February 24, 2011. This page contains all major
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Letting off steam, yet consensus that care for kids must be the focus. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Emotions ran high and a list of demands was overwhelmingly endorsed at the Action for Alice meeting on Tuesday night, but the strongest thing to emerge was an incredible cynicism around the culture of well-intentioned “programs”.
The majority at the meeting could not have found a more eloquent spokesperson than Lyn Patterson.
She ‘s been in Alice for 10 years, worked as a drug and alcohol counsellor, has been a coordinator of the juvenile diversion program for Relationships Australia, and now works at Charles Darwin University.
She told the crowd of 250 or more – certainly not all Action for Alice members – what most of them wanted to hear: these programs are not working.
And it’s not because of what they set out to do, but because they do not stick to the rules and hold people accountable for their breaches.
The message to young people is that they can continue to offend, she said; to people in detox, that they can get a free feed, shower and clothing, leave treatment and come back again with no consequences.
On the people metre, Ms Patterson certainly had the highest score, with a huge volume of applause and cheering.
For surprise factor, listened to for the most part with quiet attention, came Lindsay Bookie, chairman of the Central Land Council.
As Adrian Renzi, chairman of the meeting, summed up, Mr Bookie was essentially “on the same page”.
He acknowledged in his opening sentence that “we’ve got big problems” in town.
He’s probably done more than most to investigate the problems first hand, sitting there – at the hot spot around the now vacant Melanka’s block – “every night, watching”, he said.
He had some very practical suggestions: light the place up so you can see what people are doing; force kids who are five and six years old to get on the bus to be taken home (youth workers “don’t do their job properly”); after they’ve done their shopping, send bush visitors back to their communities.
“Get a bus, put them in it and send them back,” he said, to resounding clapping and cheering.
He did suggest though that young Aboriginal people are being blamed for all the anti-social behaviour in the CBD – kicking windows, throwing bottles – when other young people, leaving places like Bo’s late at night, also inflict damage.
Other surprising shared viewpoints emerged.
Barbara Shaw, resident of Mt Nancy town camp and outspoken anti-Intervention activist, blamed the Intervention for driving people from bush communities into town.
She got strong backing from businessman and photographer Steve Strike, who was scathing about the failure of governments to understand that it is experience that counts in the NT, not received knowledge.
From Intervention bureaucrats to police commissioners, their lack of local experience is their downfall, argued Mr Strike.
Governments should look to “a decent old bloke like Lindsay Bookie”, not to knowledge from Canberra.
He said he had never been a “big fan of Barb Shaw” but she had a point: the Intervention had forced “all the bad bastards” into Alice Springs.
Now the government had to work out how to “take the bad bastards off the streets – we don’t want them here”.
Needles to say, huge applause.

Action for Alice distributed a list of 10 demands, which the meeting endorsed at the outset by a show of hands:
• zero tolerance of all criminal behaviour;
• a youth curfew – under 18s off the streets between 11pm and 5am;
• zero tolerance of all antisocial behaviour;
• no divisive law based on race, no segregation of any form;
• rescind of all divisive alcohol restrictions "that set us apart from what is considered the norm in the rest of the nation";
• reintroduction of mandatory sentencing, given "failure of the courts to comply with public demands" for zero tolerance;
• wet canteens;
• an alcohol rehabilitation farm for habitual drunks;
• payment of restitution by offenders or they should "show cause as to why they should remain on welfare payments".
• introduction of dog patrols in the CBD (7 days per week / 11pm – 5am).
While it was not quite clear, it seemed that the demand for dog patrols was withdrawn, when Scott McConnell, CEO of Ingerreke, spoke passionately against it.
He said he would support the group only if they dropped it: "I do not want to see children chased by dogs!"
Two more demands appeared to be added in the course of the meeting:
• local police personnel to take calls to the police in Alice; and
• CCTV monitoring to be done locally.

