October 14, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Indigenous Land Corp buys Ayers Rock resort. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Aboriginal interests, including three local communities, will become the new owners of the Ayers Rock Resort, lock, stock and barrel, for a price of $300m.
The purchase, which will be finalised tomorrow in Sydney, includes the airport, the entire accommodation complex, the Voyages trade name and booking centre in Sydney.
General Property Trust bought the resort from the NT Government for $220m in 1997 after it had been mostly losing money. The NT Government continued to provide power, water, sewage, airport, police, health clinic, school.
GPT has been trying to sell the property since June 2008.
According to an inside source, the communities of Kaltukatjara (Docker River), Mutitjulu and Imanpa, through their company Wana Unkunytja, will gain a small stake in the enterprise, with no money changing hands.
The Alice Springs News understands that Wana Unkunytja has formed a partnership with the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), a statutory authority set up to “assist Indigenous people with land acquisition and land management to achieve economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits”, according to its website.
The ILC is funded from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Account (which has a balance of around $1.5b).
The News understands that no distributions will be made to Wana Unkunytja until the ILC has recouped its investment, estimated to be 10 to 15 years away.
Significant investment needs to be made to upgrade the resort, which is close to 30 years old.
The inside source says the acquisition is being made at the bottom of the market, although the resort is still operating at a profit.
The Financial Review on June 8 this year reported that it was yielding around 9.3%, which our source says is “about right”, and this on an occupancy of 51%.
However, the strong Australian dollar will present challenges for the resort’s key international  tourism market.
The source says the investors are taking a long-term view: Uluru remains a world icon and the resort is well-placed to make the most of the growth in eco- and Indigenous tourism markets.
The hoped for active involvement of local communities in the resort could see it better able to respond to visitors’ desire to meet more Aboriginal people and learn more about their culture.
In the immediate settling in phase there will be as few changes as possible to the resort’s operations, with all current staff retaining their positions.
Earlier this year Wana Ungkunytja pulled out of its investments in Alice Springs, with the exception of the office building Anangu House, wanting to refocus its attention on its owner communities.
Its most successful enterprise is Anangu Tours, which operates at Uluru, and will this month celebrate its 15th anniversary.

