March 31, 2011. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Chief Minister Paul Henderson snubs Alice Springs protest crowd.

Chief Minister Paul Henderson failed to front the angry rally in front of the Convention Centre this morning, where Legislative Assembly sittings were getting underway.
The atmosphere was very similar to the April 2007 protest on the same spot, fired by the same law and order issues, although numbers were smaller. In 2007 Chief Minister C
lare Martin did come out to address the crowd, and was famously booed and subjected to constant interjections when she attempted to speak. That might help explain way the Mr Henderson was a 'no show' this morning, but the heckler who cried, "Paul needs balls!", summed up the conclusions of the crowd.
Action of Alice organiser Geoff Booth had told them at the start that Mr Henderson had agreed to meet only with a small delegation, but he and his committee had declined that invitation. Later, after a number of speakers had taken to the megaphone and angry chanting had begun, there was a suggestion that Mr Henderson would come out. It never happened.
Opposition Whip John Elferink emerged to jump up on a chair and tell the gathering that the Chief Minister was "too busy in the House" to come out and see them. He said this was the "disgraceful conduct" of a government which "believes in process" rather than in speaking to the people. He asked the crowd to show their support for him to return to the parliament, speak to the leader of government business, Chris Burns, and to ask him to ask the Chief Minister to come outside. The crowd roared their approval.
He was soon back to tell them that Mr Henderson was only prepared to speak to a delegation.
He returned a third time, with the same message, and urged the crowd to go inside and fill the public gallery – though quietly and without their placards. 
The basic purpose of the rally was summed up by Action for Alice's Dave Douglas: they wanted to know why the Territory Government has neglected Alice Springs.
"We need support in this town for everyone," he said.
Action for Alice, organised by a group of business people and initially focussed on outrage over the spike in crime and anti-social behaviour in the first two months of the year, is increasingly stressing inclusivity in its public statements.
The flyer that circulated urging people to attend the rally, specifically mentioned wanting the support of "the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of Alice Springs who have expressed concerns similar to those of Action for Alice".
There was not much evidence of such support at the rally although there were a number of Aboriginal people attending and of course outspoken Aboriginal Independent MLA Alison Anderson. Oddly, MLA Adam Giles, who has also been outspoken in support of Action for Alice's concerns, did not attend the rally although he spoke to organisers beforehand.
The comments of two speakers today reflected this emphasis on inclusivity (in contrast to the significantly bigger and louder 2007 rally, which was entirely focussed on a tougher law and order response). Steve Brown, also a speaker in 2007, today said that there had been much greater division between black and white people in the past.  He claimed that "that divide" had "disappeared" and it is this that will make the difference in Alice Springs becoming "the viable capital of Central Australia" in the future.
Dominic Miller, a resident of Alice for 27 years, said the government has to recognise that a large group of Aboriginal people are "spectators in the economy". He argued that there will never be improvements in Aboriginal health and a decrease in crime "until we get Aboriginal people working".
"That is the job for the boys in the Big House [the parliament] to get working on," said Mr Miller.
The focus on Aboriginal people was reflected in the attention paid to Aboriginal speakers. Ms Anderson described the Chief Minister as a "coward" and "too gutless" to come out and address the group. She referred to Aboriginal people attending the rally as standing united with Action for Alice because "these are our children hanging around in the street".
"We don't want to continue to bury our children," she said.
"We want our children to go home."
Mildred Inkamala, resident of Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and a MacDonnell Shire councillor, took up this point about young people: "They're supposed to be in our community, not running amok in Alice Springs."
Leader of the Opposition Terry Mills was welcomed by the crowd, and aligned himself immediately with Ms Anderson, quoting one of her pithy comments that "there is not a black way or a white way" of doing things, there's only "the right way".
He told the crowd that he was "proud to be standing with the good people of Alice Springs". "We hear what you are saying", he said, and "we will express your views" in the House.
He described the Henderson Government as "hard on business and soft on crime". Someone called out: "No more sit down money!" This was just before Steve Brown and Dominic Miller spoke.
Newly elected alderman on the Alice Springs Town Council, Eli Melky, said that people might say there were not enough people at the rally but he was there, elected by some 5000 voters to have some effect on the law and order issues in Alice Springs. He urged the crowd to get noisy.
"Are we happy to continue to be ignored by the NT Government?" he asked.
"No, no!" came the roar of the crowd.
"We want change!" became the chant.
Les Smith took to the megaphone. He's the publican at Kulgera (close to the NT/SA border), with a long history in the Territory, including 22 years as a policeman. He said he'd worked on a lot of Aboriginal communities and knew a lot of Indigenous people, who, he claimed, are very upset with what is going on in Alice Springs. He said the trouble had started with the Intervention, which had seen work on communities stopping "overnight". (When the Intervention began, Mr Smith was managing CDEP at Ntaria.)
He asked for a show of hands from those who had experienced break-ins and assaults. Scores of people in the crowd put their hands up.  He said people are leaving town because of this situation; he sees them at the border, with their trailers loaded with their possessions.
He said he has been speaking to tourists who will never come back: they'd been bashed or had their cars broken into. He said if this "ridiculous government" didn't take up its "duty of care", people should take "a class action". This was greeted with loud cheers and applause.
Police and a few public servants watched the rally from a distance. Apart from the politicians who spoke directly to the crowd, the rest made themselves scarce.
There were three dissenters from the main message. Behind the speakers, local man Graham Buckley held aloft a placard, bearing the slogan "Racist Attitudes" underneath which was a division sign.
Anti-Intervention campaigners Barbara Shaw and Marlene Hodder, in purple and pink and with a imitation heavy chain around their necks, positioned themselves on the steps leading into the Convention Centre. Ms Hodder's placard said, "People before Profit". Ms Shaw spoke to media about the ills in Aboriginal communities that she blames on the Intervention and that she says are driving people into Alice Springs: overcrowding, homelessness, lack of employment and lack of social services.
The crowd, having gathered from shortly before 9am, began to disperse around 10am, with some going inside to the sittings, but most returning to their daily business.

