February 10, 2011. This page contains all major
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Dam is still a puzzle. By KIERAN FINNANE.

It looks like community debate on how to protect the town from flood – widely feared to be imminent last weekend – will return to where it was more than 20 years ago, if a poll of Town Council by-election candidates is anything to go by.
Most have more questions than answers and little knowledge of the clearest information before the public – the Power & Water report, Alice Flood Mitigation Dam, October 1990.
The report examines in detail a range of options, including multiple small dams and levees, but concludes that a single mitigation dam some five kms north of the Telegraph Station is the only viable and effective way to protect the town from a Q100 flood.
It should be noted that a mitigation dam is not the same as a dam doubling as a recreation lake. It would fill only in times of flood, with the water steadily released as the threat abates.  
The Alice News has consistently kept the flood mitigation debate in the public domain, especially since the extraordinary rainfall event on Numery Station, 150 kms to our east, in January 18, 2007, when 246mm fell, most of it within six hours.
Had this occurred in the Todd River catchment it would have produced a catastrophic flood, possibly greater than a Q100.
At this time last year, flood threat anxiety was again fresh in people’s minds from a January 7 flow of the river and we revisited the issue with political representatives in all tiers of government.
The town’s greatest protective measure then as now, was an early warning system, even though the Power and Water report warns that there could be  less than an hour’s notice of a Q100 – the kind of flood likely once in 100 years –  “and if it occurs at night, an efficient evacuation would not be possible”.
Now Alice Springs has once again “dodged a bullet”, according to Todd Smith, manager of the Bureau of Meteorology’s NT Climate Centre.
Ex-tropical cyclone Yasi dog-legged around the town, southwards over Finke before moving westwards.
Had rain such as fell at Ernabella last Sunday – “174 mm, nearly a year’s worth of rain in one day” – fallen in the Todd catchment there would have been a significant rise in the river, says Mr Smith.
It took 205mm on March 31, 1988 to produce the worst recorded flood in Alice, when the Todd rose to 3.95 metres.
Memorably the CBD was inundated and this was only a Q20.
Potentially, something comparable could have happened last weekend, says Mr Smith.
So against this backdrop, the Alice News asked the now seven by-election candidates for their views on how best to protect the town from flood.
Eli Melky can’t understand why the river isn’t dredged more often to allow greater flows.
“Would dredging have made a difference in 1988?” he asks.
He would need to learn more to be convinced a dam would work and would not itself present a risk to the town in the event of being breached.
There’s little we can do about protecting existing buildings, he says, but we can make sure that flood risk is taken “very seriously” in new subdivisions such as Kilgariff.
In the existing flood prone areas we can “protect life with a very good early warning system”.
This also gives people time to protect their property.
He says people in flood prone areas should ensure they have adequate insurance cover.
And an education program, starting in high school, should train people in how to prepare for disasters – flood and fire.
Mister Shaun says he’s “no expert” but perhaps a dam and levees should be put back on the agenda.
In the meantime, though, people should familiarise themselves with the information that’s out there.
He says he spoke to a lot of people last weekend who did not know that there is a flood information document for Alice Springs.
It includes a map of flood zones.
“Not many people know where these zones are,” he says, and more could have been done to bring this document to people’s attention.
He thinks there may be a need for “penalties” for people entering the river “in flood time” – “not just the countrymen, but a lot of other people in the water for fun”.
“Is it going to take a death for people to realise how dangerous it is?”
(There is a by-law allowing rangers to order people from the flowing river and people have died: a man drowned in the fast flowing Todd just last year; the floods of 1983 and 1988 killed three people each.)
Mr Shaun would also like to know how well council was prepared to protect the municipal assets – did they have their own supply of sandbags?
(The Alice News put this to council: Greg Buxton, Director Technical Services says council was ready to sandbag if advised to do so by the Counter Disaster Committee, however it was not required. Sandbags were placed at an IT entry door at the Civic Centre to counteract poor drainage rather than flooding.)
Jill Hall says, failing a dam, she doesn’t know that there’s anything that can be done to protect Alice from flood threat.
“I’d love a dam, everyone in Alice would love a dam, but it’s never going to get built,” she says, referring to the 20 year moratorium put on a dam project at Junction Waterhole, just north of the Telegraph Station.
The moratorium was imposed under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act and expires in 2012.
Even if that obstacle were no longer there, a dam is beyond the reach of the council, she says.
Council could lobby the NT Government on the issue, but for Ms Hall “cleaning up the town and revitalising our parks” are bigger priorities.
Janice Knappstein says building a dam would be a “big help” in view of the likelihood of higher rainfall in the future due to climate change.
But she recognises the difficulties in the way of that – getting Aboriginal traditional owner agreement and the large amount of money required.
She’d also want to be assured that a dam would not have a negative environmental impact downstream of the town.
In the meantime, authorities do a pretty good job warning and protecting the townspeople, she says.
Craig Pankhurst says it is time to take another “sensible look at a mitigation dam”.
“It would play a major role in reducing damage from a big flood.”
He would be happy to see purely a mitigation dam but he thinks all options, including any possible adverse affects downstream, should be part of the discussion.
A dam that was permanently full could be used to supply water for the town and double as a recreation lake, he says but he recognises that there are cultural considerations.
It would be an expensive exercise but a catastrophic flood would also have huge economic costs.
He says there also needs to be a “good look at silt reduction” particularly in the Charles River and the town drains.
The silt comes from erosion in the hills, which are Crown land, so council needs to partner with the NT Government to tackle the problem, he says.
Counter disaster planning is well-organised, says Mr Pankhurst: “The public should feel confident in that regard.”
Steve Brown says the town must have a dam and he would settle for a mitigation dam, despite his personal preference for a recreation lake.
Aboriginal people would benefit from the dam, like everyone else in town: the benefits to the whole community need to be weighed against the losses, he says.
But there are some other immediate “musts” to mitigate flood threat, says Mr Brown: the removal of the casino causeway (Taffy Pick Crossing) and its replacement by a “proper bridge” is becoming ever more necessary as more development occurs in Mt Johns Valley.
In his view, there should also be dredging to deepen the river bed.
The last candidate to join the race for the single vacancy on council is Peter Flink. After a career in the Army and later in retail, he first came to town for work in 1996, and returned in 2002, working for a while before retiring.
Now he’s involving himself in community life, serving on things like the Finke Desert Race committee and the Masters Games committee.
He has not given flood threat any thought and in any case, like Ms Hall, sees higher priorities for council: working with the government and police on law and order, “trying to get kids off the streets”, and attending to the “aesthetics” of the  town.
He thinks the performance of the current council is “all right”: “I can’t see any problems at the moment.”

