April 14, 2011. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Govt green light for 100 more casino pokies enrages Mayor. By KIERAN FINNANE and ERWIN CHLANDA.

Mayor Damien Ryan lashed out at the NT Government's approval of 100 more poker machines for Lasseters Casino at the Town Council committee meeting on Monday night.
Council had been asked to comment on an application to extend trading hours (by one hour in the early mornings of Saturdays and Sundays) for the casino's Decking and Beer Garden, in line with the current permitted hours for the Juicy Rump. This application was enthusiastically supported by Aldermen Samih Habib, Murray Stewart and Eli Melky.
Ald Stewart described the recent announcement of a $35m extension and refurbishment at the casino as the "best news". He said: "The rest of the world is having fun, we have to join them" and security at the casino has "[client] behaviour as tight as a drum".
Ald Habib said the casino is a place where "people learn to be responsible drinkers"; Ald Melky described it as an "excellent establishment". 
Although the extra poker machines were not the subject of discussion, Mayor Ryan could not resist bursting this bubble. How did his fellow aldermen think the casino was going to fund their upgrade? Through the extra pokies, of course, and "pokies do not bring tourists to this town". He was "disgusted" by the government's approval, with no input from the town. Why didn't the government "come to us", why does council get asked its view on pokies in local clubs, but not at the casino, he wanted to know.
Ald Stewart said he hates pokies but they are a "legitimate business" and the casino is there to make money.
Ald Jane Clark weighed in on the Mayor's side. The 100 extra poker machines are aimed at locals, she said. "They are the people you see at the machines every day, and a large proportion of them are Indigenous people." She found it "inappropriate" of the government to allow more machines in a town "experiencing extreme social disadvantage". Fearing another "social disaster" looming, she wanted the council to write to the NT Government, seeking a reversal of the approval.
Ald Stewart suggested poker machines are a less insidious form of gambling than online gambling where people are "dislocated from help" and he also referred to pokies contributing to the community benefit fund.
Mayor Ryan said there are already 300 machines on the floor at the casino, now they want 100 more. A local club would not be able to put in extra machines (unless they were traded with another local club), so why should the casino? He again challenged the notion that poker machines would attract "high flying gamblers".
Ald Stewart said that was the point of the upgrade and extension: "It will attract another class of gambler." The casino "obviously have a business plan to attract tourist gamblers", he said.
Mayor Ryan reiterated his cynicism about this to the Alice News: "If the casino was going to add 100 green baize tables and run poker championships, I could swallow that." (The announced plans do include four table games.) Mayor Ryan also stressed his frustration that council is asked for its views on liquor issues but not on gambling, which he thinks does present a real concern for the town.
A majority of aldermen supported a recommendation that "Council write to the Chief Minister and the Minister for Racing and Gaming expressing concern at Lasseter's Casino being allowed to increase the number of poker machines by 100 without consultation with the ASTC."  This will be put to the vote at the April 27 ordinary meeting.
The Alice News offered an opportunity to comment to Lasseters and to Racing and Gaming Minister Delia Lawrie. Neither had replied at the time of this posting.

Animal bars 'encouraged' to lift their game.

Patrons of bars in Alice Springs won't have to order a meal in order to drink full-strength alcohol before 2pm.
This reform was proposed by the local Alcohol Reference Panel in the wake of controversy over the so-called "animal bars" of the town.  These are bars which cater mainly for Aboriginal drinkers, opening their doors at 10am and closing at 2pm as the take-away liquor shops open. 
The NT Licensing Commission yesterday handed down a decision rejecting the reform as it would be "resented" by the wider population and "would likely increase the social divide". A 4000-signature petition had opposed the move.
Chairman of the Licensing Commission Richard O’Sullivan said the government's "Enough is Enough" reforms, targeting problem drinkers, should be implemented and reviewed before imposing further broad-based supply restrictions in Alice Springs.
The "animal bars" will, however, have to lift their standard of operations if new amenity guidelines, another recommendation of the reference panel and now proposed by the commission are adopted.  And electronic ID systems, already in use for take-away liquor sales, will be trialled for on-premise service at the Todd Tavern, Heavitree Gap Tavern and Gapview Hotel, a further recommendation of the panel.
These three venues are the ones hosting "animal bars", though this label was strenuously rejected by Ian Drummond, owner of the Heavitree Gap tavern, in a recent opinion piece in The Australian (March 18, 2011), pointing out that among other measures the front bar opening time had been voluntarily pushed back to 11am.
The ID systems trial will continue for 12 months, to be followed by a review. Its aim is to improve patron behaviour and bar people with a history of harmful alcohol abuse.
The rationale of the amenity guidelines is that "decor, furnishings and operational management style contribute to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol and its associated behaviour".
Among the actions proposed for venues are:-
• ensuring furniture and fittings provide a secure, comfortable, respectful and inviting atmosphere and socialising space;
• providing a layout that reduces congestion and eliminates the likelihood of physical conflicts and areas of poor surveillance;
• ensuring the entrance to the venue is well-signed, lit, inviting and allowing free-flowing movement in and out;
• setting maximum patron numbers for different areas, introducing a method for counting patrons, and ensuring that relevant staff know about the restrictions on numbers;
• preparing, implementing and maintaining a security surveillance plan;
• providing adequate lighting and sight-lines for surveillance;
• providing quality free drinking water, non-alcoholic drinks at appropriate lower prices than alcoholic beverages and low alcohol beer at an appropriate lower price than full strength beer;
• providig good quality meals;
• limiting or stop all activities that encourage excessive alcohol consumption, including serving 'shots' and drinking competitions;
• providing tables or ledges on which patrons can rest their drinks (which is expected to slow their consumption);
• encouraging social activities, such as pool, to offer alternatives to constant drinking;
• minimising incidents of discrimination by preparing and implementing a written policy that identifies issues and best practice approaches and training employees in its requirements;
• setting reasonable standards of dress for all patrons.
The draft guidelines, which Mr Sullivan says have potential application for licensed premises throughout the Territory, are available for public comment until June 10.

