he’s a familiar figure: a smiling member of the audience with a clip board taking tally of who’s there.
When he first came to Alice in 2000 Shuji Iijima (pictured) was a student of cultural anthropology looking for a PhD topic.
His broad area of interest was in how people live outside of the mainstream economy.
Initially he travelled through Alice up to Darwin, Jabiru and into WA, to Kununurra, Derby and Broome, before stopping in Turkey Creek to study bush medicine.
But Alice and the tensions he’d observed here between Aboriginal people and the mainstream drew him back.
While sitting in the Todd Mall one day he was approached by an Aboriginal man who asked him for money.
Shuji says he told the man he was reluctant to give him money in case he spent it at a bottleshop, but if he was hungry he would be glad to share his food with him.
“What I said made him happy,” he says.
That’s how their friendship began.
Now this man is Shuji’s “brother”, and his family have become Shuji’s “host family”, making Alice Springs “a good place for me to learn something”. 
One focus of this learning has been the way in which festivals in the town seek to involve Aboriginal people.
He started with the Yeperenye Festival back in 2000,  followed by the first Alice Springs Arts Festival (as it was then known).
Among the things he did was a a count of audience members, which revealed, for the years 2001 to 2004, that the festival audience reflected the racial makeup of Alice Springs, with some 15% being Aboriginal.
These days Shuji has stopped his careful counting: he got his PhD back in 2005.
Now he’s an associate professor of Community Studies at Kyushu University and his main focus in Alice is in pursuing his research with his Arrernte host family.
But he’s still interested in the festival, particularly in how it can sustain itself.
He thinks it’s in good hands.
Festival and events manager Scott Large is “quite an interesting person, the youngest one yet”.
“Last year I saw him working, even picking up litter, to 2am, 3am.
“I thought ‘wow’, this is a very new type of producer!”
He’s interviewed a few of them over the years: Clive Scollay, Sonja Maclean, Di Mills and Scott.
He thinks they are all caring people, with strong personal philosophies and whose particular interest in Aboriginal people was preceded by them having lost something important in life.
Psychologists talk about “creative illness”, says Shuji: “People suffer but their suffering is the door to the next stage.”
A manifestation of the way in which the festival has responded to Aboriginal people and culture, says Shuji, was the symbolism of this year’s opening parade, starting with the image of a caterpillar – creation ancestor of the Arrernte people – and ending with “a battle boat” (one of the Henley-on-Todd floats).
He commented too on the masquerade ball that was a feature of the first Alice festival, at which most people wore a mask that they had bought.
At this year’s festival, mask-making workshops preceded the masquerade event.
Festivals have to go beyond providing entertainment, they have to “grow up the next generation” and in this way will sustain themselves, says Shuji.

Wingless sprintcars: The good & the bad. By CHRIS WALSH.