Related recent articles in our web archive:

Indigenous art & The Centre: A push for reversing the flow. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

It would cost just half of one percent of the Territory’s annual budget to build a National Centre for Indigenous Art and Culture in Alice Springs.
John Oster, the executive officer of Desart, the organisation supporting dozens of Aboriginal art centres in Central Australia, puts a $20m price tag on the project.
The proposal has been discussed informally for some years but it is now on the NT Government’s 10 year agenda for museums and galleries.
Julie Ross, head of the Chamber of Commerce, says it would be “fantastic for Central Australia” and suggests it should be much more than a gallery.
Aboriginal people should be producing their art there, give workshops, have contact with tourists and teach children.
“It would be a huge drawcard,” says Ms Ross.
Similar to the Desert Park, the centre should be located at the northern base of the MacDonnell Ranges, but close to town, just to the west of The Gap.
“The ranges would form an ever changing backdrop,” she says.
To make the project happen “we would need to lobby the NT Government much harder than it’s been done in the past.
“And the town council would need to lobby the Federal Government to become involved,” says Ms Ross.
She also suggests the Alice gallery could exist as a branch of the Canberra one, and the two galleries could swap exhibits.
Mayor Damien Ryan says discussions about two years ago about new tourist attractions had put the centre amongst the three top priorities.
Federal and NT funding would be needed.
Mr Ryan says the council had no views on location and he could not say what financial contribution the council would make.
Mr Oster says much as tourists from the world over flock to the pyramids in Egypt, despite its challenging climate and social conditions, Alice Springs would benefit from a show place “valuing and promoting the world’s oldest living traditional culture.
“The centre would impress people of all races,” says Mr Oster, becoming not only a tourist magnet but also a symbol of pride and purpose for local Aboriginal people.
But he is not optimistic about the prospects of Federal funds being available any time soon, in the wake of recent natural disasters.
The Katherine Regional Cultural Precinct, another project in the 10 year plan, may be a guide for how the centre in Alice Springs could be financed.
The precinct has a $4 million commitment from the Territory Government.
The Katherine Town Council has secured Australian Government funding of $3 million and has contributed $220,000 to the project. As yet there are no such commitments for the centre in Alice.
The report says conceptual work for the centre was undertaken in 2009-10 by government agencies, including NRETAS, Tourism NT and Department of Chief Minister.
“The concept features in various plans, including Territory 2030 and Strengthening Tourism for Alice Springs, the Red Centre (2009) and the Araluen Cultural Precinct Development Plan 2010 – 2015,” says the report now up for public comment at
Mr Oster says his “first inclination” is that the centre should be at Araluen where it would complement the Strehlow Centre and existing collection.
“Araluen has the space for it, but the community may have other things to say.”
Chairman of Tourism Central Australia Jeff Huyben did not respond to requests for comment.

