November 11, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Fine-tuning the big gigs. By

The town’s big events, such as the Masters Games and the Road Transport Hall of Fame conventions, are great for the local economy but they could do with some fine-tuning, says Peter Grigg, CEO of Tourism Central Australia (TCA).
They are a bonanza for accommodation houses, but because the participants are absorbed mostly in the events’ programs, tour operators are missing out.
Mr Grigg spoke to Alice Springs New editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
GRIGG: We’ve had a huge year around events. We had the biggest crowds at the Henley on Todd and Camel Cup, right back to early May with our racing club carnival. Alice Springs has really shown it can deliver these fantastic events.
The downside is that the everyday tour operators, who usually arrange accommodation as part of the deal, can’t get their clients in because everything is booked out.
The question is, how do we get the flow-on from those coming to these events, doing their one day tours into the West MacDonnells?
NEWS: What’s the answer?
GRIGG: We have to be very careful that we don’t price ourselves out of the market. We are considered a remote destination, so people are budgeting very wisely to even get here, and then they are careful with their money.
We might need to educate our operators to try and sell on the shoulders of the big events, and not so much into that event time.
Some of the accommodation houses have told us this year that the people staying with them haven’t spent their money in the restaurant or in the bar.
I went past one of the take-away places, Red Rooster, when the Masters was on, and the line was out the door.
NEWS: Might it be a good time for the operators to go on holidays during these events?
GRIGG: Well, everyone is entitled to a holiday. On the other hand, there are some fantastic opportunities around having 5000 people coming to town. We had an information booth at the registration to the Masters, as we have at all major conventions.
The interest was fantastic. Most of these events have some downtime, so people can see at least part of the region while they are here. It’s not all work!
For the operators it’s about knowing how to get to these people: come and spend a day with us. Even if they offer some kind of convention discount. We had a bus operator putting on a special of $10 a day – go anywhere you like.
NEWS: Is there much cooperation between the convention centre and tour operators?
GRIGG: There is, and the opportunity is there for more. Operators can check the events calendar. Let me use the example of a hire car company: the smart operators bring in extra cars in advance of big events, so they’re not getting caught, jeez, there’s a week and I’ve got no cars left.
NEWS: Which big events are coming up? The national AGM in 2014 of Ulysses, the bikers over 50, is apparently one of them?
GRIGG: That’s just a submission. We’ve just put that in. It’s their second bid. I’m a member of Ulysses and you should be, too.
NEWS: When I’m old enough ...
GRIGG: Oh yeah. What Ulysses do is bring a tent city. They might have 2000 tents.
NEWS: Is the demand for accommodation from the Federal Intervention ebbing off?
GRIGG: It was a big issue at the beginning for operators wanting to book accommodation on behalf of their clients. The Intervention would do block bookings, tying up that room for the time they were here, weeks and weeks, whether they were actually in town or out bush. Thank goodness, that has eased. That was like a huge event coming into town, with no spin-off to the tour operators.
NEWS: What are your expectations of the new owners of the Ayers Rock Resort?
GRIGG: I think it’s a good thing. [Aboriginal contact] has been touted by the industry for many years. The industry is looking forward to it. Regardless of which organisation buys the resort, it will be under the management of a professional hotel management company.
Running a resort is not the core business of the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) – the investment side is but not the operational side.
The ILC has already made announcements about Aboriginal training, jobs and business opportunities.
One thing we get constantly from our visitors, especially from the internationals, is they go to the Rock and they don’t see a lot of indigenous people down there employed. They don’t see a lot of rangers conducting tours, not a lot of operators, nor people working in the businesses. There are now good engagement opportunities for an international person to meet with a local Aboriginal person. We support that.
It also fits very well with Virgin now flying in. They were doing Sydney to The Rock for $150.
NEWS: You’re the lobby for the industry yet you don’t have your own, independent visitation statistics. You rely for them on the government’s Tourism NT (TNT), over which TCA is meant to be the watchdog. To judge the performance of the government’s body you would surely need independent monthly figures on the number of visitors, visitor nights and spend.
