July 7, 2011. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

To our home page.

Accommodation for vulnerable young people rolling out.

An announcement is expected imminently about progress with a promised boarding facility for students in Alice Springs. Such a facility – with 30 beds and originally planned for the former Anzac Hill High, now the Youth Hub –  has been talked about as part of the NT Government's Youth Action Plan announced in February 2009.
In this year's NT Budget announcements there was mention of a $3.6m allocation for the facility. A question from the Alice News about whether the money was to be spent in the coming financial year went unanswered.
Recently the News reported on concerns amongst staff at Centralian College about the lack of stable, safe accommodation for some of their students.  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.
College principal Eddie Fabijan said that the department was working on a solution. To the News' further enquiries with the department the answer has been: expect an announcement soon.
Meanwhile, the NT Government under the Youth Action Plan has provided $525,000 to Tangentyere Council to refurbish and add beds to a house where they accommodate children between seven and 10 years of age in emergencies. From July 1 Tangentyere's Safe Families program will be able to accommodate nine children at the house for up to six weeks, with a further six weeks if necessary. The funding has also provided for the purchase of a vehicle.
This week the Australian Government also announced $3.75m for a residential facility for young Indigenous people involved in training, education and employment in Tennant Creek. It will consist of two sets of duplexes – one for men and one for women – each with eight bedrooms, and will be managed by a “house parent” who will live on-site. The Australian Government will work with the NT Government and the Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation (JCAC) to construct the facility during 2011-12. – KIERAN FINNANE

$3m new tourist centre for Flying Doctor in Alice

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), a major tourist magnet in Alice Springs, has announcd a $3m redevelopment.
It will include a 70 seat theatre, interactive information portals, increased retail space and a full scale replica of the fuselage of the service's operational Pilatus PC 12 Aircraft.
"RFDS have invited four local building companies to tender for the construction of the project ensuring the work will add value to the local economy," says
Michael Toomey, Manager Commercial and Retail Operations.
The tender process will take five weeks with a decision announced by the end of July. The project is expected to take six months to complete.
"The announcement confirms the significant commitment of the RFDS to not only Alice Springs but the Northern Territory and comes on the heels of the similar financial investment at the Alice Springs Airport precinct with our updated hangar facility," says Mr Toomey.

Alice local retains title in galactical speed beanie-making contest. By ERWIN CHLANDA

Local champion Jo Nixon held on to her title of the fastest beanie maker, against strong interstate competition, in Sunday's competition in Alice Springs, which now is not just the beanie capital of the nation, but of the world and – let there be no doubt – the entire galaxy.
What's a beanie? It's something you put on your head to keep off Central Australia's desert winter chill.
It can look like anything you fancy. It's home made and hand made, usually by crocheting.
More than 6600 entries flooded in for this year's 15th annual Beanie Festival. They came from 400 beanie makers "from around the globe," as the organisers put it.
By this morning 4300 beanies had been sold, for $168,000, and they're still selling today.
The four day festival finishes today but the best works will be on display at the Araluen Centre until July 16.
So how long does it take to make a beanie? 12 minutes and 14.4 seconds, if your name is Jo Nixon. In fact she was faster five years ago – setting the record of 10 minutes and 30 seconds. No-one has beaten her yet.
"That year we had a fantastic yarn to work with," says Jo.
Second place getter this year was Victorian Penny O'Neill. Creator of the of the festival, Adi Dunlop (dressed in autumn colors in the video), came third.
The festival, run by a not-for-profit organisation, gets about 10,000 people through the door, say the organisers, half of them locals and the others from interstate and "around the world".