Call to sack native title organisation CEO: Pearce clarifies "show cause" notice. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A petition with 83 signatures from people who describe themselves as members of the native title corporation Lhere Artepe is calling for the sacking of its CEO, Darryl Pearce.
The petition, organised by Bonita Kopp and Raelene Martin, is addressed to the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Organizations (ORIC).
The petitioners ask for an interim adminsitrator to be appointed to the corporation to replace Mr Pearce.
The document dated January 21, 2011 says: "Mr Pearce has betrayed members' trust by conducting official Corporation matters against the Lhere Artepe Rule Book and failed to follow Native Title protocol.
"Our urgent concerned [sic] is that Mr Pearce has initiated actions in response to a 'Show Cause' notice that will not restore good governance."
Mr Pearce did not respond to a request for comment.
Lhere Artepe and associated entities are involved in major projects, including a real estate development in Mt Johns Valley.
The News understands Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd last year bought the three IGA supermarkets for about $14m, including $5.8m paid by the Aboriginals Benefits Account (ABA) to the trustee of the LAE Charitable Trust, on the condition that the remainder of the funds is raised from private sources.
The ABA contribution does not need to be repaid.
It appears there are two types of organizations involved in this deal: corporations incorporated under ORIC, which requires comparatively high transparency and public disclosure; and Pty Ltd companies which have lower transparency requirements.
We asked Mr Pearce why this arrangement had been chosen but he did not respond.
Lhere Artepe is incorporated under ORIC.
Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd is fully owned by Lhere Artepe Pty Ltd which in turn is owned – two of the six shares each – by the Irlpme, Antulye and Mparntwe Aboriginal Corporations.
These are the three moiety groups making up Lhere Artepe. All three of them are incorporated by ORIC.
The Alice Springs News last week obtained a 10 page document dated March last year in which ORIC alleges "on reasonable grounds" more than 40 breaches of its own rules or sections of the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI).
The document is a "Notice under section 439-20" of the Act and deals, in part, with issues relating to the register of members and directors; audits and financial reports; and the recording and holding of meetings.
As reported, ORIC invited Lhere Artepe to show cause why it should not be placed under special administration, saying the corporation's 2009/10 financial report is overdue.
The News asked the ABA whether it had any concerns about the fact that Lhere Artepe is under investigation.
A spokesman for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), which administers the ABA, says: "The body funded, the Trustee for LAE Charitable Trust, is not under investigation by the [ORIC] registrar.
"Non-compliance with statutory obligations by corporations incorporated under the CATSI Act is always a matter of concern.
"The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations takes appropriate action to ensure corporations incorporated under the CATSI Act meet their statutory responsibilities."
Meanwhile Mr Pearce, through a lawyer, this afternoon provided the following statement with respect to our report on March 21, 2011 headed "Native Title body asked to show cause why it should not be put into special administration": "[The Alice Springs News] included reference to Lhere Artepe Charitable Trust, Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd and Lhere Artepe Supermarkets [in an] article about Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation being requested to 'show cause' why it should not be placed under special administration.
"The three above legal entities [are not] a cause of [nor are] in any way, whether financial or otherwise, affected by the 'show cause' notice directed to Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation."
Mr Pearce also notified the News that "there is no such entity as Lhere Artepe Charitable Trust and the [Lhere Artepe] website [from which the News drew its information] is to be corrected".
[Our report was accompanied by a photo of the tin sheds of White Gate, a so-called "unauthorised" town camp on the eastern fringes of Alice Springs, is home to native title holders who for decades have been asking for housing and infrastructure on this native title land. The successul native title claim over Alice Springs was made under the name of Myra Hayes who used to live here until she became too frail and sick. Members of her family, a core group of four adults and seven children, continue to make this their home, with many more staying from time to time.
Our report was also accompanied by a computer-generated image expressing the "vision" of the Mt Johns Valley development, recently distributed in a brochure calling for expressions of interest in these "executive apartments". The project developer is Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd. The licensed sales agents are First National Real Estate Framptons. In exchange for extinguishing native title over development land in Mt Johns Valley, Lhere Artepe received freehold title to about half of that land.]