It’s beauty that makes Aboriginal art great. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The new Indigenous art wing of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra is likely to always be much grander than the National Centre for Indigenous Art and Culture proposed for Alice Springs.
But the gallery in the capital, built at a cost of $107m and opened last year, could be a feeder for the centre in Alice, enticing visitors from the world over to come to the region where much of the most acclaimed Aboriginal art actually comes from.
The Canberra collection has more than 7000 works and more than 500 are on display at any one time.
“It’s arguably the largest collection of Australian indigenous artwork in the world,” says Senior Curator Franchesca Cubillo, one of three Aboriginal women from the NT, including Alice Springs’ Kelli Cole, who make up the curatorial team.
The collection was started in the 1970s and the gallery opened in 1982. As the collection grew the gallery became increasingly cramped.
Just a metre from the Aboriginal Memorial consisting of 200 Top End hollow log coffins, there were paintings from The Centre on the surrounding walls.
The memorial now has its own space and the paintings occupy a suite of large, uncluttered rooms.
Ms Cubillo is very clear about the purpose of the exhibition: above all it is to show the beauty of the works.  
“We want people to find out more about the art and the culture,” she says.
“But we want them to first experience that visual aesthetics because for so long it was seen as ethnographic art.
“People had come to Indigenous art through an ideological context.
“It’s almost like people have been educated to such a great extent now that they expect to see the extensive labels, the dreaming story associated with that piece of art.
“What we’re doing here, we’re actually causing people to think about the artwork purely as fine art.
“And then there is that extra layer of information in the catalogues.”
Ms Cubillo says visitors are “overwhelmed by the richness: “They are surprised at the diversity and beauty and complexity.”
She says many had assumed bark or dot paintings to be ancient and not contemporary.
Artists from The Centre are very prominent in the gallery: Papunya and Hermannsburg have dedicated spaces.
The earliest works out of the Western Desert, the beginnings of the dot painting movement, are on show in a cylindrical room where people are “surprised how beautiful and sophisticated” they are.
“Even though they are on masonite and chipboard, we have some beautiful works by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Tim Payungka, Clifford Possum’s Bushfire 1 and Bushfire 2.
“There has been no fine arts training. These artists [early in their careers] haven’t travelled internationally, not even interstate to see other works of art.
“This was coming straight from the artists, from their cultural practices.”
And so while the size and scale of the paintings increased, their value grew from $60 to $600,000, the colour changed and the figurative emerged, such as the footprints, the essence of the art practice from the beginning remained.
The Centre’s and Top End’s pieces in the Canberra gallery, powerfully dominating the current selection on display, are in contrast with the works from urban, non traditional artists.
The urban art message is often political, using text and caricature.
But Ms Cubillo says: “All the artwork is political.
“A bark painting or a Western Desert dot painting, they are title deeds to the country.
“They are dreaming stories of that artist from that country.
“They are asserting their ownership and their authority.”
So 30 years after the establishment of the Tent Embassy outside the Old Parliament House, across the lush gardens the Aboriginal message now is emanating from one of Australia’s most esteemed places – and so is the invitation to see the beauty of the nation’s most prominent contemporary art.

