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

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Four NT Ministers snub pleas for help. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

As the town is in uproar over delinquent children roaming the streets at night, committing crimes, four Territory politicians are not responding to concerns that one of the few late night programs for young people is at risk of closure.
The Gap Youth Centre in December wrote to Chief Minister Paul Henderson, and ministers Malarndirri McCarthy (Indigenous development), Kon Vatskalis (children) and Karl Hampton (Central Australia) who touts himself as a Gap kid.
To date not one of them has replied.
Gap CEO Jennifer Standish-White wrote again on February 4 – still no reply, apart from acknowledgement of the receipt of the email by the staffers of two ministers.
Ms Standish-White says in response to several further attempts to contact Mr Hampton, his staff said he is very busy, it’s difficult to say where he is right now, and that the message had been forwarded to a senior adviser (who also has not replied).
The Gap Youth Centre is open until 10pm Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, has 230 members aged 12 to 18, and up to 40 at a time drop in to enjoy 16 computers, a chill-out room, a music room with instruments and recording devices, multi media facilities, a pool table and basketball court.
The young people are from town as well as bush communities.
They are taken to wherever they are living or staying in town by minibus between 9pm and 10pm.
Just one full-time and two part-time employees run the program.
At least two must be at the centre and in the bus. So when the bus runs start, the centre has to be closed.
The organisation is funded mostly from Canberra, $500,000 a year, for three programs: one caters for homeless kids aged 12 to 21, and one provides after and holiday school care, for which parents also contribute a small fee, and the third is the late night program.
The NT Government is putting in a mere $155,000 for the current financial year for, management, “sport and rec” and the late night program.
The “sport and rec” component, for which Mr Hampton is responsible, gets $40,000 of that, a lot short of the $130,000 the centre had asked for.
Bush kids like the Gap Youth Centre and – with occasional shyness towards town kids – fit in well, says Ms Standish-White.
Some even fib about their age – minimum 12 – to gain admission to the late night program.
“Don’t close the Gap” they quip.
Yet the facility is always operating on a knife’s edge, and struggling from year to year as government funding is short-term, making long-term planning impossible.
Ms Standish-White says the Gap Youth Centre is collaborating as best it can with other organisations helping young people.
They include Congress, Tangentyere, Bushmob, Catholic Care, Mission Australia, ASYASS and Relationships Australia.
But at the same time all are competing against each other for funding, from the Commonwealth as well as the NT.
And coordination of the work has its limits and needs to be improved, says Ms Standish-White.
For example, in 2009 there were 650 applicants for money from the Federal proceeds of crime initiative. Only 15 received funding. The Gap Centre was on the short list but missed out.

