February 17, 2011. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Pro gang in safe heists? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

It took two burly Transport Hall of Fame workers to lift a safe into an upstairs office – and now it’s gone, together with $10,000 in cash, hard to replace company records and irreplaceable archives.
Hall boss Liz Martin (pictured) says the theft was clearly carried out by professionals who seemed to have “cased” the main hall beforehand: Several motion sensors had been disabled and the gang clearly had a suitable vehicle to cart the safe away.
Ms Martin says the time window during which the theft was carried out on January 23 was small: She was in the office from which the safe was taken until 3.30am and a group of truckies had an early breakfast at 4.30am.  The safe had been in the filing cabinet in the centre of the photo, now filled with plastic boxes. Police say there were two other safe “jobs” in January.
One in the landfill op-shop office was opened and about $3000 stolen, and there was an unsuccessful attempt to remove the safe from another business. No arrests have been made but apparently there is CCTV footage of one burglar in a balaklava.
At Monday’s Town Council meeting Ms Martin, an alderman, asked Commander Anne-Marie Murphy whether publicity about Alice Springs’ lawlessness is attracting to town “professional criminals who see us as an easy mark”.
Cdr Murphy acknowledged that there have been some incidents which police have recognised as not the “normal m.o.” of break-in offenders looking for alcohol or money to buy alcohol.
She said police had “cleared up” a number of offences but some, committed “not that long ago”, were the subject of ongoing  investigation.
Ms Martin asked what can be done to prepare and warn the community. Cdr Murphy said preparation “boils down to” securing one’s premises, acknowledging that that can be difficult in areas, such as the Hall of Fame, which are a bit isolated.
She also said that police did not want to draw too much attention to these incidents for fear that the offenders would leave town before police caught them.

Cops all out on crime but aldermen want more. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council was given a briefing on Monday night on the concerted effort by police to restore safety to streets in the centre of Alice Springs.
Police Commander Anne-Marie Murphy presented statistics from a targeted operation in the CBD over the preceding five days.
But coming hot on the heels of an attack on tourists, including the stabbing of one, in the early hours of Saturday morning just a few blocks away, aldermen were not entirely assured.
All feel that more needs to be done, if not by police, then by other government agencies, while there was some support for exploring mere extreme measures, such as the introduction of patrol dogs in the hands of private security firms, and of course, a youth curfew.
Between last Wednesday and last Sunday in the Alice CBD police made 13 arrests, issued two summons, tipped out 194 litres of alcohol being consumed in public, moved on 462 people, took a total of 304 people into protective custody (40 to the watchhouse, 40 to home, 116 to the sobering up shelter), issued eight of the new “Designated Area Banning Notices” and 111 other notices for things like loitering, trespass and public place infringements such as urinating and being disorderly.
This “dedicated operation” was in response to increasing reports of large numbers of people on the streets at night and it will continue at least until the weekend after the NAB Cup Challenge match on February 25, Cdr Murphy told council.
The operation will then be subject to review but “early indications are that it will continue”, she said.
She spoke at some length on police response to “one of the highest spikes” in property offending they have seen, which occurred over the four months from last October to January this year.
In October unlawful entry offences for dwellings jumped 150% on the previous month, she said, making the point that more offences are committed during the warmer months.
For unlawful entry into buildings the worst month was January, she said, with a 250% jump on the figures for last November.
The Alice News looked at the Department of Justice’s long term statistics for these offences.
Over the six year period 2004-05 to 2009-10 house-break-ins in Alice have increased by 64% and commercial premises break-ins by 185%.
While Cdr Murphy said there was “no clear reason” for the October 2010 spike she did speak of two groups of young men, identified by police, who had developed a “pack mentality”, competing with one another “to commit the most number of crimes for sport”.
She said offenders were “targeting houses for portable property such as cash and small electrical items including iPods, televisions, jewellery and alcohol”. 
Offenders were also “targeting houses and stealing car keys to take cars from premises”, something they found all too easy in 14 out of 20 cases.
Ten sets of keys were stolen from unlocked or unsecured houses, three cars had keys left in them and “one set of keys was left outside on a barbeque”, said Cdr Murphy.
For the 295 property related offences in the month, police made 29 arrests.
Six offenders were apprehended twice.
Two of these had returned to Alice for school holidays after attending interstate boarding schools.
Aged from 12 to 18, the offenders are “long term residents of Alice Springs”, said Cdr Murphy
Things quietened down in November, giving police a chance to focus on crime prevention.
Among the 12 initiatives mentioned by Cdr Murphy were “youth engagement patrols to identify and speak to youth on the streets at night” and “referral of youth offenders to the Family Support Centre for case management of the families” and “referrals to Department of Children and Families for youth assessed as ‘at risk’”.
She also said there was “repeat victim engagement and assistance through CPTED audits” – Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, which includes simple things such as ensuring doors are locked, security screens are intact, security lights are working.
As everyone knows, things didn’t stay quiet and police started their Operation Harpoon, which ran from January 5 to 20 and on which 38 additional officers worked, including some from remote police stations.
The operation resulted in 26 arrests and one summons of property offenders; of these, 17 were Alice Springs residents.
Police also targeted bail breaches and achieved a 24% increase in detection, said Cdr Murphy.
Meanwhile, domestic violence offences, “almost exclusively” alcohol-fuelled, continued unabated.
In a typical 24 hour period in Alice Springs, she said police would deal with 10 to 25 domestic violence incidents.
“With victims, offenders and witnesses being affected by alcohol, often severely intoxicated”, the police response is drawn out “to accommodate the necessity for persons to be sober”.
Taking people into protective custody also continues to take up a lot of police resources and response time.
For the second half of 2010 in Alice 4393 people were taken into protective custody by police (this does not include those taken to the Sobering Up Shelter).
This is roughly half of the figure (9254 ) for calendar year 2009, according to information provided to the Alice News, so perhaps at least this is not getting any worse, even if it is not getting any better.