The fantastic 80s. By KIERAN FINNANE.

For someone born and bred in Alice and whose parents and grandparents lived here, Dianne Logan has no nostalgia about the old Alice Springs.
She loves the town as it is, from its setting beneath the magnificent MacDonnell Ranges to its latest buildings. The way it looks is the result of progress and she believes in progress.
She remembers the ‘80s – the decade in which much of the old Alice disappeared – as first and foremost an exciting time.
“The ‘80s were fantastic for business,” she says, recalling with pride the “very modern” hairdressing salon she had in the Bonanni Arcade, at the back of Polkadot.
Dianne’s grandfather, Len Owen, arrived in town in 1939 to become an early mail-carrier between Alice and Tennant Creek.
Her father, Garth Owen (“Buckethead” to his cricket and footy mates) drove trucks to and from Darwin during the war, meeting her mother, Dawn, at the end of the decade when she arrived in town on her way around Australia.
They were an enterprising couple. Garth set up his own agency, supplying dry goods and wine mainly to cattle stations, and later opened an Italian restaurant, La Tosca, on the site of the present-day Steakhouse.
Dawn went into business with Edna Maskell, opening the textile and haberdashery shop Polkadot, which was in a number of locations before it settled where it is today.
Little wonder then that Dianne has spent most of her working life in her own businesses.
Another role model for her was Lizzie Milnes who took her on as an apprentice hairdresser.
Lizzie owned the building on the right-hand side of Reg Harris Lane and all the businesses in it. The salon, Paulina’s, was at the back, there was a coffee shop at the front, and a dress shop in between.
When Dianne finished her apprenticeship, she hoped to go overseas, but Maureen and Doug Parks had bought the Gillen shopping centre and asked her to open a salon there.
She was reluctant at first, but her mother urged her to do it and said she’d stand behind her.
She called it Rag Doll and was in Gillen for seven years before she moved to the Bonanni Arcade.
This was a time when hairdressing was dominated by the name of Vidal Sassoon.
Dianne went to Los Angeles to do a Sassoon course and attended the annual world hairdressing cups and international seminars – “to stay motivated”, she says.
From a small town in the middle of the country she made a name for herself on the national hairdressing stage, each year asked to be a judge at Australia-wide hair industry awards.
She started a hairdressing competition in town, from which the winner would be sent to compete in the nationals, with a chance to go on to the worlds.
These were also the years of hair and fashion shows In Alice, including the three Concours d’Elegance events.
After seven years in Bonanni Arcade, Dianne sold Rag Doll to Adelaide businessman, Ferris Trabilsi.
She then started a new business, dealing in salon supplies, at first in Alice, and later spreading to Darwin.
In the meantime, she’d met her husband Gary, a well-known local plumber, who also had an eye for business. He wanted to buy the Midland Motel. Again Dianne was reluctant – “over my dead body”, she remembers saying.
But they went ahead and ran it successfully for a number of years until in 1994 a sudden grave illness ended Gary’s life. He was only 47 and their daughter Nikki, just seven years old. 
Dianne had begun to enjoy being in the tourism industry and was on the board of the industry body CATIA (TCA, now Tourism Central Australia).
Gary’s death changed everything, of course.
“We had good support staff which allowed me to keep going for a while, but I felt like I wanted to get away.”
She and Nikki travelled for a year and lived in Sydney for a while before Dianne returned to Alice six years ago. She worked with Trevor Espeland at Raine & Horne until that business was sold.
Now once again she has set up in business herself, doing event management and catering.
Starting with her father’s restaurant, where she worked part-time as a kitchenhand and waitress, and then Lizzie Milnes’ coffee shop, where she waited on tables while doing her apprenticeship, she’s had a long association with the local catering scene.
Again she looks back to the ‘80s as a high point – the fantastic chef at Puccini’s, the proper silver service and fine food at the then Sheraton.
“In the ‘80s we were able to get great staff here.
“The service was as good as anywhere around Australia.
“I still believe that in this industry you have to dress to a certain standard, and to focus on looking after the customer, not on talking to one another.”
She’s been sad to see the closure of several restaurants around town, most recently, Oscar’s in the mall.
Yet she’s optimistic about the business future, with large companies like Harvey Norman and Dick Smith prepared to open stores here.
And she’s upbeat about the appearance of town it’s mostly “neat and tidy”quite apart from its new buildings.
“That’s progress. I’ve been part of that.”