In full swing amidst the ‘mayhem’. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Business in the industrial area of Alice Springs is no worse than last year and in many cases, lots better.
The money comes, in about equal shares, from governments – NT and Federal – and from private customers.
Law and order issues are seen more as an irritation than a major problem.
But most traders we contacted expressed sincere concern for the hospitality industry where more frequent crimes against the person are seen as having a major impact: “Tourism is the biggest worry,” says Scott Raven, of Alice Bolt Supplies.
“Law and order needs to be sorted.”
There are quite a few fly-in, fly-out “tradies” and professionals.
Some provide skills, not normally needed, for such specialist jobs as the new Brewer Estate power station.
Others take on work when the locals are flat out.
And that could be because they are short staffed, unable to employ people because housing is too expensive.
And it’s for this same reason that the visiting tradesmen and professionals don’t settle here: “You can’t afford to live on one wage here,” says Mr Raven. “It’s what stops them moving here.”
Fred Donoghue, from Alice Equipment Hire, says after Christmas there is usually a “lay-off” period of four to six weeks.
This year it was just one.
“It’s our busiest period in the three years I’ve been with the company,” says Mr Donoghue.
The customers range from big builders to handymen.
The big guys are benefiting mostly from Aboriginal housing commissioned by the Territory Alliance.
And on the other end of the scale, one-man building firms, tilers, gardeners and handymen seem to be busier than ever.
Mr Donoghue says in a 30 day period last year the compound was broken into every night by petrol sniffers looking to score.
The problem was fixed by the purchase of a large dog.
Mr Donoghue says hiring equipment out over night makes him nervous.
Graffiti is the most frequent damage, but sometimes equipment is smashed up wantonly, “breaking things just because you can”.
It’s the hirer’s responsibility to have the damaged fixed.
Mr Raven says business at Alice Bolt Supplies is “steady” and benefits from 25 years of trading, a big and loyal customer base and clever diversification into equipment and machinery.
It was quieter in January, “always a tough month”, but February is up on last year.
Anti-social behavior is limited to camping up the hill behind the shop.
“Sometimes they fight and blue,” says Mr Raven.
“We had quite a few broken windows replaced in last three years.”
So far as the “no camping” rule is concerned, the police and the council were passing the buck between each other until former MLA for Araluen, Jodeen Carney, sorted it out.
On the bright side, says Mr Raven, Aboriginal money stays in town, unlike what’s earned by fly-in, fly-out contractors.
Alice Pool and Spa is ticking along fine, says owner Darren Burton.
His clientele are mainly private people, backyard pools, but there’s some trade with the government, bush communities and motels.
The crime controversy is “a storm in a teacup”.
“No end of jumping up and down will do any good,” he says.
“It hurts tourism.
“It’s not a good idea running around town at midnight.”
Peter Campbell, of Campbell Project Managers, had to double his staff last year with a flood of civil engineering work, in town and out bush, managing construction of roads, bridges, dams and subdivisions, mostly government but also private projects. The last three years were focussed on work from Parks Australia at Ayers Rock.
Mr Campbell isn’t worried about the future: “One client folds, we pick up the next one.”
Now SIHIP – the Aboriginal housing scheme likely to finish up costing $1b – is “finally injecting some cash” into The Centre.
The 1000 block AZRI subdivision in the southern part of town is “on the right track” and Mr Campbell expects a number of developers to “jump on board” although it seems to be all happening “behind closed doors” for now.
Mr Campbell says it’s not clear yet whether the AZRI work will be put to tender or allocated by invitation.
He says law and order affects business in a big way.
He had a car stolen from his house.
He had to start locking his front gate.
An employee lives in the flat upstairs from the office.
Smith Street “has never been too bad” but now “a lot of people are walking past”.
However, anti-social behavior and violence “don’t have a huge impact on the big end of town: major developments, mining, big land releases.
“The population base is big enough to withstand ups and down but tourism is doing it tough.”
Mr Campbell engages workers on a fly-in, fly-out basis, who’re usually around for a year.
Derren Champness of DnA STeel Direct says its trade with governments the last couple years was “absolutely fantastic”.
The firm was founded just five years ago and the meagre summer months don’t faze him.
The January turnover figures were: in 2009 double of 2008; a 50% growth for 2010, and 2011 on par with 2010.
What would further boost earnings, of course, are realistic land prices and the building boom that would ensue.
All managers agree that government spending can be a fickle thing.
Who will be in power and how much money will they spend remains a big question.
Alice Bolt Supplies’ Scott Raven sees it like this: “Governments will keep spending everything they have and everything they don’t.”

Cattlemen fear shire rates hike. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The NT Cattlemen’s Association has called on the NT Government to impose “a consistent approach” to rate increases across all shire councils.
However, this is opposed by the Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT), as well as by the shires neighbouring Alice Springs, Central Desert and MacDonnell.
“Decisions over the setting of rates for pastoral and mining properties should not be a Territory Government responsibility,” says LGANT President Kerry Moir.
“If it is good enough for councils to set rates for other property owners, it should be good enough for them to do the same for pastoral and mining properties.”
Rates are usually set on the basis of Unimproved Capital Value (UCV) of properties and the cattlemen are worried because the “UCVs on many pastoral properties skyrocketed in the Northern Territory last year”.
Association President, Rohan Sullivan, says the Valuer-General’s office has been “inundated with objections to the UCVs and the objections process has effectively stalled”.
He says it is unlikely that the UCVs will be revised anytime soon as the department has called for a review of the Valuation of Lands Act.
But in the meantime, they are concerned that shire councils could base rate increases on the new UCVs which could see rates rise “by between 400 and 1000% on some properties”.
Mr Sullivan noted “the more reasonable approach” of MacDonnell Shire in applying only a CPI  increase to the former year’s rates.
The News asked MacDonnell Shire CEO Graham Taylor if council supports a consistent approach to rate increases across the Territory?
He says council has not resolved a decision on this issue, but his personal view is there should not be a standard approach.
“Council establish the things to be done in the year and then look at the required income to be generated.
“Rates are but one form and the income will vary according to what is required.
“Standardising may not give the right income required.”
Central Desert Shire have also endorsed a rating proposal for 2011-12 indexed on CPI (using Darwin’s CPI for December 2010), says CEO Roydon Robertson.
A consistent approach is not appropriate, says Mr Robertson, as “each council is an autonomous body in its own right and makes individual decisions based on their own financial and budgetary circumstances”.  
“Council has never discussed that it would raise conditionally rateable properties (pastoral and mining leases) above a reasonable level and has never treated them differently to any other ratepayer,” says Mr Robertson.
“In the 2009/2010 financial statements, CDSC raised $463,277 in rates and charges. 
“This represented 1.56% of the Council’s total operating revenue of $29,695,451. 
“Of the $463,277, Farmland Rates totalled $ 17,890.”
Ms Moir says pastoralists in the NT “already enjoy a low rate in the dollar for their rates in comparison to other ratepayers”.
“If they are to be given further decreases, this can only mean that those other ratepayers will pay more,” says Ms Moir.
“Pastoralists here also pay a lot less in council rates than pastoralists interstate.”
She says local government lobbied the Territory Government to have pastoral lease payments reduced as a consequence of the introduction of council rates.
“This course of action is still open to the Territory Government to implement.”

