February 3, 2011. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Law and order tops agenda. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The February 26 by-election is an opportunity to rate the current Town Council’s performance and all six by-election candidates the Alice News spoke to say the council needs to be a stronger voice for the town.
Even Craig Pankhurst, coming to the campaign trail straight from employment with council as manager of works (he gave notice three months ago), says lobbying is an important role for aldermen.
He says the current council need to “start listening to their constituents”, to “get out and about more”.
Other candidates make the point more aggressively and all name law and order as their number one concern.
Aldermen need to be “the first voice and the loudest voice in support of our town” and in taking their message to the NT Government, says businessman Steve Brown.
He claims that it was business people, not council, who got the ear of government after a spate of criminal and anti-social behaviour in January leading to the recent announcements by Attorney-General Delia Lawrie.
Mr Brown says elected members need to remember that they represent the ratepayers; they are not there to “join the bureaucracy”, nor to “work behind the scenes”. 
“Being cosy” with the bureaucracy and government is “all we’ve had for 30 years and look what it’s done for the town”.
Janice Knappstein, who works in real estate after owning local cafes and a sewing business, says “social issues have not been addressed with enough strength” and calls on council to “get tough”.
“Safety of people is a huge issue,” says Ms Knappstein, calling for council to again push for a curfew for under 16-year-olds on the streets without good reason after 9pm.
Council also needs to do what it can to promote more activity in the town centre – late night shopping, al fresco dining: “More people out in town at night will make it a safer environment.”
Mister Shaun, a CDEP coordinator for Ngaanyatjarra Council and incoming SA/NT Apex president, says aldermen need to “make a stand” and keep repeating their message; it’s not good enough to “just say it once”.
He also supports the introduction of a curfew, for under 15-year-olds between 11pm and 6am.
But the stick should be balanced by carrots, he says: council should enter into partnership with other organisations to deliver more youth activities, keeping young people busy and safe.
He names as examples music workshops, a second skatepark closer to the centre of town, and school holiday camps.
No one alderman can make a difference on their own, says Jill Hall, long-time shelter manager with the RSPCA.
Aldermen need to have a united voice, and those already in the job need “new blood to stir them up”.
“I’m strong enough to do that,” she says.
The “current leadership” has been “asleep at the wheel” during “a terrible summer”, says businessman Eli Melky. 
Mr Melky also names as a “series of debacles” council’s involvement with the liquor litter levy, the Subloo landfill contract [see our report on the costs involved, page 2], and the attempted placement on the council lawns of the John McDouall Stuart statue.
His first priority as alderman would be to “stop the debacles”. Council needs to get on the front foot “rather than be reacting off the backfoot”, he says.
A number of candidates join him in criticising council for the liquor litter levy – perhaps an easy target after it was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court (it handed down its ruling in January). 
Mr Pankhurst says when council makes a decision, they need to be sure it is “an informed one and doesn’t come back to bite them” and aldermen need to “do their homework”.
Mr Brown says the levy was “unfair and targeted the wrong people”; that it was originally a “policy ploy to put pressure on the NT Government”, which was successful, but “it should never have been pursued”.
Ms Knappstein also sees it as mis-targeted: the litter is dropped by people “who aren’t ratepayers”, she says, and council should work with “the Indigenous councils” who have got the “people power” to help clean up.
Council gets a serve from most over the terminated Subloo landfill contract.
Mr Brown says the contract was supposed to save council “a large amount of money”, which it has not done, and it was awarded to Subloo “at the expense of a local business”.
“I don’t like to see a local business done over.”
Ms Hall wants to see the return of the Tip Shop as it was when managed by Bowerbird; what Subloo did with it was “pretty ordinary”.
However, Mr Pankhurst says it was “a necessary step for council to intervene”, that Subloo were not “making the grade” in relation to their “KPIs [key performance indicators]”.
He wants council now to “fast track the waste transfer station” – which was part of the landfill contract – and he’d also like to “have a good look “ at kerbside recycling, which residents want and should be “achievable”.
Mister Shaun, also a supporter of kerbside recycling, says ratepayers need to know the “Subloo payout” [revealed after the News spoke to him, see page 2].
Others join him in his call for greater transparency.
Mr Pankhurst says transparency is “one of the things I would like to see” but also makes the point that “a lot of good things” council does are not reported on.
Mr Melky says too much business is discussed “in confidential”: “Openness and transparency help ensure accountability”, he says.
Most candidates claim to be speaking for the majority of Alice residents, with anti-social behaviour and a dirty town the hot issues for that majority.
Ms Knappstein speaks of people getting bashed; of the failure of alcohol restrictions, with many still drinking in public; of illegal camping in the river; of rubbish-strewn public parks that can’t be used by “everyday people” who feel “threatened”; of tourists being shocked by what they see; of people spitting and going to the toilet in public.
Ms Hall speaks of the mall and its outskirts as terribly untidy – “the depot needs a bit of a push”; of public toilets as disgusting; of the ranger unit as insufficiently staffed.
Mr Brown speaks of the implementation of “dry town” as “a joke”; of “horrible” anti-social behaviour, including people going to the toilet in public, but says part of the blame for that lies with insufficient public toilets.
He says the expense of keeping public toilets clean would be offset, at least in part, by not having to clean up “mess” in the public areas including parks.
Mister Shaun speaks of “rampant lawlessness”; of failed liquor restrictions – instead we need “more focus on helping those with problems” and council needs to be actively involved in promoting this; of neglected parks – “are there too many or are there not enough staff and equipment to look after them?”
Mr Pankhurst speaks of a greater effort needed by police and council to “clean up some of the easier things – drinking in public, littering”.
He says the package of measures announced by Ms Lawrie makes a “brilliant start” but it needs “a lot of money put into it”. 
He says there’s a need for “some tough love”, especially for juvenile anti-social behaviour, but “people need to get over their differences, have respect for each other” – “we need to live together”.
Mr Melky speaks of the need to enforce by-laws targeting unacceptable behaviour.
Like Mr Brown, he calls for more public toilets and easier access to them – possibly a voucher system for using the shopping centre and Civic Centre toilets that charge for entry.
Better lighting in public areas could also help.
“Not doing anything is doing more harm than good to everyone,” he says.
“While the majority of people I’ve seen being drunk in public and committing these offences have been Indigenous, I know 99% of Indigenous are wonderful and capable people.
“Will I be called a racist for asking that people committing offences be held accountable for their actions?
“All I want is for people to stop shitting in our streets – that’s not a lot to ask.”
If all this creates a somewhat negative picture, it’s something that the candidates are well aware of.
They speak with just as much feeling of their commitment to and aspirations for the town – the word “vibrant” is often used to describe both what they love and what they hope to protect and promote.
It’s a place of “opportunity” and “potential”.
And it’s “home”.