Mister Shaun killed in tragic accident.

The town is mourning one of its identities, Mister Shaun, who was killed when his car rolled down the driveway of his Bokhara Street home as he was closing the gate last night.
Mr Shaun was a tireless community worker and the incoming president of Apex SA/NT.
He polled well in the recent town council by-election.
He is survived by his wife Chantelle and their son, Zachy.

Shire jobs to India: CEO hauled over the coals


Councillors in the MacDonnell Shire seem not to have been fully aware of the details of a controversial contract that has been let to an Indian company to undertake project management and quality assurance work for the shire.
President Sid Anderson today convened a special meeting of the council ahead of their scheduled ordinary meeting to discuss the issue and the bad press that the shire and he personally have received. At the end of more than two hours of discussion councillors resolved to defer a decision on maintaining or rescinding the contract until the ordinary meeting, to be held in the community of Finke (Aputula) on Wednesday next week. This was not before they had, in their relatively gentle way, hauled their CEO, Graham Taylor, over the coals.
"We didn't get enough information," said President Sid Anderson by way of opening comment. The figure of "$73,000 didn't come up on the board for us to understand," he said.
"We thought local workers are going to get to do all these things in the houses. A lot of them can do these things," said Councillor Lisa Sharman.
Cr Lance Abbott asked for the minutes of the last meeting to be displayed. "We didn't know what was happening," he said, "we need to go through the minutes, see it on the screen ... I didn't put my hand up for India." When the minutes were displayed, he asked: "Can councillors see any India business up there?"
Mr Taylor explained that the report to council had been about "changing structures," that it had talked about getting people to do work for the shire at a cost of $73,500, an expenditure estimated to generate some $3m worth of income for the shire in facilities, skills transfers and jobs. But Cr Anderson took up Cr Abbott's point: "Lance is saying India's name is not there. If he knew, he wouldn't have raised his hand up to pass the motion."
"We put our hands up for Josh [Wycliffe, Director of Service Delivery] to work. You didn't mention India," said Cr Abbott.
Cr Peter Wilson quizzed Mr Taylor on why he had let the tender at Christmas time, when "everyone knocks off". "There are no rules against it," said Mr Taylor but went on to explain that he wanted the model up and running for testing now so that it could be bedded down for the new financial year.
Cr Anderson took up Cr Wilson's point: "We know you're trying to run the shire good, but you should have come back to us" before signing, he told the CEO.
"You're making it bad for the shire," said Cr Mildred Inkamala.
Mr Taylor said council's role is to adopt the tender, but management's role is to run the process. He said it was "very clear" that the tender had been adopted by council.
Cr Anderson appealed for advice from the Department of Local Government representatives present at the meeting. Fran Kilgariff said the department "has some concerns" that in the resolution passed by council "the tender wasn't explicitly adopted". She said the department was going to get inspectors "to look at the whole process".
Cr Anderson said to Mr Taylor: "Wouldn't it be better if you and me communicate good? ... otherwise all these things go out of proportion. It's good to be careful."
Cr Wilson accepted Mr Taylor's explanation of the value of the contract to the shire but was still concerned about it going off-shore: "People are worried about the India and New Zealand problem."
Cr Anderson suggested that Mr Taylor "wanted to see people from India through the internet look after our rubbish ... to control our life from India". He suggested that people in India "wouldn't want to see us looking in their backyard".
Mr Taylor attempted to clarify: the Indian contractors would not be taking jobs away from communities; they had specialised skills that people in the communities don't have.
Cr Abbott asked what's wrong with the shire staff at head office: "Maybe India's smarter than this mob?" Everyone laughed.
Cr Wilson returned to his point about keeping jobs in Australia: "If the $75,000 went to Sydney or Melbourne..."
"That process already exists," responded Mr Taylor, his point being that out-sourcing within Australia does not earn the savings that out-sourcing to India does.
Ms Kilgariff asked to speak from the floor; she told councillors that the contract was actually for close to $150,000. "It's a two year contract" at $73,500 a year, she explained. (Mr Taylor later told councillors that contracts for more than $100,000 have to come to council before signing.)
"Now all the truth is coming out," said Cr Anderson. He went on to talk about the hopes raised when the shires were founded, the wish lists developed for each community, and now as councillors are drawing close to the end of their terms, there's "still nothing".
Cr Mildred Inkamala wanted to know why local people couldn't get trained up.
"This is not right," said Cr Abbott. 
Councillors wanted to know the shire lawyer's opinion. Tom Svikart from Povey Stirk was at the meeting. He said there was nothing wrong with the contract if it was based on a proper motion passed by council; he said no one from the department has said that it was not a proper motion. He said people outsource to overseas contractors all the time, governments do, Telstra does. He said council's exposure, if they want to get out of the contract, is to three months' worth of fees.
Cr David Doolan wanted to know why the other governments (Commonwealth and NT) are "jumping up and down". Mr Svikart said that was a matter of "politics", not legalities. Cr Doolan said the bad press means that there "must be something wrong" and was worried about "investigators coming in". Mr Svikart said his advice had been only to do with the contract, not with the tender process.
Andrea Martin from the department said the investigation would be into the procurement process. She said it could be argued that councillors had agreed to a model and structure, rather than a tender. She suggested they may want to wait for the results of the department's investigation before they make a decision.
As the meeting wound up, councillors said they would make up their own minds after a week's reflection, although Ms Kilgariff said the department might be able to provide a preliminary report by next week's meeting.
Cr Anderson appealed for "support" and "partnership" from the department: "The media are rubbishing us."
Ms Martin said the department's investigation would only be looking at the rules. If the council needs advice on whether they are making a good or bad decision, the department would not give that advice. It would be up to the council to source that advice, although the department may be able to help them do that.
Councillors also agreed to defer their discussion of media treatment of this issue and of President Sid Anderson until next week.