Born-again Desert Knowledge group takes first steps. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The new Alice Springs based Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation (CRC-REP) has an annual budget of $15m “in cash and in kind,” and follows the Desert Knowledge CRC (DK-CRC) which in its first seven-year term spent $91m (also in cash and in kind) on six projects.
Last year it was refused funding for a second term.
A report on the first term is due to become available soon, and CRC-REP managing director Jan Ferguson, who was also the managing director of DK-CRC, will make no comment on it.
The new CRC has on its board three members of the old one: the chairman is again Paul Wand, a consultant in Aboriginal relations and employment.
Ms Ferguson “with long experience in public administration, research management and desert living” is back, and Aboriginal identity Harold Furber who has “long-term experience on Aboriginal land councils, in education and as a public administrator” is too.
CRC-REP has 52 “essential participants” and “project participants” (nearly twice as many as its forerunner which had 28 partners).
They include universities (CDU, Curtin, Flinders, Southern Cross, New England, SA, Griffith, Newfoundland and British Columbia – the latter two both in Canada); a string of Federal and state government departments; Aboriginal organisations; and companies ranging from the huge (Rio Tinto) to the tiny (Kungkas Can Cook). See
The objectives of the CRC REP are outlined in very general terms in a three page summary, and Ms Ferguson was reluctant to reveal much in an interview with the Alice Sprigs News.
NEWS: $15m a year, cash and in kind – what’s the break-up?
FERGUSON: I don’t have that at my fingertips.
NEWS: At a guess, is it half-half?
FERGUSON: I am prepared to say to you the budget of the CRC is $15m cash and in kind.
NEWS: Where does it come from?
FERGUSON: It comes from our investors who are our partners.
NEWS: Again, if you could give me percentages, that would be great.
FERGUSON: The answer is, it comes from our investors.
NEWS: Who are the major donors?
FERGUSON: It’s a very complex series of information, we don’t think this is something that has any role in the public domain. We’re still working it through. I don’t need to break that down.
While the headquarters of CRC-REP remains in Alice Springs, part of the work – not specified – will be done in “nodes” well removed from the desert, in Darwin, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra.
NEWS: What are the setting up and running costs of the nodes?
FERGUSON: They will be absorbed by our partners. They are a combination of the people who work for us in those locations.
NEWS: So these are not offices as such. The nodes are made up of the people working for CRC-REP in those locations?
FERGUSON: That’s right.
NEWS: So there are no costs associated with the nodes?
FERGUSON: That’s right.
NEWS: People who are now in the headquarter in Alice Springs, like yourself, are they staying here?
FERGUSON: Yes. Some jobs are here some of the time and sometimes they are in other places, depending where people come from, because it’s a partner mix.
NEWS: What your application terms “robust modelling” gives very precise figures for results over a period of 15 years, including a return on investment of 1.71, over 2,295 jobs for Aboriginal people, savings in welfare payments of $160m, additional profitability in remote pastoral industry of $292m, an additional $500m in economic benefit from higher education levels over the working life of remote students. Who made this assessment?
FERGUSON: Deloitte and Access Economics.
NEWS: Can I have a look at that report?
FERGUSON: I don’t know what the level of confidentiality is of that. I don’t know that it’s appropriate.
NEWS: Your summary of the funding application says the programs “will provide the sustainable employment and enterprise opportunities vital to increasing the level of economic participation for remote Australians”. Isn’t that the wrong end of the stick?
For example, only a handful of local Aborigines work at the Granites – Newmont mines. Many pastoralists, the tourist industry and businesses in Alice Springs are filling unskilled jobs with backpackers, or can’t find staff at all. Should your first objective not be to analyse why there is such a poor uptake of the education and employment opportunities already on offer?
FERGUSON: That question is coming from a deficit model. It’s not coming from a positive model. We know things haven’t worked in the past and what we’re trying to find are new and innovative ways to do things differently.
I’m not going to comment on what other people have done in the past. We’ve been successful in attracting a significant number of investors who want to look at things in a different, new and exciting way.
NEWS: In what way would the people engaged in what you are trying to do be different from the people who, I expect, have done their best in the last 35 years?
FERGUSON: You are coming at it negatively. They may even be the same people but we’ve got the opportunity of having a look [at the situation] with the benefit of history and go forward in a different way. Research isn’t always successful and doesn’t always have multi million dollar outcomes. Research does not have a benefit until nine or 10 years after it’s done. What you do get are knowledge jobs based here in Alice Springs, an intelligent community looking at the issues  in good faith.
NEWS: What are the initiatives that will have positive outcomes? Please tell me. This desert community is looking for those answers.
FERGUSON: We’ve only been operating for 12 weeks. It will evolve over time. It is a significant success story for remote Australia to get such a significant investment and so many partners who are prepared to participate in the outcomes.
NEWS: It is difficult to accept as a yardstick for success the amount of money that’s being spent. Is there yet another lot of money being put into a well-meaning but futile initiative? People are getting very cynical about gauging the success of an initiative by the amount of money being spent on it.
FERGUSON: If you want to persist with this line of questioning I will give this interview away. You are coming from the perspective that this money will be wasted, right?
NEWS: Well then please tell me how money will be spent and not be wasted. Access Economics put up very clear figures. How will these be achieved?
FERGUSON: We’re starting a series of research programs which will lead to change and we will get appropriate investment and the like as a result of that.
NEWS: As this second CRC will no doubt be building on the first one, what has been its cost benefit?
FERGUSON: We don’t have the same figures as we do have for the new one, because that wasn’t required, but we can send you the report when it’s released.
NEWS: When will that be?
FERGUSON: Soonish.
NEWS: You have an optimistic outlook on being able to create jobs and work meaningfully with mining and so on. It’s our understanding that some mining royalties, via royalty associations, are invested in Centrecorp, the Pty Ltd company three-fifth owned by the Central Land Council. Are you talking with Centrecorp?
FERGUSON: I will not discuss that. That’s not something within our purview.
NEWS: One of the projects in the first six-year CRC was what I understood to be a pastoral management tool, and there is a similar project planned for the second CRC. What was the take-up by industry of the systems developed in the first CRC? How many cattle stations are using them?
FERGUSON: This is where you come from a basic misconception. What we developed is now with a commercialisation company and eventually you’ll be able to buy it, assuming all that is successful.
NEWS: How do I contact the commercialisation company?
FERGUSON: I’ll see if they want to talk to you, they may, they may not. I may be contravening privacy legislation if I gave you their name.
NEWS: In your three page summary there seems to be little acknowledgement of a growing perception that self-help is an important thing. For example, if schools are provided it’s up to parents to make sure their kids attend.
If employment opportunities exist it’s reasonable for people to take them up. Where should I look to find any acknowledgement by CRC-REP of that philosophy?
FERGUSON: There is an assumption in what you said that people are able to take it up. There are a whole series of assumptions in what you have just said to me, and they breed a particular kind of view, Erwin, to which I don’t subscribe.
What we will look at is whether the systems and processes that sit around some of those things actually serve the needs of the communities in which we live, or whether they are provided looking at a mainstream audience that is based in the cities, and whether the same model out here works in very remote locations. We would suggest it doesn’t.
NEWS: Noel Pearson is a major exponent of the self-help model as opposed to passive welfare.
FERGUSON: Not everyone agrees with him.
NEWS: Do you?
FERGUSON: I’m not going to enter that debate. It’s not what my CRC is about.