Home and Away: The Alice and the rest of the world. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Almost to a man or woman, people we spoke to on our 7000 km road trip to Australia’s populous south-eastern corner over the holidays felt obliged to comment on one issue when we mentioned we’re from Alice Springs: crime.
A look of mild pity usually accompanies that.

Dec 27, Police: The victims told police they were woken around 3.30am Monday morning by a knock on the door. Two young males asked them for marijuana.
Half an hour later the 28 year old male occupant [was] confronted by four young males. One was wielding a pair of scissors [and] one punched the victim to the face.

To be sure, most people were polite or cautious: “Issues” was one term we heard often, or “ethnic”. Some were less restrained.

Dec 29, Police: Four men were attacked as they sat on their front verandah [when] a male asked them for cigarettes. When they refused another three males joined the first offender and threatened the victims. One of the men demanded money and the victims handed over a quantity of cash and a lighter. One of the offenders struck the victim to the face [and] another offender hit him with a metal pole. The four offenders, plus another group of between six and ten young people began throwing rocks and beer bottles at the victims. One of the bottles struck a 22-year-old victim in the forehead.

We hastened to explain that Alice is 80% fantastic and the town’s working on the 20%.
“How much longer will that take?” is a common question in reply.

Jan 5, Police: A man was assaulted at the Eastside Shopping Centre … with a tree branch. He was taken to Alice Springs Hospital by ambulance with severe head injuries. He is expected to be airlifted to Royal Adelaide Hospital later today.

We had little to say to that.
As we kept tabs on the police and political media handouts it was clear this was:-
• just another hot-season crime wave;
• public demands for resolute measures again abounded and perhaps were a little more strident;
• and the leaders remained clueless and irresolute as always.