What's happened so far:

MacDonnell Shire CEO Graham Taylor has signed a contract with VT Infotech based in Chennai, India to undertake project management and quality assurance work for the shire over two years, at a fee of $73,500 per year.
Mr Taylor is of the belief that council adopted the tender, and accordingly it was advertised just before Christmas last year. VT Infotech was the only tenderer.
Four council staff travelled to India to check out the company and establish a relationship with them. This cost about $30,000, according to Mr Taylor.
The story was first reported by Fairfax journalist Russell Skelton, upgraded to an "Indigenous affairs expert" by Nigel Adlam in the NT News.
The general gist of media and political commentary has been to challenge out-sourcing work when there is such a high level of unemployment in the shire's Indigenous communities.

How the out-sourcing contract would work:

At present the shire gets, from rates and untied grants, around $2.5m to carry out its core business, while it needs about $5.5m, according to CEO Graham Taylor.
By outsourcing project management and quality assurance to India (as opposed to an Australian company, had one tendered), council immediately saves some $400,000.
The gains made by professional management (logistical coordination) of the shire's many service delivery contracts in the areas of housing, tenancy, waste and infrastructure management – for which it receives tied grants from the other tiers of government – would also provide an immediate return to council.
The shire would provide VT Infotech with the necessary local knowledge such as a contractor list.
VT Infotech's role in quality assurance would be to develop and monitor a checklist but the actual work would be signed off by shire staff on the ground.
Mr Taylor says the shire does not have good in-house skills in these areas but part of the contract with VT Infotech is to train in-house staff so that at the end of two years the shire will be able to take over.
Even so, the work would still be managed long distance. Mr Taylor queried the difference between project managing from Alice HQ and managing from Chennai.
Other benefits to the shire are expected to come from tradesmen training local staff to carry out minor maintenance themselves, instead of requiring fully qualified tradesmen to travel to communities to do these works.  The shire would be able to make money on the difference between contractors' fees and internal costs (wages and expenses).
All up the model is estimated to offer a $3m gain to the shire.

