April 21, 2011. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

To our home page.

From council dump to super green project: Melbourne environment park example for Alice.


In 1982 it was four and a half hectares of council rubbish dump.
Today it is Australia's most successful project where you can get hands-on experience of turning environmental principles into reality.
As such the Ceres Park – named after the Roman goddess of agriculture – in Melbourne's East Brunswick is the shining example for the Alice Springs group setting up a community garden in the Frances Smith park on Kurrajong Drive.
The ALEC inspired project is only just getting under way (photo below). A 50 square metre patch has been dug up and mulched. Another working bee is planned in about three weeks' time and water is about to be connected to the site leased from the council at a peppercorn rent.
ALEC has appointed two people to manage the initiative. ALEC's Jimmy Cocking says about 150 people are on the email list and some 50 turn up for the working bees.
By comparison the almost three-decade old Ceres is a mammoth enterprise: $8m annual turnover, 160 staff (mostly casual or part-time), 400 members, 70% of whom live in a five kilometre radius, 350,000 visitors a year, 70,000 children from 400 schools from throughout Victoria taking lessons and workshops in a string of subjects.
In the first few years Ceres volunteers were busy rehabilitating the flogged out soil, composting it with food scraps, setting up a worm farm and carting in fresh topsoil. Today the fruits of this labour are impressive.
At its home site and others, Ceres grows organic fruit and veg. There's a market garden as well as individual plots for Ceres members – about five or six square meters, watered mostly with recycled water and rainwater. The produce is sold at two weekly markets, it is used in the park's restaurant and two cafes, and sold through a "food box" scheme: orders are dropped off to pick-up points, usually front yards of members' homes around the suburbs where buyers can collect them.
There's a big yard for chooks – free ranging, of course. The market is right next to it. Baskets, in which shoppers gather their selections, are made by Ceres members. No plastic bags here – bring your own or go without, which is not as hard as you think.
Shopping done, parents and their small kids sit down for a chat and a play, listening to live music (three blokes on double bass, banjo and guitar when the Alice News visited). The coffee is great.
Weather permitting – this is Melbourne, after all – a stroll invites, past a duck pond, the extensive gardens, a photovoltaic power station, a playground, gathering areas, and various group projects like a "sweat lodge".
Then there is the shed where you can fix your pushbike and be shown how to do it.
"We're empowering people to mend their bikes," says Terry, one of the volunteers running the well-equipped workshop.
People drop off bikes they no longer want which are then stripped for parts. The use of second-hand bits is encouraged which are sold cheaply or given away.
If all this is feel-good stuff, Ceres makes no apology for it.
On the contrary, it says it wants to promote "social wellbeing and connectedness, a sense of place and community, and work to re-enchant the world" whose people are affected "by wars and conflict, mass dislocation, lack of food and water … materialism, isolation and loneliness, fear and depression".

Drive-in heritage listing revoked:
Developers get their way

Heritage Minister Karl Hampton has revoked the heritage listing of the old drive-in site. The listing covered the screen and the projection and kiosk building.
One of the site's current owners, Philip Danby, had applied to have the listing revoked in the context of the recently approved plans to redevelop the site as a residential subdivision.
In a media release today Mr Hampton said the revoking was a move he didn't take lightly, but  said "there is a need for more housing development  in Alice Springs".
Said Mr Hampton: “The fact is the drive-In site has been vacant and neglected and subject to vandalism for many years.
“The proposed residential development has been approved by the Minister for Lands and Planning to allow for a maximum of 74 residential lots on the site.”
He had met with the property developers to discuss options of incorporating the existing drive-in structures into the proposed residential development.
“I was satisfied by the developers’ explanations as to why the screen and damaged projection facilities and kiosk would have a negative economic and aesthetic impact on the proposed development,” Mr Hampton said.
“The property owners have agreed to offer the screen to any interested local community group or organisation and have agreed to assist with the relocation costs.”
Mr Hampton said he had also met with, and received submissions from, supporters of the Pioneer Drive-In’s heritage status.
“While I recognise the Pioneer Drive-In holds a fond place in the memories of many Alice residents, the fact is that the site and structures have sadly deteriorated and have been described as an eyesore on the main southern entry into town.
 “Allowing this residential development to proceed will lead to more jobs in the construction industry and an economic boost to the town, as well as providing for more housing in Alice Springs.”

See previous reporting at

The youth justice merry-go-round

The justice system is often accused of failing to deal effectively with criminals and with young offenders in particular. Two recent cases involving juvenile offenders are revealing about some of the challenges and some of the failures. Alice Springs News reporter KIERAN FINNANE has listened to the court tapes in two cases of "unlawful entry" involving young teenagers. Because of their age, their identities cannot be disclosed.