Anger and sadness about the children of the town. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A four week old infant is dropped off, in the middle of the night, to a foster home because his parents are drunk and fighting.
It’s 3am and the lawns outside the Flying Doctor Service are abuzz with 25 kids “who don’t even come up to my hip”.
A young white man is banged up in the drunks tank after being “jumped by three or four indigenous Australians” whom police allow to “just run off into the shadows”.
And drunks abuse the detox house by getting a feed, a shower, clothes and walking out instead of staying for a program.
The well-being of Alice Springs kids appeared uppermost in the minds of many of the 250 locals last week attending a meeting called by Action for Alice to thrash out the town’s problems.
But opinions about how to accomplish that differed vehemently as the misery abroad in this town was laid bare.
Michael Gallagher, foster carer:
It’s a bloody hard job.
You get woken up 2am. A four weeks old kid, just a fortnight ago.
Only with us for two nights. His mother bashed up, he was born a bit early as a result of that.
This little kid came in, you know, innocent to the world, hasn’t done a thing wrong in his whole life, but his mother and father went and did what they did.
They made that choice to go out and drink, they made the choice to get into a fight.
And that’s where responsibility needs to come into this town. Parental responsibility and responsibility for anyone who’s involved in looking after these little kids.
That’s what it comes down to.
If we had this responsibility from everyone then we’d stand a darn good chance to get this town to where the bloody hell it should be.
Dave Perry, motor dealer:
We should ask for what can be funded by our government. Realistically, everything is stretched, as it always is.
If I treated my kids like this I’d have them taken away from me and I wouldn’t have them with me.  We need to get it down to a point of protecting the kids first.
That’s our foremost.
And the elderly in our town.
Anywhere in the world, where you don’t look after your kids and your elderly you’re without hope.
Scott McConnell, business and service organisation manager: We taught a generation of Aboriginal youths that we don’t respect them.
We’ve got no time for them. How do you expect them to respond?
I do not want to see children chased with dogs.
If you get rid of the dog thing I’ll work with you.
Otherwise I’ll think you’re a bunch of clowns.
Janet Brown, businesswoman:
Every child is our child.
And they are hurting.
They do not have the love.
They do not have the protection.
We have to give them hope.
It is the responsibility of everyone in this group, in this town, to make sure our children are safe.  If we can’t protect our children then we are of no use.
If you say we don’t want a curfew then you are saying those kids do not matter.
We’re not trying to ruin their lives, we’re trying to help them.
Michael, surname and occupation unknown:
Zero tolerance moved New York from being the murder capital of the planet to one of the best ordered cities in the world.
We have a generation that has learned disrespect of the law because it has never been held accountable to it.
And when they are, the judges turn ‘round and release them because the prisons are already full or the judges are just being too lenient. Zero tolerance is a level playing field.
Barbara Shaw, anti-Intervention campaigner:
[The crime rate went up because] extra police were brought into the Territory because of the Intervention. And now youse mob are crying out for more?
You want more policing in Alice Springs? Talk to the people under the bridge who are waiting for their houses to be built under SIHIP (huge groans from the crowd).
Person in crowd:
Why don’t you tell them to help themselves?
(Crowd applauds and shouts its approval.)
Di Lochiel, owner of Gapview Hotel:
[The Intervention made camps dry and] forced these people into the streets, out there in your community, where people don’t want to see all these situations.
They forced them into the judicial system, creating another level of people going into jails.
Tom Sullivan, grown up in this town for over 12 years:
What I’m sick of the most are the double standards and two sets of laws, and the way police are going about enforcing the law.
One of my mates got jumped by three or four indigenous Australians, got his head split open, the police came, the people who started the fight went off to do their own things.
My mate asked for a lift down to the hospital and the police told him it’s not far to walk. 90 per cent of the time when fights do break out, by the time the police get there they lock up the victims and let the criminals just run off into the shadows.
We end up spending the night in the drunks tank for simply standing there and having a cigarette.
Rex Neindorf, owner of the Reptile Centre:
[Bush kids coming to town must get] reciprocal schools.
If they are under 10 years of age the cops cannot touch them.
These kids who are about six or seven years of age are committing heinous crimes.
These people are hiding in bushes.
I’ve got a $5000 night vision in my car, so I can see what’s going on.
I can see everything that’s going on. I’ve got more equipment than the cops have got.

Yuendumu growth plan: Any more mistakes? By KIERAN FINNANE.

As Member for Stuart, Karl Hampton made a media release on February 10 about the Local Implementation Plan for the “growth town” of Yuendumu.
“The Local Implementation Plan sets time lines for specific actions to be taken by responsible parties, including government agencies and the community,” Mr Hampton said.
The Alice News had a look in the detailed document to see what had been decided about the operational funding of a major community asset, their swimming pool.
There it was in black and white: “NTG will contribute to the pool’s ongoing operation.”
This would have been quite a turnaround, as Mr Hampton had stressed that his grant last year of $49,000 for the pool was a one-off.
We asked for confirmation and have never received an answer.
However contacts in Yuendumu say they have been told that the sentence is a mistake.
We went back to Mr Hampton:
How can the Yuendumu community be assured that there are not other mistakes in the Local Implementation Plan?
You guessed it, no answer.
Meanwhile, we hear that the pool is going great guns, with an incident-free enjoyable season for more and more people, adults as well as kids. – Kieran Finnane

