March 10, 2011. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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The Hargrave murder trial: Updates by KIERAN FINNANE.
Please click here for full trial report.

Ban troublemakers from town – Melky. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Newly elected alderman Eli Melky is calling for a permit-style arrangement to keep habitual offenders out of town.
He says this should be used if educational and legal processes fail.
Ald Melky, after distribution of preferences, won the by-election for one seat, contested by seven candidates, with 53% of the vote, well ahead of Craig Pankhurst with 46%.
Ald Melky (pictured) says if the council were using just half the powers it has, “this would be a better town”.
And where it doesn’t have powers it should forcefully make representations to the NT and Federal governments.
He says he is no stranger to dealing with crime and anti-social behavior: as the president of the Hindley Street Traders Association, in Adelaide’s red-light district, he was instrumental in dramatically reducing crime and public mayhem.
Ald Melky says people from bush communities are coming to Alice Springs “with nowhere to live”.
“They have no support and are left to roam.
“They become challenging by breaching by-laws and committing crimes” and by the sheer volume of their numbers are a threat to blocking the legal system.
Ald Melky says as first steps more shelters should be built where these visitors could stay.
They should be informed of the laws of the town, and this should start with elders and representatives promoting the message out bush: “Please do not come and defecate, urinate, get drunk and be lawless.
“It brings great shame and diminishes the pride of the great nations of First Australians.”
Those who continue to break the law should be treated “with maximum effect and power of the legal system”.
And if that doesn’t work, says Ald Melky, “those who are continuing to break the law, and there is no room in jail, should be banned from this area, for a period of time, irrespective of race.
“For example, if you commit a crime in another country your visa is cancelled and you are not allowed to stay.”
In 1991 Ald Melky became the youngest president of the Hindley Street Traders Association, in “Adelaide’s King’s Cross”.
In the preceding 12 months there had been nine murders in the street and countless assaults.
Ald Melky, who had two cafes in the street, says his business was “facing annihilation virtually overnight”.
“We employed 14 people.
“On a Saturday night our Signatures Cafe turned over $6500.
“This dropped to $600.
“We had to reduce our staff to three.
“I went to bring everyone to work together, the daytime business owners, the night time business owners, the police joined in, so did the nightclub bouncers, community service groups and Youth in Action, Adelaide city council reps, including Mayor Henry Ninio, retail groups, and groups from nearby streets, Rundle Mall and Gouger and Hutt Streets, Tourism SA and the Chamber of Commerce.”
The new group received a $300,000 grant from the council and used it for widening footpaths, beautifying the street, “the lighting was improved and the shadows taken out”.
This reduced vehicle traffic and made more space for people to walk.
Then the group introduced a voluntary levy on each business for marketing and advertising to counter the bad publicity.
“Every business agreed,” says Ald Melky, each paying from $200 to $500 per year, depending on their size. This raised $200,000 a year, collected by the council which held the money in trust.
The traders spent it on marketing and events.
The Fringe Festival – an adjunct to the Adelaide Festival – was sponsored by the traders’ group to the tune of $30,000.
“All this brought safety back into the street,” says Ald Melky.
“A key aspect was the unity of the group. Security improved as bouncers got a better employment structure and work cover.”
Bouncers’ licensing was introduced “which made them accountable and violence inflicted on patrons by bouncers decreased.
“We worked with police and other agencies – and became one happy family.”

The News now only on the net.