Let us call the first offender Tom. He pleaded guilty in the magistrates court late last year to unlawful entry of a dwelling house at night and stealing from that house. He was with a teenage co-offender, heading home from an outing, around 8pm, when they ran into the co-offender's brother, an adult, who apparently suggested the break-in.
They found keys to the targeted house in a hiding place near an entrance door and were able to let themselves in and help themselves to a number of items, valued at close to $1000. It was not made clear in the court how police quickly identified him but Tom was arrested the next day. In his electronic record of interview he said that the unlawful entry had been the co-offender's idea and it had been the wrong thing to do.
Although he was assessed as suitable for juvenile diversion, on the advice of the legal aid lawyer he decided to plead guilty to expedite the matter. A plan for his future, including returning to boarding school interstate, had been put in place by a FACS worker and others. Tom, in his early teens, had been under FACS care for close to two years, with his grandmother and mother having "joint parental responsibility" with the CEO of the Department of Families and Children. His normal place of residence was with his grandmother and he had been at boarding school for most of 2010. At the time of the offending he should have been back at school but was not, because he had "missed the bus".
This did not wash well with the magistrate who wanted to know why he had not caught the next bus. It turned out that Tom, after missing the bus, had disappeared for two weeks. When his whereabouts was finally established, a death in the family meant that those responsible for him, including FACS, did not want to send him away immediately. After the funeral, Tom disappeared again, despite the "daily care and control" supposedly being exercised by FACS.
What kind of young teenage boy is free to make these kinds of decisions about his life, the magistrate wanted to know. His lawyer agreed that Tom was causing a lot of concern to his grandmother and to FACS. Meanwhile, plans had been hatched to get him out of Alice Springs pending the start of the new school year. He was to spend the Christmas holidays with his mother on a bush community across the border to "try to re-establish their relationship", and then return to the boarding school, which was willing to take him back.
The plea of guilty and admission of the facts meant that the charges were proven. Now the magistrate had to decide on the penalty.  Tom's  lawyer asked that he be placed on a good behaviour bond, without supervision, the latter condition mainly because of the difficulty of arranging supervision in another jurisdiction.
So what happens across the border we don't care about? asked the magistrate. But it was a rhetorical question as he then turned to young Tom and gave him a lecture about his wrong-doing. He spoke to him about the problems he had caused for his victims as well as for other boys like himself – now people would look at young boys like him and wonder whether they were going to break into their houses, said the magistrate. He told Tom he had to make an effort at school: "You won't get anywhere without an education, you need to be able to read and write." And he told him that life is a two way street: he has to help those who look after him as much as they have to help him. If he didn't, he'd end up in court again and the consequences would be more severe.
Tom was then released on a good behaviour bond for 12 months, on his own recognisance for $500.
Within two months Tom was back to court for a breach of his bond. As the News understands it, he had not reoffended but had returned to Alice Springs without permission.  The consequence of the breach was that his current good behaviour bond was cancelled, and a new one issued before he was bundled off by departmental staff to finally get on the Greyhound bus for boarding school. As the News understands it, he did not have to pay for the breach. Bond conditions include attending the school, residing where directed by FACS, and not returning to Alice Springs without permission.
The second case is more complicated.
We shall call the young offender Patrick. He came before the court earlier this month on charges of unlawful entry of commercial premises and stealing, and separately, of unlawful entry of a dwelling house and stealing. He had already spent a number of days in custody because his lawyer had been unable to find family to appear in court with him and take responsibility for his care. He is a little older than Tom and is in the care of his sister-in-law. The formality of this arrangement was not known but the sister-in-law was receiving Centrelink payments for him and was sitting in the court during the hearing.
For both sets of offences, committed about a month apart, Patrick had been in the company of older, more experienced co-offenders. In the case of the unlawful entry of commercial premises his lawyer suggested that there was an adult co-offender whose identity was unknown – "First I've heard of him", said the prosecutor – as well as a juvenile co-offender.  A window had been broken to gain entry.
In the case of the unlawful entry of the dwelling house, he was with two juvenile co-offenders, both a little older. Here spare house keys were located in the shed, but the break-in was foiled by the imminent arrival of police.
In both instances, alcohol was stolen. In his electronic record of interview, Patrick apparently told police that he had broken into the premises "to get grog" in order to "drink it". 
Patrick's lawyer was adamant that the boy did not drink alcohol, however the prosecutor, relying on memory, was not so sure. Despite an adjournment, during which the prosecutor intended to find out about Patrick's "alcohol usage", it remained a mystery: "There's nothing on file", he told the magistrate upon resumption of the hearing.
Everything that the lawyer said about her young client was qualified by the fact that she could not take her instructions from him with any certainty, such is his poor command of English. Patrick is enrolled at a middle school in town but has done most of his schooling to date in a bush community. There was some question of him being ordered to return to a bush community but the magistrate wanted to know what the schooling options would be. On the basis of Patrick's very limited ability communicate in English, the magistrate expressed his doubts about the efficacy of a bush school in preparing students for secondary education.
Patrick's lawyer wanted the magistrate to deal with him as a first offender, even though he had been before the court previously for another offence – a break-in during which he stole food apparently because he was hungry. The lawyer's argument was that the second lot of offending had occurred before the court had heard the first case and before Patrick was put on a good behaviour bond. Since he had been on the bond he had stayed out of trouble, she said. He was not in breach of any court order, nor was he on bail.
The magistrate was not quite convinced: even if he disregarded the earlier offending as a prior conviction, it was still "relevant in disposition". "I have to sentence people in a holistic way," he said.
The lawyer stuck to her guns; she wanted Patrick only to be given another good behaviour bond. She argued that Patrick had been roped into the offending by older, more experienced people and had not been mature enough to "distance himself". Her instructions were that he was no longer hanging around with these people, he was attending school and playing football. With the break-in at the dwelling house, she said her client had been watching but not actively involved.
Patrick's mother is an alcoholic and he does not have much to do with his father. Both parents live out bush. Patrick's lawyer argued that he should continue to live with his sister-in-law who maintains a non-drinking house on a town camp.
The magistrate was a little sceptical about the arrangement as there was a suggestion that it was a friend of Patrick's brother, husband to the sister-in-law, who had led him to break in to the commercial premises. "You seem to say his life is sorted – it's in a total mess," he said to the lawyer.
The magistrate also raised the issue of a further offence allegedly committed by the youth, after the offences that were the subject of the hearing but before the hearing of the first case which had resulted in Patrick being put on a good behaviour bond.  The lawyer had not been given the file for the further offence. In any case, she asked that the magistrate "distinguish" that file because it post-dated the charges he was hearing.
She had her way. In the end Patrick was put on another good behaviour bond for a period of 12 months, on his own recognisance of $500. However the magistrate was of the view that he needed supervision and gave that power to Community Corrections. They would tell Patrick where he could reside and where he had to stay away from. He must also obey their directions about reporting, education and counselling. He is not allowed to drink alcohol and must submit to breath analysis as directed by a probabtion officer or police officer.

