June 16, 2011. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Statehood debate a distraction from necessary reform. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Far from being on the road to becoming Australia's seventh state, the Northern Territory is likely to see its autonomy further eroded unless the government lifts its game in relation to the NT's most disadvantaged citizens.
So says Professor Rolf Gerritsen, research leader in Central Australia at Charles Darwin University.
"Commonwealth intervention is imminent unless we fix the system," says Prof Gerritsen (pictured).
What is broke, he argues, is the lack of transparency and accountability in the way the government spends money compared to the way that it 'earns' money. Its decision-making and spending are characterised by "a very severe local urban bias", with  a lot of the money 'earned' for Aboriginal disadvantage not being spent on Aboriginal disadvantage.
"The default decision-making position is that if something is popular in Darwin, the government will do it," says Prof Gerritsen.
 An example: as part of the pre-budget announcements this year the government revealed that 600 reinforced concrete culverts, donated to them by Energy Resources Australia, would be used to make an artificial reef for recreational fishing in Darwin Harbour, with the government spending an additional $1m on the project.
"This is a clear and dramatic illustration of the sort of development priorities that the NT Government has," says Prof Gerritsen. "Imagine instead that the culverts had been put to use in repairing bush roads after the NT's record wet season. That could have achieved benefits from a range of perspectives: if the roads were used by pastoralists the culverts would have contributed to increased productivity for them; if they were used by remote communities, living standards would have been improved.
"The money spent by the government needs to reflect the way in which it has been earned. As the majority of Aboriginal people live in the bush, a large proportion of general purpose grants should be spent there.
"The NT Government claims that they are, but the Grants Commission does not agree. For example, in the category of services to Indigenous communities, the NT Government spends only a bit over a half of what it would if the money it gets for that category were tied to spending on that purpose. 
"Consequently the Commonwealth is increasingly trying to exert an influence in the Territory by providing specific purpose project funding. SIHIP is an obvious example.
"If we don't reform the system, I'd say within five years the Commonwealth will make our general purpose grant into one giant specific purpose grant."
How can this be prevented?
Prof Gerritsen says first we need to institutionalise greater transparency and accountability in NT Government spending.
"People need to be able to work out where the money is going. At present you really need to be an expert to read the NT Budget. For example, it's generally impossible to separate out the administration cost from the amount actually being spent on a specific purpose. And the Budget papers do not tell us about the government's long-term liabilities which have increased dramatically since Labor came to power, with an increase of some 3000 public service positions. About half of those are useful – teachers, nurses, police – but many are in administration and chew up budgets. Our public service is larger than the ACT's although they've got almost twice the population."
He says the existing Grants Commission data contains the information required: "It is objective and long-term. They've been working on it for decades."
The Auditor-General could be resourced to mine that data and report on patterns of expenditure, an exercise which would influence a more equitable distribution of resources, away from Darwin.
Where to? Local government?
Certainly there should be "some kind of sub-regional structure" but  Prof Gerritsen does not believe that the current system of local government in the bush has the necessary legitimacy. In terms of elected representation, he thinks it would be better to revert to the small community councils, who could send their representatives to an area authority with specific powers, for instance to decide on local roads expenditure. The current system clearly under-spends on roads, with only 2% of the budget allocated to roads, compared to 5% in SA, a comparably-sized jurisdiction.
Prof Gerritsen sees the NT Government remaining in charge of the major portfolios like education, health, police. Thus the three tiers of government would be maintained, in contrast to the possible two-tiered system put forward by Fred Chaney in his recent contribution to the statehood debate (see our story archive).
Prof Gerritsen believes that a two-tiered system is unrealistic: "The states will never support their own extinction."
And in his view, the larger states will never support the granting of statehood to the NT, because in a referendum situation, where support from a majority of states as well as a majority of voters is required, this would give the balance of power to the smaller states.
"At present the whole statehood debate is focussed on discrimination. With respect to referenda, what we experience in the NT is no different to what the other territories experience. If we want to have our votes included in the states count, we could be included in the South Australian count.
"As for our 'constitutional fragility', any Act by the Commonwealth conferring statehood on the NT could be reversed by a future parliament. Once again, if the Commonwealth didn't like what the NT was doing, it could intervene.
"So our time would be better spent on reform that is within our power, before the Commonwealth does it for us."

The decline of Central Australian political representation. COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.