Council wants say on town planning. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council is calling on Minister for Planning Gerry McCarthy to convene a public meeting, similar to the Planing for the Future forum held in June 2008, before the deadline for comment on the latest planning reports.
The two reports – Built Form Guidelines and Residential Capacity Study – concern the future of the town centre, now called the Central Activity District or CAD.
At Monday night’s committee meeting, Alderman Sandy Taylor noted the mood of the town – “people are saying they have not been consulted”.
She said the number of exceptional development permits being sought has become an issue.
She said the council has an opportunity in the current process to have a say on “what Alice Springs might look like in future”.
She was concerned about the reports’ failure to promote design features that could be expected in a hot environment.
She noted the views to the sky that could be seen from council chambers, saying they would disappear with most buildings going to five storeys.
She commented on the design of the building for the former Melanka’s site – “lifted straight from the Gold Coast”.
Ald Murray Stewart urged that the public meeting be held outside of work hours, to maximise community attendance.
He said that current planning ideas are “spraying out in all directions” – whether its inner-town development “Melbourne-style”, going south of the Gap, or in-fill.
“There’s an absence of a real pattern.”
He said the town is in a “tight spot” with respect to accommodation but that should not mean “crazy thoughtless decisions” being taken.
Ald John Rawnsley reiterated his call for the Town Council to be “empowered” to deal with land and planning issues.
Mayor Damien Ryan told aldermen he had already written to the Minister to ask for a public meeting before the submission period closes. He was going to write again on Tuesday repeating the request, with council’s backing.

Vandals strike across town. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Tree seedlings stolen or destroyed, the Skate Park vandalised causing new works to be put on hold, new play equipment at a neighbourhood park in Lyndavale Drive set on fire within two weeks of its installation.
This is the latest toll of senseless vandalism around town, and it’s costing the Town Council some $2000 each week – that’s over $100,000 a year.
Aldermen expressed their concern and frustration at Monday night’s committee meeting but it seems there’s little they can do other than count small blessings – like losing only 25% of tree seedlings when they had estimated losing 40%.
Meanwhile, council rangers had to impound some unusual animals at large last month – apart from the usual dogs (37) and cats (23), there were 11 peacocks and a pig.
They have no idea where the peacocks come from and are keen for someone to take them off the RSPCA’s hands.
“They are not our core business,” said director of Corporate and Community Services, Craig Catchlove.
Animal infringement notices, in terms of dollar value, had increased tenfold over the month, compared to September last year.
Alderman Sandy Taylor welcomed this evidence of the council’s new public places by-laws at work.
She was also pleased to note the low numbers of illegal campers counted on the ranger unit’s river runs.
Mr Catchlove claimed only partial credit for rangers.
The wet weather had contributed to lowering the numbers, and rangers were also taking a different approach, he said, waiting until people had packed up and left the scene, which lowered the numbers being spoken to.

Araluen: Swings, roundabouts. COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.