'Tsunami' of support for Bess Price. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.


The careless posting on Twitter of a disgusting statement by one of Australia's foremost Indigenous activists has put into sharp focus the conflict between the two sides of the race debate: those who feel first hand the sharp pain in bush town slums and remote communities, and those far removed from it all, yet commanding public and government respect, attention and funding.
Larissa Behrendt, Sydney based professor, lawyer, sought-after advisor to the Gillard government and plaintiff against columnist Andrew Bolt under the Racial Discrimination Act, did not respond to the Alice Springs News when asked whether she had said this: "I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I'm sure it was less offensive than Bess Price." But it is widely reported that she had so twittered, and Ms Behrendt has made public statements seeking to explain her quote and in The Australian made an apology.
Ms Price, appearing on the ABC's Q&A, had articulated her support for key aspects of the Federal Intervention in the Northern Territory, saying women and children had a better life because of it.
For decades there has been a divide in the "Aboriginal" debate so far as it concerned itself with the remote regions of the nation. In one corner were those with first-hand, day to day knowledge of the issues, because they were born in those locations or lived there for a long time, and like Mrs Price, are at the coalface.
She and her husband David, a white man with decades of bush experience as a teacher and advisor, emailed this following the Behrendt affront:-
We are getting tired of all this. We went to the funeral of Bess' murdered sister-in-law. She died of stab wounds to the head. The same week we attended the funeral of Bess' brother's stepson. He bled to death after punching his fist through a window pane. Today Bess is trying to organise lifts to Yuendumu for the funeral tomorrow of her cousin's 14 year old niece who hanged herself because her parents objected to her relationship to a boyfriend, a skin brother to her.
In the other corner are people such as Professor Behrendt. They have been tagged the Peugeot Proletariat, the Cappuccino Set, the lower case "l" liberals, the Politically Correct – generally people well paid, well housed and well pampered with perks.
We now need to get beyond this irrelevant tit-for-tat and get a handle on who is right and who is wrong. The life of Alice Springs, for one, depends on us getting it right.
The casualties are likely to include Barbara Shaw and the Greens, if she remains their candidate. Ms Shaw has – again – vehemently attacked Mrs Price over her stance on the Intervention. Most media are happy to continue parroting Ms Shaw's anti-Intervention rhetoric and her poor-bugger-me "I am a town camps resident" spiel.
Do these media question why Ms Shaw and her family, mostly in good health and work ready, or adequately superannuated, should not only live in public housing, but have a mini-suburb allocated to them? Any media needing a lead can find it in the Alice Springs News archive.
David and Bess Price say there has been a "tsunami" of support for the comments Mrs Price made on Q&A.
These are some samples:-
Marcia Langton, famed Aboriginal activist, author and academic (in The Australian): Larissa Behrendt's foul Twitter message … is an exemplar of the wide cultural, moral and increasingly political rift between urban, left-wing, activist Aboriginal women and the bush women who witness the horrors of life in their communities, much of which is arrogantly denied by the former.
Whereas Bess, a grandmother who resides in Yuendumu, is a first-hand witness of terrifying violence against women, lives in one of Australia's poorest communities, and campaigns for the needs of women and children, especially their safety and everyday physical needs, professor and lawyer Larissa Behrendt lives in Sydney in relative luxury as compared with Bess's situation, has no children, has a PhD from Harvard and is the principal litigant in a case against conservative columnist Andrew Bolt, who published several columns accusing the "fair-skinned" Behrendt and others of falsely claiming to be Aboriginal to get the perks. I have never in my life witnessed such extreme disrespect shown by a younger Aboriginal woman for an older Aboriginal woman, except where the perpetrator was severely intoxicated on drugs or alcohol. Nor have I witnessed, except once or twice, such snide dismissal by a younger Aboriginal woman of an older Aboriginal woman's right to express her views. Those of us who were brought up in the Aboriginal way were taught from a young age to show respect for our elders and not to speak while they are speaking. This is a fundamental and universal law in Aboriginal societies.
And in an email to Bess and Dave Price, Ms Langton said: I am horrified at the treatment you are suffering at the hands of Greens, and especially Barbara Shaw and her white entourage. Know that I support your work – both your excellent cross cultural training business and your work for the community.
[Ms Shaw has made much of the fact that the Prices live in Alice Springs, and while this is so, there's no doubt that they maintain their deep connection with Yuendumu. Mrs Price was born and raised in Yuendumu and says her people there maintain that it is her community.]
Rebecca McLean, producer and director: Hang in there, Dave, there are more supporters than not and the most telling of all is that Bess – unlike the Barbara Shaws and Marlene Hodders of this world – is actually getting people to talk about the issues – she is a true diplomat and crosses the divide of both worlds in a unique and exceptional way which is a rare and special gift.
Dr Diane Caney, manager, Children and Youth Services Policy, Tasmania: How wrong for people to be so hateful and ignorant of the democratic right to have one's opinion and for it to differ from that of others!! We are having a fight in Tasmania with the ALP government here driving a massive highway straight over a site which has evidence of 40,000 years of continuous Aboriginal habitation. Stay strong, Bess. You have been a marvellous presence in my life for over 45 years.