Alice no place for patrolling dogs. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Responding to a question from Alderman Murray Stewart Cdr Murphy said she does not see a place for “patrolling dogs on the streets of any city”.
She said police routinely request that offending youths be placed under curfew and are proactive about ensuring their compliance: “When they don’t, we breach their bail.”
The question of a wider youth curfew would be one for someone else to answer, she said, including parents and families.
Ald Stewart had challenged her on “walking hand and had with government” when it came to calling for greater resources and powers.
After she left the meeting Ald Stewart pursued the issue, particularly of patrol dogs.
He asked aldermen to invite the mayors of the South Australian towns of Port Augusta and Ceduna to address them on the use of patrol dogs by private security contractors to their councils.
He said the dogs, don’t get out of the patrol vehicle unless there’s “a violent circumstance”, have had a dramatic affect on anti-social behaviour and crime.
He was supported by Ald Samih Habib Bitar, who said “the bad has won the battle and the good has lost” in Alice Springs and wanted to explore “any method that might help the situation”. 
Director of Corporate and Community Services Craig Catchlove said that a principal of a local private security firm had told him there is no legal impediment to bringing in patrol dogs.
Ald Jane Clark thought such an invitation would be “jumping the gun” and preferred to receive a written report first.
She saw Ald Stewart’s motion as “reasonably inflammatory” in a situation which she believes is due to “family breakdown in our community”.
As her approach gathered support, Ald Stewart reluctantly withdrew his motion, putting up instead a motion for a written report from officers. It was carried.
Cdr Murphy was also questioned about the role of Tangentyere Council’s night patrols and youth night patrols, by both Ald Sandy Taylor and Mayor Damien Ryan.
Ald Taylor said she had followed a youth night patrol as they picked up kids in Larapinta and dropped them off in town.
Cdr Murphy said the patrols are funded by the Federal Government and are answerable to them.
Nonetheless a new position to better coordinate the patrols with other services, including police, and to improve the patrols’ response has been created, starting January 21.
Mr Ryan asked what the “come back for the community” would be if the coordinator identified that the patrols were not providing an adequate service – could money be shifted to a better service provider?
Ald Taylor spoke with emotion about “our Indigenous leaders not doing their job” and was even angrier about the Labor Government which had promised when they were elected to “hold parents accountable”.
“To date they have not done that,” she said.

Aileron to be major mining centre? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A  mine 13 kms north-west of Aileron is likely to become the source for a $1.5 billion rare earth venture supplying 10% of the world’s need.
This would make the remote Stuart Highway roadhouse 110 kms north of Alice Springs the hub for the venture at Nolans Bore, which will be an open-cut mine with up to 150 personnel.
Some of the staff are likely to be accommodated in Alice Springs, and some in Aileron and Ti Tree.
There will be initial processing of the mined ore on site, removing some of the “trash material” to produce a mineral concentrate.
Processing of the mineral concentrate into final rare earth oxide products will be done in a plant planned for Whyalla in South Australia which will employ 300 people, and 1000 during the construction.
Whyalla has been selected due to the availability of a large industrial site, “well serviced with infrastructure and utilities”, and “for ease of logistics for the various raw materials used in processing”, says Steve Ward, managing director and CEO of Perth based Arafura Resources.
Processing requires among other things vast amounts of water and at Whyalla at least some of that will come from the sea.Dr Ward says mining is planned to start in 2013 and to continue for at least 20 years. He says exploration drilling so far has been limited and the deposit may well be much bigger. A major drilling campaign is starting this year.
Global demand for rare earth, used in products ranging from mobile phones to low energy globes, wind turbines to hybrid cars, is booming: China currently produces 97% of global supplies but has been progressively cutting back on exports to the rest of the world. This means that worldwide users are actively looking for new sources outside of China such as Arafura.
The strong demand for rare earths and limited supplies has seen  prices increase almost six fold in 2010, says Dr Ward.
The Nolans Project will produce 20,000 tonnes a year of rare earth oxides.