Fun police. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Under new NT regulations, street parades, such as the upcoming Bangtail Muster, now have to submit a traffic management plan, "developed and implemented by accredited traffic management companies". According to the Town Council, the minimum costs for preparation is $1500, and implementation could cost a further $1000 or more depending on how the plan impacts on the use of roads and footpaths.
Council CEO Rex Mooney described the situation as "depressing" for the way that it could lead to "a diminution of social enjoyment" in town. He had the unanimous support of aldermen to go back to the NT Government seeking exemption from the regulations for the existing regular street parades and authority for council to exercise its discretion in relation to others. The regulations in relation to speed trials and races already make exemptions for events such as the World Solar Challenge and the Finke Desert Race.
Mayor Damien Ryan suggested the new regulations are a form of "cost-shifting" by the NT Government. He lamented their possible impacts: "Parades will move down to one block and become ineffectual." He worried about increased costs for council's Christmas Carnival, which closes Todd Street and part of Gregory Terrace.
Alderman Eli Melky, involved as a Rotary member with the organisation of the Bangtail Muster, estimated costs of $6000 to $8000 to implement its traffic plan, putting it in "dire straits".
Mr Mooney said that five to six staff would be required to implement the plan and that normally organisations would have to pay. On many occasions council will be asked to help bear the costs and he agreed with Mayor Ryan that it amounted to cost-shifting.
Ald Liz Martin, who as head of the National Road Transport Hall of Fame organises the biggest street parades of them all, said the regulations require escort vehicles for heavy transport and fees for police to man the intersections.
"The fun police!" said Mayor Ryan.
Ald Samih Habib accused the NT Government of going "beyond their limits": "They don't have the right to control our streets!"
But it seems they do. The officer's report to aldermen listed 13 separate lots of statutory requirements by both the NT and Australian Governments that give them these powers.
Ald Murray Stewart said this puts council "in the firing line" and asked if there'd been any consultation over the new regulations. He agreed that "heritage events", like the Bangtail Muster and Henley-on-Todd, should be exempted, but he also wanted to protect possible future events dreamt up by "wonderful young minds"– the sort of thing that can "fight back" in terms of tourism.

May Day Bangtail Muster going ahead in modified form

Traditionally the Bangtail Muster floats have been marshalled down Gap Road from Achilpa Street, crossing the hospital entrance, with the parade commencing level with the Memo Club, and proceeding through Todd Street, the mall and ending at Wills Terrace.
Parade coordinator Neil Ross says some 15 suitably qualified people would have been required to direct traffic had this route been maintained. The Rotary Club of Alice Springs, organisers of the parade, have decided to modify the route, marshalling vehicles at the Council Chambers and heading straight down Todd Mall. This plan will require five people to implement it. He says fortunately the company Alice Traffic Management will assist with this year's parade and keep costs to a minimum.
Mr Ross sees some problems with exempting parades from the regulations. He says traffic management is something that organisers have to take seriously and it takes a lot of worry off their shoulders if they can contract out the responsibility. Even in a country town he suggests that road closures and barricades are not sufficient: "You'd be surprised what signs people disregard, and if something bad happens, who's liable? I would not be comfortable without a plan, the issue is, how is it going to be funded?"
As for the future of the Bangtail Muster, Mr Ross says Rotary will have to look at the economics while weighing up the benefit to the community. The muster is not a fund-raiser although donations from the crowd help offset costs. But some years the parade runs at a loss.
Mr Ross says Rotary are also looking for ideas from the community to make the muster more relevant to today. Originally it culminated in a youth sports carnival. "We would like it to lead to something," he says.

Rangers 'take gloves off'. By KIERAN FINNANE.

With the opening of the temporary accommodation facility – the Apmere Mwerre Visitor Park on Len Kittle Drive – council rangers have taken their "gloves off" in enforcing the public laces by-laws, Craig Catchlove told aldermen on Monday night. Mr Catchlove is council's director of Corporate and Community Services. He said rangers are particularly focussing on illegal camping, drinking in public and indecent behaviour.
Alderman Sandy Taylor, new chair of the Corporate and Community Services committee, had noted the increased public places infringement notices: 200 for March, compared to none in January and 13 in February. Fines for March amounted to $73,150.
Supporting the more rigorous enforcement, she said aldermen did not want to have made the by-laws "for no good reason".
Mr Catchlove said some of the fines had been paid, some had part-payments options, and that council was attempting to organise further payment options with Centrelink, but most are likely to go the Fines Recovery Unit.
Mr Catchlove and rangers were congratulated by Ald Eli Mlelky who said he could notice the reduction in rubbish and the absence of people when he goes "running up the creek" in the mornings.
The river run statistics for March 2011 show a drop by about one third compared to March 2010. However more children were present this year, 16 in all, while liquor was also present at all sites.
Some 1200 drinkers and hangers on had been spoken to, with over 200 litres of alcohol, mostly beer in cans, tipped out.