When the current redistribution of NT electoral boundaries is finalized, Alice Springs will be isolated within one bush electorate for the first time since the era of the Legislative Council that ended in 1974.
But in stark contrast to the bad old days of Commonwealth control, The Centre is about to have the least representation in parliament on a per capita basis since the beginning of the Legislative Council in 1947.
Of the original 13 members, six were elected members representing five electorates – the seat of Darwin had two members. (The remaining seven members were appointed by the Commonwealth). Thus out of five electorates across the NT, 80% were outside of Darwin, and two – Alice Springs and Stuart – were based in The Centre, comprising 40% of the electorates and a third of the elected representation for the NT.
The first two Centralian members were Labor. Jock Nelson easily took Stuart, and Dick Ward won Alice Springs with a margin of one vote! Both were destined to become NT political luminaries.
By 1974 the Legislative Council had eleven elected members, of which five were Darwin-based (still less than half for the NT); but The Centre had only its two original seats, now held by Country Party members Bernie Kilgariff (Alice Springs) and Tony Greatorex (Stuart), 18% of the elected representation in the NT.
The fully-elected Legislative Assembly commenced in October 1974 with 19 members, of which four seats were based in The Centre – Alice Springs, Stuart, Gillen and MacDonnell, all held by the CLP.
The Centre’s proportion of representation was 21% of the NT’s total; significantly Darwin had 10 elected members, exceeding half the total for the first time.
However, until 1983 there was no major change to electoral boundaries. The 1970s was a period of rapid growth for the Alice while Darwin was stalled for a time by Cyclone Tracy.
There were two significant changes in 1983 – the first was the beginning of Palmerston, a new population growth centre in the Top End; the second was the increase of the Legislative Assembly from 19 to 25 members.
Six seats were based in The Centre – Stuart and MacDonnell were retained, now joined by Araluen, Braitling, Flynn and Sadadeen, comprising 24% (effectively a quarter) of elected representation in the Territory.
By 1989 the growth of population in the Top End relative to The Centre forced a redistribution of electorates. Early in 1990 The Centre lost a seat – Flynn and Sadadeen vanished and were replaced by Greatorex, joining the remaining four seats.
The Centre now had 20% of the NT’s elected representation, virtually identical to the percentage level of the 1970s.
From 1990 until now The Centre has retained five electorates based in and around Alice Springs although there have been numerous adjustments of the boundaries. Most telling of these is the expansion of Araluen into the rural area several years ago, a mimicry of the old Flynn electorate; and the inexorable northward shift of Stuart.
This trend has been obvious for years, as noted by the 2004 Redistribution Committee in regard to Barkly, Daly and Stuart: “The Committee felt that gradual change was more appropriate … this was best achieved by continuing to move the boundaries in a northward direction owing to the strong influence of the divisions within and adjacent to Darwin and Palmerston”.
So now to the present, where there will be four electorates based in and around Alice Springs, equating to 16% of the total elected representation across the Territory, the lowest ever for The Centre (although Barkly will cover a significant portion of The Centre, too).
To add insult to injury, the Division of Stuart will remain – the sole original electorate from 1947 still existing – but now it will surround Katherine and stretch from the Victoria River to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Stuart is to become a Top End seat, at the expense of The Centre of which it for so long has been a fundamental part of our political history.

Cattle exporter attacks Four Corners, letter circulates amongst pastoralists

This letter has been sent to the ABC's Four Corner program and it is also circulating widely in the Northern Territory cattle industry. We offered Four Corners a right of reply and Mark Bannerman replied: "Four Corners doesn't want to make any comment about the letter that you have sent us. We stand by the program we broadcast and if and when the letter is received by the program we will respond to it fully."

Dear Sir,

I must introduce myself. My name is Scot Braithwaite and my life has basically revolved around live export since I was 10 years old. I was unloading cattle boats in Malaysia at the age of 13. I have worked for all the major cattle companies including as a Head Stockman in the Northern Territory. I have a degree in economics from the Queensland University and I personally have sold more than 1.5 million head of cattle into Indonesia since 1991. I am presently employed as the marketing manager for Wellard Rural Exports.
I am writing to you after the Monday program to say that although I abhor the treatment of the animals shown in the video, your one sided approach to the subject and the possible effect of that of a ban on live exports is too big a price to pay for a report based on the evidence of an organization whose charter is to shut us down.
I have the following points to make. I would like to have the same time as those who denigrated my life to show you the other side of our industry. To show you what is really going on. In Australia there used to be thing about “A fair Go”. You have gone with images provided by one person followed up by your investigative journalist who spent a week in Indonesia. Your report makes out that close to 100% of Australian cattle are treated as was shown on TV.