Alice Springs needs a newspaper that is locally owned and without fear or favour, serves the town and its region, unflinchingly following journalistic ethics.
That was the objective when, 17 years ago almost to the day, we brought out the first edition of the Alice Springs News.
Since then we have not missed a single weekly deadline, publishing 46 or 47 editions (except for five weeks in mid-summer), and distributing about half a million newspapers in each of the 17 years.
Even when our house, at that time serving as our main office, burned to the ground on a Saturday in winter 2003, the Alice News still appeared on the Wednesday.
Against all predictions we became the first ever sustained and credible challenge to the erstwhile print media monopoly in the town, formerly interstate and now, overseas owned.
The brand new competition we provided, over more than a decade and a half, has saved local business millions of dollars in print advertising costs.
In the process we gained an enthusiastic readership which, in our regular surveys, gave us a recurring message: “You guys are asking the hard questions and getting the hard answers. You are keeping the bastards honest.”
Comments such as these became our greatest reward.
We also gained a growing and loyal stock of advertising clients, pioneered digital production processes that enabled us to use presses half a continent away, and founded one of the world’s first online editions: it is now among the one per cent of most read websites in the world.
Our delivery team, over the years, included hundreds of young people, many of them doing their life’s first paid job.
Some now have their own kids doing a paper round.
Today the need for our message is undiminished but our medium is in a crisis that is likely to be terminal.
The question, to what degree should we integrate the web in our way of getting news to our readers and how do we make it pay, is what keeps newspaper publishers awake at night.
The imperatives we face in Central Australia are even starker: news happens fast here; interest in the region is global (fostered by our online edition); we’re extremely isolated – yet we have a wealthy population with one of the world’s highest computer ownerships.
More and more locals have drifted to reading us on the web as well as in print.
The economic slump in the region is demanding low advertising rates which can be achieved only when production costs are slashed.
In the end it was a no brainer: our online edition can do the job as our print edition never could.  So from next week the Alice Springs News will be only on the net.
The print edition is mothballed, capable of being revived at short notice.
We started this year feeling the pulse of our business community.
“It’s tough” is a comment we hear a lot.
The respondents are roughly in two groups: those who are cutting back spending, or are even thinking of leaving town; and those who are flat out.
That latter group is more likely than not involved in Federally funded projects, such as Aboriginal housing, and are under the pump because they are short staffed.
And they are short staffed because there is no reasonably priced accommodation.
Furthermore, they are not at all certain how long the money from Canberra will keep rolling in.
Just as we were at the cutting edge of our industry 17 years ago, we’re taking the lead again.
Real estate and jobs advertising, for example, has been bolting for the web for years now.
Our new mission will be to maintain the well-known vigour and quality of our journalism, and present the community with a medium that fits the new realities.
This February our online edition had 7088 unique visitors who paid us 14,717 visits and looked at 51,961 pages, making 194,545 hits.
We have 64 sites linked to ours.
Our Alexa traffic rank this week is 2,416,635 in the world, not bad considering that we did not publish in January nor in late December.
According to there were 234,000,000 websites in December 2009, with 47,000,000 having been added in 2009.
This suggests there are now around 300 million sites and we’re easily within the one percent of the world’s most read websites.
(The rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and page views over the past three months. The site with the highest combination of visitors and page views is ranked #1.)
We’ll introduce videos and interactivity, while maintaining the site’s uncluttered layout and easy Google access to our archive covering The Centre’s major issues in the past two decades.
We take the occasion to thank our loyal advertisers in the print medium – we hope you’ll give serious consideration to the advantages our website can offer your business.
We thank too all our contributors and readers and look forward to our online future with you.
To those of you without a personal computer, we value you highly and hope you’ll take advantage of community facilities such as the Town Library or else the internet cafes to get your weekly fix of the best in news and views from The Centre.
See you here!

We will not go: it’s home. By KIERAN FINNANE.