Gondwana closing. By KIERAN FINNANE.

In its 21st year Gallery Gondwana is closing, due to shut its doors as soon as April.
It is the oldest existing Aboriginal art gallery in Alice Springs and one of the oldest in Australia.
Its operation is synonymous with owner Roslyn Premont, who, the Alice News understands, will be leaving town to live in Fiji, the home of her husband, the artist Rusiate Lali.
Ms Premont closed her Sydney gallery of the same name in mid-2009, returning to the "main game"in the Centre, expressing  "a sense of renewal, excitement in being able to work with the artists, in being more deeply in touch with the people and country where the art is coming from".
A commercial gallery, Gondwana has been notable for its work with art centres, in contrast to the majority of the commercial galleries in Alice.
It has also had a varied exhibition program, that at times has included non-Indigenous artists and certainly Indigenous artists from other parts of Australia.
There are only two other local commercial galleries that work in this way – Peta Appleyard Gallery and Raft.
Ms Premont has also represented artists not associated with art centres, in particular Dorothy Napangardi and the late M. Napanangka Gibson, who have major reputations.
(The Alice News has just learned that Napanangka, who came to extra fame as 'Nana' in Warwick Thornton's film Samson and Delilah, has died, with her funeral to take place later this month. Another great artist has passed on.)
The gallery closure comes at a time of other business closures in the mall, a worrying trend.
In the cultural landscape of Alice Springs, Gallery Gondwana will be missed. – Kieran Finnane

Brainy bunch: Pips is ahead. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

St Philip’s students attained an average Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking or ATAR (formerly TER) of 75.67.
This is the score which is used for entrance to university courses.
OLSH students had an average of 68.25 and Centralian Senior Secondary College (CSSC) 68.14.
CSSC’s Bevan Botha topped the NT with an ATAR of 99.8 – the first time a CSSC student has done so in 10 years, which is as far back as this kind of record goes.
St Philip’s had two students in the NT Top 10 – Kyle Giumelli and Caleb Pannell with 99.15 and 98.7 respectively – and a third student in the Top 20 – Louise Robertson with  99.35.
OLSH’s Sam Heckarthorn was dux of his school with an  ATAR of 94.25.

When politics stink: $266 for public poo. By KIERAN FINNANE.

At a guess there would not be too many election campaigns in Australia with defecation in public as an issue.
It was raised by candidates Eli Melky and Steve Brown in last week’s report about issues in the forth-coming council by-election. 
Both suggested that part of the problem is that there are not enough freely accessible public toilets available.
The Alice News asked the Town Council how often council workers are having to clean up human faeces in public places.
Greg Buxton, Director Technical Services, says he can’t answer the question with specific detail “as when the crews clean, they clean the entire area from all litter and waste” without keeping a tally of waste types. 
He says “anecdotally” they could be dealing with human faeces in a public place “up to two times a week”.
Council has four clean up crews, with one specifically to cover the CBD area on a daily basis.
“When they come across rubbish (including defecation) it is cleaned up straight away,” says Mr Buxton.
Public toilets at sporting facilities are cleaned three times a week. Public defecation and urination are covered by a by-law, with penalties of up to $266. 
Mr Buxton advises that the Exeloo automated public toilet is open 24 hours and located in the Hartley street car park.
Public toileting is not solely a public places issue, of course. Tucked away corners of private property in the CBD are also used for toileting; the Alice News has observed and been told of many instances.

Territory on your mind?