Remote control sends community into downward spiral – yet again. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Her vision is splendid but does she have a chance in a political system where failure is rewarded and initiative is discouraged?
Her name is Marie Ellis (at left). She has lived at Amoonguna near Alice Springs all her life and is the president of Amoonguna Community Incorporated (ACI).
Since the local government reform in the Territory her organisation is nothing but a shell, without power and assets. The community is making a $4m compensation claim against the NT Government in the High Court. But Marie's vision for Amoonguna, and by extension, for all Aboriginal people, goes well beyond money.
It revolves around having a job in the mainstream; not succumbing to the grog; forming a close-knit community where people care for each other; a community which has the will and the power to look after its own affairs and which is, more or less, self-sufficient.
"People need to wake up in the morning and have something to look forward to," says Marie. "They don't now."
The community, current population about 300, is on the tourist route to the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges, a superb commercial opportunity.
It was "opened" by Sir Paul Hasluck as Minister for Territories in the early 1960s. It became a "thriving community" where the Federal government, then in charge of the Northern Territory, settled Aborigines from a radius of a few hundred kilometers.
Marie says since then Amoonguna has been "chewed up and spat out so many times". The decline was triggered in part by the land rights movement in the '70s when people were encouraged to return to their tribal lands, and accelerated in the 80s.
The latest assault comes from the MacDonnell "super shire" which has dismantled a string of community initiatives, leaving Amoonguna yet again in a downward spiral of increasing alcohol and drug abuse, violence, and unemployment.
Trouble starts when people from other, remoter communities descend on Amoonguna, to attend a footy carnival, for example. They crowd into the houses of the locals. Family disagreements are rekindled. Grog makes things worse.
"There is no community spirit. It's every family for itself."
The people come on welfare payday and are gone by Sunday: "The shouting is over and you can hear the birds sing again." However, the feuds get "recycled" and and carry on: "The hatred in their hearts continues."
The take-over by the shire, one of the eight created by the Territory Government in 2008, ended a 10 year era of community initiative in Amoonguna, under council clerk Barry Byerley, who now lives in Adelaide:–
• The construction program, managed by Wayne Bennett, employing half a dozen locals and building a string of homes has shut down.
• The market garden is covered in nothing but weeds and the gate is padlocked.
• The art centre, a solid brick building, the former store, "where many women were painting," is leased out to a private operator not living in the community. Marie says it's "only partially" open. When the News called the centre's doors were locked.
• The aged care unit has been wound back.
• Housing maintenance is poor. Marie says she had to shower "Japanese style" with a kettle and a bucket for a couple of weeks when her hot water system broke down.
• A self-supporting community owned bus service – $2 one way – to Alice Springs, about 20 kms away, has been canned.

• The sports and rec program "barely has a pulse".
• The Federal Intervention signs declaring Amoonguna "dry" are made a mockery of by locals swilling green cans in derelict buildings.

• Another local joke is the steel shelter outside the school with the sign: A Nation Building Project – Economic Stimulus Plan", Canberra's response to the global recession. Marie says the structure is stupid and useless, was built without community consultation and the money could have been used for much more important purposes.
• And to add insult to injury, the shire is now outsourcing work to a call centre in India: "I am computer literate," says Marie. "They haven't asked me." Marie treats this as an insult. (The shire says tenders were invited in a newspaper advertisement on December 23 last year and the tenders closed on January 13. The only applicant was an Indian company. The value of the contract is $73,500 per year. Four shire staff made a total of seven trips to India to set up the deal which is now under review.)
It's all symptomatic of what's going on: "Authorities are tossing around ideas," says Marie. "But not much comes of them." The sole exception is the clinic, employing locals and run in connection with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs.
Marie lives in a house built by the former construction team. Its demise has turned her son Michael (at left) from a trainee builder into an unskilled shire worker, mostly collecting rubbish.
"We built seven houses," says Michael. "I have a Certificate Two." The word "we" carries a proud emphasis. He was part of something important in the community. "Now I'm in non-skilled work," says Michael. "Changing door knobs, doing maintenance, picking up rubbish, mowing grass."
Last Friday Michael was on the outskirts of Amoonguna, under a derelict World War II Nissan hut, drinking with mates.
Both Marie's children are ambitious. Her daughter, Jessie, went to Year 11 at St John's in Darwin, is studying through the CDU to become a nurse.
She has a little baby and she and her parents keep their house neat. It sits in a generously sized yard, fenced to keep out the campdogs. There is not a scrap of rubbish anywhere. The lawn is neatly cut.
The front porch looks out onto the ranges, across the footy oval, where the Amoonguna Souths were born. They are called Amoonguna Crows now, not doing all that well in the local league "but still flying the flag for their town," says Marie.
Nearby is a derelict complex of flats. A toddler runs from it and across the road – not a huge worry because there isn't a lot of traffic. Marie knows the child, as she knows all the town's kids: "The parents are drinkers. I need to keep an eye on him."
In the late afternoon young mothers pushing prams come out of their houses for a stroll and a chat. The streets are lined with tall gumtrees. Young blokes cruise around in their cars, sound systems on flat out. A carload of men blocks Marie's car at one of the many speed humps. Marie shouts at them in Aranda, laughs. They laugh, too, and back the car to let us through.
The tour of Amoonguna takes us past a cream colored house: "That's where the school principal lived in the sixties and the seventies," she says. "That was when Amoonguna was a happy community. Now it is a sad community." The principal now lives in Alice Springs. Marie doesn't know what the school attendance is but believes it's pretty low.
Between the community and Todd River is a huge expanse of buffle grass, considered by many to be a dangerous weed that is displacing native plants over vast areas of The Centre. The growth is so thick you can hardly see the tracks. It used to be where Marie spent her childhood.