How to slow bleed the urban life out of a city: Alice’s approach to urbanism.


The Northern Territory Government needs to be congratulated for organising and hosting in Alice  Springs the recent Enquiry by Design process for Kilgariff. Such community forums that allow contribution by some of the brightest minds in the city provide excellent mechanisms for both cultivating transparency around decision-making and also for informing the general public and community of the complexity of such a planning problem.
It was refreshing to see participating the Mayor, Territory Ministers and key city actors alongside local landowners, traditional owners, and so many interested community members.  
However, having spent the last three years working in and on Alice Springs with Masters of Architecture students from the University of Technology, Sydney in an urban design workshop and semester-long design studio it seems to me that, despite the good will and the value of the process, the premise of the event  was flawed in several significant and connected ways.  
The first is that treating housing, and the lack of affordable housing and land for the expansion of the city, as the urban problem in Alice Springs is the wrong assumption. The idea seems to be that if  housing production and affordability is resolved, everything else problematic in the city will resolve itself – and I make that argument knowing that the city also has a master plan being developed to address issues around Todd Mall. 
This is simply not true. Land for expansion and housing are certainly an issue, and addressing this is critical, but it needs to be addressed within the framework of larger strategic thinking about the city – and it’s this strategic thinking that doesn’t seem to be taking place.   
The second flaw is that an enquiry by design is a powerful tool for community engagement but it should have been run BEFORE a decision was made on Kilgariff, not once head-works were commenced.  And certainly it shouldn’t have been run as a master planning tool at the scale of Kilgariff’s 180ha and the airport site next door and south of the Gap.  Rather it should be used as a tool for a strategic projective thinking about the whole city.   Such an enquiry would examine the question of who and what does Alice Springs want to become. 
What occurred with the Kilgariff Enquiry by Design was a passive playing out  of a set of demographic data sheets that made a statement about what Alice is and what Alice Springs will be. For example, it is possible to influence population growth – Alice Springs has a choice. Should the city become smaller or larger, and what are the consequences of each choice. 
But the more important question is what does Alice Springs want to be such that one would want to manipulate population growth in that direction. Urbanism is projective.  It is an argument about what we want to be in the future based on spatial, economic, social and political tools that show us ways of getting there. It is not about reflecting back an  inevitability based on what are, in essence, sets of malleable demographic data.
If there is no strategic vision, there is nothing to buy into: no-one buying in, no-one to negotiate with over disputes about land use.  And this is the real issue here, not a lack of housing or room for expansion.  Rather, how do you cultivate broad community buy-in to a vision of what the city might become such that there’s incentive for communities and individuals to let go of the easy reach ‘no’ button and instead have something to gain by being involved in the process and outcomes.
Finally, and connected to these ideas, is the fundamental issue of scale: Alice Springs is thinking about itself at the wrong scale.  Kilgariff can’t be thought about in isolation as it was in the enquiry.  The problem of housing, its availability and affordability needs to be considered at the scale of the whole of  Alice Springs, and Alice Springs needs to be considered not as 29,000 people living north and south of the gap, but as Alice Springs plus the 18,000 people across three states living in a kind of remote and intimately networked set of urban, arid zone communities where Alice Springs is the urban anchor and service hub for nearly 50,000 people. 
As I have said in detail in other places (The Conversation, the great danger that comes with Kilgariff is that it becomes either a poverty sink, or the more likely scenario, a gated middle class white flight neighbourhood that allows a  segment of Alice Springs society to AVOID dealing with the urban dysfunction present in the centre of the city, letting the city further decay while Kilgariff residents choose to live apart. Either scenario results in a significant drain on public and private resources away from resolving the real issues of the city as new projects are developed and delivered nine kms away. 
If we consider Alice Springs not as 29,000 people, but as a regional network of nearly 50,000 we’re starting to get some critical mass.  Now we’re starting to get somewhere and with a voice that might push back on Darwin’s apathy – but one is  also forced to position Kilgariff quite differently.  Housing, land for it and its affordability, then becomes an issue relative to that regional metropolitan network of 50,000, where Alice Springs is a compact  urban core, the socially, economically and environmentally sustainable anchor to a  powerful distributed desert network.     
Out of this year’s urban design workshop for Masters students have come a few suggestions on where future  strategic thinking might reside. Each of these is predicated on the understanding that with multi-scalar, strategic arguments, it’s possible to get broad community consensus and agreement over the strategic vision for a city. What is presented below are the results of a two and a half day workshop, which followed four days of presentations and consultations with local community groups, businesses, urban  decision makers and government agencies.   
The Metropolitan Regional Scale: Alice Springs is the anchor and hub for a unique distributed desert metropolitan regional network of almost 50,000 people.  The city needs to be strategized, visualised,  mapped and worked on at this scale, not simply from the top of northside to somewhere near the airport.  
Creative Industries: No other regional city in Australia has parts of itself networked into major national and international cultural institutions in the same way and to the same intensity that Alice Springs and its  surrounding remote communities do. Fine exemplars of Central and Western desert art sit in collections like the National Gallery of Victoria; the Art Gallery of NSW; the National Gallery of Australia; the British Museum, London and the Quai Branly in Paris. 