Summary and correction to the Alice Springs News coverage of the proposed appointment of a special administrator for the Alice Springs native title organisation, Lhere Artepe:

We become aware that the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Organisations (ORIC) in January sent a letter to Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, inviting it to show cause that a special administrator should not be appointed.
This is confirmed by ORIC.
On March 21 we draft a report about this "show cause" notice, backgrounding Lhere Artepe from our own knowledge of it.
We also refer to statements by Lhere Artepe to another medium in December that it was in the process of buying three IGA supermarkets.
We refer to Lhere Artepe's own website which lists as "entities" four organisations, including Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd and Lhere Artepe Supermarkets, indicating that they are related to Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation.
(We are later told by a lawyer for Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd that one of the organisations, Lhere Artepe Charitable Trust, named on the Lhere Artepe website does not exist, and that the "entities" are in fact "unrelated entities". We are advised that the Lhere Artepe website is to be corrected. )
We refer to the development of residential land in Mt Johns Valley.
We make two phone calls to the corporation's CEO, Darryl Pearce, to seek his comments and offer right of reply to the "show cause" notice.
Mr Pearce does not respond.
We post the story in the afternoon of March 21.
Within minutes of the posting Mr Pearce phones us. We learn little that is relevant other than this sentence, which we add to the report : "The corporation's CEO, Daryl [sic] Pearce, said Lhere Artepe did not own the businesses [the IGA supermarkets] but declined to make further comment."
In the following days we obtain government records about legal entities bearing the name Lhere Artepe and speak to native title holders.
On the morning of March 29 we post a follow-up report, explaining in broad terms the Lhere Artepe corporate structure.
On the afternoon of March 29 we receive a communication from the lawyer representing Lhere Artepe Enterprises , covering much the same ground as our report but in greater detail.
The lawyer points out that the "show cause" notice referred to in our March 21 report related to Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation only and not to Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd, Lhere Artepe Charitable Trust and Lhere Artepe Supermarkets.
We accept that our March 21 report, through the use of images from the Lhere Artepe website, in the minds of some may have linked these three organisations to the "show cause" notice.
This was not our intention.
We correct the record and add to our March 29 report a statement from the lawyer.
We herewith accept as truth that these three legal entities are not a cause of the ORIC "show cause" notice directed to Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, nor that this notice affects these entities financially or in any other way.