Coming home to make a home. My Town – an occasional series about people and places in Alice Springs. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Although she was born and raised in Alice, it wasn't always going to be home. When Monica Erlich (now Mrs Quan) was in high school, she dreamt of the broader horizons of life in a city. She did leave and went to uni in Adelaide, which she intended to be a stepping stone to bigger and better things. But a job offer brought her back and she doesn't regret it.
She wanted to be a camera operator and Imparja Television was willing to give her a go. That was in 2007, she's still there, still loving her job, and she believes she is developing her career much more quickly then she would in a big city context.
"In a city, I'd just be a camera person, but here I do editing, sound recording, compositing and right now I'm trying to get on top of 3D."
Add to the career opportunities, friends, family (a big one – she's a Kilgariff on her mother's side) and a husband, and it's not surprising that Monica's re-rooting herself here. 
David Quan was posted to Alice with the fire service in August 2007 and by that Christmas began "spending quality time" with Monica. They married, recently bought a house in town and now they're thinking about starting a family.
"I can see my kids growing up here," says Monica. "When I was a kid we lived near Spencer Hill. We'd spend all day playing in the bush until Mum yelled out to come in for dinner. There was fantastic freedom and we made our own fun. That's still possible here, but in a city I'd have to take my kids to a park."
David agrees, but both are still close enough to the age group to sympathise with the perennial complaint of teenagers that there's nothing to do in Alice. Monica says as you get older, you go back to making your own fun but teenagers do seem to need help. She says the response often in comes in the form of big sports matches and concerts but smaller scale opportunities, apart from sport, are important: more music-making facilities, more internet-related activities based at a youth centre would be great.
They're very much a "glass half full" couple. They recognise problems, but don't let them loom too large in their own perspective on things.
"The town has gone through a bad summer," says Monica, "and it's knocked everyone's confidence. But there are a lot of great people here. The people of the town won't let it fall apart. That's the town's redeeming feature, the community coming together."
David grew up in Darwin and while he always liked it and still does, he no longer feels the sense of belonging that he does here. He says he feels "embraced" by Alice Springs. His shifts with the fire service allow him to take on other work and he loves the opportunities on offer. He's worked as a teacher's aide and also as a youth worker at the new Juvenile Detention Centre. Former alderman Melanie van Haaren suggested he nominate for the Desert Leadership Program, which he did and was accepted.
"I already felt connected to the town but being in that program has reinforced the feeling of connection. I want to be part of the changing vision for the town – a half black, half white, welcoming, engaging, community-driven town. I try to promote this vision every opportunity I get."
David is completing a Certificate IV in Fire Safety at present, but would like to get a university degree one day. If children arrive first, David says he's willing to do a stint as a house husband so that Monica can maintain her career and possibly even do further study herself one day.
In short, life seems rich in possibilities, and Alice Springs is where they intend to bring them to fruition.

In the same series:
The fantastic 80s.
Music saw him through.

Cut, rip, tear & wear: Alice Springs cheek and creativity. By KIERAN FINNANE.

If you don't like something in your wardrobe, then Carmel Ryan's advice is "cut it, spray it, rip it, tear it, wear it!" And we should add "shrink it", which is what she did to a Size 20 suit to get it down to a snug 12, washing it three times on the hot cycle.
She's one of an imaginative group of Alice Springs designers working with recycled textiles to come up with exciting new garments and accessories. Old jumpers, bras, coats, jeans, doilies – in short anything that catches their eye – can be given new life.
It's a very "liberating" way of working, says Franca Frederiksen, for whom blankets are the base material of choice. This year she challenged her fellow designers to also contribute a blanket creation to their presentation.
The group had their inaugural "Sustainable Couture" show three years ago and has gone on from strength to strength.
This year they were supported by Arts NT, the Department of Regional Development and the Alice Springs Town Council to take their creations to the Castlemaine State Festival (billed as "Victoria's premier regional arts festival").
Together with their catwalk presentations, they promoted the region's bush tucker and cultural events such as the Beanie Festival and Wearable Arts.
Thursday night's presentation featured work by Philomena Hali, Kathy Frank (ex-Alice now living in NZ), Nicky Shonkala, Sarah Hill, Julie Millerick, Carmel Ryan, and Franca Frederiksen. Words by KIERAN FINNANE. Pictures by ERWIN CHLANDA.