Two works by Alice Springs authors are among the four vying for the title of NT Book of the Year, which will be announced by Gerry McCarthy, Minister for Arts and Museums this Friday at a function at Madigans.
These are The Hard Light of Day by artist Rod Moss; and Iwenhe Tyerrtye – What it means to be an Aboriginal person, by esteemed Aboriginal woman and elder MK Turner OAM.
Their competition comes from The Rooftop Sutras by Levin A. Diatschenko – tales set in a mythologised “Suburbia” – and Twinkle by Nick Bland, an illustrated children’s storybook.
Territory Read is supported by Chief Minister’s Office with a $5000 purse for the NT Book of the Year.
This year the awards also feature the Angus & Robertson Children’s Literature/Young Adult Fiction Prize; and the Absolutely Books Non-Fiction Prize. The winners of these categories are also eligible to win the overall prize.
A panel of interstate and NT literary figures had the task of selecting a short list out of this year’s submissions.
The panel included celebrated novelist Arnold Zable, Byron Bay Writers Festival Director Candida Baker, current winner Marie Munkara, Centralian author Michael Giacometti and outgoing NTWC Executive Officer Sandra Thibodeaux.
Territory Read is now in its third year.
Past winners were Marie Munkara for the novel Every Secret Thing and Andrew McMillan for An Intruder’s Guide To East Arnhem Land.

Three generations on speedway track. By CHRIS WALSH.

It may have been a ‘first’ for Arunga Park: three generations of the one family on the race track.
The occasion was the Territory Metals NT Sidecar Title last November 13 at Arunga Park Speedway.
Along with Formula 500s and Wingless Sprintcars, support for the sidecar division was given by the Alice Springs Motorcycle Club’s stockbikes, quads and Division 1 Peewees.
The family were the Thompsons. 
As most speedway fans would know, Mike Thompson has been racing on and off at Arunga Park since the 1980s in a variety of divisions. He was also one of the founding members of the Alice Springs Karting Club and is still an active member both on and off the track.
At present, Mike is a part of the new Wingless Sprintcar division – a section which is gradually growing in numbers and great to watch.
Mike and Michelle’s eldest son Garth has also been involved with speedway on and off for years and in various divisions.
In 1993, as a 14-year-old, Garth stepped into the driver’s seat of a Super Sedan and gave some of the big boys a run for their money. His other speedway divisions have included sprintcars and sidecars and he’s had many years of go kart racing.
Garth also raced sidecars for a short time but the bike divisions gradually died at the speedway, leaving a car-only track for several years. This situation has now had a complete turnaround and the sidecar section is back in force with a strong presence both in the pits and on the race track. Garth has returned to the section and on November 13, with his passenger Phil Anderson, he became the Territory’s number one title holder.
The next generation has arrived at Arunga Park with seven-year-old Jack and four-year-old Jet riding in the Division 1 Peewee section.
Jack is the son of Mike and Michelle’s middle son Warren, and Jett is the son of Garth. Both boys have ridden the park twice so far and seem to enjoy their time on the track alongside their co-riders.
The club’s committee is keen to host this division whenever permissible, as many of them show the promise of becoming future solo and sidecar riders.
The Division 1 Peewees were scheduled to ride at Arunga Park again last weekend but due to the inclement weather, all racing was cancelled.
Weather permitting, the committee is hoping to re-schedule both the sidecar and streetstock series Round 2 and Neil Anderson Burnout competition this Saturday night.

LETTERS: Council guilty as charged, says Ald Stewart.

Sir – A by-election is a unique opportunity for sitting elected members to be delivered a report card on their current performance levels and overall political standing in the community. 
Your last edition’s front page, featuring the aldermanic candidates who come from all walks of life, told it as it is.  
When it comes to the no.1 issue in town, law and order, the community is completely over the backroom style of governance which effectively has dissolved the council into being nothing more than an extension of an ineffective, weak NT  Government.
Our Mayor at the last election was truthful – this was always going to be his style. 
The facts are, three years on, this very style is not washing with the people of the Alice. 
Damien is one of the hardest working individuals I have come across and I know his heart is glued to our town, but in my view, his approach is one of extreme political naiveté. 
Tightly stage-managed conversations in times of crisis are precisely the games governments  want you to play. 
These are the moments when real leaders stand out from the pack and apply true pressure by outing the wrong-doers, in this case an inept NT Government.  Such strength results in a proactive response as it would be politically foolish for the government to take on a popularly-elected mayor.
I am genuinely excited by the mayoral fibre shown by town leaders who. time after time, on the basis of merit, present themselves to the town’s media  and its people to take on issues and governments as they stridently put their town first.
In doing so, they put governments and their bureaucracies on notice.
These are the leaders who ultimately bring home the bacon.
The other message delivered by the by-election candidates is that we lack transparency. 
Once again, in my view, they are correct.
When we have good news to deliver, our message is so bureaucratic that no-one understands it.   
Our perceived faux pas often are exposed  after long periods of confidential bugger-ups and therefore our explanations fall on deaf ears. 
Quite simply, confidentiality should be reserved strictly for those matters prescribed under the Local Government Act.
I know within the ranks I will be criticized for these statements but this is what the six candidates are telling the town.
Surely they and their followers can’t all be wrong.
Murray Stewart
Alice Springs
ED – The Alice News offered Mayor Damien Ryan right of reply. He indicated that he would share Ald Stewart’s letter with the other elected members but had not taken up our offer at the time of going to press.