Jan 6, Police: A  53-year-old woman [was] sexually assaulted in the Todd River just before 9.30pm last night. She and another two females were walking along Stott Terrace when they were approached by a man who threatened them. The offender told the other females to leave and he then allegedly threatened the victim with a knife before hitting her on the head with a rock. He then dragged her into the river bed and assaulted her.

Luckily, for some The Alice remains a Wonderland. Jimmy Johnson makes big steel sculptures in Wycheproof, a little town 285 km from both Mildura and Melbourne.
He claims to have the world’s biggest collection of penny coins from 1911 to 1964 – 2.5 million of them.

Jan 6: Country Liberals Member for Braitling Adam Giles has called on the NT Government to do more to protect Alice Springs residents.
“The acts of crime against the person and against personal property has accelerated to records levels. Almost everyday people are talking to me about houses or businesses getting broken into. We are seeing attacks on people walking down the street, physical assaults and bashings, as an everyday occurrence. The most heinous of crimes sexual assault appears to also be on the rise.”

Jimmy makes mosaics with them: A (not very convincing) likeness of Phar Lap took 23,000 coins.
He’s looking to move to a place with more tourists, and reckons Alice would be just beaut. Any takers?

Jan 10, Police: A 55-year-old woman [was] stabbed twice at  the Northside shopping complex.  Witnesses told police the woman’s son stabbed her once to the shoulder and once to the chest with a steak knife, puncturing her lung.

If we think people have to come to The Centre to see places like the West MacDonnells, think again. The Flinders Ranges National Park – including the magnificent Wilpena Pound – is just three hours from Adelaide and offers country of comparable beauty. What’s more, services, unobtrusive as they are, are much more plentiful and superior, with lots of bush-style camping, toilets, rubbish bins and a very neat resort.

Jan 11: ‘The Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton has gone missing,” [says Mr Giles]. “He knows that this is the busiest time of the year for crime and yet he stays silent with the rest of his Government leaving us who stay in town burdened by the massive increases in crime.
“Banks, bars, newsagencies, bbq shops, accounting firms and take-aways were just some of those businesses smashed up last night.”

If I were condemned to live in a city I’d give Melbourne a shot: beautification is the name of the game for public and private properties alike, bike tracks are everywhere and perfectly safe, public transport is excellent and some of the inner suburbs have a restaurant to population ratio of one to 10: the food’s excellent and mostly reasonably priced, drinking rules are not onerous and patrons have a ball, and the crowds of diners and chatters and laughers keep anti-social behaviour at bay. Should we try this in Alice?

Jan 11: The Labor Government should immediately deploy a police taskforce to Alice Springs to deal with the crime wave that is sweeping through the town. Shadow Minister for Central Australia, Matt Conlan, said the events of recent weeks have stunned the community, which already has some of the worst crime statistics in the Northern Territory.

Hay, on the Murrumbidgee river, has an amazing five museums, that’s one for every 715 people. It also has lots of old buildings while Alice has bulldozed most of its. You can buy a house for $120,000 that would cost three times that in Alice.
A self contained room at the pub is $60 and counter tea costs $14. The streets are clean and the people friendly. Anti-social behaviour is not in evidence. On the way to and from Sydney we usually make Hay while the sun shines.

Jan 12,  Police Commander Anne-Marie Murphy: “I find [Mr Conlan’s] statements to be an insult to our hard-working and professional serving members.”
“We know that there are a relatively  small number of offenders responsible for a large number of  unlawful entries in this town.”

Free drinking water, usually chilled, has become a standard offer in hospitality establishments all over the country, with two exceptions, we found: one was a cafe on the foreshore of Tathra near Bega. (There are two side by side – it was the one on the left.) I cancelled the meal and got my money back.

Jan 12: Opposition Leader, Terry Mills, said the failure of a single member of the Labor Government to speak out against the criminals terrorising Alice Springs speaks volumes for its disregard for the town.

The other exception was Erldunda Roadhouse, on the turn-off to Ayers Rock Resort. It displays the following friendly sign, close to another one in which it claims to be an Oasis: “Please do not ask for drinking water as refusal may offend. Remember – we are situated in the driest part of Australia!!!” Refusing drinking water in the desert? Oasis? Same place charges over $5 for a Cornetto ice-cream and $1.75/litre for diesel. 