Wingless Sprintcars will make their first appearance at Arunga Park Speedway on October 23.
Although these cars are a fairly recent addition to the speedway circuit they are now a recognised Australia-wide class, controlled and sanctioned by the Sprintcar Control Council of Australia.
They can be seen at pretty much every track in Australia including most country tracks because of the fact that they’re affordable.
Over the last 12 months they have been the fastest growing class in Australia. I’m told there are some 20 registered in Darwin, and 300 odd nationally,  all within the last year or so.
The name “Wingless Sprintcar” explains it all: a typical sprintcar minus the wing and big engine. The chassis, driveline, suspension, wheels and tyres etc. are all typical of a sprintcar although the similarity stops there.
The major difference is the V6 commodore engine which is controlled to keep everything equal. The pistons, cam shaft, cylinder heads and crank shaft are all controlled and the computer is controlled and sealed with a 6000 rpm limit.
The vehicle is a very simple thing to convert and there’s no tuning to do because of the electronic computer. The engine can be bolted straight in using the same mounts and plates as those used for the original, bigger engine.
Wingless Sprintcars originated in Victoria with the first ones having V8 10 cubic inch engines. The Sprintcar Control Council sanctioned the class  of  a V6 engine to keep it at a more affordable club level.
Currently there are three of these race cars in town and Mike Thompson owns one of them.
Before moving to Alice Springs, Mike was a founding member of the Sunraysia Motorsports Club in Mildura and raced off road cars with his wife Michelle as the navigator. He was a founding member of the Alice Springs Go Kart Club.
“I got into that supposedly to get the kids involved with racing but I think I’ve enjoyed it more than the kids, after all, I’m still doing it and they’re not”!
Mike has also been involved with Arunga Park Speedway on and off since 1979 and has raced super sedans for some 35 years.
He recalls how he was always selling cars along the way, in order to buy another one to try and increase the numbers on the track.
Somewhere along the way he was talked into racing a sprintcar but wasn’t successful at it so gave it away and got back into sedans again.
Mike and Michelle left town in 2002 and moved to South Australia where Mike raced super sedans around the country tracks. He says it got to a point where he simply couldn’t afford to race anymore and gave the sport away before returning to Alice Springs in 2009.  He returned to racing with Wingless Sprintcars because “everybody’s going out there with the same performance level”.
“These vehicles are advertised for $10,000 and they’re press-buttoned and ready to race.
“You’re flat out racing Street Stocks for that sort of money – I was spending probably 30+ on the Super Sedan to get ready to go racing down there and it wasn’t anywhere near what was needed to be spent to be competitive”.
Another good aspect of these cars is that they’re designed to have 700 horse powered V8 engines in them which are simply removed and replaced with the V6 commodore engine and about 200 horsepower.
“Because of this, the driveline doesn’t break, the diff doesn’t break, it doesn’t wear out like the big engines do and it doesn’t wear out tyres”.
Mike says a set of race tyres should last the entire race season and due to the smaller engine, it only takes approximately 20 litres of fuel a night to race.
Another positive point is that the vehicles have a starter motor, which enables them to be put into gear and driven away with the press of a button. They don’t need a push start, so they’re quick to get out onto the race track.
Mike says the biggest downside of the vehicles is their sound.
“They’re just not a nice sound like a big V8. A lot of people go away from them saying they sound bloody horrible! “But if there are six or more on the track together and they’re all going the same speed, they’re really good to watch.”
The cars have attracted a lot of interest and Mike believes that the section will increase by another four or five cars before the end of this race season.
For the three starters it “a toe-in-the-water type of thing” – “none of us have driven our cars yet”. 
Their reputation as dangerous is due to them having hard crashes.
“Ordinary Sprintcar racers come undone and these things do too but without wings on them, they just do it that much harder.
“I’ve seen Sprintcars roll over and when they get up in the air, the wing hooks into the wind and sort of holds them up there. They tend to look as though they are going in slow motion and when they land, they are obviously cushioned because of this.
“These things don’t do that, they just flip and come down hard. They have big crashes but I don’t think they’re nearly as dangerous as the big engined cars.”
Interested? Mike knows about a couple for sale. Catch him at the Speedway or through Colin Butler at Sprint Mufflers.

LETTERS: ‘68 was Flower Power season!

Sir – I dispute the headline story “Best season ever” (Alice News, September 16) that the current season is such that no living person has seen such an abundance since Europeans first came into the country.
For those lucky enough to remember, the most prolific growth of wildflowers in Central Australia (including the Simpson Desert) took place in 1968. The Centre had suffered badly from drought of at least eight years duration, and up to 10 years south of Alice Springs. The cattle country in particular was so bare that some ‘experts’ claimed there would never be a return to good vegetation production.
Drought breaking rains commenced in January 1966. I was employed by the (then) Animal Industry Branch to assess pasture conditions around the district.
By mid-1968, when the Alice recorded nearly 500mm of rain, the wildflowers had proliferated to such a degree a botanical expedition was organized to examine parts of the Simpson Desert.
I was among a group of seven, with personnel from the NT, South Australia, and Canberra; including botanists, an ecologist and assistants. We departed Alice Springs on July 9, 1968 and proceeded southeast.
Our progress was much slowed by swamps, flowing water, and extracting of vehicles from mud bogs. Eventually we traveled into the dune country northeast of Andado. The wet sand assisted our travel but there was much trudging by foot across those giant sand hills.
Among the sights we saw were stretches of poached egg daisies on the flats, extending as far as the eye could see and so dense the ground could not be seen.
Numerous plant species (too many to name here) produced flower colours including white, blue, yellow, green and pink. There was an abundance of parakeelya plants, some nearly a metre in diameter. The tall parrot-peas (Crotalaria cunninghamii) were a marvelous sight growing from the dune crests. And on the desert’s western periphery was a prolific growth of buck-bush (Salsola tragus), plants of about 1.5 metres in diameter, such as have not been since.
The reason for this incredible abundance seems to be that the wildflowers acted as pioneer plants to fill the void left by the drought until a more usual vegetative status was restored.
In the course of my working life, especially when helping to establish the Herbarium of the Northern Territory, I had to travel extensively over all parts of the Territory and into neighbouring states, including the desert areas. Never before or since 1968 has there been such a show in the desert, and I hope it may not happen again if it requires a devastating drought to achieve it.
Another feature of the 1968 trip was an abundance of birds. We saw camel and kangaroo tracks but the only mammals encountered were rabbits on the desert’s edge.
While not as spectacular, there was also a good wildflower season in 1955/56, which perhaps ensured a good seed supply in anticipation of the coming drought.
Des Nelson
Alice Springs