Shutting up shop. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

German-born Renate Schenk has been running her tourism shop in Todd Street, Winjeel, opposite the civic centre, and in the normally busy stretch of tour booking agencies and art shops, for 20 years.
She shut up shop for good this week.
A few steps around the corner in Gregory Terrace, the big shopfront of another holiday and tour agency, the Outback Travel Shop, operating for more than 10 years, also closed its doors.
A sign on the window says the operation has been moved online.
Mrs Schenk says Australia has lost its magic for visitors from overseas: “The atmosphere has changed.
“It used to be a great experience to travel around Australia, and here see the Aborigines.
“It’s a totally different form of contact now.
“Australia is just a place you are supposed to see.
“There is no major attraction.”
A few years ago Mrs Schenk switched from being a tour agent to selling Abriginal art, and with the demise of many old artists, she found the business to be in decline.
And the buyers are much less discriminating: “Didgeridoos and boomerangs made in China used to be a no-no.
“Now people say, OK, they’re cheaper, we’ll take them.”
There has been a sharp drop in both visitor numbers and spend.
January and February numbers are down 40% on last year.
The average spend in her shop last year dropped from $40 to $20 and this year it’s just $11.
“The high dollar doesn’t help.”
Meanwhile, domestic tourists are being targeted with a $1.4m Red Centre campaign which began on February 12 and will run to April 30.
Qantas is offering a special Red Centre airfare for the duration of the campaign.
Tourism Minister, Malarndirri McCarthy, says  “emerging communication platforms” are being used, “including a Red Centre Facebook page and a dedicated You Tube channel”.
There’s also a new television commercial for the 7, 9 and SBS networks and a series of print advertisements in major metropolitan newspapers and magazines.


Business man Eli Melky, who ran a vigorous ‘clean up the town’ campaign, was well ahead of rivals on polling night, with 28% of the primary votes.
At that stage 66.2% of expected votes (based on enrolment) had been counted.
The results for other candidates were as follows: Steve Brown 22.2%; Craig Pankhurst 20.9%; Mister Shaun, 14.1%; Jill Hall, 6.5%; Janice Knappstein, 5.4%; Peter Flink, 2.7%.
Second preference votes will be distributed after the deadline at 6pm tomorrow (Friday) for receipt of postal votes, starting with the second preferences of the candidate to receive the least votes, until there’s a front-runner, with 50% plus one vote.
The Alice News will post the final result on our website as it comes to hand.