To understand this, one has to accept that one of the great visual arts movements of the 20th century has been Australian Indigenous Arts.  Central and  Western Desert art is not valuable because of its social welfare impacts, job creation or as evidence of an authentic and disappearing tribal culture.  It is valuable because at its best, it’s a dynamic, contemporary and  unique art practice that involves the translation and evolution of traditional modes of cultural practice into contemporary mediums – and this active and conscious translation of the traditional to the  contemporary is what constitutes it as ‘art’. 
Of the $500m earned annually from the visual arts in Australia, $400m comes from Indigenous arts. A significant contributor to that is the work coming out of the Central and Western Deserts region, work that is stylistically unique to that being produced in other places to the north, east and west of Alice Springs – and it is an inheritance of work that every year is lost to other states, other institutions and other collectors.
As an industry it has a complex (and sometimes fraught, as the Securing the Future Senate Inquiry has demonstrated) income earning potential within the region; it is a major attractor of interest from national and international visitors; and it attracts to its dynamism, non-indigenous artists from around Australia who have built up within Alice Springs a unique creative economy. This is a great advantage that is not being recognised fully by the city.  It requires  address in several ways:
• A major public institution dedicated to art coming from the Central and Western Deserts.  This  could do the following, but may perhaps do much more and (obviously) needs to be developed in close consultation with artists: act as a keeping place, a contemporary exhibition space, a  practice and skills acquisition space, a library and resource centre, and space of scholarship for both Indigenous and non-indigenous artists, and national and international visitors to Alice  Springs.
We know what these kinds of institutions do for urban fabric – look at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain or the new MONA gallery in Hobart. These projects are not only engines for  cultivating and strengthening cultural production and identity, but they are more broadly powerful economic and spatial armatures for urban renewal. 
• In addition there needs to be support for small scale, dynamic art-based occupations of the city, by creating  cheap spaces for artists using unused retail and office space as a way of bringing life back into the city rather than leaving empty, unlet retail space. (See renew Newcastle
Housing: The Northern Territory government has already commissioned the excellent, surgical Residential Capacity Study for the Central Activity District(CAD) of Alice Springs which identifies all of  the possible sites for residential expansion, both public and private. The same kind of study needs to be carried out across the city from the very northern suburbs right through to south of the Gap, identifying points of possible intensification around existing shopping and leisure facilities in the pursuit of a sustainable and compact housing strategy for the city.
Alice Springs, with its flat landscape and solar city undertaking has the perfect opportunity to create a genuinely unique sustainable response to both living in the city, and living in the desert. Economic, environmental and social sustainability are conditions that  work co-operatively. The environmental sustainability of a compact, walking and cycling city that has a functioning public transport network aids in the cultivation of social sustainability. Together these two  conditions create cities that people want to live in and contribute to resilient economic sustainability.
In Australia, unlike other parts of the world, we rarely need to disagree about things that really matter. We (mostly) have enough water; we aren't too many; most of us are well fed; and we (mostly) have  enough land.  But in Alice Springs, things are very different in their concentration. Here, where the beautiful rigour of the 19th century urban grid which lays out the CBD of Alice, rubs up against, is laid  over, retreats from and crashes into the land form marking the monumental and epic Caterpillar dreaming of the Arrernte people, there are very serious disagreements and differences to be negotiated over appropriate land use.  These cut in both directions and to the absolute heart of cultural practice and  belief on both sides of the dispute – it’s not one way.
What’s interesting about the implications of not going ahead with Kilgariff is what it asks of us: a significantly higher level of political, diplomatic and leadership skill then we are used to demanding of each other in Australia. The easy way out for Alice Springs, for the Traditional Owners, for the local council and the Northern Territory Government from its position in Darwin is to open the pressure valve and develop Kilgariff. But  in doing so, they will slow bleed the urban life out of the city. 
The much harder option is to set in place the mechanisms for an inclusive and serious disagreement and negotiation of conflicting interests and  needs such that a city can be developed sustainably over the next 30-50 years:  both socially, economically and environmentally.  And everyone needs to step up to that challenge.  Everyone needs to participate in the conflict of interest:  Traditional Owners, politicians, government bureaucrats, urban decision makers, urban planners, architects and members of the community.
Alice Springs is a test case  for all of us, for all of our humanity and capacity to act in our cities and towns.  This is about how we negotiate serious and real difference and yet remain able to live together. Kilgariff, as it is conceived at present, is about giving up and deciding to live apart.

Ms Finney
is a Senior Lecturer,  Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building, University of Technology, Sydney.

More money for Kilgariff infrastructure

The NT Government's pre-budget announcements include "more than $3 million for additional infrastructure at the new suburb of Kilgariff".
In a media release Minister for Construction, Lands and Planning Gerry McCarthy said $3.5 million is being allocated in the 2011 Budget for "ongoing works to provide water pipes, road works and drainage".
This is on top of the $4.3 million which is already being spent "to lay sewer pipes and power infrastructure".
Kilgariff will give "first home buyers, families, investors and new residents housing choices and help reduce the cost of living", Mr McCarthy said.
“The Territory Government is committed to developing this area as quickly as possible.
“Along with the various private developments planned for the area, Kilgariff will provide vital infrastructure for broader Alice Springs as it grows."