No exodus from the shires

Amidst news reports that residents of bush communities are leaving in droves for Alice Springs, the Alice News asked the town’s neigbouring shires, MacDonnell and Central Desert, if their communities and outstations are emptying.
Central Desert Shire’s CEO Roydon Roberston says he has received “no information to support such a claim and council has not discussed such happenings”.
“We do have reports of the contrary, for example, overcrowding in housing at Engawala which has been the subject of several advocacy efforts by council for increased housing in communities which are not Growth Towns like Yuendumu and Lajamanu.
“Council has also advocated for increased housing at Willowra.”
MacDonnell Shire CEO Graham Taylor says the shire population is increasing.
He says a recent presentation to council by the ABS showed a current  population of 7100, up on some 6800 two years ago.

The only debate in town. By KIERAN FINNANE.


How to deal with anti-social behaviour and crime remains the number one issue on voters’ minds, say the majority of Town Council by-election candidates in the final week of their campaign.
Only Steve Brown belongs to activist group Action for Alice but the majority broadly support the group’s aims.
Two candidates, Jill Hall and Peter Flink, stand back from the debate.
Ms Hall says she is worried about the impact of the group’s negative publicity on the town’s tourism industry, that businesses may have to close their doors, leaving people out of work.
“It’s bad enough as it is but will be worse if a program like 60 Minutes gets hold of it,” she says.
She wants to stick to issues that council has the power to tackle, like cleaning up the town centre and parks, of litter and “loiterers”.
“They should stay in their own homes, not hang around the CBD,” she says.
Mr Flink says he has not looked into Action for Alice’s specific goals.
He’s concerned about law and order issues, which are “ruining the town”, but “it’s not a council thing”.
Maintaining good services to the public is what his main objective would be.
Mister Shaun is concerned about Action for Alice working through the media, and that possibly the situation is being portrayed as “more grim” than it actually is.
This said, he doesn’t want to downplay the issues, but thinks that next month’s  parliamentary sittings in Alice would have been the “perfect environment” for tackling them.
Some of his thinking is aligned with the group’s: he supports mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders, a youth curfew, greater accountability for parents, and does not think alcohol restrictions are working.
But his emphasis on the need for more youth activities sets him apart.
The debate is too much “inside the  box”, he says, and opportunities outside the box need to be given a chance.
He has been campaigning on Facebook, estimating that it can give him access to 2000-3000 local residents whom he doesn’t know.
He’s worried by some of the comments he sees being made about the current situation: a high level of cynicism about the government doing anything and the suggestion that people will take matters into their own hands.
All candidates condemn any such move, saying that it would only make matters worse.
Craig Pankhurst says he has “nothing but sympathy” for the businesses owners who have suffered multiple break-ins over the summer.
His thinking also aligns with Action for Alice on some points, such as the need for offenders to make “financial restitution” to their victims.
Payments should come out of their Centrelink benefits if necessary.
He says council should be leading the charge, putting the community’s views to government in a constructive manner.
He says he’s done a “heap of door-knocking” during his campaign and nine out of 10 people – from a broad cross-section of the population – say anti-social behaviour is their “number one” concern.
He has been sad to hear long-term locals talk of leaving town because of the issue: “It’s a transient town but people should leave for the right reasons, not this.”
Janice Knappstein supports the goals of Action for Alice “most definitely”.
She sees it as a “fight for social justice for the whole town, for the same laws to apply to black and white”.
The campaign may not be good for tourism but “if that’s what it takes, if we have to scream that loud for Darwin and Canberra to hear”, then so be it.
She says Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton shows by his comments on the Action for Alice campaign that he is not aware of what is happening on the streets.
The NT Government’s actions “are not addressing the street problems” and are encouraging visitors from the bush to “stay in town”.
Eli Melky supports Action for Alice’s desire that laws be enforced to their full extent. He says their campaign is similar to his: “Bring forward the reality, stop the denial.”
He says their TV commercials “capture the truth of the town” – “they didn’t create the mess, they want support to fix the mess.”
He says the “lame duck” Labor Government is “inadequately supporting Alice Springs in all areas” and needs to be removed from power.
“The second biggest issue is, where is the mayor? What is he doing?
“There is no true representative at the top.
“Council is seen to be hiding behind its role as prescribed by the Local Government Act.”
As he speaks to the News, Mr Melky is handing out how-to-vote cards at the pre-polling booth.
An Aboriginal man tells him that he will vote for him. He had his car stolen from his driveway: “I’ve had enough of this town, it’s got to be cleaned up.”
Mr Melky promised, “I won’t let you down.”
Mr Brown is not an initiator of Action for Alice but he is an active member.
He says they are only partially satisfied by the NT Government’s recent announcements, but measures “to remove kids from the streets have not come to fruition”.
The group is going to maintain their campaign “until we get something done” – not promises, but action “on the ground”.
“We can’t afford to sit and wait.
“They can come in with a youth curfew right now.
“Children cannot be on our streets at night. If the government doesn’t get them off, it won’t be long before someone else does.”
He is extremely concerned that the town is on the brink of collapse, with a lot of people going to leave all at once.
Government inaction arises from “a complete and utter lack of will”.
“They are afraid of the racist tag but the people who suffer the most are the kids and Aboriginal people.”
He says the law and order issue has pushed everything else to one side: “When people are worrying about the collapse of their property prices and business closures, what’s the point of talking about whether the verges are mown?”