Curfew in context. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Letting off steam is a good thing but Action for Alice now needs to come up with credible and costed strategies lest it is giving the NT Government, which loves to ignore Alice Springs, an easy way out for yet again doing nothing.
Let’s take the curfew idea. It sounds great at first glance. But in the cold light of day, the following is what would happen.
Young Johnny is 17 and it’s 11.05pm.
A police patrol spots him and says he should be home.
Johnny responds with his middle finger pointing skywards.
The cops arrest him.
They haven’t got a cell for juveniles and so Johnny is put into an office at the police station and is watched by a police officer for the rest of the night.
Or Johnny may go into an observation cell, or a room near the meal room, but not into the watchhouse, where the adults are, or maybe to Aranda House which doesn’t have much space and no security to keep kids from absconding.
If you have a couple of hundred kids (and that seems to be the number bandied around as being delinquent and on the loose), the above arrangements would be useless.
We’d need a facility, institution, home – call it what you like – for 200 kids, boys and girls separated, plus suitably trained staff.
As most internees (inmates? prisoners?) would be inclined to scamper at the first opportunity it would be necessary to surround the facility with razor wire. Kids very skilled in breaking into places would no doubt be using the same skills breaking out.
So, what we would have would look very much like a prison.
Now comes the difficult part: When do we release these kids, and into whose custody?
There is ample evidence that a good many of the families these kids belong to are dysfunctional at best, lethally dangerous at worst.
Do we deliver kids into such a situation? Surely not.
First we would need to satisfy ourselves that the people we’re handing these kids over to are safe and proper.
This could take a while.
The one night in the facility for young Johnny is turning into a few nights.
Maybe we will never find proper custodians for some of these kids – what then?
Foster homes and youth emergency accommodation are chockers even now, with no curfew in place.
One family is fostering nine children.
It would not make sense to funnel large numbers of curfew breakers into the already chaotic hotchpotch of overworked social workers, underfunded NGOs and private foster families at the end of their tether.
So, hurrah, we turn over a new leaf and finally do what it takes. Hello 200 bed home.
Let’s say it costs $20m to build.
The Territory’s 2010-11 Revenue Budget is $4.8 billion (52% GST revenue, 31% tied Commonwealth funding and 18% Territory revenue). That’s $21,818 per Northern Territorian.
The $20m constructioncost would be less than one half of one percent of that Budget.
For the running costs we could – should – divert the millions poured into the existing multitude of uncoordinated organisations, living hand to mouth for funding periods of a year or less at a time. The money saved on writers of submissions, and hapless bureaucrats in distant Darwin and Canberra evaluating them, would be huge.
With enlightened planning we could create a world class facility dealing with life and death issues in a community at the edge of the abyss.
It could be a place of safety and opportunity for children who over decades have been denied – and these are crimes – the necessities of life, and education, not by the governments, but by their own families. Children who have been abused in every conceivable way, by their own families. Children who have been denied a fair slice of this lucky country by failing to equip them to grab hold of one.
But it would be a facility where we put “taken away” children.
And that’s the crux of the matter: Do we want to create a new taken away generation? The answer to that may well be yes, or may well be no, but it must be given.
Clearly, Action for Alice, or at least some of its members, think it’s the only way those kids can be saved.
Unless the curfew issue is thought through to this ultimate consequence, raising it is no more than empty rhetoric – hot air.
Of course, the curfew issue isn’t new (just Google our website).
The well-documented 2007 Youth Curfew Report by three young people of the NT Government’s Youth Round Table, including Claire Ryan, Mayor Damien Ryan’s daughter, also makes useful reading.
As the report says, in late November 2006 Alderman Robyn Lambley – now MLA for Araluen – proposed ‘”unsupervised (not in the care of an appropriate adult) children under the age of 15, found on the streets or any other public places during the hours of 10pm and 5am, to be taken into protective care and custody”. The motion was passed in council.
The NT Government wouldn’t have a bar of it.
“Government acknowledges that the level of antisocial behaviour in Alice Springs and the number of young people on the streets is too high,” the report, which also rejects a curfew, quotes the response, “but curfews are indiscriminate, and youth antisocial behaviour and violence is normally led by a few ringleaders.
“Police should spend their time and resources dealing with these individuals rather than young people who are not causing any problems.”
And haven’t the cops done that so well over the past four years!
Over to you.

Hush, hush Hampton. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton called together more than 70 Indigenous leaders and representatives from Alice Springs last Friday in a closed meeting to discuss anti-social behaviour and alcohol fuelled violence.
Minister for Indigenous Development, Malarndirri McCarthy, was also present.
In a media release Mr Hampton said Indigenous people in Alice Springs “have been left out of the current debate and they are extremely concerned at what is happening in their town”.
“[They] did not shy away from the issues and agreed that anti social behaviour and alcohol fuelled violence is unacceptable.”
Action for Alice put out a media release in response:
“The issues the group are trying to motivate the NT Government to address are not race based as was clearly demonstrated at Tuesday’s meeting when Barbara Shaw and Lindsay Bookie both addressed the meeting.
“The fact that the Minister is restricting his attendees based on race flies in the face of reason and resolution. A number of the action for Alice members have lived and worked for most of their lives within Alice Springs and have a deep understanding of the issues.”
Meanwhile, extra police have been announced. Mr Hampton thanked  Mayor Damien Ryan for being “front and centre in working with government and the community to solve current problems” and called on Imparja Management “to cease their advertisements which continue to cause division in the community”.

Henley-on-Todd battleships to cruise V8 Supercar track.