GRIGG: We don’t collect these figures because it’s a costly and time-consuming exercise. My staff are flat out. We know how many people come into our visitors’ centre. That is an indicator of how many people come into the town. It’s 150,000 to 160,000 a year at the visitors’ centre and that’s pretty stable from year to year. Around 46% of people coming to a town will go to its visitors’ centre. The balance are “visiting friend and relations” and they get their information from them.
NEWS: That doesn’t tell you how long people are staying nor how much they spend.
GRIGG: You can’t do it unless you can get somebody on the ground [to do the surveys].
NEWS: You could ring all the accommodation houses and get their figures, on a confidential basis, to be reported as a total only and not for individual disclosure.
GRIGG: A lot of motels will keep their figures very close to their chest. They’ll probably talk more to the state tourism organisation than the regional tourism association.
NEWS: What’s the TCA’s program for the next five years? You’ve got the Aussie dollar at parity with the US dollar now.
GRIGG: Yes, and that’s hard. We need to make sure we’re still banging on about [The Centre being a great place to visit]. Airlines may be flying more people out of Australia now than they are flying in. We’ve got competition on a world wide basis that we’ve never had before. You see ads for Indonesia on telly. I’ve never before seen an ad to come and visit Indonesia as a tourist before in my life. Now they’re on Imparja.
NEWS: Do you have any specific strategies to deal with this, such as cutting prices?
GRIGG: That’s not for us to determine.
NEWS: You could recommend it, though?
GRIGG: I recommend that our operators and accommodation remain competitive. TCA is not the international marketing arm. We are represented at all the trade shows in Australia, about 12 a year.
We do domestic marketing, and now work very closely with the education market.
We attend the education expos. Thirty years ago every bus that rolled into this town had school kids on it. That has dropped off considerably. They used to time the Henley on Todd for the school holidays.
NEWS: Are you pleased with the performance of Tourism NT?
GRIGG: I suppose we could always say we want more money. Yes, we do receive NT Government funding and we have to use the money as directed by Tourism NT.
NEWS: Does getting money from the government make you less likely to criticise it when appropriate? Would you not be reluctant to bite the hand that feeds you.
GRIGG: I think you know [TCA chairman] Ren Kelly. Do you think that Ren, when he saw the need to rattle the cage up there, would be sitting on his hands? At the same time I think I represent the industry fairly well. And it’s not just TNT. We’ve got a war going on at the moment with another agency, around driver fatigue. We’re happy to put the boot in.
NEWS: What’s that war all about?
GRIGG: The national driver fatigue legislation and the implications that this could bring to the local operators.
TCA and the local transport industry are not opposed to any legislation that ensures the safety of our clients, we are opposed to legislators who make ill-informed descions without considering the concerns of the industry that then is required to work – viably – within this legislation.
NEWS: What would have been the three most recent victories, where TCA got some concession for the industry which TNT or the government had initially refused? For example, what’s happening with the East West Highway and the Mereenie Loop upgrade? Nothing more seems to have been done other than giving them new names, Outback Way and Red Centre Way, respectively?
GRIGG: The lobbying in relation to the ongoing maintenance and eventual sealing of the Merennie loop is continually pushed into the appropriate government agency’s face.
This is an ongoing issue that has now seen two local operators withdraw their tour schedules from the Mereenie Loop, the Red Centre Way. 
This impacts not only on the operator, but also the client and definitely on the number of businesses that rely on having this passing parade of customers, ie Hermannsburg Historical precinct, Wallace Rockhole. These are Indigenous businesses that are critical to the community as operating and viable.
NEWS: And the Outback Highway?
GRIGG: Not every Queensland shire and council is supportive of the Outback Way. If they seal the Outback Way, what do you think is going to happen to Mt Isa? If you can drive from Brisbane to Perth without going to Mt Isa or Broken Hill, going straight across The Centre, I think that would be be fantastic. But not everybody sees that. So when you have other councils out there lobbing against it, Queensland and the Federal Government are going to say, well, if they can’t all be together, what do we do? If everybody said, yes, we support it, it needs to happen, we’ll all lobby our state and Federal members, it would probably happen. Western Australia thinks it’s fantastic.
On this, Brian Atherinos, manager of Outback Mt Isa, has no worries, although his town is some 260 kms north of the Outback Way.
“Mt Isa is the hub for outback Queensland,” says Mr Atherinos.
“It links up with the gulf and Cairns, and an extra roadway and extra access both ways would be a good thing.”
The News has also asked the Mt Isa Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce for comment.