Billy Benn: The music of his brush. REVIEW by

With their newest title, Billy Benn, IAD Press has produced its most beautiful book to date. In good part this is because of the extensive full-colour reproduction of the artist's work which allows as thorough an appreciation of the "music of [Benn's] brush", to adopt curator Judith Ryan's phrase, as a book could give. His aesthetic achievement is honoured with a fine book design by Tina Tilhard. The book is in the same format as two previous IAD Press publications – Listen deeply, let these stories in by artist Kathleen Kemarre Wallace with Judy Lovell, and Iwenhe Tyerrtye – what it means to be an Aboriginal person by Margaret Kemarre Turner as told to Barry McDonald Perrurle. It is presented as the third in the tripolgy, but in design it is a step up from the earlier two.
This book particularly has a cover that jumps off the shelf – it reproduces a vigorously stroked work in luminous colour (Arteyerre, 2006) and uses the style of Benn's signature to present the book's title. There are other lovely touches inside – the hand-drawn and labelled mud maps (in what I presume is Benn's hand) of the journeys into his Akarre mother's and Alyawarr father's country undertaken by him with co-author Catherine Peattie. The mud maps  mark each of the three sections of the book devoted to the journeys.
Another enriching feature – no doubt involving an editorial decision but also adding to the visual texture of the book – is the reproduction of his hand-written stories. At the level of text they are another way to give Benn voice. His verbal communication with Peattie about the places they visit and his memories of them has been faithfully recorded, reproduced in Arrernte and skillfully translated by David Moore. The hand-written stories in English are of a different order: they have a simple poetry that arises from Benn's use of the English language and reveal in a very direct way aspects of his life story.
Apart from these stories, the book offers textual material at two different levels. The three journeys are narrated by Peattie in a warm, straightforward manner, combining description, anecdote, historical research and an account of Benn's art as it relates to the journeys and his life experience.
Peattie provides an honest account of the events that led to his prolonged incarceration: the fatal shooting of his uncle and subsequent wounding of two police officers who attempted to capture him. He was charged with murder and tried in Alice Springs but found not guility on grounds of "insanity". He was gaoled for 15 years before being transferred to Hillcrest, a psychiatric hospital in Adelaide where he was diagosed with schizophrenia. He was there for two years before a place became available at the Hetti Perkins Nursing Home in Alice Springs where would remain for 23 years. It has only been since 2007 that Benn has been able to live in his own home, with carers, and to own a car.
At the launch of the book, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, whose daughter Ngarla gave the 'welcome to country' on the occasion, spoke of Benn as having been "more or less lost to us as a young man". She recalled that Aboriginal people only spoke of him in whispers because he had done something that "severed" him from his people. She said his prolonged incarceration and psychiatric treatment "would have broken a lesser person". However he had hung on "in his wonderful mind and spirit" against great odds. After 40 years "he came back" – "speaking his language" and having "in his mind his country, his mother's and father's country".
What he'd kept in mind began to be transferred in paint to off-cuts of metal and timber from the workshop at the Bindi Centre during the '90s (he'd been working there since 1981). Others at Bindi followed his example and Mwerre Anthurre Artists was formed in 2000. A number of these artists have attracted art world attention but none to the extent that Benn has. Peattie describes his journey into art as a story of "redemption, falling from grace and being saved by painting".
His place in art history is considered in two essays, one by Professor Ian McLean of the University of Wollongong, the other by Judith Ryan, Senior Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria. The inclusion of the two essays is another excellent feature of the book: readers can choose the level at which they want to engage with it. They can simply take pleasure in looking at the beautiful reproductions and many photographs, mainly of landscape, and some of Benn himself, including a number of him at work; they can read Beattie's text for a sense of the man's extraordinary life, personality and journey into art; and they can choose to read and think about these two scholarly assessments of him as an artist.
McLean considers whether Benn can be seen as a Naive or an Outsider artist. He argues that this is misleading because Benn "knowingly, rather than naively, paints within a particular cultural history", aspiring to match the accomplishments of Albert Namatjira as an Aboriginal man in the contemporary world and as an artist.
At the launch we were told that one of the reasons that Benn wanted to have a book published about his life and work was because of his awareness of the publications about Namatjira's life and work. McLean reports that Benn keeps within reach at his studio Alison Fren
ch's catalogue of the exhibition, Seeing the Centre: The Art of Albert Namatjira 1902 - 1959.
Judith Ryan considers how Benn sits within an international landscape tradition, inviting comparison with other masters of un-peopled landscapes. She notes that Benn does not fit with any Indigenous stereotype and shares affinities with many international and Australian landscape artists.
As a young man Benn saw Namatjira painting en plein air but Benn paints "place sanctified by memory", writes Ryan, a memory rooted in intimate knowledge of his country. Ryan suggest this gives the work its distilled quality, stripped of inessential detail and endowed with spiritual as well as physical presence. At the launch she spoke of his ability to see "with his spirit the bones of a place", a land "untroubled" by human presence.
Benn focusses on a relatively small area of Alyawarr and Akarre country, but far from limiting his work this focus transfigures and rejuvenates this beloved topography, says Ryan. Comparing his approach to Paul Cezanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire paintings, to whic
h the post-Impressionist returned throughout his oeuvre, she writes: "The artist's corpus can be read as a series of variations upon a single theme of great substance and moment, but the palette, scale, perspective and treatment of individual compositions are both kinetic and evolving". At the launch she remarked on the "rare gift" that the artist has of making every painting different.
To read Billy Benn is to undertake a wonderful guided journey, with the artist as leader of the tour, while Peattie, McLean and Ryan each enrich the experience. This gem of a book will surely be a strong contender for the 2012 Territory Book of the Year.