As the dust settles after the Araluen by-election, the new member Robyn Lambley (Country Liberals) will no doubt want to consider how she can make a difference to some of the electorate’s long standing issues.
Back in late 1994, the then member Eric Poole (Country Liberals), who had won the seat in a 1986 by-election, wrote about the concerns of his constituents in a newsletter.  A couple of examples will suffice:–
• Let’s tackle violence
I am very worried about the amount of violence that has been occurring in the Todd River and the trend for this violence to extend into areas such as the Mall.
I hope that we (the Government) are able to come to a satisfactory arrangement with the Town Council with regard to the cost of installing and maintaining video surveillance cameras in the Mall and other known trouble spots, such as around various liquor outlets.
• Promised
At long last the promised recruits in the police force are appearing on the streets. I hope increased police presence in town will make up for the start of what could be a long, hot summer.
The police have advised that there will be a blitz on over the festive period, particularly with regard to drinking and driving, as well as careless driving.
Unfortunately we lead the nation in road deaths (per capita) and I’m sure we would all like to see the road carnage stopped.
• Alice house prices hike
I am becoming increasingly concerned at the cost of land in Alice Springs and while I support the rezoning of land in Mt John Valley, I am determined to ensure that any new residential development does not infringe on the MacDonnell Ranges.
Obviously, more land must be released in Alice Springs in an effort to keep prices at a sensible level. It is nearly impossible for young people to afford to buy land and then build a new house.
Mmm ... what else is new?

Eyes wide open to beauty and danger. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

Country at inhuman scale, scarred by human hands or neglect, cutting across the decades through its ancient patterns; country in miniature, at our feet, at our shoulder as we brush past.
Photographer Mike Gillam has an eye honed by years of looking and trying to understand while also holding onto childlike wonder. He takes us to worlds within worlds, soaring at 2000 feet, or crouching by the doorstep. 
He is showing new work at his gallery, 8 Hele, under the title Terra Infirma. The majority of the photographs dwell on the riches of the natural world, more than most of us could ever know, even if we intuit their existence. Here Gillam does the artist’s job of praise and revelation.
Some images also show the immense pressures coming to bear on these riches, their precarious existence at our mercy. Here the artist’s job is harder. How do you create from disaster something that people still want to look at? Gillam finds the powerful, distilled image that tells the story we need to hear. 
Beauty first: in Colony there are meat ants at that moment when the queens are ready to fly off and form a new colony, males and workers in attendance. The light catches the translucent regal wings of the queens, gleams in their deep green crowns, in the smaller silvery wings of the males, the magenta suits of the workers. Their formation into the wind appears processionary and hierarchical, the queens arced across the top of the photo, the males, then the workers in clusters beneath them.
Gillam’s gift to us is to be interested in meat ants to start with, then to have been there at this moment, camera in hand and years of perfectionist practice behind him, and to have been prepared to put up with the physical discomfort of getting the shot – in no time at all he was covered in biting worker ants. 
Another image of meat ants, Nest, is perhaps less spectacular but equally fascinating when you realise what is going on – it is raining and the workers have formed, with their tightly packed bodies, a plug at the mouth of their nest to stop it from flooding.
This is the kind of observer that Gillam is. He is always looking and by dint of that, he is there at the right time. It’s not by good fortune. He speaks of waiting for years to get an image.
And he is looking from the moment he steps out the door. Nature is right there, caring about it can begin right then – and with that come the rewards of seeing, of unfolding beauty and understanding.
Droplets caught on the filaments of spider web with dozens of spiderlings bunched at its heart, there in his garden one foggy morning this winter. He printed the photograph large and with strong contrasts. (Detail above centre).
Everything in shadow has disappeared into darkness and we see only the complex of orbs and inter-connecting strands, a silver-white network of delicate precision, and the heaving pack of bodies in the middle. This is more than exquisite close observation. It becomes metaphorical – it’s matter (atomic structures), the universe (galaxies), and in there at the centre the almost impossible demand of swarming life.
This is a tension common to many of Gillam’s images. He is deeply interested in the push and pull between slow-moving fundamental processes at work in the natural world and faster-moving, at times brutal ones, where often the human hand is at play.
This is spelled out in two large studies, among the new works on show. Both are aerial views.
In one, titled like the whole show Terra Infirma, (above, right) we read immediately cropping land, that familiar grid of fence lines and paddocks in a range of green and earth tones, according to the type of crop and its stage of growth. Seeming to fester up through the tidy grid is a chain of cavities of varying sizes, linked by drainage lines. Are they sinkholes, saltlakes, abandoned open-cut mines? Are some, a startling chemical yellow, in the grip of an algal bloom? They seem to be occurring along what once would have been a riverbed. Now the design of the ancient system is obscured.
At this scale we can see that the human intervention has been massive and unrelentingly severe, the land faltering, possibly failing under its weight.
The other image is harder to read, and seems almost abstracted. It is taken over rugged wilderness country. We can recognise hills and valleys but somehow the surface looks flayed. Its title, Carbon Imprint, gives a clue. What we are looking at is fire-scarred country, a 20 kilometre tract of it. Fire is part of the Australian landscape but here we see the impact of uncontrolled wildfires, coming through once and then again before the vegetation has had a chance to fully recover.
Gillam talks passionately to this image: of our failure to properly manage our wilderness, of the massive greenhouse outputs of wildfires (“matching the emissions of a major city”), of the jobs that would be created if we as a nation were committed to protecting our country’s biodiversity.
He urges that “thousands of land management jobs” be created throughout inland Australia “where remote communities are floundering without real purpose”.
A visit to 8 Hele (named for its location) is both uplifting and sobering, with the weight properly on uplifting. Gillam knows we need to love in order to act.