What do the V8 Supercar Clipsal 500, the 50th Henley-on-Todd, and the 50th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs have in common?
Not a lot other than the hugely popular Clipsal 500, in Adelaide on March 17 to 20, will have three very special vehicles doing “hot laps” at lunchtime each day – our own, unique ‘boats’, the Nauteus, the HMAS Courage and a Viking ship.
This will be the second time the Nauteus has been to Adelaide but the first time that it won’t be driven. It went to Perth in 1988 for the America’s Cup and in 1993 it was driven straight from Alice Springs to Adelaide and across to Melbourne. At that time, it went down for the World Conference of Rotary and made a live appearance on Hey, Hey It’s Saturday.
Last Sunday I spoke to the President of the Alice Springs Rotary Club and Commodore of the Henley-on-Todd, Eleanor Dennis, and some of the ships’ captains and crews.
They were Captain Quinton Kessner (Nauteus), Viqueen Vice Captain Jane Winter (the Viking ship), past Captain of the Viking ship, Neil Ross, and Captain John Bridgefoot (Commander of the Royal Centralian Naval Boat HMAS Courage).
They’re all very excited about such a fantastic  promotional exercise for Alice Springs and Henley-on-Todd, while also linking up with other Rotarians.
Among them will be one of the original Viqueens, Christine Potts, who now lives in South Australia  and hasn’t been on board the Viking ship for almost six years .
She has been diagnosed with cancer and one of her wishes is to see her beloved Viking boat in Adelaide.
Fellow Viqueen Jane Winter wrote a letter to the southern Rotary Clubs about 12 months ago to see if such an arrangement could be made.
The end result has turned out beautifully with the invitation to do some laps at the Clipsal 500, and depending on how well she is at the time, Christine will be on board.
The Clipsal 500 has chosen the Royal Flying Doctor Service as their charity for 2011, but the Alice Rotarians are going to ask to do a little bit of cancer fundraising on behalf of Christine. 
“We’ve made some little horns with slots in them, so people can put their money in and they look really cool,” says Jane.
At this stage, Christine is not ware of what’s being planned for her.
“There’s so much involved with getting the boats down to Adelaide and into the Clipsal area,” says Jane, “but we’ll have to tell her soon, so that she’s prepared for it all.”
“Soon” is next week and the logistics of getting three boats to Adelaide in good shape are huge – even with the help of many sponsors such as Genesee Wyoming Railways and Toll Transport.
The boats will be loaded by Toll staff onto the Ghan on March 5, while the crews and supporters will either fly or travel by bus.
The group will consist of about 25 people – three captains and their crews, along with a mechanic and other support people. Some of the internal workings of the boats are quite intricate and having personnel who know how to operate and get them all set up is vital. The Nauteus takes about five hours to be properly set up, including hoisting of the top sails, so a good crew is essential. Although the boats won’t travel over long distances, it would be awful to be stuck on one of the main roads of Adelaide without any assistance.
They blew a tyre on the Nauteus last Saturday, says Quinton, and it was pretty difficult to change it on the side of the road. Once in Adelaide, the boats will be collected from the railway yards at Kilburn and driven (with a police escort) to the Clipsal site. This alone, should attract plenty of attention!
The Clipsal track is some four kilometres long and the boat laps will be included with the Australian Defence Forces showing.
“To be included with the Defence Forces is great because the Australian Navy actually supports our HMAS Courage and I drink Courage, so it’s a lovely tie up!” says John. “We’ll be press-ganging some of the Rotarians from down there into our crews as well.
“We’re getting a lot of support from Adelaide and the surrounding areas towards this project because it’s very unique to the Alice.”
Two of the boats have Toyotas underneath them, while HMAS Courage has an International Atco, making it the most powerful of the three.
I’m told that HMAS Courage “should be nudging anything up to 80 kms per hour but that’s an extreme estimate”, while Nauteus “may get up to 65 kms an hour with a tail wind and about 15 with a head wind”.
Neil believes they’ll go at a “very pedestrian speed”, tagging along with the Army. 
They’ve had to trim the sails on two of the boats because of the pedestrian overpasses at the track. Neil says he is going to take a tape measure and personally measure them, just to satisfy himself that it was really necessary to cut 30 cms off his main mast!
Eleanor says the District Governor would like to see more Rotary clubs become involved with Henley-on-Todd.
“A lot of the other Rotary clubs do a lot of chook raffles and trash ‘n’ treasures. The three Rotary clubs of Alice Springs raise something like $30,000 in one day.”
Last year’s Clipsal 500 had an international TV audience of 853 million viewers in 142 countries.

I’m doing this for you, Alice.