Speed dating with Paul Kelly.

I just did an interview with Paul Kelly (pictured, photo JAMIE WILLIAMS) but I think I may have come across like a bit of a git. It can happen y’know, too much build up and then, woosh, gush everywhere. I think the ‘too much’ happened when I picked up the phone and he said, “Hi, it's Paul Kelly here”. I may have giggled even. But I digress, you have entered the story at the wrong place, you need some background.
When I was asked if I'd like to interview Paul ahead of his upcoming gigs in Alice Springs, I said yes for a number of reasons: I liked his music without being too much of a rabid fan (relatively unbiased), I had seen him play live at different stages of his career and I had been stuffed around by people misquoting me before in the past. I would be careful with his words  ... and as it turned out, so was he.
The publicist arranged for a copy of the A to Z recordings to be sent up (eights CDs, thank you) and I managed to get a copy of his accompanying book, How To Make Gravy, from the Alice Springs Library (thank you too). I listened to the music on its own (as it had arrived first), read the book and then, because I don’t have an iPhone, whacked the first CD in my portable player, grabbed the book, for which an iPhone/iPad app has been released, and a Scotch and did my low tech best to emulate the app experience while juggling all three items. The idea behind the iPhone/iPad app is you can purchase the book online and the songs from Itunes as well, allowing you to enjoy the reading/listening experience simultaneously as the author intended. I spilled my drink in my lap and had to change the batteries in my CD walkman. I’m starting to see the point behind this iEverything revolution. It’s easy.
The eight CDs and book essentially cover the shows Paul will be presenting at the Araluen Centre on April 13 to 16. He will be playing a selection of songs from various stages of his career in a kind of not absolutely (but mostly) alphabetical order.
This performance is stretched over four nights, drawing on about 100 songs in all. The music is stripped back to Paul, with his nephew Dan Kelly joining him for several tunes on vocals and guitar. The stories in the book evolved from performances like these and they come alive again as they link and embellish the songs. 
This is all fairly straight forward you may think, so why the gush?
I bought into the trip, the interplay between songs and story feeding my imagination and my interest in the lyrics. I paused music while I read bits, I stopped reading so I could listen to the harmonies and the guitar parts. I found favourites on the disks and had to find the corresponding yarn, out of alphabetical order but it made sense on the running sheet of my personal mix tape. I was going through one of the occasional love affairs I have with artists from time to time. The last Big One was Norah Jones and her Feels like home album (sigh). 
This is why I was a bit wound up when he rang. It was a bit like I had a 20 minute speed date to make an impression and that is not the idea of an interview. So I had my list of questions to ask and did so. Trouble is, Mr Kelly is a man of words and understands their power, once you hand them over you have no control over what the hack will do with them. So he thought carefully about each answer before speaking and didn’t volunteer much else. Honestly, he didn’t need to say much – it's all in the songs.
What a legend. Go and enjoy a master at work Alice, this is the only regional centre on his tour and he wants to get back to writing new songs, so this may be your last chance to see it live. Having said that, you will have the book and CDs to tide you over … nah, don’t risk it, go.
PS: Dan Kelly performs at Annie’s Place on Sunday, April 17, from 8pm.