Council & dump firm in court

Landfill operator Subloo have initiated legal proceedings against the Town Council.
Council is defending and has issued a counter claim, which is listed for trial in Darwin in December.
Says CEO Rex Mooney: “Based on legal advice Council does not believe it owes Subloo any outstanding monies.
“I’m unable to comment further due to pending legal proceedings.”
Subloo company director Darryl Subloo also declined to comment because the matter is before the court.
The Alice News had heard that the operator was locked out of the landfill site, but Mr Subloo says operations at the landfill continue as normal.

Runs on board for new Rock resort owners

Good intentions and many training programs over the years have not resulted in a single current Anangu employee at Ayers Rock Resort, so how will new owners, The Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), make a difference?
The experience of running 16 live-in training centres as well as a number of pastoralism and tourism businesses across Australia should help, says ILC general manager David Galvin.
In the 2009-10 financial year ILC had 207 trainees and 136 Indigenous employees, with the numbers set to grow as ILC expands its operations.
The ILC’s Mossman Gorge project got underway at the start of this month. This is a gateway visitor centre two kilometres from the national park (north of Cairns), which attracts 500,000 visitors each year – “more than Ayers Rock and Kakadu combined”, says Mr Galvin.
All cars and coaches will stop there, with visitors transferred to shuttle busses for their visit to the park. 
The 1000 sqm centre will house a restaurant and cafe, an art gallery, gift shop and Parks & Wildlife office.
There are 40 Indigenous people in pre-employment training with job guarantees who will start work in November 2011, and in high tourism season the centre is expected to employ 70.
Tourism is not a new game for ILC.
It has been running Home Valley Station in the Kimberley as a pastoral operation come tourism venture since 1999.
This is the station featured in Baz Luhrman’s film, Australia.
It employs 20 Indigenous people, in a mix of full-time and casual positions, as well as Indigenous tourism and pastoral trainees.
ILC-owned Roebuck Station near Broome is a serious player in the cattle industry, running 90,000 head and with live export yards in Broome.
Mossman Gorge, Home Valley and Roebuck all have 20 bed live-in training facilities.
This is the model, scaled up, that will be introduced at Ayers Rock Resort.
Mr Galvin talks about an “integrated approach” across ILC’s various interests in Australia, including the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence in Redfern, Sydney and Clontarf Aboriginal College in Perth which the ILC will acquire in March next year.
While the detail will come down the track, he says the different operations will feed trainees to the National Indigenous Tourism Academy at The Rock.
So where and how will the local Anangu fit in?
“Given the history of extremely poor training and employment outcomes for the Anangu at Ayers Rock, the ILC acknowledges that turning this around won’t be easy,” says Mr Galvin.
“The ILC also notes that there are not large numbers of Anangu people living in the three communities around Uluru and as a result the bulk of our Indigenous employees and trainees will come from regions throughout Australia, including Alice Springs and Darwin.
“We’ll be working strongly in partnership with Wana Unkunytja to have Anangu fully integrated into our training and employment programs.
“This will include building a strong relationship with Nyangatjatjara College at Yulara to encourage work experience programs, and school-based traineeships and apprenticeships.
“We’ll also be working with Wana Unkunytja to promote and expand Anangu Tours and other business contracting opportunities for Anangu.”
Mr Galvin says ILC “is going all out to succeed”.
“The ILC sees employment and training as its foremost goal.
“We’ll separate out this part of the activity from the business.
“We’ll get Commonwealth money and put in our own money to deliver the best possible outcome for the people there.”
“At the training centres we currently operate across business properties we already enjoy a success rate of 56% of people completing their full training program and we aim to improve that figure to 70%.
“Of those who complete their training with us, 89% go on to employment in ILC or other businesses – a very positive take-up rate.”
The Alice News asked Mr Galvin if more is needed than attractive options to overcome the high levels of local unemployment.
He referred to repeated statements from ILC chair Shirley MacPherson that welfare reform needs to go hand in hand with opportunities.
He says Ms MacPherson acknowledges the great disincentive to stick with employment if it is too easy to slip back onto CDEP or welfare benefits.
“Through her, ILC advocates very strongly to government that it should not be too easy.
“The government is listening but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Government will hold a series of workshops across the country to seek further public input into its strategy to boost economic independence for Indigenous people.
The deadline for submissions on the draft Indigenous Economic Development Strategy has been extended to  December 17.
In the NT, half-day consultation workshops Darwin, Alice Springs and Nhulunbuy.
Check for dates.

Vexed questions on running multi million dollar Aboriginal royalty corporations. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A member of a multi-million dollar Aboriginal royalty organisation has been told by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) that it will investigate her complaints about the role of the Central Land Council (CLC), and has responded to some of them.
Jane Blunden, of Katherine, complained that investments don’t benefit the members and that the current membership and directors do not understand the finances of the corporation.
She is a member of Kurra, one of three royalty corporations in and near the Western Desert with combined assets of $55m.
ORIC’s Karen Nicholson says in a letter to Ms Blunden that she is responding to concerns about the CLC being included in Kurra’s constitution: “The corporation’s current rules are based on the rules originally adopted when the corporation registered in 1993 ... These rules have always included references to the CLC and this has been accepted by members, who have voted to accept the rules.
“The investments of the corporation are the responsibility of the directors.
“If the members wish to raise an objection to the investment strategy, they can either raise the issue at the annual general meeting, ask the directors to hold a general meeting to discuss the investment strategy, or use the [corporation’s] dispute resolution clauses.”
In response to concerns that the current membership and directors do not understand the finances of the corporation, Ms Nicholson says: “The annual general meeting minutes for 2008-09 you have forwarded show a financial report was provided to members and they were advised that copies would be made available.
“ORIC would prefer that a full explanation of the audited financial report be provided to members and will raise this issue with the corporation.
“I do note, however, that the members were provided with opportunity to ask questions, but it appears they did not do so.”
Ms Blunden also objected to the CLC being “the arbiter of who is a Traditional Owner within the corporation”.
Ms Nicholson says: “The inclusion of the CLC as arbiter ... has been included in the corporation rule book since registration.
“These are matters where the CLC has been given this status by the membership.
“If members no longer wanted this association, they would need to take their own legal advice on the implications of that course of action.
“The members could then change the rules to remove those references, if that was their decision.”
The role of the CLC became dramatically obvious when the Alice Springs News was invited by a royalty association, the Inkamala Corporation from the Hermannsburg area, to attend its annual meeting in the Aboriginal Associations Management Centre (AAMC), in Kennett Court in October 2007.
Before the meeting was allowed to get under way David Avery, the senior lawyer of the CLC, insisted that News managing editor Erwin Chlanda left.
Mr Avery said the CLC owns the building and that gave him the right to evict Mr Chlanda. 
Earlier AAMC staff locked about two dozen members of the corporation out of a meeting room where business dealing with royalties was due to be transacted.
About 25 members of the association were present and several of them, including senior members Carl and Clara Inkamala, objected strongly to Mr Chlanda’s eviction.