They don’t want to live in town: “Too much violence, too many kids running around.”
I’m talking to a small group of residents at White Gate, one of the so-called “unauthorised” camps in town. The other is Namatjira Camp, alongside the railway line on the north-western side of town.
White Gate – or Irrkerlantye by its Arrernte name for the ancestral kitehawk of the country – is on the eastern side, past the grid on Undoolya Road but within the municipal boundary.
The Aboriginal Hayes family have been living at White Gate, in the sense of ‘sitting down’, for longer than the living memory of this group. Of course, their ancestors occupied the surrounding country for millennia.
Julie Hayes, mother of five, is the most vocal of the group.
She’s under the impression that the government want them to move to Hidden Valley town camp.
“There are worse problems there – violence.
“And we don’t want to live in a crowded place.
“We want to live here, in open space, where we can see the stars.
“Not listen to heavy loud music, people making a racket.
“No way are we going to move.”
She speaks with some ferocity.
“We’ve got native title, they can’t tell us to get out.”
The successful native title claim over Alice Springs was made under the name of Myra Hayes, who used to live here in White Gate until she became too frail and sick.
The only “services” provided to the families here have come from Tangentyere Council and Ingerreke Outstations Resource Services (recently the Town Council have provided dog control).
Tangentyere installed a gravity-feed water-tank to supply a shower block (not working well lately, says Julie) and solar panels to provide electric power.
This allows the families to run a single fridge between them and to watch TV for a few hours in the evening.
There are a few scattered taps among the tin houses. For the last seven or eight years water to the taps has been pumped from a nearby property in an unofficial arrangement.
Before that Ingerreke used to drop it off in 44 gallon drums.
There are four drop-pit toilets.
The tin houses, built by Tangentyere, are a step up from the humpies of earlier years when Ursula Nickloff-Johnson first lived here.
A grandmother, she has been allocated a flat in town but comes to White Gate for days at a time, for the company of family, and to be on her traditional country.
She moves around a lot, between White Gate, Santa Teresa and town. “She walks the street like other teenage girls!” jokes Julie.
She adds, knowing full well the topicality of this issue: “I think they walk around at night because it’s cooler.”
A core group of four adults live at White Gate, but another six or seven, like Ursula, “come and go”.
“They come back because this is our place,” says Julie.
“Sometimes there are 30, 40, 50 people stopping here.”
But, she says, it’s always “a quiet place”.
Do any of the adults regularly living at camp have work, I ask.
Julie says no, that they are all on disability pensions.
A few children join us – Shauny and Nathaniel Fly, Kaomi Hayes. They say hello brightly.
They all go to school, says Julie. Sadadeen Primary sends a bus to collect them.
The children, seven of them, are one of the reasons why the families want to stay here rather than live on their outstation some 35 kms east along the Ross Highway. 
“We don’t have any transport,” says Julie, “and we can’t get a bus out there to pick the children up to go to school.”
Although nothing will induce them to move, they still want “proper houses”: “So kids can have a shower, have a decent life the same as anyone else, watch TV and all that.”
I visit the camp in the company of Rod Moss, author of The Hard Light of Day, a vividly told memoir of his friendship with the White Gate families.
The book has been very well received nationally and recently won the NT Book of the Year award.
“If there’s one thing that I would like to see come from the success of this book, it’s some houses at White Gate,” Mr Moss says.
The families get by but life would be so much easier to manage in better houses, especially for the women with children, he says.
“There’s talk every few months that the camps will be bulldozed.
“It’s always in the background, the thought that they will be asked to move and that this land will be developed into a suburb.”
I can see the anger flicker in Julie’s eyes at the thought.  How many houses would be enough, I ask her.
“If we get some houses a lot of families will move back in.
“I think four or five houses would be enough.”
Would they be looked after, I ask.
“As you can see,” she retorts, pointing with her chin all around us.
It’s true. We’re sitting under a little shade shelter, with the ground swept spic and span.
Here and there there’s rubbish on the ground, but it’s swept into small piles, and at a glance, the whole camp is quite ordered, the humble tin sheds presenting a neat face to the world.
“But nothing’s going to happen anyway,” says Julie despondently, “it’s never going to change.
“They said we were going to get a phone for emergencies. That never happened.”
They were even told that letter-boxes would be put in.
This causes snorts of derision.
“What if someone’s cheque gets stolen? I prefer to get my mail at the post office, thank you,” says Julie.
As I leave, she adds: “So many elders passed from this place. They knew the stories.”
Another reason to stay.
The Alice News asked on February 21 to speak to someone in government about the intentions for White Gate under the Alice Springs Transformation Plan (or any other plan for that matter).
We were advised on February 28 that government would not be responding “at this point in time” beyond the following near meaningless line:
“The Northern Territory Government continues to work closely with residents of White Gate about options for the future.”
The News also contacted Lhere Artepe, the native title holder corporation which has recently made major business acquisitions, to ask whether they can do anything to help.
No reply had been received at the time of going to press.