Jan 14, ABC: A botanical gardens complex in Alice Springs now has a staff member sleeping at the site to prevent further burglaries.

A woman now living interstate but who spent her childhood in Alice Springs and was a pupil of the Hartley Street School, heard so much about our crime and anti-social behavior that she didn’t want to come back. When she finally mustered her courage to visit she says she found things not nearly as bad as portrayed in the media.

Jan 14, ABC: Alice Springs’ deputy mayor says that if alcohol was allowed in remote communities it would stop people from having to come to town to drink.

How many times do we have to hear these calls, as yet again proposed by Deputy Mayor Brendan Heenan – until we accept that (a) the political resolve to introduce that just isn’t there and (b) it may not work?

Jan 15, Herald Sun: Burglars broke into an Alice Springs house, cooked themselves lunch, looked at porn on a computer then played Goldilocks with expensive alcohol before running off.
Hare-brained substance restrictions aren’t exclusive to Alice Springs. In Canberra smoking in a pub – indoors and out – is now forbidden but in one city pub you can drink and smoke in an enclosure on the footpath.
Trouble is, the hotel staff aren’t allowed to enter that enclosure. So they’ll bring you your beer, but walk only half-way across the footpath, and you’ve got to meet them there to collect your drink.

Jan 17, ABC: Up to $500 donated for victims of floods in Queensland has been stolen from an Alice Springs sports club.
The money was taken when six people broke into the Gillen Club at 1:30am.

This hasn’t put off thousands of locals from organising or patronising fundraisers for flood victims all over town.
But the crime wave and knee-jerk reactions roll on.

Jan 17, Police: A 35-year-old man has been remanded in custody after stabbing his wife with a pocket knife overnight.She is expected to undergo further surgery in Adelaide today in an attempt to save her lower arm.
Jan 20, NT News comment: “One of the biggest drawbacks is the number of people who have left their communities to drink in town because alcohol has been banned at home. For instance, about 4000 itinerants now are living in Alice Springs. That’s an enormous number considering the resident population is only 25,000.”
Jan 21, NT News: [Alice Alderman Murray Stewart] wants aeroplanes to patrol the town with “forward looking infrared” technology that could spot potential wrongdoers in what he describes as “pre-crime” strikes. {and he wants police with] “canines with gnashing teeth”, to institute a zero tolerance policy.
Jan 25, Police: At around 11:00 pm a Nissan Bluebird was stolen. Around the same time … offenders were on the premises at the Memorial Club.
Officers attended and were called back to the location shortly after leaving, as it was reported that two males had attempted to again unlawfully enter the club through the same entry point. Members attended and arrested the two, aged 17 and 27 years. The stolen Bluebird was also located.
CCTV and security reported two unlawful entries at the Town and Country Tavern. Alcohol was again the target. A 22-year-old male was later arrested.
The recovered Nissan Bluebird was stolen again from the Memorial Club.
Jan 27, Attorney-General, Delia Lawrie: A new Juvenile Detention Centre will be located at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre and should be operational by mid-March.
The Government will establish short term safe houses to accommodate juveniles that will enable Police to take kids off the street.

Ms Lawrie’s announcements have been welcomed by many but challenged by others.
MLAs Adam Giles (CL) and Alison Anderson (Ind) say they raise as many questions as they answer.
“Where do police take kids they pick up right now?” asks Mr Giles. “The police are becoming ‘kindergarten cops’.”
“We’ve known Aboriginal people are coming in large numbers into town for the last 15 years,” says Ms Anderson.
“We need more land, and more public housing in town and stop putting so much infrastructure into communities when it’s obvious people don’t want to live there.”
The Central Australian Youth Justice Committee says “there is not a demonstrated need for a youth detention centre in Alice Springs” – this is “a very costly option” and “not the highest priority for juvenile justice funding”.
They say it is also not good practice to have such a facility located in an adult prison.
They believe current laws concerning bail are sufficient and adopt best practice bail programs for young people with stringent bail conditions would be more effective, assisting the young people to comply with those conditions and in relation to employment and accommodation. 
They say further safe places to take young people to may be welcome, but little detail has been provided and any such developments must occur in consultation with the NGO youth sector.