Alice window onto Pakistan. By KIERAN FINNANE.

She’s a familiar face around the Alice Springs Hospital where she’s worked as a doctor for the past five years, but home is far away and it’s where her heart is at the moment.
Farida Khawaja comes from Sialkot, in the north-east of Punjab province in Pakistan.
Her first impulse upon hearing the news of the devastating flooding of her country was to go home.
She’s been visiting each year since her graduation from Flinders University (excluding her intern year), volunteering her medical services wherever they are most needed.
In particular she has spent time in the mountainous region of the north where in October 2005 an earthquake killed some 75,000 people and left three million homeless.
It’s hard to believe that a natural disaster of even greater proportion could hit the country five years later.
An estimated 20 million people have been made homeless by the deluge, while around 1600 lost their lives in the immediate aftermath.
As it turned out, it was not easy for Dr Khawaja to leave her post at the Alice hospital and with time to reflect  she realised that, first, she could help her homeland from here by raising money, and second, she will still be needed when she’s due for leave in a few months’ time.
To date, she’s raised some $20,000 through her wide personal network, here and overseas.
Now, together with the help of volunteers, she’s organising a special event in Alice: a fundraising exhibition, combined with a dinner, a quiz (Pakistan-related of course), a Dutch auction of donated items, music and a sub-continental fashion parade, including instruction on how to wear a sari.
It’s planned for November 19 at Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
The exhibition will be of her own photographs, taken during her trips home from 2004 to earlier this year.
Dr Khawaja doesn’t see herself as a photographer but she clearly has an eye.
More than this though, she has the advantage of intimacy, of knowing her subject, and of them knowing and trusting her. These images take us right into the room with people, right into her subject’s personal exchange with her. Their gaze or smile is for her.
For the viewer this has the wonderful effect of making immediate and particular people and contexts that might otherwise be generalised and remote.
Her camera is nothing special and Dr Khawaja pays tribute to Alice photographer Mike Gillam who, in preparing the digital files for print, has drawn from the images the detail that brings them to life.
Thus we see in a smoke-filled mud hut a woman and three children in her charge as she prepares their meal.
This is in a very remote, earthquake-affected mountainous area where people take their animals to graze in the summer, reached only over very bad roads.
Dr Khawaja had been talking with the woman and others about their lives as mothers – their pregnancies, periods, family planning (she works as much as possible on health education and prevention).
“Every time a man came into the room, it would all go quiet,” she recalls. “The women stick together, look after each other and their kids.”
We see a boy, blue-eyed, particularly beautiful, about 10 or 11. He’s in a kitchen, looking straight at her and smiling.
He’s a refugee from Afghanistan (the UNHCR estimates there are 1.7 million of them in Pakistan, the vast majority in the flood-affected areas).
Dr Khawaja saw him at a truckstop on her way to Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
He was working as a kitchenhand 12 hours a day, and unable to attend school.
“I had an immense feeling of connection with him and went back the following week to see if I could do something about getting him into school.
“But he was gone.
“I felt very worried about him.
“These boys can be very vulnerable when they’re working with older men.
“A lot of young boys keep their families going, especially if they have lost their father. Their mothers can’t go out of the home.”
We see another boy, driving his donkey-drawn cart through the mist.
“This is in a village close to the Indian border, very early on a winter’s morning. You can see the scales and vegetables in the cart – he’s going to market.
“He’d be about 14. There’s some chance that he would have had a couple of years’ schooling.”
We see a woman joyfully embracing her daughter. Dr Khawaja first met the woman’s husband.
He was worried about his pregnant wife and asked Dr Khawaja to see her.
Says Dr Khawaja: “Despite such negative stereotypes around men in Pakistan, within our own cultural frameworks there is a lot of caring and tenderness. Often men will whisper in my ear and ask me to help their wives ...  the subject is taboo, but I will find out when I get there.”
These are images to touch your heart: not sentimental, not heart-wrenching, but moving.
And there’s not a terrorist, militia man or dictator in sight.
As Dr Khawaja says, they show something of the diversity of life in Pakistan, its rich cultural heritage (especially through its architecture), and its gentle side as well as its resilience.
The money raised from this function will go to the Jesuit mission in Lahore.
“They work very simply, taking nothing for themselves.
“A community asks them for help and they respond, no strings attached, religious or otherwise.”