Carey Builders never registered in the NT. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The company Carey Builders Pty Ltd was never registered as a building practitioner under the NT’s Building Act.
The only registration the individual Randal Carey ever had in the NT was as a “building contractor residential (restricted)”.
This was revealed when Mr Carey pleaded guilty to 11 counts of breaching the Building Act in the Darwin Magistrates Court last Friday.
All counts related to contracts Carey Builders had entered into with Alice Springs residents to build them a house.
The company went into liquidation in March 2010, leaving home buyers and suppliers substantially out of pocket – it’s estimated to the tune of more than $1 million.
Mr Carey was charged with implying, by entering into the contracts, that the company was appropriately registered under the Building Act.
The penalty prescribed by the Act for such a breach is $5000 (presumably per count).
A complaint against his wife Bronwyn Carey, the sole shareholder and director of Carey Builders, was withdrawn once he had pleaded guilty.
This was because the facts showed, according to prosecutor Sonia Brownhill, that Mr Carey was the “controlling mind” of the company.
Ms Brownhill said that Mr Carey was declared bankrupt in Queensland on December 10, 2001 “on petition of a supplier” and he remains an undischarged bankrupt.
Carey Builders Pty Ltd was registered in Queensland by Mrs Carey on August 26, 2006.
Mr Carey applied for registration as a “building contractor, individual” in the NT on November 4, 2006 and was registered as a “building contractor residential (restricted)” by the Building Practitioners Board on December 15, 2006.
Ms Brownhill said Carey Builders Pty Ltd “is not and never has been registered as a building practitioner under Part 3 of the Building Act”.
However, between May 2008 and August 2009 Mr Carey conducted building work, including engaging subcontractors and receiving and making payments, through the company.
He applied to renew his registration as a building contractor on December 1, 2008, with it expiring on December 15.
The Building Practitioners Board assessed the application on January 21, 2009, deferring its decision “pending clarification of the defendant’s financial status”, said Ms Brownhill.
The board wrote to Mr Carey seeking this clarification on January 28 and again on March 26.
On March 28, 2009 Mr Carey entered into a contract with an Alice Springs couple by which the company would build them a house.
They paid a deposit of almost $14,000 before they ascertained that neither Mr Carey nor the company were registered under the Building Act.
They cancelled their contract and sought repayment of the deposit but have never been repaid.
Mr Carey was found guilty.
His counsel applied for an adjournment to give him time to seek his client’s full instructions and character references.
The matter is set down for March 24, 9am, expected to be completed in an hour.
Google ‘Carey’ on our web archive for our numerous reports on the fallout from the collapse of this company.

Pools going under? By KIERAN FINNANE.