Youngsters in the fast lane. By CHRIS WALSH.

Junior streetstock racers are under the pump: Rain has forced the Arunga Park opening night back to October 23 and just a week later they will be racing in the titles.
Their competitors will come from  Tennant Creek, Darwin, Queensland and South Australia.
Sisters Courtney, aged 16, and Rebekah, 13, Raven were right into a “test and tune” for speedway bikes and cars last weekend.
With strong support from parents Scott and Pat, the girls feel that they were “born” into the sport of dirt racing.
They told me how their dad used to be involved with go kart racing in South Australia before they were born and how he has always been involved with cars in some way.
After moving to Alice Springs seven years ago, he raced a friend’s car for a while, which led to the whole family becoming involved.
Courtney and Rebekah are part of the affectionately named “Bob’s Mob” and agree that being offered a car each has been a fantastic opportunity and a lot of fun. Courtney said: “Bob’s always there for the juniors and he does a lot but he doesn’t really get any acknowledgement”.
The younger of the two, Rebekah adds: “Bob’s a legend.
“He’s been involved with the Scouts and helping kids around town for a very long time and he told me he first started at the speedway in 1967”.
“Bob” is Bob Baldock, a man well known around most Alice Springs motor sports circuits. He provides seven of these cars and is building a couple more to increase the division’s drivers who are aged 10 to 16.
The girls say the cars use fairly common motors such as Corolla or Charade which makes spare parts a little easier to access, although Courtney says the Charade motors tend to give a bit more “drive” out of the track.
In return for the use of the car, drivers are asked to help with the vehicles preparation and maintenance.
Courtney says: “The car becomes ours for the season and the minimum we have to do is wash them and help get them ready for a race meeting.
“All the drivers try to get together at the same time to do this but sometimes our weekend work commitments get in the way.
“We normally try to get together on Saturdays.”
If these minimum requirements are not met, the car is then handed on to another young driver who is more willing to put the effort in.
Rebekah says of Bob: “Bob tries to instil a simple motto into his young competitors and encourages them to look closely at themselves and others around them.
“The motto is: Can I make a difference?”
The youngsters are taught things ranging from simple oil and water checks to tyre and spark plug changes.
The junior division consists of mostly boys at this stage, with the average age being about 15.
This season will see a change of cars for the Raven girls.
Courtney will move onto a new vehicle, leaving Rebekah to move on to hers.
Rebekah’s car will then be handed on to 11 year old Tyler Harris who is making his debut this season.
Rebekah already has one race season under her belt with another three and a half years to go. On the other side of the coin, Courtney says this will be her last season due to the maximum age being 16 and half.
She says: “The experience provided by Bob encourages good life skills and it’s been a really good opportunity.
“I’ve learnt some defensive driving skills, although driving on the road is very different to driving on the track.
“Some of these skills would be impossible to use out on the roads but I should be able to correct myself to a reasonable degree if I were in a sticky situation”.
Next season Courtney would like to move up to the streetstock division but says it all depends on what’s affordable and what other commitments she may have.
“Getting started can be expensive because the driver must have all the correct racing gear and licencing and you have to be prepared to give up some things to be able to do this,” she says.
Courtney is hoping to get her road licence soon and has been practicing in her mum’s car for some time.
She said that due to her speedway experience, her driving instructor knows that she can get around the track with ease. When racing, the junior cars always travel in second gear in a clockwise direction.
He has jokingly told her that although she can turn left, he’ll now have to teach her how to turn right!
Her biggest moment with racing so far, was being awarded the Most Improved Driver and third outright in the Alice Industrial Supplies series last season.
Rebekah learnt to drive in a modified ute owned by Bob and aptly named “The Flintstone”.
She sometimes goes out to the off road track with him in order to get a bit of extra practice.
She says: “The most fun thing about it is just getting out on the track and the adrenalin rush that you get from it.
“I rolled my car in Tennant Creek last season but I didn’t feel scared.
“Everybody told me it’s pretty scary but I was travelling slowly when I went over and I felt very safe with the safety harness and all the other equipment around me.
“I actually got out of the car and I asked if I could do it again!”
As in all motor sports, car drivers at the speedway are guided by rules which include safety regulations.
The drivers must wear clothing consisting of a full race suit, underwear, gloves, socks, shoes and a balaclava which are all fire resistant.
They must also use a five point harness and wear an approved helmet and a neck brace commonly known as a “horse collar” which saved Rebekah’s neck during the rollover.
I asked the girls whether they become edgy before each race and if so, how they deal with the nerves.
Rebekah recalls how she used to feel claustrophobic when she first started putting all the safety gear on.
“Sometimes you get a bit stressed before a race but I breathe deeply to calm myself down,” she says.
Alternatively, Courtney says she just thinks about what she has to do on the track and tries to stay focussed.
She says: “Once you’re ready to go you just want to focus on what you’re doing and leave everything else behind”.
Last season, she lost control and collided with the concrete wall in Tennant Creek causing slight damage to the wall and the entry and exit gate.
I asked her if it scared her: “No, not really, because you know what’s going to happen and you can’t do anything about it.”
The girls are both looking forward to racing against different people: Both acknowledge that when racing against the same people all the time, it’s natural to know each other’s habits.