Poll shapes up as Greens vs conservative contest. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The  council will have to bite the bullet and hold a by-election to fill the vacancy left by Melanie van Haaren’s resignation.
Council had sought an exemption from Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy, hoping to avoid the expense of a by-election, estimated to cost around $65,000. The exemption was denied.
Polling date looks likely to be February 26, with Katherine Municipality likely to have a by-election on the same day. With that date, the roll would close on January 25, and nominations on February 3.
Greens alderman Jane Clark said the Greens will be discussing their options once an election is officially called. They are tipped to field a number of candidates who will swap preferences in the hope of pushing one across the line.
It’s highly likely that more conservative candidates will adopt the same strategy.
Athlete and businessman Eli Melky might be among them, as might be electrician, builder and former prominent Country Liberal member, Steve Brown.
Both told the Alice News they were seriously considering running but had not yet made up their mind.
Mr Brown was pipped to the post by Mrs van Haaren in the last council election, with the latter, although a sitting alderman, just getting across the line on the strength of Ald Murray Stewart’s preferences.

More pools in desert towns are looking for funding.

Like Yuendumu in the Central Desert Shire, three communities in MacDonnell Shire are looking for operational funding for their swimming pools.
Kintore, Areyonga and Santa Teresa all have pools, which between them cost around $500,000 to operate.
FaHCSIA funded major works on all three during winter, but there are ongoing problems at Santa Teresa pool, largely due to its age.
MacDonnell Shire Council has written and delivered a discussion paper to try to gain further funding and support, without which it will not be able to continue the operation of the pools.
To date the majority of funding has come through government agencies, however this year the cost has been worn by the shire, apart from $70,000 for the pool at Kintore.
This came from Papunya Tula Artists and the NGO Red Dust Role Models, but is not enough even for running the Kintore pool.
The shire is currently recruiting Pool Supervisors for Kintore and Santa Teresa and is heartened to see some locals at Santa Teresa and Areyonga gaining pool qualifications.

New book tells cracking story of the earliest Papunya artists. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“This old man is a true artist. He took what he found, an old piece of waste lumber he located in a rubbish tip and the dregs of some paint he found lying around the settlement and made art out of it.”
Thus said judge of the 1971 Caltex / Northern Territory Art Award, Jo Caddy, in announcing the award winner, Kaapa Mbitjana Tjampitjinpa for his painting Gulgardi.
Today in Alice Springs, surrounded as we are by the art of Aboriginal people and all too aware of how sought after the best of it is, it may be hard to appreciate the momentousness of that decision. It is described by art historian Vivien Johnson as a “moment of unadulterated triumph” for the artist.
He had shown “the scornful settlement authorities who sacked him from his job picking up papers around the Papunya Special Schoolyard for the crime of stealing paintbrushes, that he really was an artist, in fact the ‘number one’ artist”.
The painting was acquired for the Araluen Trust which preceded the creation of the Araluen Arts Centre, where it is now housed.
While it is not on display at the moment, it will be again at some time in the future. As a seminal work in the vanguard of the famed Western Desert art movement, it is one of our town’s most important cultural treasures.
Another small work by Kaapa is currently showing at Araluen and shares with Gulgardi references to ceremonial life which at the time caused great controversy.
When in September 1974 works in this vein – “medicine paintings” in what Johnson calls the “School of Kaapa” style – were among those returning to Alice Springs from a national tour and put on display at The Residency, the building was attacked by “incensed tribesmen” throwing rocks and spears.
Then director of Museums and Art Galleries of the NT, Dr Colin Jack-Hinton, closed the exhibition and put its 30 works into storage, where they have remained ever since together with another 170 of the same period which he had acquired.
The significance of Kaapa, who was painting before art teacher Geoffrey Bardon encouraged the painting of the honey ant mural at Papunya school, is dealt with in detail by Johnson in the opening chapters of her new book, Once Upon a Time in Papunya.
The book will have its local launch this Sunday, 3pm, at Red Kangaroo Books.
The title of her book suggests a cracking good story and this is what Johnson delivers: she goes sleuthing through the historical record and archives of dealers, collectors, auction houses, museums, adding her own research, writing an account as much for the general reader with an interest in art and the history of The Centre as for the more informed collector, industry professional or academic, all in an attempt to answer the question, “Why did they do it?”
The ‘it” is the ground-breaking creation of the “early boards”, around 1000 of them painted over the years 1971 and 1972. The whereabouts of half of them was unknown until the mid-1990s when they began to resurface through auction houses, their owners lured by the dramatically escalating prices they were fetching.
Johnson tells this money story. Although it’s not her primary interest, she certainly allows it its own excitement, such as in the account of the discovery by Sotheby’s auctioneer Tim Klingender of Johnnny Warangkula’s Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa (1972) hanging in its owner’s laundry.
The painting went on to fetch a record-breaking $206,000 at auction in 1997.
While the artist, who originally sold the work for less than $150, got no direct benefit from this sale, his wish for a Toyota so that he could return to the place of the Dreaming in the painting did eventuate and his painting career was relaunched.
The masterpiece was resold just three years later, doubling its price, the kind of profit that fed the frenzy around acquiring particularly the early boards but also spreading to more recent masterworks. 
Johnson’s long acquaintance with the artists and their country – she has been visiting Papunya, researching and curating their art since 1980 – brings the story to warm and vivid life.
Her research is no doubt impeccable, with every new detail referenced, but the book is far from dry. She also rejects the easy categories of victims and exploiters, oppressors and oppressed in favour of complexity and nuance, but inevitably aspects of the story she tells are heart-wrenching.
Among them, the experiences of the all but last Pintupi coming into Papunya from their nomadic existence in the desert, forced to rapidly adapt to settlement ways, derided by all, including other Aboriginal residents, for their ‘ignorance’.
And the quite tragic final years of Clifford Possum, cruelly let down by the art world that had earlier fawned over him, as well as by the mainstream justice system.
On a more positive note, it certainly emerges from her account that the government of the time was endeavouring to encourage and support expressions of Aboriginal culture, even as heavy-handed aspects of assimilation policy were being enforced.
Personalities emerge strongly, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, perhaps none so intriguing as Kaapa, whom Johnson invites us to consider may have been “deliberately painting up a storm, with every intention of riding the whirlwind”.
In settling the matters that arose, which continue to be sharply felt, Johnson mounts a passionate argument for Aboriginal voices to be heard as ‘the experts’.
They have in her a very committed champion who remains ready to defer to their primary authority. 