All levels of government appear reluctant to take on the expense of running swimming pools in the NT’s remote communities, yet they continue to drip feed money for opening the pools, at least for a few hours over the hot months, for maintaining infrastructure, and for developing operational and business plans.
But at the end of summer there’s no guarantee that the pools will reopen next year, the same old “stop/start” story of so many services and projects in remote communities.
MacDonnell Shire has highlighted the situation in its recently released annual report 2009-2010.
The shire ran three pools in the ‘09-’10 financial year: at Kintore (Walungurru), Areyonga (Utju) and Santa Teresa (Ltyente Apurte).
Only the pool at Kintore had any income for the period: $50,000 contributed by Papunya Tula Arts, and $20,000 by Red Dust Role Models. That left $140,000 “unfunded”.
For Areyonga, there was no income and it cost $175,000 to run.
At Santa Teresa, the first swimming pool to be built on a remote Indigenous community back in 1972, there was similarly no income and it cost $310,000 to run.
The shire says it has explored the possibility of community stores contributing to pool operations but the stores’ own costs and priorities make this impossible.
“User pays” options have also been looked at but would have marginal benefits while disadvantaging those most in need.
(“User pays” doesn’t cover the running of the pool in Alice Springs. The council this year is kicking in $523,232.)
The report warns that the shire will be unable to open the pools in the 2010-11 summer period unless it can raise funds for this purpose.
Meanwhile, ironically, the Australian Government has given the shire $300,000 to conduct major remediation and safety upgrade works at the three pools.
The Alice News reported on a similar situation at Yuendumu (Central Desert Shire) last July, with the community’s pool, which had cost $2.5m to build, looking to remain closed as the warmer weather arrived.
Within a couple of months significant one-off grants saved the day: the traditional owners’ royalty body provided $100,000 and the NT Government, $49,000.
Together the grants amount to the estimated annual operational costs (formerly estimated at $250,000, now revised to $150,000).
However, neither grant represented a long-term solution.
Reviewing “sources of funding for the ongoing management” of the pool is identified as an action in the Local Implementation Plan (LIP) released for Yuendumu last week.
The LIP also says “NTG will contribute to the pool’s ongoing operation”.
LIPs are target-setting agreements, between the communities in the so-called  “growth towns” and the three tiers of government, about what is going to make their community a better place.
Growth towns are those communities identified by the NT Government for development of services to the same standard as other Australian country towns.
To date the other growth towns with LIPs are Yirrkala, Angurugu and Umbakumba, none of which have swimming pools – only five of the growth towns, including Yuemdumu, do.
None thus far have a secure and predictable source of funding and all are caught in a cycle of buck-passing.
According to a recent review of remote swimming pools in the NT (18 in total), conducted by their greatest champion, the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia (RLSSA), “community members felt [funding] was the role of the Shire Council, the Shire Council looked to the Northern Territory or Federal Government, and the Northern Territory Government looked to the Federal Government or placed responsibility back on the Shire Council”.
It’s worth noting that pools in remote communities in Western Australia and South Australia are funded by their state governments.
How much of a priority should a pool be given among the many demands for improved amenities in remote communities?
The RLSSA says pools should be regarded as a core community service and accordingly reprioritised by Shire Councils: “A shift in mindset is required to realise the view that swimming pools are a social asset, with strong links to a range of outcomes in areas of health, employment, youth leadership and family relations.’”
However, the shires have a very low rate base and are highly dependent on grant funding, most of which comes in the form of tied grants.
As MacDonnell Shire notes in its annual report: “The Shire has a very low level of untied funding. This seriously constrains the ability of Elected Councillors and management to set priorities and initiate action.
“This limits the capacity for the Council to make a material difference to the lives of residents and places the Shire at a material disadvantage compared with local government in other parts of Australia.”
The claims made for the health benefits for children from swimming in chlorinated pools are pretty impressive.
The review cites a child health study conducted in a remote WA community between 2001 and 2005 after a pool was built there.
It attributed a 51% decrease in children’s skin diseases to swimming in the pool; a 44% decrease in ear infections; a 41% decrease in antibiotic prescriptions; and, a 63% decrease in respiratory diseases.
But for these kind of benefits, children need to be able to access the pools regularly, says the review, and “this requires a more systematic approach than is currently evidenced in NT communities”.
The review suggests that pools may also be beneficial for school attendance, retention rates, and student learning and engagement, although reservations are expressed about simplistic “no school, no pool” schemes: the children who may most need the benefits of swimming could be the ones excluded.
The RLSSA is also concerned, as elsewhere in Australia, with promoting water safety and preventing drowning.
This takes on a certain urgency when we read that Indigenous males in remote communities are 1.9 times more likely to drown than their counterparts in metropolitan Australia, and females, a shocking 10.5 times.
The review urges that economic modelling be done that takes into account the benefits of pools for improved health and wellbeing and the impact those benefits will have on other budget areas.
Understanding this could help justify expanding funding, says the review.
It’s not clear that that will be happening any time soon, but the Australian Government has funded the RLSSA to the tune of $250,000 to develop operational and business plans for the NT’s remote pools.
Business plans for pools with no money to operate may sound like putting the cart before the horse but it is anticipated that the plans will support the case for on-going operational funding for the pools in the NT’s hot and dusty remote communities.