Health praise. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A survey with the Australian Council on Health Care Standards has ticked “moderate achievement” or better for all functions, standards and criteria it assessed at the Alice Springs Hospital.
The organisation-wide survey is conducted four yearly.
The results were provided to the Alice Springs News by an obviously proud staff member, who passed on a copy of an email from Peter Lynch, Director of Medical and Clinical Services, then acting General Manager.
Dr Lynch reported that surveyors upgraded the hospital self-assessment rating for three criteria, from MA to EA – Extensive Achievement.
These criteria were:
• Evaluation of care by providers.
• Care and services planned, developed and delivered based on the best available evidence and in the most effective way.
• Provision for consumers/patients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and with special needs.
The surveyors also found all recommendations from the previous survey had been successfully addressed.
And they made favourable comment on the general state of cleanliness at the hospital – “a tribute to the staff involved particularly in recent months when heavy rain and mud has been a challenge”, said Dr Lynch.
His email said that the result was “excellent” for the hospital and staff, a tribute to the “hard work” and “commitment to quality that many of you display daily in what is at times a very challenging environment”.
As a result of the report Dr Lynch expected that accreditation for the hospital for a further four years would be no more than a formality.
Meanwhile, the health service at Amoonguna, the Aboriginal community just south east of Alice, has  achieved national accreditation.
While Amoonguna has a population of 250, the  health service has 300 current clients on the database.
The service also sees around 200 transient clients through the year – usually relatives of local residents.
Some Alice Springs residents use the clinic – perhaps because it’s not as busy as clinics in town, “perhaps because we’re nice people!”, says manager Jenny Jacobsen.
Most are signed up for the NT Shared Electronic Health Register so the clinic – and any other health service around the NT – can access their information at the touch of a button on a computer screen.
Ms Jacobsen says around 40,000 people in the NT are signed on to the register: “The client has to agree to sign on, but almost everyone does. It makes life so much easier.”
The clinic offers the same services as any general practice clinic, attending to acute problems, as well as chronic disease.
Their follow-up of clients with chronic illness, such as rheumatic heart disease – “a big problem in the NT” –
is one of the factors that has contributed to their recent accreditation.
Another factor was the “very good team ethos” that the surveyors observed, says Ms Jacobsen.
The team approach includes everyone from the cleaner to the doctors and management.
The clinic is staffed by two part-time GPs, in attendance for 24 hours per week, two registered nurses, the manager, bus driver, cleaner, receptionist and a community liaison officer.
The latter four positions are all filled by local residents.
As well as the care of sick people, the clinic is undertaking health education and promotion.
“It’s a community practice – we don’t look at health in isolation,” says Ms Jacobsen. 
Their stats are showing more first time mothers coming in for ante-natal care and they are also starting to see second-time mothers.
A pleasing result is in improved weights of newborn babies. 
They’re also working on programs encouraging better diet and fitness.
Ms Jacobsen says the shire has put in a walking track in the community, which is very helpful.
The clinic, formerly auspiced by the Amonguna Community Council, is now by Central Australian Aboriginal Congress.
A Congress spokesperson says auspice arrangements allow smaller community health providers to have greater access to funding, facilities and support services, such as employment and financial management.
To become accredited, a practice works for 12 months to implement the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Standards for General Practices.  Accreditation is used to measure, improve and benchmark performance over time, says the spokesperson. 