1 the ship that appears in the footage “for less than 30 seconds” is a vessel that cost tens of millions of dollars to build. We have had three separate media groups sail with this ship and it can in no uncertain terms be described as best in class. The Wellard group has another three vessels of the same standard with another two being built in China. This is a total investment of 400 million dollars to ensure that livestock exports from Australia are undertaken at the utmost levels of cow comfort and animal welfare.
The feedlot that was filmed was given a 10 second view. This feedlot is without a doubt world class. Your viewers should have at least had the opportunity to view large numbers of cattle eating and sleeping comfortably in a fantastic facility. This company has in addition moved to kill all its cattle through stunning system it has control of. This owner has spent 20 years of his life in the industry, has built his business from nothing, has done all that is required of him from an animal welfare point of view yet your reporter makes no mention of these things.
Within a three hour drive or a 15 minute helicopter ride there are another three world class facilities. All three feedlots including the one filmed, are at, or better than, what can be found in Australia. The cattle being fed, and the ration being fed, leads to a lot fewer animal health issues then a similar size operation in Australia.
One of these facilities is operated and owned by a large Australian pastoral house. They had no mention in your supposedly unbiased report. The operation is run by a North Queensland man who, through his absolute dedication to excellence, has built a feedlot and slaughtering system that his company, the industry and he himself can be very proud of. The system is closed, all the cattle are already killed through their own abattoir. They import 20,000 to 25,000 cattle a year. They have been doing this for at least five years. Why should they be shut down? For what reason could anyone justify closing this operation down, especially without even bothering to look at what goes on?
The other world class feedlots that could have been investigated with a three hour ride in the car are owned by a large publicly listed Indonesian company. In all, they have on feed 50,000 cattle and import about 120,000 cattle a year. They have recently built an abattoir (the one that was briefly shown on the program). They built this two years ago as they knew that modern methods must come to Indonesia and they were willing to make the investment to make it happen.
The total investment from these three feedlotters alone in infrastructure and stock is over 100 million dollars. Add to that the hundreds of millions that Wellard have recently invested in ships and do you really believe that these people would leave the final product to a murderous bastard with a blunt knife?
They not only have tried to ensure the welfare of the animal but have made investments to make the changes all along the chain. These people deserve to have their side of the story heard.
If the system is not perfect, and it isn’t, they have the wherewithal and the incentive to make it happen in a very short time.

These three importers who have shown a commitment to everything good about animal production, handle 45 % of total imports.
The other major issue that was not covered was the social responsibility that all feedlotters in Indonesia practice. Their operations are in relatively isolated poor areas; the feedlots provide employment opportunity, advancement through effort, and a market for thousands of tons of feedstuffs grown for the cattle. My understanding is that 8000 people are directly employed by the feedlots and over a million people are reliant on the regular income made from supplying corn silage and other feedstuffs. This is not made up, it is fact. It can be easily checked. I will bet my million farmers against the million signatures on the ban order. It is very easy to sit in your comfortable chair and criticize but is it really worth the human cost to ban something that can be fixed and fixed reasonable quickly?
That is Sumatra.
In Jakarta is the largest privately owned abattoir that kills about 4,000 to 6,000 heads a month. It is a well run facility that has no welfare issues. In addition it was working on getting a stun system in place well before the Four Corners report. No photos from here, yet this is another [enterprise which] has been doing the right thing and [which] will lose [its] business if the trade is banned.
The largest importer in to Jakarta, has also built a slaughter facility in the past 12 months. It has not been commissioned yet but can be made ready within a month. They also have a private bone to pick with the program. As was not reported in the show, abattoirs in Indonesia are operated by any number of individual "wholesalers”. They control the space and [their workers kill] their number for the night and then hand over to the next team. In any one night eight to 10 separate operators can be using the same facility. In the case of the footage of the head slapping the camera panned to the cattle waiting and the tags of AA, Newcastle Waters and his company were made very prominent. Yes, they were there but the team that handled was different to one being filmed. They protest that their crews are well trained, no head slapping occurs and very large and sharp knives are used to ensure a bloody but quick end.
I have no reason to doubt them because I have seen a lot of their cattle handled at point of slaughter and their crews are well trained with immediate results. Where can their case be heard?

I have watched literally thousands of cattle slaughtered in the boxes in Indonesia. Yes there are problems, as there are at every point of slaughter on every type of animal in the world, but 98% of the cattle I watched killed was quick and without fuss. Why is there not one shot of what happens 98% of the time?  The shots of outright cruelty are totally unacceptable and the slaughter of cattle is still gruesome and confronting but is not as prevalent as portrayed in your report.
Yes it does some times happen but it is the exception not the rule. And we are already taking steps to improve the system and we have the ability to ensure all animals are stunned in a very short time.