The word ‘vagina’ a no-no? By KIERAN FINNANE.

Half the population has one and yet its name, the correct anatomical name – vagina – is deemed unfit to place on the Town Council’s website.
It’s a stumbling block UK actress Joyia Fitch did not anticipate when she decided to lead a local production of the women’s theatre classic, The Vagina Monologues.
Could she put a flyer for casting the show on the noticeboard in council’s foyer? No.
Could council include information about the production in the ‘What’s on’ section of their website? No.
Joyia was stunned: “No one ever died from saying or reading the word ‘vagina’!”
Undeterred, she went ahead, cast her show and is more than delighted with the 15 women of all ages who will take to the stage in its various roles this Friday and Saturday, 7.30pm at the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame.
(In the event of rain the show will move across the road to the Guide Hall.)
This organisation has welcomed the show with open arms and even obtained some grant monies from the NT Government to help stage it.
President of the Hall of Fame Lynne Peterkin says she is confronted by the title of the show, but “that’s the whole point!”
Cast member Elle McKay appealed to the council to reconsider their stance.
“Vagina is not a dirty word, “ she says.   
“We can say it on the radio and in the media! Why can this not be said on Alice Springs Town Council’s community calendar?
“It is possible for our event to go on other community notice boards.
“It is possible for us to talk about why this can not be said on council’s community calender to newspapers and radio programs,” says Elle.
But council remains adamant: “Council reserves the right to decline to publish data or events at our discretion.
“This decision was made based on the content of the listing and the language used. 
“Alternative wording was suggested so as the listing could be published, however this was declined.
“This event title was deemed inappropriate for the ‘unrestricted G’ rating Council wishes to maintain on our website.”
The alternative was the somewhat ambiguous “V-monologues”.
It does however connect to V-Day, the name of the movement that has supported the staging of The Vagina Monologues in thousands of productions around the world since its creation in 1976 by New York performer Eve Ensler.
Proceeds from the productions go to grassroots, national and international organizations and programs that work to stop violence against women and girls and each year Ensler adds a new monologue to put the spotlight on the situation of women and girls in a particular country, dedicating 10% of proceeds to them.
Last year it was the Democratic Republic of Congo, notorious for the prevalence of rape, and this year it is Haiti, with Ensler commemorating Haitian author and activist Myriam Merlet who died in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.
The remainder of proceeds from the Alice show will go to local organisations, including the Women’s Shelter.
The monologues, variously hilarious and deeply moving, treat a wide gamut of feminine experience from childbirth to sexual pleasure as well as the horror of rape, including rape in war.
The production is loyal to Ensler’s original text (that’s a condition of gaining free access to the script) but its strength, says Joyia, comes from women coming together and from what they bring as individuals to the pieces they do.
Many of the local cast have not performed before but rehearsals have been marked by “some wonderful moments’ – “they’ve been so open, truthful and honest”, says Joyia.
Meanwhile, the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame has marked International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month (March) with the launch of a new exhibition, Celebrating the Central Australian Kitchen, as well the new catalogue for their main exhibition, Ordinary Women Leading Extraordinary Lives.
The national theme of this year’s History Month is “ Women in the Business of Food”. Local woman Anne Scherer designed the Alice show as a series of kitchen ‘scenarios’, with the kitchen as key player, its design, equipment and setting revealing the changing circumstances of Central Australians over the hundred or so years from European settlement – from cooking over the coals to the kitchen of urban households.
The Hall of Fame is located at the Old Gaol on Stuart Terrace.