Racism, country and games.

I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the use of the word racism as a shield against scrutiny.
When the Indian Commonwealth games organisers were trying to justify the facilities covered in excrement and general unreadyness, the first line of defence was that the countries protesting at the state of the facilities were racist.
No. That your hotel is unfinished and covered in shit has nothing to do with racism and more to do with unpreparedness and differing standards.
I for one as a traveller would not expect the same standards in India as I might in Dubai, which I think would be much higher than Australia and light years beyond Cuba.
Horses for courses, some people do have terrible attitudes but don’t jump automatically on the racism wagon. It’s lazy and self defeatist.
“Don’t expect too much from us,” it says, and “It’s not our fault”.
I was recently accused of being racist by a man who also threatened to kill me with his bare hands because I refused him entry to a dance class!
He thought we were selling grog and wanted to come inside and drink –  trouble was there was not a single drop of booze in the whole place, he didn’t believe me and threatened my life as a response. He capped this off by calling me a racist because I wouldn’t let him in.
Let me make this absolutely clear, at all times I was polite and civil and even after he threatened my life I did not raise a hand or my voice against him.
There is no glory in bashing drunks and this bloke was so pissed he couldn’t scratch his arse. But he called me a racist and that pissed me off.
I am an attitude-ist and a people-ist – if your attitude sucks and you’re not a nice person I don’t care what colour your skin is or where you come from, I don’t want anything to do with you.
And let’s face it, any word that gets used all the time and inappropriately loses its power to shock and its value is diminished.
Let’s move along to another set of games closer to home.The Masters is on again. Thousands of older folk come to town and have the party of their lives, stopping briefly to participate in some sort of sporting activity in order to justify the trip.
All sorts of shenanigans go on and the record that gets broken the most is the sale of prophylactics – this crew plays hard on and off the field (plays hard, tee hee).
Anyway, to celebrate this influx of people I decided to go bush for a couple of hours, taking the dog out to enjoy the country after all this rain.
However, due to my aversion to camping and the fact that I had to work that night meant that my search for nirvana couldn’t wander too far. So, I parked my car within five minutes of leaving Alice and started to walk.
That’s right folks, five minutes from the centre of town.
I admired water falls and walked in fields of Ptilotus flowers of differing types and hues, saw frill necked lizards turned bright orange by the sun and camouflage, whilst the dog skipped and chased clouds of grass hoppers.
At one point we were shadowed by a pair of Black Kites, hovering overhead before swooping down to catch a grass hopper on the wing.
We were scaring prey up for them and we got an aerobatic display in return.
It’s so achingly beautiful and it reminded me why I love this place so much, vibrant and because of the water, humming with life.
So, to our esteemed visitors: if you can drag yourself away from the fun and games, get out and see the country.
It has never been more exquisite.
And to the locals.
Take the time to get out and look around you.
I’m sorry I can’t tell you the whereabouts of my special place, you will have to go out and find your own.

LETTERS: Uranium – Shaun’s arrow in the foot?