Council’s legal costs better than expected. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Legal costs to the Town Council of the litter liquor litigation have come in at around $150,000.
As well, council has had to refund with interest the liquor litter charges paid to it, around $300,000.
These costs – an estimated total of $485,600 –  will be met from the landfill operations budget, says CEO Rex Mooney.
He puts a positive spin on the situation, pointing to council’s total liquor litter initiatives which will extend the life of the landfill – a saving to council.
The initiatives include the glass crusher and the cash for containers scheme, which attracted $850,000 and $300,000 respectively from the NT Government.
The News asked him if the attempted imposition of the levy was ill-advised. He says council always believed it had an “arguable case”.
There was no case law attached to the relevant section of the new Local Government Act: it was “untried”, he says.
And council in the past has imposed special levies, for example a mall levy on Todd Mall traders.
Meanwhile, a report to council from Finance Director Chris Kendrick reveals that the termination of the landfill contract with Subloo’s has effectively cost council $106,371, given that the settlement figure has avoided an estimated $150,000 in legal fees.
• Council voted on Monday night to put on an additional crew for three months to maintain verges around town, after receiving complaints.

$250,000 facility for bush school but where are the kids? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A bush school, with an attendance sometimes as low as two, last year received a “covered learning area” worth $250,000 and the year before, a cover over its playground worth $50,000.
The enrolment of the M’Bunghara school near Papunya is 10, according to the NT Department of Education (DET).
MLA for MacDonnell Alison Anderson says sometimes only two children attend.
“Last Friday none turned up,” she says.
“Attendance can vary depending on family and cultural commitments,” says department’s David Ryan, but average attendance in 2010 was 82%.
“DET has no plans to close the school.”
Mr Ryan says the new facilities were funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Building the Education Revolution (BER) initiative.
No Territory money was involved.
The new covered area (pictured) is the size of a basketball court and indeed has a basketball ring on either end.
M’Bunghara is the first ever excision from a cattle station for an Aboriginal living area in the Territory when the legendary pastoral and aviation pioneer, Eddie Connellan, made available the land and a bore on Narwietooma Station.

Work on AZRI proceeds apace. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Work on planning the Kilgariff subdivision on AZRI land south of the Gap is proceeding apace.
Soil sampling has taken place as part of the environmental examination of the site, carried out by a government-appointed consultant.
A draft report is expected this month, according to a Department of Lands and Planning spokesperson.
Site meetings between planning consultants Stephen Bowers and Wendy Morris and various ‘stakeholders’ have also taken place.
Community members who voiced strong opposition to the subdivision at the November 22 public meeting are among those invited to meetings.
Mayor Damien Ryan and some aldermen have also met with the consultants.
An Enquiry by Design conference to progress planning for the subdivision is scheduled for April 3-6.
Meanwhile, residents interested in the CBD revitalisation can visit the consultants engaged for that process, headed by Steve Thorne of the Melbourne-based Design Urban Pty Ltd, on February 21 at Adelaide House in the mall.
Over the following two days Mr Thorne’s team will also hold meetings, individual interviews and focus groups, “developing design options and launching ‘Connecting Alice’, a website with which the public can interact to provide further comment”, according to the departmental spokesperson.
“It is expected the design process will be completed in mid-2011,” says the spokesperson.
Public submissions to the the Alice Springs Central Activity District Built Form Guidelines and Residential Capacity Report, both of which can be found on the Future Alice website, close on Monday, February 28.