Our flood protection won’t cut it. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Margie Lynch is on a mission: she fears a major flood is just around the corner and Alice Springs is not adequately prepared.
She has met with Mayor Damien Ryan and council officers to express her concerns.
She also went to a recent meeting organised in the wake of Cyclone Yasi anxiety, hoping to ask questions of authorities.
Margie says a mitigation dam should again be discussed, but even if one was built, it would not happen quickly enough.
“What if we get a Q100 at the end of March?”
Margie, an Eastern Arrernte woman, is a ngangkere or traditional healer. With that skill and training, which she received from her father, comes the gift of foresight.
She says she has been getting “visions” or “messages” about a big flood since December.
“The spirits show the country to you.
“As I walked around, I started getting feelings about being cold, like I was immersed in water, it was lying heavily on me, even if it was a warm or hot day.
“Sometimes I’d be running to get a jumper and my families would ask me why. ‘It’s not cold, it’s hot!’ they’d say.”
At places like Emily Gap, Honeymoon Gap and Heavitree Gap she felt “powerful energies in relation to river height”.
At Aperelangkeye (meaning “Trees are talking”), just to the north of the previously identified site for a dam, she had an intense visions of underground disturbance and swirling floodwaters, confirmed by “my uncle, an Elder and also a ngangkere”.
Before the sceptical dismiss all this – including Aboriginal people who say she is too young to see these things – Margie is also well-educated in the Western mode and has read up as much as she can on the subject, including “from cover to cover” the only detailed authoritative scientific assessment of the issues – the 1990 report commissioned by the then Power and Water Authority (now Power and Water Corporation).
She says what she read in there about the extent and devastation of a Q100 or worse, a PMF (“probable maximum flood”), describes what she has seen in her visions – a destructive flood inundating much of Alice Springs.
Her visions suggest that the threat will come from the west, not from the east like the tail-end of Cyclone Yasi, which, while it missed Alice Springs, did inundate some cattle stations and communities.
“When I read that Alice Springs had escaped, I thought it was mindless. If Yasi had come, we were not prepared.”
A bit of sand-bagging and a few evacuation centres would not have cut it, she says.
She says people make a mistake in thinking about the threat coming from one mostly dry river, when it is a whole system.
She has been walking through the hills around town, including the higher country to the north, since she was a little girl and describes the myriad gulleys that turn into fast-flowing creeks under heavy rain.
If a huge rainfall event, like the one that fell on Numery Station on January 18, 2007 (246mm, nearly 10 inches, more than the area’s annual average, 215mm of it in six hours), occurs across the whole Alice catchment system, we would be in trouble.
We would have as little as an hour’s warning.
Would that be enough time to evacuate all the people in Alice who are likely to be affected?
Margie lives on the Eastside.
She says it’s all very well to say that there’s an evacuation centre at Charles Darwin University – how will people get there, when there’s also likely to be a lot of local flash flooding?
How many people know what they are supposed to do?
“There’s no information regularly going out to people, no education.
“There’d be a huge panic”.
And how prepared would CDU be to receive people in a sudden emergency?
What kind of supplies would be in place?
If the Stott Terrace bridge was over-topped and the Eastside became cut off from the rest of town, how would people such as the frail and aged, the sick, the injured, be evacuated?
Where would the helicopters come from? And how many people could fit in them, realistically?
And if the town goes under, what would happen to people on the surrounding communities, outstations and cattle stations?
These are some of the questions she would have liked to put to the authorities at the public meeting organised by NRETAS held on February 15.
Although this was a public meeting, it received little advance publicity, with a media release issued at 3.15pm the day before the 5pm meeting.
The release said a representative from NRETAS would talk about that department’s role in surface water management and in particular the process of measuring water flows in river systems.
A representative from Northern Territory Emergency Services (NTES) was to discuss the Counter Disaster Plan and role of the Regional Counter Disaster Committee.
There would also be a representative from the Bureau of Meteorology. 
Margie says the whole time was taken up by presentations, of the sort you could read in brochures or on the internet if you cared to.
When people attempted to interrupt with questions, they were stopped.
When finally there was time for questions, the man who managed to put one was told that he had to address it to a particular person, not to the whole panel. Then people began talking among themselves, she says, and the answer was inaudible and that was the end of the meeting.
“We went home disgusted. It was not a professional meeting.
“I wanted to ask a question of the hydrologist from Power and Water, but I couldn’t because of the way the meeting was managed.”
The Alice News put Margie’s concerns and criticisms to NRETAS and NTES.
By way of reply, a spokesperson for NRETAS merely summarised the ‘advance notice’ media release referred to above.
NTES had not responded at the time of going to press.
On the thorny question of a dam, Margie says:
“In reality we do need protection from a dam, but the location needs to be further discussed.”
She says she was involved in discussions with traditional owners in the past and her understanding was that they did not agree with a dam being used for recreation purposes.
“In their mind that would not be connecting with the land and would not be protecting sacred sites.”