Top NT reading is from The Centre. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Rod Moss, whose memoir The Hard Light of Day (UQP) has been proclaimed the Chief Minister’s NT Book of the Year, had never thought of writing a book.
He is a painter and for decades had been making pictures with his friends, the Arrernte families ‘sitting down’ at  White Gate, when study for a Masters degree required that he write some texts to accompany the paintings “so that people in Victoria could understand them”.
His friend Bill Davis suggested he go on to write a book for which these texts and his meticulous journals laid the foundations.
It was years in the making and took even longer to find a publisher.
Then his moment came: after years of refusals he received two offers to publish within 10 days of one another.
The NT award, coming after an excellent reception of the book around the country, was hardly a surprise, to his readers anyway.
Mr Moss looked modestly happy as he accepted it and laughed, saying that he wished he could show it to all those publishers who’d refused his manuscript.
The prize came with a $5000 purse and a year of promotional activity for Moss and the book.
2010 was a rich year for writing out of The Centre, with publication of Margaret Kemarre Turner’s Iwenhe Tyerrtye – what it means to be an Aboriginal person (IAD Press) coming just a few weeks after The Hard Light of Day.
Mrs Turner was awarded the $2000 Absolutely Books prize for non-fiction at the awards ceremony last Friday.
Unfortunately she could not be there but was represented by the proud team of IAD Press.
The two books are very different reading experiences, each with a distinct approach and style, but both offer intimate insights into the lives and world views of contemporary Eastern Arrernte families living in and around Alice Springs.
Mr Moss paid tribute to Mrs Turner’s book, saying that reading it had shown him how much he doesn’t know and would like to know, while she “walks around with it all in her head”.
Visiting author Arnold Zable, one of the award judges, commented that the two works share a welcoming character: they invite the reader in through an open door, “all comers are welcome as long as you come with respect”, he said.
He noted the encyclopaedic character of Mrs Turner’s book and its uncompromising commitment to the Arrernte language, making clear that if you don’t understand the language you cannot really understand the way Aboriginal people see the world around them.
Some meanings of Arrernte concepts and words that Mrs Turner tries to explain in the book are “incredibly subtle”, he said.
He loved the notions of time that she evokes – the old way when time was measured by shadows, in contrast to the “machine time” of the present.
And he was inspired and moved by her message that the two cultures, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, “can hold each other” – as we eat the same food, walk the same land, breathe the same air.
There were two other contenders for NT Book of the year: a charmingly told and illustrated children’s storybook, Twinkle (Scholastic), by Nick Bland; and The Rooftop Sutras (self-published) by Levin A. Diatschenko, who sets this collection of tales in a mythologised suburbia.
Twinkle won the $2000 Angus and Robertson Children’s Literature/Young Adult Fiction award.
Mr Zable said every judge on the panel with children knew that twinkle was a book “our children would have been riveted by”.
It was “a lovely story told in a simple way”.
He dubbed Mr Diatschenko the “Kafka of the Outback” and said his writing also reminded him of Borges.
On concluding his reading of an entertaining extract, he exclaimed, “divine writing”!
The Territory Read awards, now in their third year, are an initiative of the NT Writers Centre.

Ups, downs in the Mall. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Turnover this January and February are down to half of what they were in the same period three years ago: “The place is dead.”
“We are definitely up by a substantial amount on last year’s figures.
“We also have to attribute that to our own efforts, not closing between Christmas and New Year, so our tourist trade is not disappointed.”
These comments are from two Todd Mall traders.
The first is an art dealer who didn’t want to be named.
The second is from Deb Smith, owner and manager of Leaping Lizard gallery at the southern end of the mall.
Another mall trader heavily reliant on tourists says business is “terrible”.
“Nothing every day – time to retire.”
He says backpackers may buy a postcard or two but the other people through the door are mostly Aborigines with nothing to do, looking around, with children who obviously should be at school, maybe trying to sell some artwork.
Some tourists ask for WiFi and when he points them to internet cafes they say: “I don’t want to pay.”
The high dollar and an untidy mall don’t help.
He says he sees council employees, “paid with ratepayers’ money”, cleaning up every day.
Why don’t they tell the litterers to pick up their mess?
“We’re not allowed to say anything. It’s council policy”, is the standard answer, says the businessman.
“January this year we were up on last year,” says a souvenir trader who also didn’t want to be named.
“Two weeks of February have been quiet. February has always been a dicey month.
“Nothing really happens now till Easter.
“Obviously we rely heavily on overseas tourism.
“We still have people coming, but things are happening around the world all the time”, triggering the ups and downs of business in The Alice.
Should the Mall have a siesta, for example, between 1pm and 5pm and then trade till 9pm?
“I don’t believe so,” says the souvenir trader.
“The big thing is staying open seven days a week.
“In season we’re open from 9am to 6pm or 7pm.”
Back to the art dealer who says he now does most of his business by telephone, email and on the net – and he could do that from anywhere in the world.
The only reason for still being here is that artists come in to sell their works to him.
His premises have been on the market for years. Offers are stuck just a little below what he wants. They are stagnant.
He says the town used to benefit from much better tourist promotion, “stay three nights” specials, airfare and accommodation packages, cheap flights.
“The council is spending half a million dollars on crushing bottles instead of promoting the town.”
Ms Smith takes a self-help kind of view: “Retailers need to look after the trade they have and not just pick and choose.”
She says the southern end of the mall is the first entry point for the majority of international visitors who step off coaches.
“We need to make it open, friendly and inviting: we’re here, we’ve got what you want.”
She says the northern end of the mall, by contrast, lacks “the same entrance appeal, mix of businesses”.
Asked whether she would favour a siesta, Ms Smith says: “Let’s trade all the way through.
“Why close and send mixed messages to our locals and visitors?”
When there are conventions or events like the Transport Hall of Fame reunion “we trade right through, 7.30, eight o’clock, if that’s what the visitors want.”
Adapting to whatever situation presents itself is also the motto for the souvenir trader.
The big spending Americans are gone. The Asians a tight, but the Europeans are OK.
As tourists are less likely to go to Queensland after the floods, they may well come to The Centre.
“It’s a glass half full, not half empty situation,” he says.
But then he reveals that he’s moving to Adelaide at the end of the year.
And he’s the landlord who’s put up the rent of the guy worried about rubbish in the mall from $4100 a month to $6300.
“It’s to put us in line with the Yeperenye complex, but we don’t have the same traffic,” says the trader worried about rubbish.
And suddenly the cheerful outlook of the souvenir seller appears in quite a different light.