I have decided to conduct an experiment in order to try and understand the life of a serial drinker.
I am aware of the health risks and so on and take them on willingly, as a concerned parent might do for their children. I’m doing this for you, Alice, and I hope you’re bloody grateful.
I will add that this piece will be rather heavily spell checked tomorrow when I’m sober, right now it’s covered with the red squiggly lines that informs me that Microsoft word does not approve of my misuse of the English language.
So, why am I doing this, you might ask.
Fair call too.
It’s 11 in the morning and I am wobbly. I will state that number one son is with his mum this week and no parental neglect was involved in the making of this saga, this is an experiment – not a lifestyle choice.
I want to understand why this seems to be a good idea, to wake up with the avowed intention of getting shitfaced as the order of the day. You can imagine the diary entry (if this is something that a hard core drinker would do): “9am, start drinking” and just repeating this ad nauseum.
I don’t drink much in the day, I am no good at it, and when I do break the dog gets wrestled with and I go to bed early.
That’s about it, granted, but it can unsettle those around you, particularly number one son. (The one exception to this rule is AFL grand final day).
I don’t like camping, this has been documented in this paper before, so drinking during the day I can do, but sleeping in the sand afterwards is a no no. So this is a piss wreck lite approach to the situation.
I am also not fond of beer or cheap wine so this experiment will be carried out with whisky mixed with coke, which my Scots friend assures me will surely end up with my soul going to hell.
Coke is the work of the devil when mixed with Scotch, so it is.
My first thought as I contemplate my early morning  beverage (not orange juice) is how unpleasant it smells. It’s out of place here in the bright sunlight, it really does offend me – but not as much as the first sip. Pure acid, man. Yuck.
Then the glow kicks in and everything makes sense, in a kind of don’t need to worry about anything, nothing really matters kind of way. Have another sip, repeat.
This is the road to self destruction, sip, repeat.
Such a small thing and so easy to do, over and over again. Everything spins around this.
Next day, I am sober and cross. My head hurts and I want to break things.
This is after one day of selling my soul and I certainly will not be drinking grog today, the thought is too much to contemplate.
I finished my first session yesterday by one pm, then had a couple more drinks in the evening as I was already hung over and I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to back up today.
What a way to spend your days. My body feels disgusting.
So, my thoughts after this bizarre day are:
Surely no one does this for fun.
If my body is wrecked after one day, what is happening after the first week/month/year?
No wonder kids don’t go too school if their parents are this sick and sleeping rough.
There is no doubt in my mind after this experience that people who are continuously abusing grog need to be removed from their current environment, restrained while being rehabilitated and not be allowed to begin the process again.
There is the challenge for politicians who want those adverts pulled off TV. Go to it.

LETTERS: ‘Sad but uplifting’

Sir – Now that I'm living in the USA, your paper is the only means of keeping up to date with news from The Alice. Great to have it back online after the Christmas break.
While at work last week, I was approached by an executive who is planning a trip to Australia for the family.
For sometime now he has be firing questions at me each day about  Australia while preparing for the trip "Downunder" as he says.
Alice was definitely on the map. His kids were excited to think they were at last going to see "The Outback" where Mr Dundee lived.
Well, a few days ago he handed me an article from The Australian ('Destroyed in Alice' by Nicolas Rothwell, February 19) and asked if this were a true indication of how things really were in Alice.
After reading the article I had no idea what to tell him.
He has since told me that he is now not sure if he wants to let his kids see Alice if it is as bad as what they say.
Now I read your paper with the article about the local meeting of the concerned citizens and the points that they would like adopted.
It is sad but uplifting to see that the locals are now getting together and voicing their true concerns.
I only hope that their opinions will be listened to and that those that know "stuff all" will stand back and let the locals have the input into how they think things should be handled in the future.
To quote Steve Strike, "not to knowledge from Canberra".
Jim Cleary
Colorado, USA.