A roaring riot of fun.

It was abuzz with life at the new Youth Hub launch on Monday afternoon. As I had received a press release only a few hours earlier I expected a simple low hum of people. However, the place was a roaring riot with children laughing, clowns juggling and two separate stages of music blaring symphonically.
The Youth Hub is an initiative of the Alice Springs Youth Action Plan, situated in the old Anzac High School building on Wills Terrace. Opening just in time for National Youth Week (April 1-10) The Hub has a whole lot of action-packed excitement planned.
I rocked up a few hours into the celebrations and was welcomed warmly by a person in a funny hat offering apples. Quite odd, I thought myself. Then some young'un shouted, “Ay, Ronja. Check out that disco. They got wheels in there!”
Sure enough The Malice Derby League was hosting a roller disco for the kids and I have to say those eight year olds picked it up much quicker than I did a few weeks ago.
Then I saw the girls from Dusty Feet all jumping around in colorful costumes and climbing trees. There were also other organizations, such as Circus Us, entertaining and involving the youth all around. What a fabulous community event, I noted quickly before another kid tried to dance me around on their skates. Too late! A silent, but all too inquisitive, cream-painted clown stole my camera and tried to take my portrait. The kiddliwinks thought it was hilarious. I did not!
The program for Youth Week kicks off at The Hub this Friday at 7pm with a concert organized by Incite Youth Arts titled Harmony, in celebration of both Youth Week and Harmony Month. It’s about the young and cultural diversity, too very important things! As well as the concert, there will be a CD launch of local young talent and then at 8:30 a fluoro dance party.
As a part of the celebrations Incite have instigated a team of five young shakers and movers called The Harmony Crew. This week The Crew have been dressing up "all whacky like" and then adventuring out into the public and around different schools to show it is cool to be a proud unique.
Incite are particularly interested in showing youth that you don’t need drugs and alcohol to have a good time. That is why they and Dusty Feet have organized to hold master dance classes in Hip Hop Urban at The Hub throughout the whole of National Youth Week. The classes will be with Sila Crosley, one of the best dance professionals in Alice. However, they do need to be booked in advance. There will be loads of other programs and workshops by all the Youth Organizations around town. The Hub has a massive amount going on from dance to theatre, soccer, live music, karaoke and so much more. So go check it out!