Rain holds off for Al. By CHRIS WALSH.

The Big Al Stainer Memorial World Bomber Title at the speedway on Saturday looked shaky as it had been raining all through the previous night and part of the day.
But the track held together beautifully.
A one minute silence was in memory of Big Al was followed by all classes of racing.
In the Sidecars, Luke Fullerton and Allan Hildebrandt did well to hold on to a first and two thirds on their second night of racing. Newcomers Nathan Johns and passenger Brad Walsh took out three third places after a nervous start for their first night out.
The Wingless Sprintcars had four runs with Mike Thompson taking three firsts and a second place to Mark Phillips. Father and son Twig and Cameron Robertson battled against each other over three six lappers in their Speedcars, with Twig taking all three.
Mike Rice held first place for the first two heats of the Streetstocks but was unable to complete a hat trick and make it three.
In the final he started out of third position and remained there behind Rod Berry and Adam Quin.
The Junior Sedans completed Round 3 of their Alice Industrial Supplies Series with Jason Wegert holding first place in the first heat.
Heat two saw Talia Harre, Brock Napier and Jason Wegert hold their positions for first, second and third, respectively.
In lap five of the third heat Jason Wegert and Dusty Napier ended up sitting on the infield with Talia Harre winning the heat. The final was held over ten laps with Harre in first, Jack Thomsen in second and Brock Napier in third.
Heat one of the Bomber Division got off to a bumpy start with Adam McDonald and Mark Griffiths crashing in the first lap.
The complete re-start saw Tony White in first, followed by David Sanders and Adam McDonald.
Tony White won all of the heats and then went on to win the final with David Sanders in second, Oscar Taylor in third, Adam McDonald in fourth and Shaun O’Toole in fifth.
A short presentation was held trackside with trophies presented by Big Al’s daughter Angelique.
All in all, a good night’s racing followed by a social get-together and some light refreshments at the clubrooms before the rain started again.

Butt contact sport. By MOZZIE BITES with RONJA MOSS.

What’s the go with this roller derby phenomenon? Is it just the current fad?
For the past few months I’d been getting invitations through Facebook and the like to roller derby meetings, trainings and discos. I’d never been, but eventually I realised I might be missing out on something that was actully kinda cool.
So on a recent Sunday I headed round to the Alice Springs Youth Centre for my first skating experience, totally unprepared.
What I had been expecting was a casual skate around with other amateurs, all foolin’ around and laughing.
The Alice team is called Malice Springs Roller Derby League and though the trainers advertise that no previous experience is required, roller derby is definitely a contact sport. Mainly my butt to the concrete! These guys are serious …  and they’re seriously good!
Don’t let that scare you off though. The Malice team don’t stay true to their title and the outdoor Anzac skate ring at sunset is a perfect setting to get fit.
Another part of the appeal – all members are encouraged to have a character title. Every individual on the team has a ferocious sounding name full of quirk and power.
Twisting and turning, backward or forward (for both appeared natural) zoomed Bethwish with her deadly skates a blazin’. I made a swift mental Hail Mary and wished I’d stayed holding onto the siderails, abandoned perhaps too rashly. But, she skidded back enthusisatically and cradled my hand for the first few laps. Despite the name, Bethwish was all too accommodating.
And the other members also. Little Miss Sew & Sew tried prompting me, “Come on, Ronja. I think you’re ready to join in now.” So I did. But I wasn’t.
When responsible for my own balance again, I practiced the Hour Glass, a manoeuvre for forward momentum, but toppled slowly to my knees.
Another Malice crew, perhapes bulldosie, ram bam, Axle Sparx or one of the others, called out, “Don’t worry. Less than six months ago I was worse than you.” I highly doubted it … but liked the thought of being an alike skate-star in such a short period.
With over 20 people at training sessions, the sport will not be fazing out of town any time soon.
And men, you’re invited too! The team already includes several fellas, but I’m sure they’d enjoy more.
Despite having to wear full safety gear – knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets and mouth guards – roller derby is in and cool!
It’s come back from its heyday in the 1980s: today there are over 600 women’s leagues in more than 20 countries, making it the fastest growing female sport.
Malice have a small collection of spare gear to lend while you decide if you want to play.
The open sessions for training are on Sundays at 6pm at the Youth Centre. All skill levels welcome – even squat all like mine!