Yes there are a couple of operators who in the short term will not be able to handle the new way. But they will be dropped, no commitment to stunning, no supply. No negotiation. There are also a number of operators privately owned who were, to all intents and purposes, doing the right thing. They were asked to supply through the boxes and they have. They will be asked to only supply though a stunning facility and they will. They have far too much invested in the whole industry over many years to not do as we ask.
I am asking for a fair go. You have been expertly manipulated. Hear the actual other side of the story let the Australian public see both sides. I am happy to make all the arrangements. This is too important to let sit with the images you portrayed on Monday without recourse.
Scot Braithwaite

Success no longer a 'shame job' at Centralian College. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A very capable Aboriginal student refuses to take on academic studies because it means being different from his friends – it's too much of a "shame job".

The year is 2006. Eddie Fabijan has just arrived at Centralian Senior Secondary College as assistant principal. Around 17% of the college's 300 or so students are Indigenous. Overcoming their under-achievement, breaking the 'shame job' syndrome, becomes his greatest challenge.
In 2007 the NT Government moves Year 10 students from the junior high schools, ASHS and ANZAC, across to Centralian College. This gives Mr Fabijan and the college their opportunity. Until now a lot of Aboriginal students have simply disappeared after finishing compulsory schooling at the junior highs. Moving to a new school to continue their education has been too daunting.
Mr Fabijan and his team take a reality check: academically a significant number of the students are a year or two below age level. So the college develops programs to respond to where the students are at and to take them forward, knowing that these Year 10 students will become the next Year 11s and 12s. Year 10 provides the foundation on which to build.

The NT's top Indigenous student is from Centralian. Because of things going on in her life outside of school, she has taken two years to complete Year 12, but she's done it, achieving an ATAR, the ranking to gain admission to university.

The year is 2009 and this top student is one of 31 Aboriginal students from the college completing Year 12, 10 of them achieving ATARs. In 2008 there were 25 completers, including half a dozen with ATARs.
Little by little the college has raised the achievement bar, taking the capable students beyond Community Studies (work and life skills) to academic courses. As students see peers succeed, more are willing to have a go.

An Aboriginal student arrives at the college with an ambition no greater than working at Macca's. He has the support of his family and the Clontarf Football Academy to aim higher. By halfway through Year 11 "something clicks". He goes on to get his Year 12 with an ATAR.  He takes a gap year to work at the mines and save money. Now he's at Flinders University studying creative writing and arts.

The year is 2011. Out of a total enrolment of more than 500 across years 10 to 12, 50% of students are Aboriginal and the college ultimately wants to see 50% of Year 12 completions coming from them.
There's still a way to go. With 85 students likely to complete Year 12 this year, 24 of them are Aboriginal, just over one third.
But, joining the cohorts of a similar size from the last few years, that makes over 100 role models out there for other young people, including ultimately the students' own children, where a few years ago there were a mere handful.
Steve Smith teaches in the college's Gateways program for students who need extra assistance. They are mostly Aboriginal. Some – he says around half – come from difficult backgrounds; some have "fantastic families" but are struggling for other reasons, as some students do anywhere.
Getting to Year 12 is not the only route to success, says Mr Smith. It's important to acknowledge completion of Year 11 and vocational courses as leading to "a viable future".
This week many of the Gateways students have been off campus, doing a two-week block of intensive vocational study. With five blocks across the year many students complete early trade certificates while they are still at school. 
With some free time on their hands, Mr Smith and colleague Gonzalo Gaces have been working on the detail of a Maths Applications course they've designed for Gateways students – one of the college's exercises in "raising the bar". The course gives the students the same level of academic attainment as mainstream "Maths Apps" throughout the NT and SA. The only difference is that the maths concepts are taught in the context of the student's choosing, for example, the ones required for studying engineering.
This year there are seven Aboriginal Year 12 students who could pass Maths Apps, having been introduced to the course through Gateways last year. With the role model effect kicking in, next year the numbers are likely to jump to around 20, drawn from the 40 Year 11s who have been introduced to the course this year.
A similar story can be told with the English Communications course. In 2008 no Gateways student passed the "Comms" course at Year 12 level. Throughout 2009 senior teacher Helena Monaghan lead her team in working with the Year 10 and 11 Gateways students to prepare them for Year 12 success. It came in 2010 with six students passing the course. This year the number is expected to be around 20. "And this is jumping through all the performance standard and moderation hoops," stresses Mr Fabijan.