Shaded play area may encourage attendance

Sir – While working for the NT Government’s Water Resources Branch in 2010, I administered a small water efficiency grant program for schools in the southern NT.
M’bunghara School (Alice Springs News, February 3) applied for support to replace leaking toilets and taps, and to install some working bubblers for their students.
As part of the grant conditions, the school also ran a unit of water education, which produced a wonderful poem and play about being Waterwise in the bush.
The teacher at this small outstation school proudly invited me to visit the school and celebrate the end of term with them.
One student performed a reading of the poem, demonstrating advanced literacy and confidence with the topic of water conservation.
We also viewed a DVD recording of the Waterwise play, a slideshow narrated by the children with a strong Waterwise message. Both of these educational performances were recorded on DVD and presented to Water Resources staff on the day.
There were 10 students at school on the day we attended, and at lunch time several parents and siblings from the outstation joined us.
My overall impression was of a small and successful school, operating in extremely remote conditions.
Over the years, students from M’bunghara have benefited from their NT Government education, and some have progressed to study further at Yirara College.
All remote schools are challenged by access to good teachers and resources, as well as the many complications of community life.
However, there is no reason to limit the opportunities for those schools by denying them good infrastructure where possible.
Perhaps a good shaded play area will increase attendance at school by making it a more comfortable place to be in the heat.
The M’bunghara school Waterwise play and poem have now become part of regular programming on the satellite TV service ICTV (Indigenous Community TV), sending water conservation messages across the remote regions of NT and WA.
These broadcasts were also nominated for recognition in the remote indigenous TV awards 2010.
As Term 1 progresses, I’m sure the current teacher at M’bunghara will strengthen relationships with the families and attendance will rise back to the average of 82%.
Tanya Howard
Alice Springs

Alice youth detention facility not necessary

The Central Australian Youth Justice Committee (CAYJ), made up of representatives of non-government organisations who work with young people involved in the criminal justice system, do not believe that “there is 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.
This was misreported in last week’s Alice News, as was their position regarding making breach of bail an offence with a monetary fine and maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.
“We believe that current laws are sufficient and that it would be more effective to adopt best practice bail programs, which target young people who have stringent bail conditions”, assisting them to comply with those conditions and in relation to employment and accommodation. 
The Alice News regrets the errors.
Below is an outline of CAYJ’s concerns in response to the recent announcements by Attorney-General Delia Lawrie and Minister for Central Australia, Karl Hampton on “justice and police initiatives to make Alice Springs streets safer”.
CAYJ shares the concerns of the government, the business sector and the wider community about the recent level of crime in Alice Springs.
However, we are concerned that some of the measures announced may be ineffective, costly and premature. 
We welcome a review of our current system but clearly the review should have taken place prior to the announcements.
Over the years CAYJ, along with the government’s Youth Justice Advisory Committee, have provided numerous reports and recommendations in relation to cost effective problem-solving approaches to youth crime in Alice Springs. 
We are disappointed that many of these have not been taken into consideration.
There have also been a number of submissions made from the NT into the National Inquiry into Indigenous Juveniles and Young People in the criminal justice system, whose findings may well be useful for improvements to the current NT system.
Instead of a youth detention centre in Alice, CAYJ supports the establishment of a more appropriate short term holding facility for young people on remand to replace the outdated Aranda House facility. In addition further funding is required for initiatives such as youth camps for those involved in offending.
We are greatly concerned about the location of the proposed youth detention centre at the Alice Springs gaol. It is not good practice to house children and young people in an adult facility, and we have a responsibility to follow best practice principles.
There is a large body of research that highlights that imprisonment is not an effective use of public money. Investment in proven preventive measures addressing the welfare needs of young offenders would be far more cost effective in the long term.
Any decision made about the establishment of a youth detention centre requires broad consultation over a period of time with all relevant stakeholders.
CAYJ welcomes the announcement that the Territory Government will expand the juvenile alcohol and other services operated by Bush Mob and re-locate the service to a larger facility.
The announcement of the provision of juvenile safe houses, to enable police to take kids off the street at night, is not in itself a new measure.
There are existing safe places for young people to be taken to, as well as provisions for young people considered at risk to be taken into the care of NT Children and Families.
Further safe places may be a welcome addition, however, little detail has been provided and any such developments must occur in consultation with the NGO youth sector.
The announced measures also fail to address (yet again) any additional funding for after hours youth recreation services.
They concentrate on punitive measures rather than providing greater support to existing early intervention programs.
It is well documented that it is a minority of young people offending and/or re-offending and intensive targeted strategies are required to address this offending behaviour.
However, there should be cost effective additional after hours activities to cater for the majority of young people who are doing the right thing.
The programs that are available are under-funded despite evidence that they should receive greater funding.
There are many reports from recent years which support this.
CAYJ is concerned that in the lead up to these most recent announcements there has not been significant engagement with NGOs who work with young people involved in the criminal justice system.
Antoinette Carroll and Jonathan Pilbrow
on behalf of CAYJ