National Indigenous art gallery: Alice must get it. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The nation’s art gallery and its museum, both in Canberra, are showing two outstanding exhibitions: world-renowned work by people in our backyard, the Aboriginal painters, sculptors and story tellers of Central Australia.
OK. Let’s turn this around and make Alice Springs the repository and an expression of the best The Centre has produced in the past 40 years – best not just so far as art is concerned, but overall.
It’s been talked about for some years and since this week a National Centre for Indigenous Art and Culture in Alice Springs is up for public discussion as part of the ArtsNT’s new 10 year draft plan.
It’s time not only for making this happen, but also for creating an environment in The Alice where people again feel safe and inspired to take in those treasures.
I’m not an art critic but an ‘Ordinary Man in the Street’ who loves Aboriginal art, partly because it’s the most wonderful thing produced out of the region where I’ve spent more than half of my life.
Canberra’s Australian National Gallery now has the world’s biggest Australian indigenous art collection, with stunning works from The Centre the outstanding feature.
Indigenous art now occupies an entire new wing in the imposing four storey building, set in the extensive parklands of the Parliamentary precinct.
The collection is under the curatorship of three Aboriginal women from the NT, Franchesca Cubillo, assisted by Alice Springs woman Kelli Cole and Tina Baum (see story next week).
On the other side of Lake Burley Griffin, in the Australian National Museum, the Canning Stock Route show is a thoroughly captivating experience of an entirely different kind. It’s closed now but may come to Alice in the future.
It was built around a six week, 1850 kilometre 4WD trip in 2007 by 100 artists plus support crew, painting as they went along the legendary cattle droving and mining track, in northern WA, but also including Territory artists.
It’s an event – not just an exhibition.
In the National Gallery the visitors view mostly in hushed silence. Just the occasional low voice of a guide is audible.
A special section in a circular viewing area pays tribute to the early Papunya artists – a marvelous national and international promotion for our region.
Several of the small boards were acquired from Peter Fannin, who helped to set up the art movement in the Western Desert in the ‘70s.
He was working there with Janet Wilson.
Later, with her husband, pastoralist Donald Holt, she promoted the art movement in the Utopia region, with Emily Kngwarray as the greatest star.
The Holts donated a huge Emily to the Gallery.
Opposite in the same room is a big, dark Clifford Possum, with nine stories, says the gallery guide.
One is about an old man sending out his sons to get a kangaroo.
When they refuse to share the bounty with him he starts a fire that kills them.
On the wall in between is a strikingly colourful work by Yuendumu artists Paddy Nelson, Paddy Sims and Kwementjay Spencer.
If you want to get the all important stories behind the works there is an excellent catalogue – but visitors are encouraged firstly to take in the beauty of the art.
In the high entrance hall, two works side by side give a hint of the exhibition’s breadth.
Works from The Centre and the magnificent pieces, mostly sculptures, from the Top End are closely inspired by tribal lore and law.
Urban artists have a political or activist agenda.
So, as you take the elevator up to the first floor, at left, in large letters made from charred and laminated wood and aluminium, is the word DISPERSED, by Fraser Island artist Fiona Foley.
The D is made from .303 bullets.
The word is a euphemism for “killed”, explains the guide.
To the right are 22 panels by Kngwarray.
“It’s so Monet,” breathes the guide.
In the National Museum the atmosphere is quite different.
As you walk into the hall with black walls and ceiling, your breath is taken away by the brilliantly coloured powerful paintings, spot-lit like jewels.
There is a lot of talking.
Parents and kids chat at low tables with interactive screens.
You put your finger on an image and a painting will pop up. You can enlarge bits, and there’s the story with it.
A brown snake makes its way across several of the flat screens.
The kids can squash electronic ants, or create a canvas of sand in which they can draw with their finger – as they see being done by the Aboriginal people in the photos and movies around them.
In one senior man and acclaimed artist, Patrick Tjungurrayi, is filmed in a craggy red canyon, no longer visited by anyone. He speaks of the massacre of a clan. “They’re all gone,” he says and falls silent, in tears.
A collage of black and white slides are explained by a voice reading from Alfred Canning’s diary, telling of the white explorers’ endeavours and their brutality towards their black “guides”.
They were chained by the neck, explains a museum guide, because if they had been shackled by their hands or feet they would have cut them off to escape.
They were given salted meat and no water: then one would be set free, crazed by thirst: “He’ll be running for his life to get a drink,” an Aboriginal voice explains.
And that’s how the next well on the stock route would be found.
According to Wikipedia, the route was used for the first time in 1911, but all the cattlemen were killed by Aborigines along the way.
For white pastoralists the 1500 km route, surveyed in 1906 and 1907 from Hall’s Creek to Wiluna, with 52 wells, was a commercial asset.
For the Aboriginal people the waterholes were key to their survival, and knowledge of them passed on in stories – some of them revived, in dances and paintings, on the 2007 journey.
How nice would it be to have in Alice a place for quiet contemplation of home-made beauty, as well as a clever place with many ways of telling what is probably the greatest asset of our region: stories.
We have the Desert Park to celebrate our flora and fauna.
Is it not overdue to do the same for our people?