"Our house was here." Only a bit of rubble is left. A steel post is all that's left of the Lutheran Church. A bit further on, "this is where my grandfather was looking after the community's chooks, ducks and pigs. "Us kids used to help him. Some days he gave us 50 cents. It was a fortune! We went to the shop and got big bags of lollies."
The Nissan Huts at the edge of the buffel plain were where Marie's mum, who worked at the clinic, volunteered in the community kitchen. Her two daughters and four nieces, whom she looked after, would help her. Meals were served in a big mess hall for community workers and their families.
Marie has worked ever since: as a health worker, early childhood worker, with Alcohol and Other Drugs, in the Yipirinya School for Aboriginal children in Alice Springs, in the Desert Park, and driving trucks at the Granites gold mine in the Tanami Desert.
She loved being a tour guide: "You share the visitors' culture. It builds your self confidence. I learned a few words, bonjour madame, guten Tag, ni hao."
Marie also has a bobcat ticket and has concreting skills. She's like a tiger in a cage. To her the way to end the misery around here is so clear. But not many will listen. Yet.
PICTURES from top right: Young mums off on a sunset stroll: What future for their kids? Marie on the porch of her home, built by the now disbanded construction team that employed half a dozen locals. The market garden is covered in weeds and padlocked. The art centre, where in the past prominent local painters worked, is let out to someone who is not from the community, and is mostly closed.

MOZZIE BITES by RONJA MOSS: Too much success!

Inside, an eager audience welcomed a diverse group of local musicians onto the stage, while outside there was a barbeque for those whose mouths weren’t wrapped around a microphone. The event was last Friday night's local launch of the 2011 Music NT Program, held at Watch This Space with combined efforts from the two organizations and volunteers running the show.
Music NT is a non-profit organization set up to nurture the development of original music in the Northern Territory, regionally and cosmopolitan-style. Their local representative is Milyika Scales, running the office out of Red Hot Arts. She is an incredibly driven individual and has been making Alice move along with gusto in the year since her appointment.
The crowd on Friday night gave complete attention to the entertainers, creating a delightfully comfortable evening.  I know that this is the case, especially from an artist’s perspective, as I was one of them!
When I stepped up to that stage to play my shy, new songs I had that awful feeling of dread in my bones, but as soon as I looked out across the room at all those attentive faces I knew it was all going to be OK … maybe even good!
The local performers were selected because of their variety of style and experience in the music industry.  To open the night Bec Matthews hypnotized us with her West African instrumentation on the kora and her angelic voice.  Bec, from Melbourne originally, has played overseas and has had projects feature on Radio National. Her song-writing and musicality is world standard and a valuable asset to Alice.
Then I greeted the crowd, a non-trained, emerging artist. I can’t blow my own trumpet too hard, but ... ah ... I was pretty good. You know … the audience didn’t complain. Well, they haven’t yet at least!
Afterwards, Minority Sun, an Arrernte-Maori band, played a rock out acoustic set. Their message is to rejoice and gain power from the unbreakable connection to family and country. It’s a powerful and necessary message for The Centre and was portrayed beautifully on Friday night.
Then to end the night opera singer and composer Tammy Brennan wowed us with, not only her voice, but also an original video backdrop projected to fit her music. Tammy began her career at the Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane and has had success in other parts of the world, including working for the BBC.  Seriously, too much success! Check her out on Google for the full scoop.
In fact, all of the above artists have Myspace, Triple J Unearthed pages, or are on Facebook and are worth investigating.
This year Music NT will be hosting the iNTune conference and the Indigenous Music Awards in Darwin and the Bush Bands Business in Alice Springs, plus so much more. Have a look at the website and become a member. It is free and will link you up with all the music happenings around town.
Other music news:
• Youth aged 15 to 21 can explore ‘Life in Music’ this Saturday at the Town Library in a FREE music workshop with Melbourne based musician, Dan Kelly, from 1-2.30pm. The opportunity is being  presented by ASYASS (Alice Springs Youth Accommodation and Support Services).
Dan Kelly is currently on tour with his uncle, Paul Kelly (playing Araluen for the next four nights), in addition to his own solo tour.  The workshop is a fantastic opportunity to learn about life skills and the music industry from a professional and talented musician.  Dan will talk about life on the road as a musician, the creative process, song writing, studio work, busking and possible career paths.
There will be the opportunity to jam on the guitar or the ukulele with Dan – instruments will be available but you are encouraged to bring your own if you have them.
Bookings are preferred. Call the library on 8950 0555.
• At the Darwin Music NT launch yesterday Arts Minister Gerry McCarthy announced that The Northern Territory Indigenous Music Awards, now in their 8th year, will go national this year as part of the Darwin Festival.
“The Territory has the best indigenous music talent  in Australia and I’m confident they will dominate the national stage," said Mr McCarthy.