Never forget where home is. By RONJA MOSS.

I was down and out, blue and alone, curled upon my compartmented couch in Melbourne’s North Fitzroy.
 “Why am I here?” circulates the mind. “I haven’t got a job, I’m not going to uni and I’ve left my home, Central Australia, for this cold, hard city!”
I had moved away to experience the culture and ‘find myself.’ In reality, I was lost.
At that moment my mobile started to buzz. It was mum, “Ronja! Ronja! I’ve just been thinking and… Look. Why don’t you go overseas this year?”
It was so simple. Who needs a plan, a passport and money when you’ve got such great ideas!
Turned out all those things are actually quite vital. Apparently also on the list of legalities, the US Government doesn’t allow you to be in their country for more than three months without a visa.
Sydney International Airport: “Miss Moss, we can’t allow you to board this plane due to you having booked 92 days in America.”
“Yeah, so?” was my casual response.
“Well, Madam, you’re only allowed to be there for 90.”
So two days too many and only two hours before my flight, I was hurriedly searching for another way out just to get in.
It’s OK. We sorted it.
As it happened I managed to eat bagels in New York, sunbake naked with the hippies in the hills of California, rally in the name of restoring sanity and/or fear with Stewart and Colbert in Washington, cried at the vast concrete jungle of London, went ballistic in front of multiple works in Bristol by Banksy (a graffiti artist – but you knew that), swam in the freezing cold waters of Wales, boogied in Berlin and fell in love in France. It was all so unfamiliar and novel ... and so romantic!
But it was strange. Everywhere I went, I was the interesting one.
People were fascinated simply because of where I came from. I was some kind of exotic fruit & it-felt-yummy!
“Wow! I lurv your accent!”
“Australia! Is that where the Aborigines are?”
“Alice Springs? You have a big rock, right?”
Then there was the doctor’s  receptionist, San Fransisco. She asked for my name and address: “Mmm … Australia? Is that a state, or a city?” I thought she was joking... at first.
Having all this focus upon home, I started to think. Deeply.
Back in Melbourne all I could meditate on was getting back to the warmth, the vibrant colour that is Alice.
I thought going to see the rest of world would have taken away the drive to get home, would have been so exciting I couldn’t possibly feel home sick.
It did exactly the opposite.
Seeing the cultivation of England and the mass corporation takeover of America made me really appreciate coming from ‘Down Under’.
I so loved listening to people talk about their country and explaining my interpretation of ours. These people, who had no understanding of Central Australia, the charm and the dilemmas, gave me perspective and a drive to come back, get involved, sink my teeth back into this desert land.
In so many places across the west we have forgotten what’s it’s like to have wilderness, to have present history and a want to preserve it. It is hard, but it is precious.
Now I am home and this sweltering heat has taken over. Honestly? It is taking some readjusting. This town is always changing and has changed drastically in only one year, but so  have I.
So travelling tips. Firstly, take a ukulele – the security guards in the airports just love showing you their own skills.
Secondly, talk to anyone! Everyone has a story and most are worth listening to.
And last but not least, never forget where your home is and what lies close to the heart. In my case, the red, hot heart.