Race horse trainer – what are the facts?

Sir – Regarding your story about Mrs Emmie Wehr (September 23).
When writing a story about someone, it is always incumbent on the writer to present the facts.
In your article regarding Mrs Wehr you clearly have misled your readers.
The facts are:
1. Mrs Wehr has not been demoted to a Strapper.
2. Mrs Wehr is a Licensed Owner Trainer.
3. Mrs Wehr, like some other senior Trainers, although not attaining a Certificate IV in Equine Management, was given an exemption by the TRNT Board to hold a Trainers Licence due to her extensive experience in the Thoroughbred Industry.
4. The TRNT Board has a policy of ensuring that all participants in the Thoroughbred Industry meet a minimum qualification level, to give assurance to those investing in thoroughbreds that they can expect a level of competence from Licensed participants.
We would appreciate it if you could retract your comments and make your readers aware of the true facts, as you have not only misinformed your readers, but embarrassed Mrs Wehr.
Des Friedrich
Chief Executive Officer
ED – Mr Friedrich would be well advised to admonish his colleagues, the Darwin Turf Club Business Manager Andrew O’Toole and Lindsay Lane, Chairman of Stewards of Darwin Racing, rather than the Alice Springs News.
We spoke to both of them about the treatment meted out to Mrs Wehr and their – inadequate – answers are quoted in our report (at
If Mrs Wehr is a Licensed Owner Trainer, how come she was given a “Racing (Advanced Stablehand)” certificate (pictured)?
Our information about Mrs Wehr’s disappointment over the way she was treated came from her.

It’s the Diamantina

G’Day Ed – My geographical antennae went into paroxysm at your front page article [referring to] “the punt at Birdsville crossing the Cooper Creek” (Alice News, September 16).
Last time I was in Birdsville, a couple of years ago, the only flowing water in the vicinity was the Diamantina River.
The nearest the Cooper gets is about 300 km, where it crosses the Birdsville track near Killalpaninna.
The punt there only comes in to action every 10 or 20 years when the Cooper is in flood.
The only congestion would be on one or two days of the year, and the Birdsville racegoers should have been aware of this.
There are a lot more cost effective road upgrades ahead of this one.
Charlie Carter
Alice Springs

G’day Charlie – I’ve been to Birdsville maybe 20 times, always by air, usually for the races, and of course you’re absolutely right: it’s the Diamantina that flows past Birdsville town and there’s a nice bridge over it.
The text and photo caption should have read Birdsville Track and not Birdsville.
Thanks for pointing it out. (Just making sure you’re paying attention!)

Heartening support

Sir – I am writing to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to the men and boys who participated in the ‘STOP THE VIOLENCE’ march and rally in early September. 
We were overwhelmed by the numbers of community members prepared to stand up and say “enough is enough – we must live together and stop the violence”.
I also wish to convey our sincere thanks to all the speakers on the day: Mayor Damien Ryan, MP Warren Snowden, NT Police Commander Ann-Marie Murphy, Jasper Haines, Worla Nyintanti Atwerrentye Itja members, Graeme Pearce, Cross Border program, Brad Wallace and Staff from Central Desert Shire Night Patrol and David Price; the Alice Springs Council for their assistance and the Alice Springs Police for their work on the day. 
We are thankful to have also had the support of Adam Giles, Karl Hampton and Matt Conlan.
We were greatly heartened by the supporters clapping and cheering us on as we marched, so thanks also to those of you who added your voices to the call for no more violence.
Without the commitment and assistance of many people such an event would not have been possible.
Since the march we have had many people tell us how pleased they were to see such a campaign and Aboriginal males taking the initiative and working for positive change.  
Sadly,  news of our march was overshadowed by [subsequent] events. 
However, this further demonstrates the importance of the ‘STOP THE VIOLENCE’ campaign and the need for communities to have leadership; demonstrate that violence is unacceptable; and the importance of providing education, support and help to those who are willing to change.
The job ahead of us is a hard one but it is one we are committed to and we know many people in Alice Springs and the surrounding communities are as well.  With your on-going support, we are confident change can and will happen. 
If we work together, challenge those who bring violence into our lives and set a more positive example, we can stop the violence.
John Liddle
Ingkintja Male Health