A ‘lifestyle experience’ to beat shopping blues. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Bucking an apparent trend in Todd Mall, Anastasia Byrnes, far from closing her five year old business, has just significantly expanded it.
She’s moved next door to a shop three times the size and, under a clever slogan, has introduced designer men’s wear.
“Mixed Lollies has met a man ... and we’ve moved in together”, say the ads and it’s also scrawled in lipstick on the shop window.
It sounds like you’re being let in on some exciting news about someone you know: it’s the kind of personalised, individual identity that Anastasia has set out to create for her shop.
It’s part of her strategy to make going to her shop “a lifestyle experience” and the appeal of this for her customers is why she has had the confidence to make the move.
She didn’t take the decision lightly.
The new premises became available in November and for some weeks she wondered, “Should we bite the bullet?”
Over the five years she’d increased her earnings from year to year, so should she stay safe now or take a risk?
Thus far the risk has been paying off: January and February, always quite months, have been better in this shop than in the old one.
She knew if she was going to grow, she had to offer a larger range of merchandise and bring in a new clientele.
Slowly men are starting to come in – more comfortable in the roomier store that has its ‘his and hers’ areas.
She’s also introduced music and homewares: “It’s not the sort of stuff you can get elsewhere in Alice Springs. I don’t want to move into other people’s territories.
“The music is the sort of thing I like, house music, world music, I’d play it in the shop and people would ask me about it.
“The lamps, the nic nacs, make it a lifestyle store. That’s the way stores are going in Melbourne and Sydney.
“A nice shopping experience can compete with online shopping.
“You hear young kids talking about buying this and buying that online. They don’t understand the repercussions for local business but they will come to be in a cool place and be able to see and feel and hear the things they like.”
Treating each customer as an individual is another of her strategies.
When someone buys a special dress, Anastasia or her staff will ask her what occasion she’s buying it for. If it’s for Young Guns at the racecourse, they’ll pin a note onto any dress that’s identical, “This one’s going to Young Guns”, helping her customers avoid turning up at the same occasion in the same outfit.
Girls and women in Alice dress up for an occasion – for going out at night and special events, so this in the main is the kind of stock she offers. There’s not a similar demand for daywear – day to day dressing remains pretty casual in town.
She definitely wanted to stay on the mall – “on the street, not in a shopping centre, near the cinemas, opposite plenty of parking”.
She’s hoping a new business will move into her old premises next door  – “make the area more of a shopping destination” – and is looking forward to Oscar’s restaurant reopening soon.
Is Alice Springs big enough to sustain her business?
“I think so. I don’t rely on tourists at all. Sure, they drop in, they say, ‘This is awesome, it could sit anywhere in Sydney or Melbourne’, but my main customers are local.”
Anastasia is a born and bred local, daughter of well-known restaurateurs, Sam and Carmela Giardina, but she did go away, for 15 years, living in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
It’s typical for the 20-somethings to go away, she says, and it’s good for them to have that experience, but the town would keep more of the age group if there were more nightlife opportunities – “not just pubs”.
She also hopes they come back to Alice Springs and bring their new ideas with them as “this town has got great opportunities” if you want to start a business, or get a good job.