Can the Lucky Country help? By KIERAN FINNANE.


Have we got room in our hearts for Silvia Auma?
She’s seven years old and has lived in her home in Kenya with the scars of shocking burns since babyhood.
Immediately after the accident – an overturned lantern set her mosquito net on fire as she slept – doctors amputated her right arm at the elbow and her right leg at the shin.
She has never had any skin grafts or the use of prosthetic limbs; no rehabilitation; no mobility aids; and until recently, no formal schooling.
This would be unthinkable in Australia but all too common in many parts of the world.
We know Silvia’s story because of the work of a young woman living and working in Alice Springs, speech therapist Lisa Fisher.
Lisa came to Alice last October, on a two month contract. She loves the town and when she was offered a permanent position, jumped at the chance.
But part of her heart is still in Kenya.
She went there in May last year to work as a volunteer speech therapist for three months in a town called Mumias, about 130 kms from the Ugandan border.
If all we know about speech therapy is what we’ve seen in the film, The King’s Speech, we might think that it would come well down the list of needs in a developing country.
But think again. Lisa used her training and professional experience to work with the families of children with such conditions as cleft palate, cerebral palsy, downs syndrome, hydrocephaly, intellectual disability, autism and hearing impairment.
She was attached to a local centre, like our disability centres, working alongside Kenyan colleagues who were occupational therapists and teachers, but with limited resources.
She recalls coming across a 14 year old boy, basically left lying on the floor, facing the wall, often covered in food and his own waste.
There was no treatment plan for him; her colleagues did not know how they could help him.
He has cerebral palsy, which affects his muscle control, including the ability to speak, and had no means of communicating.
Over the time she was there, Lisa got him up off the floor into a chair and taught him to use a communication board, which allowed him to tell his carers when he needed to go to the toilet, when he was hungry, when he didn’t like something and so on.
Her Kenyan colleagues then undertook a similar process with another child.
She came across a lot of children with cleft palates, who had not had surgery to repair them and may never have it. For them, feeding is a critical issue and there are techniques she was able to show their mothers for breast-feeding, bottle feeding and the introduction of solid foods.
Little Silvia arrived at the centre one day on her pregnant mother’s back.
Lisa was taken aback by the extent of her injuries but could see straight away that she was intelligent and loved by her family.
Perhaps the worst aspect of her condition are the extensive “contractures” all over her body – where the burnt skin has hardened and shrunk. This limits her movements but also means the skin is very prone to breaking as she drags herself around without the help of mobility aids.
She had big ulcers on her knees – “so deep I could see the bone” –  and on her left foot.
“Here they would probably have saved her arm and leg,” says Lisa.
“She would have had skin grafts and rehab, she would have been able to walk.”
Lisa was determined to do what she could for the little girl.
Through networking she brought Silvia’s case to the attention of Dr Philip Rome, a plastic surgeon at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
He and the hospital have undertaken to treat Silvia, including surgery, provision of prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation, all at no charge.
A host family for Silvia and her father while they are in Sydney has been found.
To date $5000 has been raised to help cover the costs of their travel and defray the host family’s expenses.
But the Australian Immigration Department requires a deposit of $18,000 before they will issue a medical visa.
The needs are great in Kenya and no amount of volunteer effort will be able to answer them.
Lisa is well aware of how far money she raises could go to helping whole families, but when she thinks about Silvia, she can’t let go the possibility of offering her a better future.
“I ask myself, why not? And I can’t think of an answer – it’s possible and so we should.”
Time is short. The hospital is hoping to start treatment in May. 
Lisa’s own family, back in flood-ravaged Ipswich, are doing their bit to help her fund-raising efforts.
Her father grew up in Tanzania and even as the family try to help their own community re-establish after the floods, they know that Australia is still a lucky country in contrast to much of Africa. 
In Alice Lisa is organising a fund-raising Family Fun Day for March 5.
There’ll be live music, and thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes to be won, donated by local businesses.
There’ll be children’s craft and activity stalls, food and drink stalls, a teddy bear hospital, and swimming.
The day will be held at Gapview Hotel, from noon to 7pm. Gold coin entry.
Lisa says treatment will make a profound difference to Silvia’s future.
At Lisa’s insistence while she was there, Silvia was accepted at the local primary school. In her most recent test, she was placed seventh out of the school’s 76 children.
She’s clearly bright but in Kenya a woman has to be able to fend for herself and her family.
She has to be able to cook, clean, go to the market. With her disabilities at the moment this will not be possible for Silvia, and once her parents die, her future will be grim ... unless Australia can help.
Money left over from Silvia’s treatment will be put towards helping other needy children in Kenya through the organisation Lisa has founded, S.I.L.V.I.A. Inc – Support In Life Via Individual Action.
Donations can be made online at or post cheques to PO Box 490, Margate Beach, QLD 4019.

An American love affair.