Wet canteens not safe for kids

Sir – Wet canteens out bush may or may not reduce the number of drinkers coming to town but it will not stop anti-social behaviour and health issues that go with drinking. 
The 'not in my backyard' mentality is rather disheartening.  People fought to get their communities made dry.
If we really care for the welfare of the kids we should not be pushing alcohol out bush.  Some communities have no police presence. 
It is bad when grog gets into a community illicitly.  You know it is not a safe place while the drinkers are tanked and so you keep a low profile.  
Anti-social behaviour in small communities is a much worse issue for those experiencing it.
I was disappointed by the attitude of the majority at the Action for Alice meeting as reported in the Alice News.
Wendy Tait
Alice Springs

Sorry, Mr Melky

Sir – I would like to apologise to Eli Melky in regard to my letter, February 24. My words were crass and vindictive and showed little sympathy for those attempting to address the awful problems suffered by people throughout Alice Springs.
I did not mean that Mr Melky is racist, but it is obvious that my letter could easily be interpreted to mean this.
What I ought to have said is that it matters how we say what we say, because it is easy for our words to confirm the alienation that is part of the problem here. I also thank Mr Melky for his response.
Andrew Gador-Whyte
Alice Springs.

Which God?

Sir – Steve Swartz (Letters, February 24) would like us to return to God’s law. Which God, which law?
I think he wants to do the choosing for us. He clearly prefers the Christian God.
Which part of his God’s Law does Mr Swartz want to impose?
There would be a strong Old Testament  focus if he is a follower of R. J. Rushdoony.
Does he wish to include the laws laid down in Leviticus? Crikey, stone the homosexuals?
And the adulterers? Where does he draw the line?
Rushdoony is an interesting source to refer to ... get on the net and do a bit of research about him, a Christian Reconstructionist  (also known by some as the ‘Christian Talibanist’) who is on record as defending slavery and racial inequality.
Rushdoony’s ideas would take us towards a theocracy, like present day Iran. Goodbye tolerance and diversity. And many freedoms we take for granted.
How many of us would want to live in this sort of society?  Not me.
Ian Sharp
Alice Springs

Intervention the biggie

Sir – There is little respect for the law at present and Alice Springs is in a bit of a downward spiral.  The reasons for this are many and complex but the NT emergency response is the biggie.
When Howard and Brough launched the Intervention in 2007 it was unquestionably supported by then labor MLA for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson.  She had at least that much in common with the owners of this newspaper.
In came the army and most of the town supported them, believing all would be well.
You do not need to be a local academic to know that all is not well here in the Alice. In fact things have gone pear shaped with frightening speed.
It is now a rare sight to see Alison or new liberal leader Tony Abbott on the streets and guess what, the likes of Howard and Brough are never to be seen.
Unbelievably, some local dills reckon the current situation could be improved by bringing the army in.  Some still do not understand what the purpose of a nation’s army is for.
Most who were in favour of the Intervention could not predict the havoc now before us.  If they could’ve, many would naturally have had second thoughts about supporting Johhny’s little racist dream.
I have always been against the policy but least some communities are safer and healthier places.
The good news is that we have a local by-election twinned with the build up to next year’s Terrritory election to help us feel a bit better.
Town council is in a crisis largely of its own making and the NT government is at last listening.
Darwin power-brokers know Labor can win again with no seats in Alice Springs. They also know if our town is unliveable then that will lose them support even in their precious Darwin seats.
To those with a criminal mind can I ask you to think twice before you destroy this beautiful town.  Every single person has too much to lose. There is no point wasting time on who is to blame.
The current media frenzy helps cast suspicion over all of us and of our motives of living here.  Can we turn things around in time to save our town?
We must unite as a town to force the government to act in our interests.  These are tough issues but that is no excuse for a lack of strong action.
Dave R. Chewings