PeeWees give it a handful. By CHRIS WALSH.

The Alice Springs Motorcycle Club has been going for 50 years, with the last 25 at Ilparpa Park.
The dirt bike season in Alice starts on the Australia Day weekend and finishes up in November every year.
There are four different types of event throughout each year (excluding Finke) –  Motocross, Natural Terrain, Flat Track/Short Circuit and Enduro.
Ilparpa Park provides a motocross track with jumps, a natural terrain track without jumps (similar in size but a lot faster and with less turns – the event that most riders prefer) and a flat track/short circuit track.
The enduro series has three or four events per year held in various locations, usually in the middle of nowhere!
One such is on Narwietooma Station, where ASMCC member Doug Sims has marked a track through the spectacular countryside.
Enduros are sometimes held at Aileron and Tilmouth Well and, on AFL grand final weekend, always at Kulgera with a “dash for cash” on the old horse racing track.
The committee is looking at a couple of new locations for next year.
At present the club has about 100 members and some of the natural terrain events can have 80 or 90 bikes competing. There are 10 competitor divisions starting with Peewee Division 1 which is for the little kids on quads and small bikes.
This division is non-competitive, non-scoring and has staggered starts. It’s all about fun for these youngsters and an introduction to future competition.
Peewee Division 2 is for youngsters on 50cc bikes and it’s competitive and points scoring. These young riders don’t seem to have any fear at all and get around the track with plenty of speed.
The 65cc Division is for two strokes, again with some really good riders. Jerakai Andrews rides in this division as well as the 85cc division and travelled to the Australian Motocross Titles in NSW to take out 6th place.
Other divisions are the 85cc; the Junior 125; the Pro Open for 450 cc and above; the Pro Lite for 250cc four strokes; the Clubman for those not as competitive as others; the Masters for the 35 and over age group; and the Quads.
Last Saturday night was the final race meeting of 2010 and it was the second time a short circuit flat track event was held under lights this year.
Holcim delivered 60 tonne of cracker dust to get the track up to scratch and Alice Equipment Hire supplied the lights, sourcing extras from elsewhere to add to their own.
Club president Craig Reid says the ASMCC is a good, strong club made up of some great people who work very hard and it wouldn’t be possible without them.
“People such as Glenn Auricht and Doug Sims do a hell of a lot for the club.
“Ray Nelson often goes out there on his own without being asked and gets on the grader or the front end loader to do some work in his own time.”
Craig tells me how people such as Janice Campbell don’t have kids involved anymore but still go out.
Then there’s Alan Page who doesn’t have any kids either but goes anyway and does the starts and so on. 
Another valued volunteer is Susan Turner who does the kitchen every week and whenever there’s an event on.
As anyone who’s been involved in this type of work will know, it takes a fair bit of time to organise all the food and drinks.
Around 50 riders competed in last Saturday’s event.
“A few of them don’t want to hurt themselves, especially leading up to Finke, so this was by far the biggest flat track short circuit event we’ve had in a while,” said Craig.
“The really little kids had a ball.
“We’ve never had that many spectators before, it was fantastic and I think it proves that people want to see things like this in town because it’s something different.”
The ASMCC is trying very hard to promote safe riding skills especially within the junior divisions.
All junior riders have to do a number of hours with a recognised trainer every year before they can renew their licence or change to a different division.
They have a log book for this purpose which must be signed off, so safety is well regulated. 
All riders must also have a medical clearance to ride again after an injury.
Craig first became involved in 2004 because of his son Darcy taking up the sport.
“I’m not one that can go out and just sit back and watch – I have to be involved somehow, so it seemed a natural step to take.
“Being on machinery is not my forte but I’m always there for them and I enjoy the involvement.
“The club has a lot of potential and I really want to see it succeed and grow which is hard to achieve at times because it’s all part-time.
“This event gave us some heart – if we do it we know now that people will come and support it.”
The club has just received a government grant to purchase a new portable PA system which was used for the first time on Saturday night.
A next step will be to obtain funding for installing lights out there permanently. This would permit events during the hotter months to run from late afternoon through to early evening, and perhaps draw more spectators to the complex.
Craig also firmly believes that the ASMCC environment is “a natural breeding ground for future speedway riders”.
“Current riders PJ Sabadin, Jason Hill and Ryan Wark ride out here as well as in the Solo Division at Arunga Park Speedway.
“Local sidecar rider Chris Dess is also an experienced motocross rider with a couple of Finke Desert Races under his belt.
“Motocross riders participating in speedway events and vice versa makes people take notice too – we have eight or nine quad riders and a number of stockbikes competing at speedway this Saturday night, which will continue the momentum.”
Speedway is hosting the Territory Metals Northern Territory Sidecar Titles with an official practice tomorrow night (Friday), followed by plenty of action on Saturday with 13 sidecars vying for the coveted NT number 1.