Alice’s First Olympic Pool.

“A Young Man Plans for an Olympic Pool.”
This was the headline in the Centralian Advocate on 9th October 1969.  The young man was Vic de Fontenay (at right), at that time manager of the existing, aging pool on Railway Terrace, built by Pat Chapman during the war.  550 People had used it one unusually hot day in the previous August and 5000 people in the three weeks from the season opening that year.
A new swimming pool complex was desperately needed by Alice Springs.
Vic had been the manager of the old pool since he was 18 years old, having gained experience as a keen observer of the activities of the previous managers since his summers at the pool as a teen and as a life guard in more recent years.  In 1968, when the manager of the day left his job six weeks before opening day, Vic applied for the position.  Initially he was told he was too young, but, nevertheless, he won the position and “dove” into his responsibilities by working 60 to 80 hours a week to keep the facility operational.  During the winters he traveled throughout Australia learning as much as he could about municipal pool operations.
Vic was named President of the Memorial Olympic Pool Committee.  He had already made a  preliminary drawings of the facilities for the Traeger Park site and had estimated the cost at $250,000.  As often happens prices soared by $100,000.  Meanwhile, the Committee continued with fundraising and obtaining general support from the community.  Vic was pleased to note that the final design of the pool complex was very similar to his original draft. 
Before the Memorial Olympic Pool was completed Vic left Australia to gain experience overseas.  While in England he worked as a Life Guard then Assistant Manager at a Community Pool.  He then moved to trainee Filtration Engineer, building filtration plants on commercial swimming pools and on sewerage treatment plants in southern England.  In Israel he worked a short while at the Institute of Technology, Haifa, designing filtration systems for sewerage treatment.
Back in Alice Springs in 1973 Vic started the first full time swimming pool business and opened a pool supply shop in 1975. This was followed by a second shop in Darwin.  He wrote the first Technical Training Manual for Swimming Pool Servicing in Australia. 
Vic and his wife Verity moved to Darwin in 1978 and sold the Alice Springs business in 1979.  He travelled continuously, added 500 pages of lecture notes and 17 hours of audio tape to his training program for the swimming pool industry, oversaw building of numerous pools and fountains and ran Motivational Video Seminars in Darwin – in general kept up his fierce work schedule and made good profits.
In 1982 Vic began importing swimming pool industry chemicals and equipment from the USA.  He based the operation in Canberra because of its central location.  Vic and Verity moved to Canberra in 1983 and joined forces with a local businessman. 
The business failed.  They lost everything.  By selling the pool business in Darwin they covered their losses. 
Vic attributed his recovery to a number of motivational speakers who gave him inspiration to take a new direction – into the commercial side of the swimming pool industry. Beginning with repairs to a number of swimming centres around Canberra, Vic expanded to tendering for the Spa Pool, Plunge Pool and Saunas for the Sports Training Facility at the Australian Institute for Sport. 
With a new partner he built up a just-surviving Health and Fitness Centre, increasing the turnover by 100% in six months. 
A hydrotherapy pool was added to the Sports Science Medicine Clinic at the Australian Institute of Sport – the most costly hydrotherapy pool of its kind in Australia.  Vic’s confidence in his abilities had returned. At the same Institute for Sport he was granted a contract to carry out a study of the efficiency of operation and maintenance of the $11m Swimming Hall facilities followed by a six month staff training program.
During a business lull Vic heard motivational speaker E. James Rohn say: “When you don’t have anything left to give, then give to someone who has less.” 
Two days later he saw a news item about the need for a hydrotherapy pool at a local school for profoundly physically and mentally handicapped children. 
The school was owned and run by the ACT Government but funding had been decreased, putting the five year struggle for a pool further down the list of priorities.  The next day Vic went to the school to offer his help. 
Initially he was not welcomed but persisted by offering his services free of charge to make the pool happen. Twelve months and six weeks later and for less than half the price the Government had estimated, and with 85% of the cost covered by donation of work, funds and materials, the Malkara Hydrotherapy pool was completed and opened by Mrs. Hazel Hawke, wife of the Prime Minister of the day.
However, Vic had no income for six months while he worked full time organizing the building of the pool, so again they were just getting by. For his work on this project Vic was chosen “Canberran of the Year 1987” and was awarded the Foundation of Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship.
Work suddenly came flooding in, including design and building of all the water works for the memorial fountain dedicated to the Royal Australian Navy for its 75th Anniversary. 
The job was finished the day before the Queen opened the memorial.   Following this Vic’s company was awarded the contract for installation of all equipment for the swimming pool and spa pool at the new Parliament House in Canberra followed by equipment for the reflection pool below the flag pole and design and installation of the equipment for the commemorative or forecourt fountain at the entrance of Parliament House.  
Vic won contracts to install pools and fountains in hotels, municipal pools and luxury private pools until a downturn in the economy in the early 1990’s caused him and Verity to pack up and head for Fiji, where the potential growth of time-share units and expansion of resorts needing swimming pools appeared to be a new market for his abilities. 
Limitation on company ownership meant that Vic had to work for existing, locally owned companies.
The de Fontenays left Fiji in 1995, once again almost penniless, and returned to Australia, settling in Adelaide. Vic had vowed to get out of the pool business, but, once it was known that he was back in Australia, his services were requested for repair of older, municipal swimming facilities and the building of new ones.
He was contracted as maintenance consultant to pools in Canberra and constantly on call for swimming pool problems throughout Eastern Australia.  Resorts in Fiji called him back as a consultant and he met or corresponded with developers from outside Australia as an expert in his field. 
Vic returned alone to Fiji in 2005 where he formed his own company in partnership with Fijian Nationals.  In December 2008 he became a father for the first time and in June 2009 married Reshmi, the baby’s mother. 
He was completing the pool facilities for the Intercontinental Hotel Natadola at the same time.  In late August, 2009, Vic took Reshmi and Asim to Australia for a holiday and to check on his business interests in Adelaide where his company assistant was performing maintenance contracts for a number of city area pools.  During the trip Vic became ill but insisted on returning to Fiji on September 6 with his family. 
Sadly, his condition worsened and he died at the Namaka Medical Centre on September 10, 2009 while awaiting medical evacuation to Sydney for dialysis. A memorial service was held for Vic at Our Lady of Grace Church in Glengowrie, SA on September 18.  Former Alice Springs residents in attendance were his sister Ursula de Fontenay from Canada, Don and Sue Thomas, Pam Greatorex, Richard Ballagh, Judith Whiting and Mike Brennan.  Mike worked with Vic de Fontenay Senior at Water Resources in the early 1960’s.  Vic was buried in at Nadi, Fiji on 24th September, 2009.     