LETTERS: Everyone can have a say

Sir – I have never met Alison Anderson though I have no doubt that she is a genuine and well intentioned person.
But there are two important factors being over-looked in the well publicised and discussed Alice Springs issues of dysfunction and lawlessness.
The first, Alison, is that these issues affect all Australians and may be construed to be a reflection on all Aboriginal people as well.
Therefore we are all entitled to express our views and to try and impact on these issues.
The second is the thinking outside the square factor.
I have traveled around most of this country and I have lived and worked in Alice Springs.
A lot of these problems are not unique and are common to many Aboriginal communities. Urban and remote.
It is obvious that you are very closely involved with the problems in Alice Springs, as you have stated. And emotionally so.
As a lot of the Alice Springs mob are. Black and White.
Maybe too close to be objective and to rationalise. Maybe you and others need to take a few steps back.
Maybe people from other parts of Australia can perceive and suggest possible solutions, that obviously no one in the Alice seems to have.
I am certainly not promoting or suggesting that the 'professional Aboriginal agitators' including misguided and out of touch Aboriginal academics, should get involved, or re-involved.
In fact, these people should be deliberately and officially excluded, if anything.
Most of these punch-drunk so called social justice warriors of the past have no solutions other than the blame game as most of their communities are just as dysfunctional.
And like ex-politicians including prime ministers, have had their day. And have nothing to offer. Only more problems.
Arthur Bell
Brisbane, formerly Alice Springs

Not Alice's problem?

Sir – In reply to Steph Harrison, I fully agree other towns in Australia have similar social issues of anger, alienation and violence as does Alice.
What puts at least a portion of our problems into a category of its own is the appallingly low age of some of the wilding children coming into town from the outlying communities.
It’s not just teens. Teens are cranky all over the world, and as often as not, so they should be.
But it’s pre-teens running amok here, and their very young age effectively puts them beyond the reach of anyone’s attempt to help.
Maybe a vigorously enforced truancy program will get them into school where some of the truly outstanding primary school teachers working in Alice might be able to reach them.
Maybe the newly funded Gap Centre will find a way to include them in something larger than the asocial mayhem dominating their lives.
Maybe public housing will again become recognised as an absolute necessity.
So many maybes, and so many children. For the sake of those children, and all our tomorrows, let’s hope they get implemented.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Betrayal of the innocent

Sir – It has been revealed that both political parties in the Northern Territory have accepted campaign contributions from the liquor industry.  It’s no wonder the alcohol problem remains out of control. 
This betrayal of the innocent is criminal.  The government should be charged and brought before a court. 
In his conclusion to The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, Roger Kimball notes:  "It is both ironical and dispiriting to realize that the counterculture may have won its most insidious victories not among its natural sympathizers on the Left, but, on the contrary, among those putatively conservative opponents who can no longer distinguish between material affluence and the moral good."
Russell Guy
Alice Springs

Make grog reforms more potent

Sir – The most useful action Legislative Assembly members could take during their Alice Springs’ sitting this week would be to unite in common sense and agree to amend the Liquor Act to allow for a floor price on take-away alcohol to be imposed if retailers will not agree to one under a voluntary Accord.
Then if a voluntary accord emerges all well and good, but government have the power to act themselves with the support of the alcohol industry if necessary. 
With Alice Springs and the rest of the NT suffering from the effects of excessive consumption, way above the national average, now is the hour for Chief Minister Henderson, Opposition leader Terry Mills and Independent Gerry Wood to show leadership and grit and agree to bring in what is most likely to work – a minimum or floor price on take-away alcohol.
If the Enough is Enough reforms, to be introduced to the Assembly this week and implemented in July, are not accompanied by supply reduction through a minimum floor price, the result will not be as good as it could be. PAAC supports the reforms, but, as international and national evidence shows, price is the biggest determinant of consumption and this also needs to be addressed.
Retailers like Coles will keep on selling cheap wine in bottles for $5.99 or less, or three bottles for $20, plus cut-priced sherry and port and ultra-cheap two-litre casks, and the problem drinkers will only pull up when they get a banning notice or have to front a tribunal.
The current restrictions, so successful early on, will continue to be eroded by these cheap products. The cost to individuals, families, health services and the taxpayer generally is just too much for any community to bear.
Imagine how effective the Enough is Enough reforms might be if they were coupled with a floor price and the cost of these extreme low-end products were to rise. The floor price as proposed by PAAC would make the average price of a standard drink of full strength beer the minimum price standard for all take-away alcohol and thus eliminate very cheap wines and other highly discounted products from the market.
Will we be left with no choice but to appeal to the Australian Government to intervene because the NT’s elected leaders lack the courage to do what the evidence shows is most likely to work despite the fact that Territorians from all walks of life are the biggest drinkers in Australia? The Chief Minister says he supports a floor price. So does the Australian Hotels Association in the NT. Let’s see if Paul Henderson can come to the party and convince the stragglers to join him.
Dr John Boffa
The People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC)