A former Gateways student now works as an orderly at the Alice Springs Courthouse. Mr Smith is delighted to see her there, dressed in the smart black suit of the orderlies. As they chat she tells him that her boss is encouraging her to study law.

The key to working with the Gateways students, who have often come from 10 years of failure or negative experiences of school, is to form a "great relationship" with them.
"You have to know their heads inside out, be sympathetic, understanding and patient," says Mr Smith. "You have to understand that some days others things that are happening in their lives are going to be more important than school."
For some students that might mean the typical teenage things, but for about half the Gateway students the challenges are very significant. Some are living at refuges, some do not know where they are sleeping from one night to the next, some are sleeping rough and have even been found sleeping in the stairwells of the college.
Part of Mr Smith's daily routine is to check the magistrates court list to see if any students are in trouble with the law, and if they are, to work out what kind of support the college can give them.
What motivates these students to keep coming to school?
Mr Smith answers with a question: "Where else can they go to feel safe and be with friends?"
Mr Fabijan says the college wants to seize this "last opportunity" to work with these young people, including working on values, teaching them that it is not acceptable to be aggressive towards women, to swear in public, promoting respect and compassion.
He also says the college would dearly love to see boarding facilities become available in town for vulnerable students and is working with the department on the issue.

An Aboriginal student from Santa Teresa, a community 85 kilometres east of Alice, has been boarding at Yirara College and attending mainstream school since Year 8. Most of his peers have gone home before completing their studies. He will complete Year 12 in Gateways this year. Clontarf Football Academy are working to inspire him to look for further opportunities next year.

Important contributions to student retention and success have been made by the Clontarf Football Academy and the Centralian Girls Academy programs, at both Centralian Middle School and the college. The programs use incentive schemes including sports participation and reward trips tied to school attendance and achievement.
They have attractive 'home' areas at the college. (Indeed you're hard put to find an 'old school' classroom with rows of desks and a board out the front anywhere in the college, though some do exist. There's been a big effort to transform the somewhat unpromising building into a warm and welcoming space, from the moment you walk in the front door.)
While Clontarf and the Girls Academy were set up with Aboriginal students in mind, the college uses different buckets of money to keep them open for any interested student. The various targeted programs may give an impression of a segregated school, but there are quite a few opportunities for all students to come together, including the weekly "coaching" sessions – the pastoral care groups that are across year levels and programs. There are also concerts, presentations, assemblies and so on, as well as some joint activities with the Centralian Middle School and community schools.
All these are steps towards greater integration of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, the next challenge on the college's agenda.