NANCARROW ARROW: Are we making another forsaken generation?

I would like to clarify some of the opinions I covered at the end of last week’s column, in order to correct some people’s attitudes towards them before they become entrenched.
After my drinking during the day experience I am now aware of how the ‘drink, repeat’ cycle could grow, especially in the absence of hope and surrounded by the company of like-minded others.
You feel sick and miserable and there are two cures – one is to stop drinking and the other, far more widely supported way, is to drink again.
Like any addiction, drinking is unreasonable and totally self absorbed – where is my next drink coming from, where and how will I get the money to feed my addiction. If an addict can’t get what they need legally, they will do what is needed to satisfy their craving. This is evident in the repeat break-ins on clubs, hotels and other properties that have grog on the premises. 
When I say repeat offenders should be removed from their drinking environment, I mean just that, compulsory rehab as a first option, gaol for those who abscond, who won’t actively participate or who use violence.
This is largely to give alcohol abusers a fighting chance.
There is little or no hope for addicts if they are just returned to the environment that supports their negative behaviour. There is an overwhelming need for programs to be rolled out that address the long term needs of addicts, not the short term ‘sleep it off and leave’ bandaids.
People who succeed in completing the program can be employed to roll it out further. They need meaningful work and let’s face it, they understand the issues the people entering the program deal with.
The most difficult and controversial point must be the kids of addicts and what is to be done to shield them from the effects of addiction. The spectre of the stolen generations looms so large that when people mention removing ‘at risk’ Indigenous kids from their dysfunctional families a huge uproar drowns out the voice of reason.
These kids don’t have to be abused like their kinfolk were. They can be repatriated on their lands and with their relatives, not sent away or turned into servants for the mission. Contact for addicts with their kids would be dependent on behaviour, if they will continue in their rehab, they can rejoin their children.
If they don’t want to make that effort, then their kids will be better off without them.
This has to happen. It could be the Clontarf academy has a role to play in creating a positive environment to support these kids as they need repatriating.
Their current  participants could have an active role in mentoring and supporting the betrayed and bewildered.
All the money spent on programs must be accounted for, not just in dollars and cents but in outcomes.
On the latter, talk to the old people, long term residents, the people affected – anyone but some interstate out-sourced bullshit expert.
And I don’t want to hear the words ‘sit down’ any more, the time for that is over. Stand up!
Plus, the long ignored nepotism in some organisations must be addressed and dealt with once and for all. Accountability and transparency must be the catch words of funding.
If you want money, it will be made available but with strings attached. 
Audits of the organisations must be made if you are dependant on government funding, or at least if you want to continue to receive it.
Business plans and strategies go hand in hand with success, empower people to make positive change.
And please, don’t forget the government is where the responsibility for this whole sorry mess lies.
Pork barrelling around Darwin instead of investing in the desperate has been the policy of the current Territory government.
If you don’t agree with that policy, protest, make your voice heard.
What we have here is the Forsaken Generation and their descendants, illiterate, angry and disenfranchised.
No future and no direction, is it any wonder they don’t care about what mainstream society thinks of them.
People need hope, without it they are lost.

LETTERS: The heartache about our kids.