Camels – 'Animals of the 21st century'

Sir – I have sent the following letter to Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton as well as to other Territory politicians:-
Dear Mr Hampton,
I write to you out of frustration and a deep concern for the Aboriginal people of the central deserts of Australia. I know you are an advocate of the plight of the Aboriginal people of this country, hence this letter to you.
I am sure you have already heard of the camel cull that is supposed to be taking place in central Australia. You may say camel cull and Aboriginals, what’s the link? Well, 60% plus of all the feral camels run on Aboriginal lands.
For years the Aboriginal people have sought  to find an industry that would suit their needs, expertise and social interests and the camel industry meets this criteria.
Now this is being taken from them by a small group of people from Ninti One & Desert Knowledge who have not long ago secured $19 million to deal with the so-called camel problem.
In actual fact we don’t have a problem, rather we have a gift, that if dealt with in the correct manner it would give the people on the lands a great industry, something they desperately need.
It is hard for me to explain all this in a letter, but here are just a few interesting facts.
70% of Australia’s land mass is classed arid – the camel is the perfect arid animal to harvest and develop, why aren’t we farming or harvesting them?
We have at present 20 million cattle, 100 million sheep, goodness knows how many donkeys, pigs, cats and goats and allegedly one million camels.
My office through my web page has received over 800 separate enquires from 35 countries in the previous 24 months looking for a whole range of camel products.
Are we missing something or has Desert Knowledge through its very clever manipulation pulled the wool over our eyes to secure this $19 million to prop up their desk top operations and pay themselves large consultancy fees to produce absolutely nothing.
When Ninti One & Desert Knowledge were pushing for the funding to eradicate with the gun some 650,000 camels, I believe they thought no one would care or even notice for that matter, after all the camels roamed the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ areas of this country and they saw this as a good way to secure funding to run their 'do nothing' organisation.
The science for these very expensive reports is not based on credible information, scare tactics being the order of the day.
The reality is there is no way in the world they will be able to shoot that many camels and if they don’t there is no way in the world they will reduce the camel numbers. They have carried out some culling and the outcome of this was the spreading of Botulism. Left unchecked this could have a major effect on the cattle industry.
If there is a camel a problem, and as I say I don’t believe there is, the only way to fix it is through the development of a commercial outcome.
I would like to see Ninti One & Desert Knowledge investigated and the money they have been allocated redirected into the development of the commercialisation of the Australian camel industry in which Aboriginal people could play a major role.
What they are doing is morally wrong and an absurd waste of money and resources.
Once again the Aboriginal communities are going to get spat out into oblivion all because of greed and a lack of vision.
I have been involved in the camel industry and  worked with Aboriginal people for 35 years and I have never seen such desperation and despair as they are facing at present.
Myself and Ian Conway from Kings Creek station in the NT are leading a push to expose this absolute disgraceful waste of money, but we are not alone.
I am seeking your assistance to ask questions and delve into this immoral waste of money and help put the plight of the Aboriginal people and the camel before the greedy aspirations of Ninti One and Desert Knowledge destroy one of the greatest animals ever introduced into this country.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, there is a lot more to this unfolding story and I would love the opportunity to speak with you further about it.
One of the leading vets on camel science in the world, Dr Alex Tinson, calls the camel “The Animal of the 21st Century” because of their huge potential in world food security.
Paddy McHugh
Belgian Gardens

ED – See discussion in our March 17 edition, including for Ninti One's perspective.

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