Challenges for democracy in the Central Desert super-shire. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Itinerant campers are not only an issue in urban centres like Alice Springs. What to do about longtime "squatters" at Creek Camp and Caravan Camp, both on Crown land near Ti Tree, was on the agenda at the Central Desert Shire's council meeting this week.
It's an issue that's been around for a long time, decades it seems, but not one the cash-strapped shire was happy to take on. The shire may have revenue amounting to more than $36m but much of that is in the form of tied grants or is for delivery of other agency's services. The shire is  "very, very poorly" funded for the delivery of core services, CEO Roydon Robertson reminded councillors, and its current position, like that of the NT's other shires is "totally unsustainable".
Add to this the mind-boggling size of the shire – some 300,000 square kilometers, almost as big as Italy – and its several major language groups, and the magnitude of the task for local government in the bush becomes daunting. This was brought home when what looked like a good news story – a grant of almost $7m for a CDEP extension program across the shire – was strongly qualified: councillors were warned that the scale of the funding would provide a very real challenge to the shire's capacity to deliver the programs. 
On the Creek Camp and Caravan Camp squatters, Councillor James Jampajimpa Glenn told the meeting that  are "creating a lot of rubbish" and "council can't keep up". He was speaking to a recommendation from the Anmatjere Local Board – based at Ti Tree and of which he is a member – to get a verdict from council on the shire's obligations towards "these itinerant people".
President Norbert Jampijinpa Patrick commented that it was "a hard decision", but Mr Robertson was adamant: it is not council's responsibility to be paying for services for these people. Cr Glenn seemed to agree but said some people want to stay at the camps because of "their health problems" – presumably to be closer to the health services at Ti Tree. He commented that they do not live in "a very healthy way"; they have "no shower block".
There was some discussion to and fro about how long the squatters had been there. Cr Sascha McKell commented that the problem should have been addressed a long time ago, "not left to sit for 20 years".
Cr Dianne Martin said if the shire puts in facilities at the camps, it will encourage other people to camp anywhere within the shire, expecting facilities to follow. As the camps are on Crown land, she argued that they are an NT Government responsibility.
Shire Director of Corporate Services, Cathryn Hutton, proposed that council write to the government, to get help dealing with the waste management and water supply issues at the camps.
Cr Glenn said that had already happened "a few times" but agreed to "give it a go". 
"We can only try," he said.
This was one of the few issues to be discussed at any length during the meeting. Another was the only issue on which officers were seeking direction (rater than endorsement) from council. Five options were put to them to do with changing access arrangements for the Mt Theo program to the shire works yard and employee at Yuendumu. The discussion was led by Crs Elizabeth Bird, Martin and McKell, who had firm opinions about terminating the arrangements.
In all other instances, recommendations put to the vote were carried, few questions were asked, and no real debate took place.
One reason for this could be that councillors had met the day before in a "preparation day". Cr Patrick told the Alice Springs News that more discussion had taken place then, during the "run through" of the agenda.
Another reason could be the varying degrees of proficiency in English amongst the councillors – more challenging in a formal meeting context than in everyday life.  As relaxed and friendly as the atmosphere at the meeting was, discussion was tied to reports conforming to bureaucratic norms and there was little effort to coax more information or opinions from the softly-spoken Aboriginal councillors.
Recommendations which came up from Local Boards, made up of local community residents, were spoken to by councillors from those boards.
Cr William Japanangka Johnson, for instance, spoke to a recommendation that council consider employing a liaison officer at Lajamanu. Such a position has existed in the past. Cr Johnson said it was "important to our community, to liaise with non-Aboriginal departments" and it "creates employment as well." He was supported by Cr Glenn: "You need liaison officers, especially for our people."
There was a pause; neither councillor, nor anyone else, asked for a vote on the board's recommendation. Cr McKell then asked if they were happy to go with management's recommendation which was to refer the matter to the CEO. They nodded and that recommendation was duly carried.
Cr Martin Hagan spoke to two recommendations from the Yuelamu Local Board which he chairs. One was to get council to write to the NT and Federal Governments for information about SIHIP expenditure at Yuelamu. It seems that there is concern in the community about the renovation work undertaken, but as there were no questions to Cr Hagan, we are none the wiser.
Director of Infrastructure Tim Day said he would be happy to seek information and report back to the local board but warned that he may have difficulty in obtaining precise figures relating to works done on the ground as opposed to overheads.
"What do you mean by overheads?" asked interpreter David Moore from the Aboriginal Interpreter Service. This was one of several questions from him in an attempt to clarify concepts for the Aboriginal councillors. When prompted officers were responsive, attempting to translate bureaucratese into plain English. Mr Day also spent some time drawing diagrams on the whiteboard to explain the shire's proposed partnership agreement with a Job Services Australia provider for communities in the Plenty Highway region. This was worthwhile: the situation was a whole lot clearer in diagrammatic form.
On this subject it is unfortunate that the shire was not successful in obtaining a Closing the Gap grant for leadership development ("Money Story Project"), though most of the elected members have had some training in this area, according to Mr Robertson. However Closing the Gap funds of over $90,000 have been granted for governance capacity development for local board members.
Note: The Central Desert Shire sits in a rough arc north of Alice Springs, stretching from the Queensland to WA borders. It takes in nine major communities: Atitjere (Harts Range), Engawala, Ti Tree, Laramba, Yuelamu, Nyirripi, Willowra, Yuendumu, Lajamanu and numerous outstations as well as pastoral leases. Major languages spoken amongst its 4500 residents are Alyawarr, Anmatyerr and Warlpiri, with English often a second, third or fourth language.

Crime stats: Government scratches to find good news, Opposition crows over bad.

Minister for Justice and Attorney-General, Delia Lawrie (Labor) says crime and justice figures released on June 8 show significant drops in sexual assault, robbery, homicide and property crime across the Territory in the September quarter of 2010, with a moderate overall increase in assaults.
Ms Lawrie (pictured at left) says while welcoming the drops in these areas, the number of alcohol-related assaults was too high.
Despite a year on year drop of 20% in sexual assaults and decreases in property crime in the last two quarters, recorded assaults increased 9% in the year to September, with 61% being alcohol related.
The increase in recorded assaults is in part due to increased reporting, due to the Territory Government’s mandatory reporting laws on domestic violence and proactive policing initiatives.
However alcohol has an integral role of in the growing majority of assault cases, and this underlines the importance of the Territory Government’s ‘Enough is Enough’ alcohol reforms, which will turn problem drinkers off-tap and mandate treatment for the first time, Territory-wide.
Alcohol abuse is costing the Territory $642 million a year, contributing to more deaths and hospitalisations in the Territory than anywhere else in Australia.
With the Banned Drinkers Register being rolled out from July 1, the Territory Government will continue to work with Police and Industry to get problem drinkers off the street and into treatment where they cannot harm their families and their community.
I welcome a 9% drop in property offences over the June quarter of 2010, to post a 17% improvement from the March quarter.
It is a testament to the diligence of the Territory police force that while attempted break-ins at Commercial premises are up, actual break-ins are down 8%.
This shows people are listening to the advice of Police and Justice Agencies and locking up, while Police are catching more would-be thieves in the act.
The Crime and Justice Statistics for the September 2011 quarter are based on offences recorded in the Territory Police case management system PROMIS.