Escaped drowning by the skin of his teeth.

I thought that the excitement would start to wear off now that I’m back home and holidays are over. Not so. Even worse, there has been little excitement for the adrenaline expended.
I drew the line at sand bags but other wise I have the full flood kit ready to rock and roll, dib dib, dob dob and all that jazz.
Not that I was ever a boy scout, it all seemed a bit twee to moi, but previous experience showed that the desert had a few water tricks that it liked to play and I wanted to be ready. At the time of writing, the flood warning was a fizzer and I now have a stockpile of tins of vile ravioli bolognese to eat by candlelight. I already tried a tin and nearly coughed it up. Ick.
I have had a couple of rising water moments in Alice, most notably for me in the rain period of 1999-2000. I had wondered at the pattern of rocks that seemed to flow through the back garden of the rental property I was staying in, but only idly.
With the addition of torrential rain its true character was revealed.  It was a water course in its former life and now its banks were brimming and bubbling – all the way to the back fence that now trapped the water as effectively as the Hoover Dam.
The house was set back quite a ways and the yard was large, so it took a while to reach crisis point, but with the water rising fast and only a couple of centimetres from my back door I had to go out and save the day. My super hero moment. Trouble is, what was I going to do?
Eventually I staggered back into the house looking like a drowned rat, covered in mud but triumphant – I had managed to cut a trench to ensure that the water didn’t get any higher but I couldn’t make the main pond drain. We had a waterside property for a week!
We were lucky, there was something that could be done but elsewhere around the country folk haven’t been so lucky.
The whole time we were in Europe people were asking whether we had been affected and we had to point out that even though the flood covered a massive area, it was still a relatively small part of Australia and thankfully we were OK. So I guess I shouldn’t complain about the rav bol.
Another time I was sitting at home one rainy, windy night in Adelaide watching the ABC news at 7pm. There was a piece on the flash flooding south of the city that had some footage of locals sandbagging their front steps in the driving rain. Imagine my surprise when images of my dad appeared in his old blue rain coat, swinging sand bags for all he was worth.
The creek had burst its banks and there were people floating past in small boats as he worked.
When I spoke to him later I asked why he didn’t call and he pointed out quite sensibly that he had been bloody sandbagging and didn’t have time! Fair enough.
The only good thing I can say about the weather is that the cyclone in North Queensland caused absent wife to become Kirsty again. She came home when it looked like Cairns was going to be the landfall position for the storm of the century. We had been through so much on our holiday that the prospect of a Category 5 cyclone was too much.
I just said “come home” and she could. If only it was that easy for the rest of the people who have suffered so much …

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