New approach to schooling needed
Sir – Most Alice Springs residents would be aware of the serious numbers of children who are not engaging at all or, at best, only fleetingly, with education in Alice.
No need to say that they are predominately Aboriginal children. Sadly, I know too many of them.  
Out bush there is a parallel problem.
There is nothing new in saying that it requires a 'whole of community' approach to turn this situation around. Some of the social problems that stem from this lack of engagement dominate local news coverage.
It is because of my time as a teacher out bush, and here in town at the former Irrkerlantye Learning Centre, that I know so many of these kids and their families.  I know many bush people too through my association with community footy teams.
I could look at the Alice Springs court list each morning and I would know at least one name. If I went out on to the streets at night I would know too many of the kids who are out there. 
It is depressing to witness so much potential wasting away, and it is depressing that a ‘whole of community’ approach is not being utilized in tackling the problem.
Unfortunately political point scoring, as with so many other facets of our lives, is the preferred  game for tackling issues that divide our community.
The type of kids that I am referring to are not suited to a mainstream education facility.  English is not the first language spoken in the home.  My view is that a learning centre in town should be established.  
A perfect site for such a learning centre is going begging.  It is the site of the former Anzac Hill High School.  Apart from school age children, it would also be a learning place for adults.
Whatever plan the government has for that site, it should be overidden so that a learning centre is created there. I would suggest that the excellent workshop facilites at CDU would be deployed too. I am led to believe that they are under-utilized.
My experience with the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre provided me with insight into an intergenerational education model that I believe has much merit when educating Aboriginal people.  The architect of that model is local academic Dr Nicole Traves. Her doctoral thesis was on the intergenerational model of education she devised.  
The main thrust of the learning centre was in providing an education for kids who came mainly from the town camps. Their attendance in mainstream schooling was not happening. The Irrkerlantye Learning Centre had its genesis when the former Traeger Park school site ceased to operate. Its original title was ‘Detour’.
An integral component of the learning centre model was that it also provided for adult family members to attend with their children. The adults had their own programs. 
At one stage there were three great-grandmothers, along with grandmothers, mothers, aunts, fathers and  uncles, doing their artwork or  participating in those  programs . Young mothers were also encouraged to attend as it had a crèche. The people felt they were in a partnership with their kids' schooling.
It operated under the auspices of the former Centralian College. The facilities and budget that it was provided with however were an educational disgrace. When the learning centre was closed the kids were moved to a local primary school. They retain their own unit there and it is still named  "The Irrkerlantye Unit". The outcomes are successful there. Unfortunately the intergenerational aspect no longer exists.
That aside, the time is now for another ‘Irrkerlantye’ intergenerational approach. The ‘whole of community’ theme needs to be adopted to form an educational program whereby employers large and small, government and private, would be vital.
Work experience would be a fundamental element for the participants.
It is my view that you would drip feed youth and adults into the workforce, perhaps a half a day per week for starters. Employers' requirements would be at the forefront of any program. The inclusion of Family and Community Services, police, and any other relevant service provider, would be an important  component of such a program. Another crucial element would be the maintenance of culture and language. That aspect cannot be stressed enough.
There are many gifted educators in Alice with the talents and experience of Indigenous education  to design an appropriate curriculum.
If non-Aboriginal youth were appropriate for this educational setting then they too would be accommodated.
Conservative politicians and their followers always quote "boot camp", code for "it’ll  whip’em inta shape", as their solution to combating the social problems we all know and despair about. To champion this approach as a panacea for overcoming the social problems we have is very shallow thinking.
My idea of a boot camp is that you have a healthy amount of  exercise each day. Apart from the obvious educational needs the kids would have a bike helmet (my bias), swim togs, music stand, workshop apron and kitchen apron for starters in their school locker. A bike ride or swim session would be the start for each day. There is no reason why this would not also extend to adults. I might add that there are many people in Alice, including politicians, who would benefit from this type of boot camp too.
In reinforcing the ‘whole of community’ approach I would suggest a panel of elders be established. Their role would be to sit and talk with the kids every now and then. I can think of four or five people straight away who  would perform this vital role well.
Finally, the NT Government urgently needs to co-opt the educational knowledge of Dr Traves. Apart from her having an important input into the establishment of the centre I have proposed here, I believe her Irrkerlantye model should be suggested to bush communities.
It appears that present efforts, generally, appear not to be working all that well in securing better attendance rates in the bush. The policy of ‘English only for the first four hours’ is shameful and damaging. Two way learning and learning as a community is a no-brainer to me.
Dr Traves’ approach is broader than just standard education. She has a solid grasp of how communities can  proceed, in a positive way, to self organization. Her most recent foray into community affairs was as an advisory member of a group that has just seen the store at Santa Teresa transferred back into the hands of the people there.  
CDU researcher in indigenous community engagement, Matthew Campbell, quotes a woman out bush who said "If you are here to help me, turn around and go back home, but if you are here to work with me side by side, come and let's get going!" That says it all.
Graham Tjilpi Buckley
Alice Springs

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