Opposition Leader, Terry Mills (Country Liberals) says the belated release of the September quarter crime statistics shows Labor is losing the war against violent assaults and property crime.
Mr Mills (pictured at right) says the figures show crime is out of control, and point to a Government clutching at straws to find a solution.
It’s no wonder Labor refused to release these figures because they paint a damning picture of the Government’s failure to reduce crime.
The assault figures make stark reading, with 562 more assaults across the Territory in the 12 months to 2010 than in the previous year.
The 6678 assaults in the year to September meant, on average, there were more than 18 serious assaults in the Territory every day.
Since 2005, violent assaults in the Territory have increased by 70%.
House break-ins are up by 30% and motor vehicle theft by 14%.
Commercial break-ins fell marginally in the 12 months to September, but increased by 58% since September 2005.
The decline in sexual assaults is welcome.
In Darwin there were 1609 assaults, up by 10% on the previous year and 927 house break-ins, a 28% increase.
Once again Alice Springs recorded more assaults than Darwin – an appalling statistic given the town is approximately a third the size. There were 1688 assaults in the year to September – a 25% increase – and 385 house break-ins, an 80% increase.
The increase in assaults in Alice Springs challenges the Government’s claim that its alcohol bans will reduce violent crime.
Despite grog restrictions in Katherine and Tennant Creek, violent assaults have increased substantially over the past few years. The slight reduction in Katherine in the year to September comes off an appallingly high base.
Instead of Territory-wide grog restrictions, the Government should be ratcheting up rehabilitation services and focusing on punishing violent offenders through tougher sentencing.
If the Government could show categorically their alcohol bans worked, the Country Liberals would support them. Instead, it’s fixated on implementing Territory-wide bans that have been in place in three major centres for years, while violent crime has continued to rise.