It’s not a matter of getting from A to B.

The pride and joy of the Aces and Eights Special Interest Vehicle group took to the streets on Saturday night for the club’s annual presentation and first run for the year.
This was a “riddle run” which started from the Kmart car park and ended at the Windmill Restaurant.
The club has a get together every six weeks to socialise and get out and about in their vehicles.
Around 50 adults and children met at 6pm to receive their list of clues and by 7pm had dispersed in all directions.
Each clue sheet had a total of eight riddles or rhymes and eight specially coded numbers. The idea was to read the riddle or rhyme, work out the destination and then drive or ride to it.
Once at the destination, each group had to then find the answer to a question contained within the riddle and collect their specially coded token.
Clues were to places like the Old Telegraph Station, ANZAC Hill and the Stuart Town Cemetery, to name a few, but it didn’t matter whether you figured them all out or not – so long as everyone was enjoying themselves.
The Baney family had set off from the starting point in three different vehicles, but it was David and Michelle Fendt who were the first to finish (an hour after they’d started).
Others gradually followed and by about 8.30, all had arrived bar one. This was the Baney Torana which had problems and forced their late arrival at around 9pm.
People enjoyed catching up over a drink and a meal while the scores were being added and checked.
Club President Peter Hondow announced prizes for the best and worst scores as well as the annual Clubman Champion trophy.
A decanter and set of glasses was awarded to David Rawnsley and Heather Parkinson for the best score (315 out of a possible 320), and a set of glasses was awarded to the “Torana Baneys”. Not only were they very late due to their car problems, they only managed a total score of 105.
For the Clubman Champions Trophy, points are awarded throughout the year to the person or persons who have put maximum effort towards the club.
The trophy this year was awarded to Chris and Steve Walsh (which, I must say, although a great honour came as a real shock to us both).
While most members of the club own and drive a special interest vehicle aged 30 years or more, associate membership is available to those who wish to join in the fun but don’t own an older vehicle.

A few simple ideas for dealing with politicians and spin.

I know that politicians have a difficult job. I pointed this out last year when the statue of John McDouall Stuart was ‘proposed’ for the council lawns.
Then as now, the balancing act that is required for results to happen is a tricky and largely thankless one.
The truth is, no one who runs for public office is forced to do so. Often it costs a lot of money, time and effort to get into office and usually the by-line or catch word used to sway the voter is “change”.
Our own Town Council is no exception, glancing through last week’s edition and the junk mail that shows up in my letter box. No one is running on a platform of “Let’s keep letting a minority destroy our town, its tourism prospects and the very fabric of society as we know it” as that would be foolish.
The town is, quite frankly, in trouble. I could see that before I went away and now I am back it is even more apparent. So change is needed and all of these good citizens are promising that, bravo. If only this was the case.
Unfortunately, it often seems that once our idealistic nominee has reached their goal of being a public representative, something seems to happen.
The fire goes out; people who once upon a time could have a contrary position to the party line if the party line was stupid, can’t open their mouths. It’s such a shame that it almost breaks my heart.
Then they use circle speak to be clever, running around and around the question, evading an answer because that’s what politicians do these days.
Where is your courage? Where are your convictions, your morals? If you want the power, you must take the responsibility as well. We don’t need more time-wasting dead wood in government at any level.
Of course you get people like Lorraine Braham who stood as an independent after the party found her too difficult – and won.
Strong candidate and much loved by her constituents, she kept her courage and represented them as best she could and proved that not all politicians are cast from the same mould.
Then there is the “take a contrary position to the governing body” strategy. This is different to the previous stance of no convictions and possibly more frustrating.
Let’s use Tony Abbot and his negativity towards a natural disaster rebuilding tax as an example of this. I will agree that no one likes a new tax and that there will be a strain on people’s purses due to higher costs on items such as fresh fruit and veg.
But look at the devastation. This is not just a few pot holes that need to be filled in or a bit of mud in the lounge room – this is destruction of property and infrastructure on a massive scale, it needs to be funded by means other than slashing madly at the national budget.
But because he didn’t come up with the idea first, it can’t be good. Selfish and contrary behaviour.
If he was a toddler it would be time out in the naughty chair for being anti-social and mean spirited.
So, how would I fix this? I’m glad you asked. Firstly, anyone who wanted to run for a position of influence would immediately be disqualified as the wrong sort of chap (or chappette).
Or, if the changes they promise don’t happen, there is some sort of discomfort and possible humiliation. A future mayor in the stocks on the council lawn being pelted with rotten tomatoes for non-performance or general fence-sitting? Yes please.
Notice these twits standing behind politicians being interviewed for TV, and how they nod in agreement to what is said? This moronic performance is called noddies in the parlance of the news profession.
Go and stand behind a pollie you don’t like, in the camera’s field of vision, roll your eyes, shake your head in disbelief, and occasionally perform a circular motion with your index finger near your right ear. 
That’ll fix him (or her). 
Finally, create a position (like the Whip in parliament) where someone could legally stand by a politician being questioned and deliver a sharp slap as soon as they tried to avoid a simple answer with babble.