To climb or not to climb?

Whenever you mention that you're going for a trip to The Rock the conversation always seems to head in one direction – are you going to climb it? Have you climbed it before? It’s as though this meager act reflects upon your personality, yet alone moral self.
This past weekend I drove down to Uluru to fly from the airport that is controversial for industries dependent on tourism in Alice Springs, to Sydney.
On the way my friend and I managed to sight a running emu, two side by side dancing eagles, almost step on a whip snake and break down on the side of the road for several hours – all classic, camping in the bush stuff. Nearly every car that passed us as we tampered with the axles, knobs and bolts, was a deluxe, state of the art campervan, four-wheel drive, or tour bus. I marveled at their chic steel beauty and wondered, with an unintended absence of political correctness, where the beat-up camp cars from the Indigenous community were.
When we finally got the engine sorted and moving again it wasn’t long until the out-of-proportion inland island that is Uluru greeted our eyes.
We arrived at the campsite next to the resort and were shocked to find the grounds almost empty. I thought it was tourist season! However, as we headed into the park the long line of climbers – to quote Lindqvist, more like dots on an Aboriginal painting than conquerors – showed us where the action was.
Growing up in Alice, where land rights issues are at the forefront, I was aware even when I was in primary school t
hat Uluru was holy ground for the Aboriginal people of that area, the Anangu. I’d only been there once until hitting adulthood and in all frankness the only image I remember is the Coca Cola icy-pole dangled before my nose, then clasped between teeth that couldn’t believe their luck. I wasn’t allowed sugar as a kid, so to have something so sweetly devilish in my clutch was far more impressive than what looked like a huge anthill. Still, I remember swearing loudly and quite ignorantly to a fellow playmate that I’d never ever climb it and very forcefully telling her that her dad was a "big meanie" for even attempting the trip.
Now that I’m an adult, however, I find many of my good friends and family have tackled Ayers Rock, trailing the track to the top. I also hear some around town proclaim
that many of the traditional owners don’t mind if white people hike up its surface. Information at the park's very own Culture Center claims that it was customary for the men to put a sacred stick at a certain place at the very top to instigate ceremonies. It could then be argued that no one knows the answer, that the information has perhaps crossed lines.
I remember reading once that Uluru was restored to its original owners in 1985 on the condition that they immediately leased back the whole area and made it accessible to tourists. The only Aboriginal people I saw in my two days there were a beautiful young woman walking around the art gallery with her baby. I felt too self-conscious of my tourist appearance to ask her how she felt about the expanse of resort and shopping center having no reflection of, what I presume is, her culture, merely tacky furniture and outdated carpets.
Walking around the base of ominous landmark on Saturday and looking in at the keyholes and cavities covered in ocher paintings, I painted my own image of the Anangu singing and dancing beneath the shadows of their sacred home. I had to wonder what benefit a title is when you can’t inhabit what you own. It was lucky I was wearing sunglasses because I actually cried.
In reality what you hear is a mishmash of languages and accents from around the world. All genuinely excited voices of warmth, but alien in feel to the landscape. I was trying to dampen the pompous ‘know it all’ in me and come to some kind of closure whilst still there, so I asked a rather puffed man at the trail’s edge how he felt about hitting the ground. “Are you going to ask me how long it took me?” he smiled. “45 years. I’m serious!” He went on to tell me how he had started when he was only five on a trip around Australia with his parents and had made it back with his girlfriend to complete the ascent now that he was old enough. The pride and joy in his face was lovely and I couldn’t help but smile back.
Now I’m confused. I don’t know what’s ‘right’. I still haven’t climbed it and won’t until I know where I stand in this ethical debate. Maybe I’ll never know. I guess this is what life asks of us all the time – to come to our subjective decisions and face the reactions to the choices we make.

Back to our home page.