Alice is the land of opportunity, say youthful leaders. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Amidst the widespread gloom about Alice Springs it was buoying to hear a more optimistic take on the town's future from four young people at a forum organised by Desert Knowledge Australia and the four senior high schools last week.
The older two of the four – David Quan and Kristy Bloomfield – are participants in the DKA Desert Leadership program. The younger two are still at school, Lucinda Reinhard in Year 12 at St Philip's College, and Alfie Lowe in Year 10 at Centralian College.
Alfie is a participant in the Youth Desert Leadership Program, a fresh initiative of DKA and the four schools. This year it involves six Year 10 students from each, 24 all up. Eventually it will involve students across Years 10, 11 and 12. 
Also on the forum panel were Eddie Fabijan, principal at Centralian, and Reg Hatch, manager of Family and Youth Services at Tangentyere Council and CEO of YMCA Central Australia.
The panel was asked to answer the question,  "What's your dream for  Alice Springs?"
David Quan has only lived in Alice since 2007, but has found it a "welcoming place", an assessment he has held on to despite the last 12 months of "bad press". He said after a "particularly bad summer" he is confident things will be "getting better". He plans to stay here and raise a family, emphasising the work opportunities the town offers. He's a firefighter and, with energy to burn (no pun intended), has also worked at the Juvenile Detention Centre and as a teacher's aide with the Irrkerlantye unit at Bradshaw Primary School.
Later his wife, Monica, spoke from the floor. She was raised in Alice, went away to university and has come back, for the "great community" and the job opportunities, about both of which the town should "blow its horn". She said her career would be nowhere near where it is if she weren't in Alice Springs.
Kristy Bloomfield spoke of the "quality of life for all" in town – the access to housing, health, education and employment –  but stressed the need for people to "grab the opportunities". She referred to people coming into town not taking the opportunity to get educated, suggesting they need to be both "encouraged" and "pushed" to do so.
Reg Hatch took up this point later, talking of the role of parents in keeping their kids home at night so that they'd be ready for school the next day: "Our weakness for our kids is our parents," he said, to murmurings of approval. "I'm happy to be shot at for [saying] that."
Lucinda agreed about the plentiful opportunities but spoke of the need for them to better promoted. She suggested that young people can simply not know where or how to seek out the opportunities.
Alfie Lowe agreed with her, saying most young people are "too scared" to seek opportunities. He said he had a lot of hope for the future, but that it was important to take that hope and turn it into action, not just talk. Commenting on a question about how to better prepare Aboriginal people for mainstream employment, he said, "as an Aboriginal student in mainstream, it's that much different to being a white student if you've got the desire to learn".
Lucinda Reinhard spoke of "a culture" amongst Alice youth around plans to leave Alice Springs, but said that the job opportunities, the possibilities for making money, draw many back.
Kristy said she had left Alice to live in Cairns for three years and that young cousins of hers are wanting to leave, to go to boarding school and experience life elsewhere. She said her time in Cairns helped her realise that there are problems "all over the nation" and that she was motivated to come back to try to make a difference in her home town. She saw this as possible through even the small acts of assistance that she can render in her job as an Indigenous Court Officer for the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service.
The panel was asked about ways to help people "grow in harmony".
Kristy suggested the reinstatement of inter-school sports days as they existed when she went to school. She said she got to know "heaps of people in that way". This was responded to positively as something achievable, by Donna O'Brien, Year Eight coordinator at Centralian Middle School, present in the audience.
Lucinda agreed that the schools don't interact much "for the size of the town". But even within schools she said people tend to stick to their own groups. She suggested confidence programs, leadership programs to break this down. 
Alfie wanted to see more events that "everyone is interested in", like the recent impromptu visit to Centralian by Justice Crew, a street dance group from Sydney. This would allow young people to learn about "the things that are the same" for all of them, "not the differences".
He saw this as also part of the answer to underage drinking. This issue was raised by a young person from the floor, who spoke of students going home during school hours "to have a few beers – how ridiculous is that!"
Lucinda, who spent some time recently living in Melbourne, said young people there drink and smoke a lot too, putting it down to seeing their "idols" drink and smoke.
Picking up on a comment by Eddie Fabijan about drinking as a "rite of passage", David spoke of his experience with some of the inmates of the Juvenile Detention Centre. They might be aware at some level of the bad consequences of their actions, he suggested, but until they get through the experience and "something clicks", better choices can't be forced on them.
The panel was asked to identify the things that "fill them with confidence" for Alice Springs.
The people, especially peers and colleagues got several mentions, with Lucinda coming back to opportunity, a sense and experience of things being possible: "It's a really cool place to grow up."

Punch and piñata at Alice's favourite picnic spot. MOZZIE BITES with Ronja Moss.

As most of us know, Alice Springs is an especially transient town. We have the mixed blessing of being the stop off point for one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations, have temporary workers in many fields, and are the only major town close to the centre of this vast country.
Because of this it is always hard to measure and then assert being a ‘local’.   You may only have been here for six months and feel like one, or lived here for 27 years and feel still unable to claim the title. It is said that to be considered one of these ‘highly respected and loyal people’ one has to have seen the Todd River flow three times. Seeing as Alice Springs, in fact most parts of Australia, has had a rain soaked year, can this still be considered an effective measure?
It was a third birthday party that took me back to the Telegraph Station this weekend. The children frolicked in the unusually warm weather and the adults laughed with punch and picnic finger food.
Whilst hitting the piñata tied to a white gum, I started to remember the long list of birthdays and celebrations I’d had at the ol’ Telegraph Station. Not a year has gone by, without barbeques, walks, or play dates set up in this reliable place.
Birthday celebrations in the centre of Australia probably only began with the occupation of this first settlement. It is funny to think that in the 1870s Bradshaw and his people were perhaps marking the first birthday parties here, in fact probably the first on Arrernte land.
I looked about at the matchbox cars, plastic plates and various lollies on Sunday and reflected on the history of the buildings and grounds, on what wonderful events they must have seen.
I only just remember a child’s birthday party, when I was a child myself and discovered the cave up on the hill for the first time. What excitement! And then early this year, at the Red Bull Backyard Jam, where I saw British India rock out in front of that huge cascading rock that plunges into the waterhole ... when it exists!
So many good times that we, locals and many visitors also, have all experienced. If you’ve lived in Alice Springs then it can be assumed you’ve had your own, a family member’s, or friend’s festive gathering here. And if you haven’t?! Well, I say to become a local, a Telegraph Station party is required.

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