In a real emergency we would not have time

to wait for the Counter Disaster Committee

Sir –  I am an Arrernte woman and Ngangkere, a traditional healer who is warning the public about an impending natural disaster event for Alice Springs. The event involves an earthquake and severe storm activity triggering ‘catastrophic flooding’ with disastrous affects for Alice Springs.
The only emergency response is immediate evacuation of the entire population and affected outlying areas prior to the event.
My willingness to act on the messages [I am receiving] is driven by faith and mutual respect connecting with spirituality and  maintaining the balance with Aboriginal culture, scientific knowledge and the application of logistics and professionalism, not scepticism or sarcasm as shown by the response of Anne Marie Murphy, Alice Springs Chief of Police and Regional Counter Disaster Controller in the Alice Springs News of March 26.
My warnings are in connection with the land and based on spiritual guidance following the customs of Arrernte people and the teachings of my elders. My vision and dreams shows the whole town inundated by storm activity involving heavy rainfall with flash flooding and rising flood waters peaking to approximately 50 metres in river height at Heavitree Gap. 
I have sought the advice of Dr Mary Bourke, senior scientist associated with the Planetary Science Institute based in America.  Dr Bourke has conducted much research work on the Todd and Hale River systems, particularly ‘Geomorphology of Paleofloods in Central Australia’. She has confirmed the result of her findings by email,  detailing the accuracy of my vision relative to the kind of a past catastrophic flood event,.
I am well aware of the Counter Disaster Committee, their role and of the flood plan. I have read the report by A Marquardt, ‘The Alice Springs Flood Mitigation Dam 1990’ which explains the nature of the Todd River with major flooding events occurring during the monsoonal low period from October ending in April.
The current measures in place do not explain how the committee is going to effectively address an emergency response relative to a series of severe storms producing heavy rainfall, let alone the level of catastrophic flooding which exceeds the Level E flooding involving the “1:100” and probable maximum flood (PMF) level.
Waiting for the Counter Disaster Committee to meet while fast developing and severe storms are upon us and to act on a one hour ‘warning system’ when the Todd River is in full flow with rising flood waters would be too late.
Margie Lynch
Alice Springs

Second thoughts on Kilgariff

Sir – The negativity imbuing some of the comments on the Kilgariff development smack of prior agendas. I am especially referring to the letter by Steve Brown from April 14 and the comment by Tarsha Finney from April 21.
I would like to see another letter from Steve Brown applying the same yardstick he uses to criticise the development of Kilgariff to his own proposed development at White Gums. 
Specifically I wonder will he sell an 800 sq meter block for $60,000, will he allow anyone to build just anything on the blocks they do buy and on a time frame that suits their budgets, and has he secured NT Government commitment to construct commission homes immediately once, and if, his development does gain planning consent?
Or is it the case that Mr Brown’s objections stem from a worry that the development of Kilgariff will mean the very people he is hoping to attract to White Gums may now decide to buy into Kilgariff instead? Or at least they may decide to if commission homes are either not allowed or kept to a minimum.
Of course it’s true that the price tags on the blocks at Kilgariff mean that the suburb will become a middle class neighbourhood and not a poverty sink. But who wants another poverty sink? We are only now, and slowly, overcoming those we do have by upgrading our town camps at huge expense.
It is true that converted commission homes form the backbone of much of Alice’s residential stock. But the days when governments built houses then rented them then sold them to the renters are long gone. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but Ayn Rand and our pollies seem to have decided that that is the road we will all now follow.
Housing affordability is a genuine worry, especially for first homebuyers. But no one who owns a home wants prices to fall, and since our lawmakers are mostly home owners, I doubt if the bottom drops out of that market if they can help it. Innovative loan arraignments and family help will probably be the way to go.
I will admit to getting a kick out of reading the screeds of visiting academics. Ms Finney seems to find the dynamic of Alice Springs altogether too difficult to fit into the paradigm of her southern university world-view. She follows a well-worn path of telling us why Alice doesn’t work, can’t work, won’t work. It’s true that we went close this last summer, but that wasn’t the first time and nor will it be the last.
And yet we’re still here. I suspect that after they return to their southern homes, Ms Finney and her acolytes will wish they were too.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Why punish all?