Since around 1968, Graham Taylor has owned over 30 American cars and fully restored about eight of them.
Over the years he’s owned six or seven Packard’s, about four or five Studebakers, Buicks, Lincolns, Fords, Mustangs and two Pierce Arrows.
His first car was an FJ Holden which he drove between Melbourne and Nowra as a young man in the Navy before trading it for a Studebaker.
Later on he bought an A Model Ford and thus began his love of tinkering. Graham’s one and only brand new car was a ’66 two door Falcon which he again traded on a Studebaker.
At first Graham had vintage cars such as ‘27 Chevs, ‘23 Studebakers and a ‘27 Pierce Arrow.
“There used to be what they called the 3 Ps: Pierce Arrow, Packard and Peerless. They were all classy American cars. I’ve had two of them but I haven’t had a Peerless.” Graham started out by restoring a Studebaker which he didn’t like very much, worked on others for a  while  and now, for reasons he can’t explain, he’s “gone the whole circle” back to Studebakers.
Restoration gives him something to do and he gets more of a kick out of restoring them, than actually driving them.
Once a car is finished, he’s no longer really interested in it and would rather have something new to work on. So he moves them on and starts again, but still knows where most of them have ended up.
Chevs and the like are a reasonably common sight in Australia but Pierce Arrows are not so common. I ask Graham what influenced the Pierce Arrow’s arrival in Australia.
He says these cars were actually imported in 1927 and used by the City Motor Service in Melbourne as exclusive hire cars to transport people to theatres and the opera.
Graham purchased his first and joined the Pierce Arrow Society in 1979 while he was in the Fire Brigade in Melbourne.
After leaving the Motor Service, the car had been owned by an engineer who worked for a tool manufacturing company before ending up in an old shed in Coburg. Graham says he was pretty excited because it was a bit of a wreck when he got hold of it.
Thinking the vehicle would probably just need a cut and polish was an understatement: one of Graham’s mates even suggested that he’d never finish the job.
Twelve months later he’d removed all the woodwork and completely demolished the car and it looked as if it were just a heap of rotting wood on the floor of the shed.
Graham had paid $5000 for it and felt that he’d have to keep going, even though it didn’t seem to be worth two bob.
“Anyway, it ended up a pretty good, rare car”.
He believes the wood was rotten because the vehicle would have been continually damp from being washed every day when it was in service. After restoration, the car was sold to an apple farmer in Harcourt leaving Graham free to work on his next project – a 1937 Packard Super 8.
This would be Graham’s favourite vehicle to date. He bought it without having to do any restoration and, although he’s not sure whether the story is true or not, was told the car was originally owned by General Macarthur during his time in Australia in Second World War.
It was also a fairly rare find. The cars survived for a lot longer than some of the other American cars because during the Great Depression, the Packard 120 was introduced. Although these were straight 8s as well, they were much cheaper than the Super 8s.
By selling these cheaper Packards, the Super 8s were kept on the road, which other companies such as Pierce Arrow didn’t do and consequently went broke.
It has been said that at the time, the cheaper 120s were so common that “even snakes were driving them around!”
Graham has also owned three Lincolns.
The first was purchased from a real estate agent who wasn’t happy with having only two doors. The car had been de-chromed and painted purple.
Graham says it is probably still the only one of its kind in Australia and originally came here when it was brand new.
Another Lincoln was bought in America and upon arrival in Melbourne, was used as spare parts before being sold.
His next Lincoln was a four door 1953 model which was very modern and probably ahead of its time. This vehicle had ball joint front suspension, power steering, air conditioning, electric windows – everything – the only trouble was a six volt power system.
During restoration, Graham “changed a few bulbs” and put a 12 volt battery in which worked really well because the starter motor could cope.
“This vehicle was also the first of the overhead valve V8s to come out of Ford and had 370 horsepower.
“The Mercuries, Customlines and such were still side valve V8s at that time, so Lincoln were pretty modern for the day.
“The end of Studebaker was in 1966 and they died with kingpins because they never got around to having ball joints in the front.”
About 16 years ago, Graham came to Alice Springs in a white ’64 Mustang which is still in town. At one time he had a ‘63 Lincoln convertible which he brought to Alice Springs and then sold to a doctor in Melbourne.
His current ride is a beautifully restored ’64 Studebaker Daytona which won the trophy for the Best American Classic at the 2010 Dead Centre Show ‘n’ Shine.
The Daytona is one of about six which have been imported into Australia and Graham tells me that although Studebakers were imported and sold here, the Daytonas were not. His other current ride is an ’85 Cadillac Eldorado which he bought in Philadelphia and drove across the USA before shipping it back to Australia.
Although great fun and satisfying to restore, Graham says the old vintage vehicles are getting too dangerous to drive on the roads because they don’t have the speed – “you’d get run over in this day and age”.
Anyway, I got sick of the older cars, turning to later models.
The only thing he’s never had and might have liked to was a Rolls Royce – although he nearly bought a black, left hand drive one which had been shipped to Australia from Japan. The price was right at $13,000 but after chasing all the parts for it, Graham believes the owner may have died before getting back to him.
“That was the end of that! And I didn’t really want a Pommy car anyway.”
As you may have guessed, Graham’s passion is for  American cars – the Poms in his view “have never made a decent car”!