Aussie Day beaut utes. By CHRIS WALSH.

For the first time ever, my husband Steve and I attended the local Australia Day Ute Muster hosted by the Variety Club.
Participants gathered in the shade along the eastern bank of the Todd River from 10am onwards, where registrations were taken on the spot.
Categories were “town”, “country” and “4x4”, attracting a total of 19 utes all flagged up and ready to go.
Each category was well represented with vehicles dating from a 1928 Dodge to the latest two and four wheel drives.
At around 11, the utes formed a small convoy to tour the town from Todd Street to Lyndavale Drive, around Woods Terrace and along the North Stuart Highway before concluding at Club Eastside.
Thirst was eagerly quenched at the barbeque lunch before the kids headed onto shaded lawn areas for the jumping castle and waterslide.
Some fun events for the adults were held later in the afternoon with a Thong Throwing competition for the girls (won by Courtney) and a Muffler Toss for the guys (won by Stevie).
The Ute Push entrants were all keen to show their prowess but it was Jason Wegert who easily took the title with total disregard for the extreme temperature.
After the judges had checked over the vehicles, Jason was also declared the winner of the Best 4x4 Ute.
Tarnya King won the Best Town Ute and Daniel Ling won the Best Country Ute while Joe and Ryan Burns received the Best Overall Ute award.
The Variety Club organisers were pleased with the number of entrants and are looking to an even bigger and better Ute Muster next Australia Day. The club, a national organisation, supports many charities

NANCARROW ARROW: Sight-seeing in Egypt’s revolutionary times.

Bloody hell it’s hot. Seriously. I’m half dead from jet lag with two months of washing to tackle and I dare not set foot outside the door for fear of perishing from the heat.
‘Scuse my whinging folks, how the hell are ya? It’s good to be back in the Land of Oz after our sortie in the Northern winter.
I hit the beach in Adelaide on our way back to Alice for about, hmmm, 15 minutes and got sunburned, whiter than the pure driven snow I was. Now I look like I’m made from the same stuff they make traffic cones from.
And the holiday turned out a bit dramatic too, it wasn’t just a break, it was an adventure. The kind where shit could go seriously wrong and the hero gets to sleep in an airport terminal for a week or ends up in a revolution. This is not an exaggeration, believe you me.
If you have been keeping up with the news you may have noticed a bit of unrest in the Arab world. A bloke in Tunisia got so desperate to be heard after being stuffed around and humiliated by local government representatives, he poured petrol over himself and set himself on fire. He got the attention he wanted, granted, but he also died in the process.
This got people talking and the next thing you know there is an uprising in Tunisia and the President shot through! I was in France at the time and well away from the action (or so I thought). We were heading back to our hotel in Nice (pronounced like niece) when we saw a bunch of people waving flags and cheering, a good few hundred at least. These were the local Tunisian expats celebrating and we could see the joy on their faces as we were surrounded by them. There was no feeling of threat, they were shouting their relief and hope for the future and it was quite a privilege to be there. We chatted as we headed to our street and found it blocked off by a temporary riot fence made out of the same stuff as the plastic shields the 100 plus coppers were holding.
We found out our hotel was two doors down from the Tunisian embassy and the authorities thought there might be trouble.  Thankfully this was not the case.
Fast forward 10 days to 25th of January. The trip is over for us, except the long haul home. Australia Day will be spent in an airport lounge but it’s OK as we have started to get tired and it’s time to go.
The last couple of days in Egypt have been amazing, I have seen things I have dreamt about since childhood and been bowled over by the friendliness of the people, especially our driver, who has shepherded us through the craziest traffic I could imagine.
Number one son and I were on the roof of our hotel in Cairo having a swim and some lunch when we heard shouting.
Looking over the edge we saw a group of 30 men approach 150 heavily armed police blocking the bridge. They pushed past and I commented that if that was all the support they could muster this wasn’t going to be another Tunisia.
They turned the corner and disappeared and suddenly there was a roar like a football crowd on grand final day – 35,000 people had gathered just out of sight to protest.
I for one was a very happy bunny when the plane rolled down the runway a few hours later with all of us safely on board.

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