LETTERS: Does this town need a working class? If so, Kilgariff blocks must sell at $60,000.

Sir – The recent work shop to design Kilgariff, although well intentioned, was highjacked by the same moronic mentality that has sabotaged our town's growth and bought us to the brink of collapse. Workshops run over a full week at times of the day that working class Joe Blow, for whom this subdivision was intended, simply could not attend. The whole process highjacked by bureaucrats, architects, facilitators and those who have bitterly opposed this project from the outset.
Granted there are some reasonable ideas about the actual set out of the area. It is, however, the nice ideas about house shape, type, structure, even colour, particularly about pricing structure and just who gets to be resident there, that are quite simply a betrayal of the people of Alice Springs!
Instead of designing affordability they have committed the classic designer’s fault of designing what they themselves would like, completely forgetting the original concept was affordability! When you put that together with a little smattering of envy and deliberate sabotage, it’s not hard to see how they reached such an outcome. 
The ridiculous concept of building architecturally-designed houses, featuring all sorts of add ons such as rain water tanks, solar panels, verandas etc, that many house-owners within the existing town area haven’t been able to afford after 30 years of occupation! Yet expecting first home buyers to fork out for these things first up??
Affordable doesn’t mean architecturally-designed housing with all the mod cons, angles and trims. It means what people can afford to pay! It means minimal! Something that can be extended at a later date, something that can be part-built, staged. It means self-designed and often owner-built housing, generally speaking in any bloody colour the owner wishes to paint it!
The most horrifying outcome from this workshop is the rejection of commission housing, supposedly as the mainly welfare dependant residents  would be disadvantaged by distance, yet the difference in travel time between this area and the centre of town and say the further reaches of Larapinta, would only be a matter of a few minutes by bus.
Yes, that’s the solution  – good transport, just a slight extension of the existing run.
The waiting time on our housing lists is measured in years, vast lengths of time for young families! We must move away from the mindset that commission houses are bad for an area's image. There was a time when Alice was 95% commission houses, we made it work!! The issues of noise, mess and lawlessness around commission homes is simply a matter of management. Zero Tolerance Management!
The Minister must completely disregard the recommendations of this workshop and proceed with the construction of commission homes immediately there are blocks available. We need to ask ourselves, does this town need a working class? Do we need employees to man our businesses our, hotels, restaurants? Do we want our children to be able to stay and make their futures in our town? Do we want to be able to offer opportunity, a way out of the abyss, for our large numbers of welfare dependants? Do we want to be able to house our homeless?
Yes, you say! Then we have to put these blocks on the market at a price people can afford! This means a top rate of around $60,000 for a 800 sqm block. The NT Government must provide the land and do the development works for KIlgariff. Northern Territorians have to cover any cost over and above the affordable level.
Why? Because without a substantial quantity of affordable land, without a means of attracting and holding workers and business enterprise, this town simply does not have a future!
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

Animal cruelty at Mataranka

Sir – I sent the following letter to the Chief Minister:-
I am in total disbelief that your agencies allowed the mismanagement of Mataranka Station by CDU that led to the slow, horrific and unnecessary deaths of hundreds of cattle.
The reality is that the responsibility for these deaths lay squarely on your shoulders as the CM, head of government.
And no action by YOUR government to bring those responsible to trial ... The RSPCA should drag you personally into court as the leader of the government.
Shame on you and your government for your inaction and sweeping this matter under the mat to cover your own behinds.
James Barker
Alice Springs
ED –  Local Government Minister, Malarndirri McCarthy released independent legal advice into animal welfare issues at Mataranka Station on April 7. Ina media release Ms McCarthy said that special investigator, Ray Murphy, had concluded that there were no matters arising from the Mataranka Station investigation that should proceed to prosecution.
She said what happened at Mataranka Station was "an absolute disgrace" but prosecution did not seem possible "given the lost opportunity to gather evidence and prosecute at an earlier time".
She said the investigator had highlighted deficiencies within the administration of the Animal Welfare Act and the government, department and Charles Darwin University had "moved quickly to fix this situation with the recruitment of new staff and improved capacity to investigate and prosecute animal welfare incidents".