Sir – By living in Pine Creek I have become the victim of collective punishment, meted out by the NT Government.
This has been brought about by a small group of people who have no respect for the law, indulging in alcohol fuelled crime.
Instead of rounding up the serial offenders, and re-educating them, the government sees fit to place controls of liquor purchases on people who have no connection to the above people nor the crimes committed by them.
The definition of "collective punishment" is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behaviour of one or more other individuals or groups. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control of their actions.
Now to say that I am upset, at being judged not fit to purchase a perfectly legal substance, at any time the outlet is open for business, is an understatement.
My my feeling is that this is being used as a test, to see if Territorians will cop it, Territory wide.
So if you are thinking bad luck Pine Creek, beware you may well be next.
I will leave the judgment up to you, and you can decide at the ballot box next election.
I have written to Delia Lawrie recently and am awaiting a reply to my objection. If our political masters read this they may wish to comment publicly.
Kenneth A Robinson
Pine Creek

Gillen residents want to be heard

Sir – The frustration for residents living near the Centralian Middle School basketball stadium has just got worse. Lighting was installed in the stadium without any notification or consultation with residents. This is just another snub in a process that has totally excluded residents who live near the stadium.
The school and Government have ridden rough-shod over people whose lives are being hurt by this development. The stadium was built in December last year and has brought with it a number of unwanted consequences for residents including high levels of noise, anti-social behaviour and diminished views. The stadium remains open at night and has become a hang-out for young people.
The lights are another problem the community has to deal with. Minister for Education, Chris Burns, has failed to respond to a petition lodged during the Alice Springs sittings of Parliament from residents angry at the impact of the stadium on the neighbourhood. The petition had 262 signatures, but Chris Burns and the Labor Government have chosen to ignore their plea that the stadium be relocated.
Residents of Gillen are generally in favour of the development of facilities for young people that promote health, recreation and fitness.
But this stadium has been constructed without any consideration for the people who live in the area. Minister Burns needs to show some respect for local residents and respond to the petition.
Robyn Lambley
MLA for Araluen

Is NAPLAN focus helping remote students?

Sir – Long before the inception of the National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), a significant majority of Indigenous students from remotely located schools across Australia had not made the kind of progress in English literacy and numeracy that policy makers, education professionals and parents had hoped for. 
Despite countless well intentioned interventions seeking to close the literacy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student groups, it seems that the task of improving English literacy standards in remote schools remains highly complex and contested.
I am an experienced remote schools principal and former regional Indigenous education project officer, undertaking research that aims to 'tell the story' behind the NAPLAN result of remote schools.
Key questions guiding this research include: How are remote school communities responding to strong expectations to significantly improve their NAPLAN result and with what consequences?
How are remote schools being reorganised and for what purpose? What are the risks? What are the benefits? 
Is a primary focus on the NAPLAN setting up students in remote schools for greater risk of failure, or does the NAPLAN represent an opportunity to reshape and reposition our work as educators in ways that will really count?
If you are currently working at a remote school, and wish to participate in this research regarding the risks, benefits and other changes associated with NAPLAN implementation in remote schools, I would like to invite you to complete the anonymous on-line survey [at the web address indicated below].
Paul Unsworth
PhD Candidate UniSA

Solar power rumours untrue

Sir – Concerns raised regarding the value of installing rooftop solar can be put to bed.
Two recent rumours in Alice Springs have come to light – that the Alice Springs power grid won’t accept the power generated by solar panels, and that Power and Water are no longer buying the electricity produced.
We want to tell Alice Springs residents to rest assured that solar PV systems not only contribute to reducing the town's emissions, they reduce consumer’s bills as Power and Water Corporation pays householders and businesses for all the power they generate.
Every unit (kWh) of electricity fed into the grid by a solar power system in Alice Springs directly reduces the demand on the power station’s generators, and thus reduces the amount of gas and diesel being burnt at the power station.
Power and Water will buy the electricity you produce, typically at the same rate you're currently buying electricity from them.
For a typical residential system of 2kW, this means ‘revenue’ of around $600/year.  Solar PV panels have an expected life of 20-25 years, making them an excellent long term investment.
A further issue that caused a hold on most installations for the last six months was the requirement to obtain a building permit in order to be eligible for the Australia-wide funding program.
We welcome the recent decision of the Northern Territory Government’s Building Advisory Committee to remove the requirement for building permits in non-cyclonic regions.
This decision clears the way for householders who had been concerned about the extra costs and requirements of obtaining a building permit, to now have their system installed.
Residents also now have another reason to think about installing solar sooner rather than later.
The national rebate for solar PV systems is to be reduced on 1 July 2011, which means that after the 1 July, the net cost for a system after rebates will increase by around $1000.
With the building permit requirement lifted, and the approaching drop in rebate, now is the time to contact a local installer, arrange a site inspection and quote, and have a PV system installed.
Alice Solar City can provide a list of local accredited installers.  Contact Power and Water on 1800 245 092 to find out more having a solar power system connected to the grid and the feed-in tariff that applies.
Brian Elmer
General Manager
Alice Solar City

Back to our home page.