Sir – What a sorry state we are in.
The current debate is sorely lacking in imagination.
It is a disgrace that children cannot be found safety food and shelter, when Anzac Hill High School has an array of facilities that could be used immediately.
If we are in a state of emergency, then why aren’t schools being used after hours?
Throughout Australia when there are disasters, schools and other public  buildings are used very well.
Why not Anzac Hill High – imagine – the children could shower, be fed, exercised and educated in a schools without walls model, all in the safety of a place that was built for children. Communities raise children and what is wanted in this fantastic town is a commitment to grow all its young people into a hopeful productive future.
Barbara Curr
Alice Springs

Not in the loop

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.
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. 
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 overridden so that a learning centre is created there.
I would suggest that the excellent workshop facilities at CDU would be deployed too.
I am led to believe that they are under-utilized.
Graham Tjilpi Buckley
Alice Springs

Way behind

Sir – Education outcomes across the Northern Territory continue to lag behind the rest of the country with city, rural and remote schools still way behind the national standard.
Despite the best efforts of principals, teachers and school councils, Government policies are not addressing the systemic shortcomings in our schools.
In the bush, attendances continue to be at unacceptably low levels.
Despite its rhetoric about the importance of improving attendances, the Government failed to introduce legislation designed to link truancy and Family Responsibility Orders until the February Parliamentary sittings.
The new laws should have been in place by the start of the school year.
The MySchools website also shows urban schools with attendances similar to those in other jurisdiction have poorer academic outcomes.
The Government must stop pretending the only education shortfalls are in the bush.
Peter Chandler
Shadow Education Minister

Army is the go!

Sir – I respond to David Chewings’ apparently negative understanding of what an army is for as expressed in his letter of March 3.
In addition to images of men cruising around in armoured troop carriers with guns at the ready, an army can also help reconstruct.
For a recent example, think of the positive input they are having in northern Queensland after cyclone Yasi.
Even in the news coming out of Afghanistan, the ADF is as often cited for helping build schools and roads as it is for engaging the Taliban.
When the Senate inquiry into the Australian military held an evening meeting in Alice Springs three years ago, I asked then if we could have more of an army presence.
I was not alone in this, and no one was thinking of guns.
Rather the thinking was that the army, with its strict code of conduct, could be a role mode.
So many of the youth here in town and out on the remote communities have lost all respect for law, whether that law is traditional or national, whether secular or religious.
Social chaos comes from that, an urban spectre we witnessed over this past summer.
So my advice to David, and to others who share his fear of the army, is to consider engaging with one of Australia’s many options for nation building.
By all accounts their presence on the remote communities during the Intervention helped bring a degree of peace and quiet.
If nothing else the social flat-liners were chased into the urban centres where we now have the challenge of their disruptive presence, while the communities get to benefit from their absence.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Is it a protest?

Sir – Just a cheery few words after reading the latest News on-line.
Have you ever thought that these Aboriginal kids are, in their way, protesting about the ruination of their families by alcohol? 
Of course, most families are dysfunctional, but the level of Aboriginal dysfunctionality is beyond the pale and alcohol is, without a doubt, a significant causal factor. 
Perhaps, these black kids are saying “Up you, whitey!  You’ve got rich on our downfall and the prices of your houses are beyond our wildest dreams.
Your greed is our protest. It’s all we’ve got left.”
I think that if I was in their shoes, I’d feel the same way and be doing the same thing.
I know a bit about it, having come from that sort of situation in Brisbane suburbia. 
Violence is probably their only next move to draw attention to their lives. 
Self harm is already a large part of it.
Russell Guy
Alice Springs

Owning the plan

Sir – The Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) supports many of the statements and initiatives being presented by the Action for Alice group but we strongly disagree with the group’s political and media campaign which seeks to portray all Aboriginal people as non law abiding and dysfunctional people.
This will only result in a much more divided community.
Unless all Alice Springs residents, black and white, and all responsible agencies can participate in and become owners of the plan to properly address these issues, Alice Springs will remain a divided and dysfunctional community.
Simplistic proposals such as jailing every offender, bringing in the military or forcing these people to return to their communities where new alcohol outlets can make sure they stay intoxicated and out of sight, is reminiscent of previous recessive government policies that did not consider all social and economic issues and further divided and separated Aboriginal people from the broader Australian community.
Such suggestions simply will not work, and we call on all involved parties, the Action Group, Governments, NGO’s and members from the black and white community to work together in developing a plan that will deliver real change.
Jennifer Howard

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