LETTERS: By-election blows.

Sir – Clean up the by-election ad.
This Has Got to STOP:
Shameless dog-whistle politics, in public.
Outrageous, disingenuous and arrogant election promises, in public.
Making light (and sport) of real entrenched problems, in public.
Selectively appealing to the white middle-class, in public.
Raising no concern about fighting, drunkenness and lawlessness when it happens in private.
Clean up your mouth, Mr Melky!
Andrew Gador-Whyte
Alice Springs
ED – The Alice News offered right of reply to aldermanic candidate Eli Melky as the by-election will be held before our next edition. Mr Melky says: “I will do all I can to unite all peoples, black and white, as this affects us all equally.
“I look forward to living with you, Mr Gador-Whyte, in a safe and happy community.”

Hate mail?

Sir – I reply to G. Buckley and his letter headed “Alderman a laugh” (Alice News, Feb 17).
Oh dear, hating someone that hard must be a real strain for those around you!
You started your vitriolic rave by referring to me as a coward.  
I shall remember this the next time you scream at me on the streets of Alice as you have done so many times, not even having the guts to announce your name let alone stopping so I can address you with a suitable response.
For the record, I have a great deal of respect for our Mayor – like me he is a family man who has the best interest of our town at heart. 
Damien and I enjoy an open and honest relationship. 
What I printed in the paper would have come as no surprise to him as only recently he and I enjoyed a telephone debate about our varying styles when it comes to dealing with the law and order issues in this town.
You further stated that I have only one shot in the locker when it comes to dealing with our youth and crime issues. 
Bad news again, Graham. 
My family and I have dedicated our lives in providing artistic, sporting and recreational opportunities for our young. 
But like any well rounded family, I believe our youth also need the gift of discipline and boundary setting.
Finally you implied that my strident views about the need for a transparent council indicated a dislike for council and its membership. 
Sadly for you Graham, I love being an elected member and not only do I respect the view of my fellow elected members, even in our disagreeable moments, but my intention is to continue contributing positively to our community.
Murray Stewart
Alice Springs

In defence of Murray

Sir – I am writing to express my disgust at the personal and vitriolic attack on Alderman Murray Stewart by G. Buckley in Letters, February 17.
Mr Buckley purports to defend free speech yet attacks Ald Stewart because he had the audacity to express an opinion on our mayor’s performance.
The role of an alderman is to honestly represent the views of their constituency to council, to one and all.
If Ald Stewart felt something needed to be said in this time of crisis then say it he must!
I’m sure the whole population is aware that in a town full of conservatives that Murray is occasionally a bit out there. As he says, we need fresh ideas.
Ald Stewart and his family work, despite a heavy personal load, with almost boundless energy and dedication for all the people Alice Springs with the twin goals of making Alice a better place and lifting our Aboriginal population from poverty and welfare dependency to becoming happy independent rate payers of our town, the two goals inextricably bound I think.
Ald Stewart loves a good argument, so express your differences vigorously, but keep the low blows to yourself. 
As the person who had the pleasure of reading your letter to Ald Stewart, I can tell you it got a lot of belly laughs.
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

Sir – Re G.Tjilpi Buckley’s  letter, ‘Alderman a laugh’ in your February 17 issue.
G. Buckley, I respect your opinion as given.
For me I have nothing but admiration for the way alderman Murray Stewart goes about his duties as a town councillor.
His dedication and honest approach as an alderman is with out question.
Should Murray Stewart wish to raise his hand again in the next election to be Mayor of this town I would have no hesitation in voting for him.
Murray would be an exciting Mayor and well worthy of the chance to lead this town at grass roots level.
I would welcome the ride with Murray as Mayor, the time is right for his style of leadership.
David Mortimer
Alice Springs

Godlessness the problem

Sir – May I offer for public consideration a four-step process guaranteed to produce, over time, the violent lawlessness that has Alice Springs in it grip, a state of affairs which has politicians scrambling and local business barricading themselves in or leaving town?  This process has been precisely defined by R. J. Rushdoony fifty years ago in reference to hippies in America.
“First, abolish all teaching about God, the Bible, and God’s moral law from the schools.  The child will then grow up believing that these things are really not important and that religion is really a private matter and question of taste.
“Second, emphasize the individual and his rights, not the claims of God and His law.  
Make sure that the child has a strong and intense passion for his rights, and no concern about his moral responsibilities.  Then you can be sure that he will be irresponsible and yet demanding.
“Third, make sure that the child feels entitled to the best of everything and feels cheated if he is denied instant paradise.  Then the child will be sure to demand everything and riot if denied it.
“Fourth, convince the child that man’s real problem is not his sin but a bad environment.  Teach him that his problems are due to the evils of big business, warmongers, big labor, profiteering farmers, politicians and the like.  Never let him suspect that all men are sinners, including himself, and, maybe, especially himself, and that their real need is for regeneration in Jesus Christ.  
Then the child will grow up with a revolutionary rage at everybody instead of looking to God for regeneration.”
Interestingly, in his analysis of societal decay, Rushdoony did not even mention the use and overuse of alcohol, marijuana and other increasingly acceptable drugs.  These have long since taken over a distressingly large segment of our population.  Societies, as well as individuals, reap what they sow, and we are now reaping the whirlwind!
Steve Swartz
Alice Springs