Sir – The second half of Shaun Nancarrow’s column on  October 7 was as misleading a heap of emotional scaremongering garbage as I’ve ever read. Personally I don’t much care whether they mine the stuff [uranium] or not. It’ll keep.
Maybe in a thousand years a more enlightened population, or one more desperate for power, will dig it up.
On the other hand I, for one, would have no objection to having a uranium mine in my backyard, if my backyard was as big as what Mr Nancarrow calls his backyard. As long as the miners provided proof that it was safe.
Mr Nancarrow doesn’t seem to understand that the function of a mine is not to put stuff into the ground, but to take it out of the ground and take it away and use it.
The minerals that are under the ground at Angela Pamela have been there for hundreds of millions of years; you might as well say “forever”. 
If they are in contact with our water supply, they have been ever since the water got there. If they aren’t in contact, the miners aren’t going to mix them. They wouldn’t dare.
It s true that sometimes greedy mining companies take risks and endanger the people living near a mine. Maybe that’s what’s happened in Hungary. It won’t happen here, because the mining companies know that our scientists and engineers, the ones who understand and trust the “charts and statistics and probability equations” that Mr Nancarrow is so distrustful of, will be watching them like hawks.
So will the politicians and the environmentalists and the nervous citizens.
Gavan Breen
Alice Springs

Electoral opportunism

Sir –  The recent by-election clearly demonstrates the futility of last minute tokenism, creating widespread doubt in the Territory’s ability to either assess or carry out in good faith projects like Angela Pamela.
The Chief Minister chose to override the normal well structured process for determining the safety and viability of a mine site to get votes that everyone bar Paul Henderson and one Opposition MLA knew he already had.
Having first enticed a company to spend in good faith millions of dollars, in a moment of cheap political opportunism refused to allow the project to proceed, overriding the proper environmental and assessment processes.
The world’s mining fraternity will certainly be questioning future commitments in the Territory.
All this by a government in charge of an economy that is almost entirely reliant on the generosity, charity of their fellow Australians. How long do you think that generosity will last when other Australians realise that we in the Territory are not willing to make the slightest effort, take the smallest risk to pay our own way in the world? 
The facts are, mine or no mine, the uranium ore sits on top of our water supply, has done so for billions of years.
A mine doesn’t put it in, it takes it out.
So as long as the process of removal is a “demonstrably safe one” then the removal of the ore could be considered as removing a risk, couldn’t it? 
If it can be clearly demonstrated that this mine can be operated safely, then we must not only allow it but welcome it and the opportunities it provides to return just a little to our long suffering fellow Australian taxpayers.
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

Unwelcome disclosure

Sir – Last Thursday my daughter received a letter in the mail that contained a card on how to vote for Adam Findlay. 
On the reverse side it had her postal address and also her enrolment details: full name, date of birth, enrolled address.
She was very upset at her date of birth being on the form. 
I would have been also, as in this day and age with identity theft it should not have been on it. 
I tried to ring [Mr Findlay’s] office but got the answering machine so I sent him an email with my concerns.
I also rang the electoral commission who told me that they had had complaints yesterday. She suggested I write to the commission in Darwin.  I know your paper follows up things really well so I thought I would let you know of our concerns. 
We shred all paperwork we have with our name and address on it to protect ourselves before getting rid of it. 
Also a big thank you to the person who delivers your paper in [our area] as it is great to have it in plastic when it is raining. I look forward to it each week, keep up the good work.
Pat Lucas
Alice Springs
ED – The Alice Springs News asked NT Electoral Commissioner Bill Shepheard to comment. He supplied the following statement:
Under the Electoral Act, extracts from the electoral roll are provided to Members of the Legislative Assembly and registered political parties on an ongoing basis.
Members and parties may use the information contained in the extracts for approved purposes under the Act.
Approved purposes includes the exercise of the MLA’s functions, a purpose connected with an election or monitoring the accuracy of the roll.
Responsibility for the selection and presentation of the roll data in material produced for an approved purpose lies with the MLA or party concerned.
The News also asked Mr Findlay to comment. He wrote as follows:
My focus for the last two weeks of the campaign was to meet as many residents as possible via door knocking and other public appearances.
This particular how to vote form was organised and authorised by NT Labour Secretary  Mark Whittaker. I do apologise, as the candidate, to the young lady for the concerns that she had with the document.

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