LETTERS: Taking home horror stories.

Sir – Regarding  ‘Alice youth detention facility not necessary’ (Opinion & letters, Feb 10), it appears some still don’t get it.
We don’t have time for warm and cuddly group sessions: our town is facing a very real emergency!
We are faced with large numbers of itinerants and kids roaming our streets at night.
The problem has reached such levels that is ripping apart the very fabric of our community: our businesses are closing or thinking about, it our clubs are under enormous stress that could also see them begin to close, our tourists are taking home horror stories that will keep them, and an escalating number of others, away until they see us as a safe destination again.
Have no doubt about it, our town’s economy stands on the edge of a very dangerous abyss.
Unless urgent action is taken, we will begin to slide at an ever-increasing rate into becoming a backward hell town of no hope, where private enterprise would never dream of treading.
The stupidity of the situation is that it is quite easily addressed!  All it takes is the will, the guts, to implement a couple of tough reforms.
The immediate implementation of a “youth curfew” so that the police have the legal right and requirement to approach and remove these kids from our streets, saving their lives, and our town from destruction.
The lockups referred to in the opinion piece are very definitely part of the infrastructure required to implement a curfew.
There must be a holding facility with a capacity to hold all the kids with nowhere to go until they can be dealt with.
Yes, there is a need for further investment in youth in our community, youth centres etc.
However the situation has reached such an endemic level that this investment will now have to come after, rather than before.
That’s what happens when you turn a blind eye, ever increasing injustice and disruption!
The other part of our town’s problem, older drunken itinerants, is also easily dealt with. Remove the divisive, stupid, alcohol restrictions!
The restrictions that have sent the people whom they were meant to control on a hell bent mission of retribution, while at the same time helping themselves to the supposedly unobtainable alcohol at our expense!  Put into immediate effect mandatory rehabilitation for drunks, whether they become rehabilitated or not!
It does not take a huge investment to get this underway, it simply takes a few supervisors, shovels, rakes, tents and a place removed from Town. Hard work, good food and education about living in community.
It may not result in a cure but I guarantee that it will result in people living peaceably in our town! Let’s get on with it ASAP.
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

Alderman a laugh

Sir – All too often town councillor  Murray Stewart provides for a derisory laugh.
In your  letters column of February 10, his contribution was once again one of those moments.
His subject matter was the standing of Alice Springs Town Council as, his assertion, seen through the eyes of the community.
The impression he gives as a councillor is that instead of the traditional rates, roads, rubbish etc. having priority for the ASTC they come a distant second to matters that are essentially the responsibility of an elected state/ territory government. Nevertheless, I am led to believe that we do owe him for the establishment of the ‘ASTC pothole hotline’!  
His public cannonball volley directed at the mayor was outrageous. It included the following statement: “His approach is one of extreme political naivete”. Apart from anything else that puerile salvo displayed cowardice.
Say it to the person first before going public, Cr Stewart.
He also parroted on about leadership. Well I’m sure most people don’t see self promotion, endless clichés and someone who constantly tries to talk down anyone who may have a contra view to his as leadership qualities.
His behaviour in his early years on council was abominable.  As for ‘political naivete’,  well his letter can only make one laugh at the political credentials he displays.
He resolutely states time and again that people should not bring their political allegiances / agendas to the council table. Coming from him the hypocrisy with that sentiment is breathtaking.
He has made it so patently clear in his letter that he is unhappy with the approach that council takes. On that basis one wonders why he maintains his councillor role.
His public outing of the council will certainly lead to much division on council.
There is no doubting that the concept of division would have held no arithmetical qualms for him when at school. That concept certainly has a parallel in his life now.
The manner in which he and his political cronies in Alice conduct themselves with matters that concern the serious social issues of the region simply manifest community division. Retribution and punishment is their only solution to problems that clearly require a greater depth of thought.
Our fig tree at home is loaded with fruit this season. I’m looking forward to the jam that will be made from it. For some reason fig jam reminds me of Cr Stewart.
G. “Tjilpi” Buckley
Alice Springs

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