Putting in the long hours of study to make a certainty of the statistics exam pushed me close to the edge of collapse, but I made it.
Even though I won’t be breaking out the bubbles until I get my results back, I’m pretty sure I’ve done enough to pass.
Which is a huge relief –  it’s a core subject so if I failed I’d have to go through the whole process again, a prospect not to be entertained. And that, as they say, is that.
I have completed my degree and I should be ecstatic, full of a sense of accomplishment etc etc.  What I feel is hard to describe, a bit hollow, a bit direction-less and tired.
Flash forward two days – I wrote the first bit straight after the exam in a state of shock and sleep deprivation. I slept in the next day and woke in a panic, surely I must need to be studying something.
But it’s all good now, the world is bright and sunny and I am excited at the next prospect, the next opportunity, whatever happens.
My mate Colin has a mantra: change is good, it’s hard and sometimes people want you to fail but it is still good.
Just ask any transsexual.
It’s one thing to put on a dress and ask your mates to call you Gloria, it’s another thing entirely to get the tackle removed and start doing wee wee sitting down.
The courage that takes is astonishing and all the flap is that they used to be a boy ... or a girl, in fewer circumstances.
Which is a bit weird. I can understand wanting to be a girl, girls are pretty, but a hairy-arsed bloke? Whatever pops your cork, I guess.
The mind boggles that this is still an issue for some people.
If it’s not your bits hitting the floor, it’s not your business, go and mind your own.
I have had to deal with a lot of changes this year, not as extreme as the previously mentioned example, but big deal for me.
And it has made me realise how comfy things had gotten, how every day just slipped into another without a ripple, how dangerous this way of life was.
Not that comfy is all bad but it can be beguiling, like stepping into fairyland to wake one day and find that 40 years have passed and half your friends are dead.
I have discovered that I need change, no matter how uncomfortable it might be at the time, in order to appreciate how good my life is.
It makes you rethink the good and the bad bits, your friends, the life you have and the love you have earned and shouldn’t take for granted.
I am thankful for the changes, even though it’s not over yet and there is more pain to deal with in the future. But right now things are good and tomorrow is tomorrow’s problem.
All this new found insight has made one thing painfully clear.
Alice, my beautiful town that has given me so much, has to change.
We have to do away with the attitude that the level of dysfunction that a section of our community operates under is acceptable, that children not going to school is acceptable, that violence as an option in solving disputes is acceptable.
It is not, under any circumstances.
The changes will be painful but they have to be made, not should, have to. People will have to deal with it.
Idealists will shut up for the greater good.
Communism in its purest form sounds wonderful but it is not practical, it does not take into account the lowest common denominator, the selfish individual.
Evolution has the key, change or perish – the strongest survive.
Please Alice, find the courage to change before it is too late, for all of us.

LETTERS: Racism can be black as well as white.

Sir – I fully support K. Anderson for taking a stand in relation to the racist thuggery that members of her family have been subjected to in Alice Springs.
It is about time we all acknowledged that all forms of racism are totally unacceptable.
It is about time that those who concern themselves only with white racism acknowledge that white kids in Alice Springs are often victimised because they are white.
It also should be acknowledged that this sort of mindless, thuggish behaviour can be directed at anybody.
Skin colour is just another excuse for thuggery.
Of course some whitefellas are just as capable of mindless thuggery though they have never been a problem for us.
As my daughter went through her teenage years it became obvious to us that the biggest threat to her safety came from other teenage, Aboriginal girls.
On occasion her white friends were assaulted and abused in her presence when she herself was not threatened.
We encouraged her to learn a martial art early in her life.
That certainly helped.
She was taught to never start a fight but to know how to effectively defend herself and her friends if she had to.
It doesn’t take long to earn a reputation of being able to look after yourself.
Our daughter had a family more than willing to protect her and plenty of Aboriginal friends willing to take her side.
Thugs are basically cowards and are easily persuaded to lay off when they are evenly matched let alone outnumbered.
However whether you are white, black or in-between, if you don’t have allies and supporters then you can be in deep trouble.
If it is true as K. Anderson claims that her kids’ school has done nothing to protect her children from this sort of bullying then that is outrageous.
Our children, whatever colour they are, have the absolute right to expect to be protected by all authorities from this sort of thuggish behaviour whatever the skin colour of the perpetrator or the victim.
If this problem is not addressed then life for all of us in this town, regardless of our ethnicity, may well become intolerable.
Dave Price
Alice Springs