Hope for convention drawing 400 families

Sir – The Apex Club of Central Australia has entered a bid to host the 2012 Apex Australia National Convention and Handover in Alice Springs. If successful, the National Convention will be held at various locations throughout Central Australia through the month of July.
This is an opportunity for the Alice Springs to show the many Apex Clubs of Australia, what true community spirit is.
Apex was founded upon three central principles – Fellowship, Citizenship and Service – the three things that make Alice Springs the town that we all love and appreciate.
If we win the bid, we are projecting approximately 400 families to attend the National Convention, that’s well over a thousand people.
We believe, judging from conversations and the 2010 SA/NT Apex State Convention held here, that a majority of these people would make the most of their trip and spend some time here.
The voting occurs on March 12th at the National Board meeting, which I will attend and make a final bid presentation on behalf of the Club.
It’ll be an exciting time for us, as well as the Alice, since we are the last remaining club in the NT, and are about to celebrate our 40th Anniversary that following year.
Apex is Australia’s only home-grown service club, and is celebrating its 80th Anniversary this March.
The Apex Club of Central Australia is an integral part of the Alice Springs community and every year is involved in thousands of hours service work, and donates tens of thousands of dollars to those in needannually.
Mister Shaun
Apex Vice-President for SA & NT

Melanka’s at midnight.

I am a massive fan of the Scottish comedian Billy Connelly.
As a child I was allowed access to Billy’s records in my mother’s collection as the swearing had already been edited out, unlike the Richard Pryor record which was light years ahead in the shock value department.
I just loved (and still do) Connelly’s sense of humour, his rage against “beige” people (folk who lived without colour in their lives) and his observations on everything. As a result I grew to love people-watching and can while away many a happy hour eating in restaurants observing the show as it unfolds around me in real time.
Anyhoo, on the “Raw meat for the balcony” record Billy sings a song called “What’s in a name?” about how a child’s name, and the ridicule it can bring on its hapless owner, can alter the path of their lives. The anger and shame can make or break a character.
As someone who got stuck with a nick name I did not care for at school, it can also teach you to stick up for yourself and I found out that bullies are weaklings that run at the first sign of resistance. So, words have power and bullies can be defeated if the victims are prepared to fight back.
I heard a word in the pub the other day that shook me with its power. I honestly have not been in a position where that has happened in a long time. The reason it resonated so loudly was because on one level it saddened me but on the other it inspired the kid that had to learn to fight back.
The word was vigilante.
The general consensus in the pub was that if meaningful change wasn’t achieved soon, people would be pushed to defend the town against anarchy.
Derived from the word to watch, particularly at night, this talk of vigilantism is not a PR exercise like the one a few years ago. Things have degenerated to a point where that sort of fluff is positively dangerous. 
If Steve Brown and Murray Stewart were to don Hi Vis vests and wander into the Melankas lot at midnight on a Friday and tell everyone that they should go home in our current climate, it is a distinct possibility that they would be badly beaten, at the very least.
It has come to the point where no one is safe in this part of town after dark.
And nothing is being done about it.
This is the environment where frustrated and angry people decide to fight back.
Right here and now is where this kind of thinking has to stop.
Vigilantism is not the answer. The people who are hanging around the streets at night share something. They are disaffected, bored and individually weak. But as they have discovered, if they come together, they have power.
At this point, law enforcement supposedly kicks in and the threat is dismantled. People go to gaol when they break the law and respect for the community as a whole is restored. If this is not happening, then the people who are responsible for upholding law and order need to be held accountable. Our legal system is flawed, the evidence is everywhere in front of our noses.
The blame for this situation does not lie at the foot of the police, they are just the poor buggers who keep getting sent out to fight a war they are not allowed to win.
Coppers can only do the catching, it’s up to the judiciary to give out meaningful sentences. How disheartening to put in the hard yards and catch criminals only to see them bailed the next day.
Apparently the Minister for Central Australia thinks the adverts running on social crime issues are over the top. If that is the best response you can give to the chaos engulfing our town, it’s no bloody wonder we are in such deep trouble. You Muppet.
I never thought I would see the day where I would rather have Melanka’s back but it’s true. How long will the government let the land lie undeveloped before they start to penalise the company holding? 

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