Zilch credibility?

Sir – For your writer C. Buckley (Pop Vulture, September 23)  to say that visiting Melbourne Band WooHoo Revue “lacked presence and energy” at last Saturday night’s Masquerade Ball will give him zilch credibility with the hundreds who were there to live it up to WooHoo Revue’s great music.
One mark of skilled musicians is their ability to move between genres and play in various styles convincingly and with conviction.
There is no question that WooHoo Revue gave us the goods, in spades.
If it so happened that they arrived at having individual and collective technical brilliance as players via a classical training, and they used all of that know-how to craft their fabulous WooHoo Revue style, all power to them.
Why is C. Buckley being such a sour grape?
Does he begrudge the players their hard-earned technical skill?
Finally, what did his remark about the schools these players may or may not have been to, have to do with anything?
Regardless of what cold water C. Buckley chose to pour on WooHoo Revue, my congratulations go to the festival organisers on their great choice of band to bring here.
Margaret Collins
Alice Springs

NANCARROW ARROW: Footy is a cruel mistress.

I’m in shock, readers – the AFL Grand Final has been drawn for the first time (the others were VFL) and it happens to be a game in which my team was playing.
Three hours running on pure adrenalin and now crashing down in a sea of disbelief – and that’s just me – how must the players be feeling?
Poor buggers, now they have to do it all again next week. And so do I. Might ask for the night off – I don’t think that I can carry on with the same intensity two weeks in a row.
The dog was extremely put out by all the shouting and cursing, reactions ranging from concerned licking of the hand to “Please let me out, you’re scaring me” scratching at the door.
I am not as fanatical about the footy as I used to be, but come grand final day the beast is let out of its cage and allowed to roar, which actually makes it more fun.
When I used to do it, week in, week out, it lost its shimmer and novelty. It became mainstream and everyday. Now it’s a special treat and so much the tastier for it.
I LOVE grand final day, from the naff entertainment to the final bounce, it’s a wonderful experience. I even enjoy it when my team isn’t playing, as I see myself as a student of the game.
If someone from the opposing club does something brilliant I will acknowledge it just as readily as if the magic was woven by the mob I am supporting.
I have been scoffed at by diehard supporters that I lack soul and commitment, but that is not true. No team or individual is bigger than the game itself.
The AFL has a big following in the Alice and its surrounds, so as a die hard fan I fit in well with the footy community, even though there is more competition from other sports here.
When you talk about football down south it is only Australian Rules that you are referring too, even those who play the other games refer to their sports as Rugby or Soccer.
Up here though footy includes all of these and League as well, so it’s best to check which one is being referred to before mouthing off about the superiority of one’s own preferred brand – no-one likes a smarty pants and things can get heated when the adrenalin is pumping at half time. 
I was never a particularly wonderful player and I’m not very tall. Well actually I was until I was 12 – I used to play centre half back but then everyone else grew and I didn’t. No big man role for me so I became a Ruck Rover instead.
What I lacked in size I made up for in speed and niggle, it was my job to get under the skin of an opponent who was playing well, by words or actions and put him off his game.
This was where the acceleration came in – and please bear in mind that this was before political correctness became the law, so a lot more name-calling was tolerated.
A few choice words about parents or country of origin was enough to enrage most players, if put to them just so and certainly after a bit of a rough tackle.
It then became necessary to put a few yards between my good self and the bloke who was being restrained by his team mates. The idea wasn’t to get sent off for brawling but to push buttons and win games. Happy days.
And for those of you who don’t care for such things, make the most of the empty shops and lack of queues at the servo cos the place will be almost empty on Saturday and then again with  the NRL GF on Sunday too.
Who says that sport doesn’t have something for every one? Shop till ya drop.

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