Location of seniors’
units needs rethink

Sir – I write to congratulate Alex Nelson on his insightful article on some of the many planning issues facing our town (Alice Springs News, Nov 4).
The quotes relating to “infill” developments, from both the Minister for Lands and the Mayor, betray their poor understanding of current day planning principles and, together with the “no comment” stance of the Minister for Central Australia, does not instill confidence in the future development of our town.  
What our Mayor and Ministers need to understand is that where infill is permitted is as important as the promotion of higher-density residential development.
Has anyone asked whether the 18 senior accommodation units planned for the far-flung end of Albrecht Drive might have been better located closer to our town’s centralised facilities, like shops, doctors’ surgeries and the hospital?  
Simply providing the units is not good planning in itself.  
Where they are located needs to be based upon more than political convenience.
The reason we have these poor decisions thrust upon us is that Alice Springs lacks a well-thought out and visionary Town Plan.
Despite the lack of such a plan, we do have some examples of good residential development in this town, such as the 1990s units on the corner of Sturt Terrace and Renner Street featured in the article, thanks to local architect Brendan Meney and local developer, Tony Karacic.  
These thirteen units are built over two lots and are a mix of one, two and three-bedroom residences which are integrated into a coherent whole rather than the more typical “cookie-cutter” designs that are popular with less imaginative developers.  
These units are walking distance to the local Eastside shops and restaurants, as well as being just a short walk to the town’s centre, and were designed in consultation with the Eastside Residents’ Association.  
Over the years, they have developed into the leafy, well-cared for property we see today.
Town planning is a very complex process and it requires a greater understanding than that demonstrated to date by our political leadership.
It’s time they admitted as much and committed themselves to the development of a Town Plan that, to paraphrase a real statesman, can be “of the people, by the people, for the people”.
Domenico Pecorari
Alice Springs

Thanks Dick

Sir – I appreciated the recent articles by Dick Kimber about his trip through Lake Eyre.
He still writes as good as he can tell them.
I lived at Papunya for 18 years then in Alice for another four.
Moved to Darwin for six years and now here. I miss the Territory a lot.
John Heffernan
Brisbane QLD

Cameco Paladin continue at Angela Pamela

Sir – The Cameco Paladin joint venture remains committed to its Angela Uranium Project.
The joint venture partners met after their recent meeting with the Chief Minister to discuss the future of the project.
They said the project will continue with a reduced program and budget for the rest of this year and the first part of 2011 with Cameco continuing as the operator of the project. 
The joint venture is continuing work on a resource estimate for the Angela deposit.  Early in 2011, a decision will be made regarding the scale of further 2011 work based on results to date including the resource estimate and projected economics, and taking into account the uncertainty created by the NT Government’s recent decision. 
As part of the reduced program of work, the joint venture may trial several new exploration methods including a new drilling technique and a new surface geochemistry method.
However, as the main exploration activity has now ceased, the joint venture will close its shop front office in Alice Springs and operate from its industrial shed in Alice Springs.
Cameco will now base its Australian operations in Perth.
We were already relocating our Darwin office and administrative functions to Perth so it makes sense to rationalise all our exploration activities in one place. 
The joint venture partners will continue to work with the Alice Springs community and the community reference group meetings and sponsorship program will continue.
Regional Director of Cameco Australia, Jennifer Parks
Managing Director of Paladin Energy, John Borshoff

Stop the trains,
like in Germany

Sir – The current protests over nuclear waste transport in Germany are a stark reminder of the need for community involvement in radioactive waste management.
Despite ongoing opposition from the NT Government and Traditional Owners, Minister Ferguson is bulldozing ahead with the plan for a radioactive dump at Muckaty in the NT.
Peak union bodies have criticised the plan and there is a federal court challenge underway by Traditional Owners.
Councils on the proposed transport route from Sydney to Muckaty have passed resolutions opposing waste travelling through their community.
Minister Ferguson must urgently revisit ALP commitments that promise a “scientific, transparent and accountable process” and “full community consultation in radioactive waste decision-making”.
Otherwise, he can expect unionists, health professionals, greenies, students and other community members out in force to stop the trucks and trains, just like in Germany.
Natalie Wasley
Beyond Nuclear Alice Springs

Community Garden
is happening

Sir – A community garden in Alice Springs is a step closer with the signing of a lease agreement between the Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC) and Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) last week.
The lease allows for the development of a community garden in the northern section of Frances Smith Memorial Park in Eastside.
This is a big step towards building the resilience of Alice Springs.
The garden will be a hub of activity for people wanting to grow, learn and make new friends through growing fresh food.
This Sunday, November 14 between 10am and 12pm, ALEC and the ASTC are inviting the community on-site to find out what is happening and how to get involved.
Bring a blanket to sit on and pack a picnic to share to celebrate the signing of the lease and walk through the project plan with the Community Garden Management Committee.
Construction will begin in early 2011.
Jimmy Cocking

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