Unions NT will fight radioactive waste dump

Sir – Unions NT has resolved to step up the fight against federal government legislation which would impose a radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120kms north of Tennant Creek.
Traditional Owners from the Muckaty Land Trust recently visited Darwin and called for union support in the campaign to stop the waste dump, stating it would destroy significant spiritual sites, damage the country and put at risk their children’s health and future. Unions NT pledged to continue the campaign in solidarity with Traditional Owners and the community of Muckaty and Tennant Creek.
We strongly oppose the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill, expected to pass the Senate in May, and reject any legislation which would continue to target Muckaty Station, or any site in the Northern Territory for a nuclear waste dump.
Dianne Nampin Stokes from the Yapa Yapa group of Muckaty says: “Union support is very important for us to try and stop the waste dump. Martin Ferguson’s new law names Muckaty as the one site for the waste dump but he will not listen to us when we say no. The government is determined it will go ahead but we are determined to stop them.”
Trade unions have historically played a crucial role in standing up for Aboriginal rights. This year is the 45th anniversary of the Wave Hill walk-off and Unions NT are proud to remember that struggle and again fight alongside Traditional Owners to defend hard-won land rights and stop a radioactive waste dump.
Michael Haire,
NT Electrical Trades Union organiser 

Heritage Fest.

This weekend is packed with activities for the annual Heritage Festival, which kicked off on Monday and runs till April 21. 
Organised by the National Trust, many historic venues will be open for the festival, including the town’s oldest building, the 1909 Stuart Town Gaol, where the Asante Sana choir will take advantage of the amazing acoustics (April 21, 8-9pm).
Heritage Night at the Telegraph Station (Friday April 15 from 5pm) is always a crowd-pleaser.
You can also enjoy:
• Historic Sites Bus Tour (April 16 from 10am, departs from the old Hartley Street School).
• NT Archives and Museum of Central Australia talk and workshop on ‘Caring for your treasures’ at the Hartley Street School (April 17,  3-5pm).
• Adelaide House Open Night (April 18 in Todd Mall).
• "A Town Like Alice'' film (April 20 at the Historic Pioneer Theatre, which is now the YHA Hostel, 6.30pm).
• The Museum of Central Australia will open its new exhibition – ‘The Track: 1000 Miles to War’ (April 15 at 10am).
• Arltunga and Old Ambalindum Homestead Open Day (April 16).
• A White Glove Tour of the NT Archives Service (April 13, 2pm & April 16, 11am).
• Launch of Centralian Voices project & live ABC broadcast (April 15 from 9am, Public Library).

Official pool fun starts Sunday: Aldermen keep fees increases moderate.

Admission fees to enter the town's new aquatic centre, with two new heated indoor pools, have been kept to an across the board increase of 11% after aldermen rejected the operator's significantly higher increases.
Under the contract between council and the YMCA, council sets the maximum amounts that can be charged.
Last Monday night, just ahead of the official opening of the new centre this Sunday, aldermen approved a revised schedule, that sees adult entry go up from $4.50 to $5; children under 16 up from $2.30 to $2.55 (under four, free); and family fees up from $11.90 to $13.20.
Membership for a full year is actually down 15%, while for the summer season it is up 8%, and a 10 entry swim card is up less than 10%. There will be no separate fee for use of the waterslide.
Sunday's festivities begin at 9am with a VIP and media tour of the facility. Speeches and 'the first kid down the slide' will follow at 9.25am, with doors opening at 10 for swimming and family fun until 2pm.
Joining Mayor Damien Ryan in officiating will be Federal Member Warren Snowdon, NT Minister for Sport and Recreation Karl Hampton, and former Mayor, Fran Kilgariff.
The upgrade and extension of the aquatic centre was funded by the NT and Australian Governments ($8.1m and  $4m respectively) with a further $4m from the Aboriginal Benefit Account (controlled by the Indigenous Affairs Minister, it receives and distributes royalty equivalent monies generated from mining on Aboriginal land in the NT).
As an Alice Solar City iconic project, the centre include 275 Heliocol solar collector panels installed on the roof to provide solar heating to the two new indoor pools and the two existing outdoor pools. This system will reduce the Centre's gas usage by an estimated 30% and save over 3450 GJ natural gas per year (equivalent to 350 tonnes CO2-e).

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