Story Archive » Volume 18 » Alice Springs News, Issue 28, August 11, 2011 »

Bushfires were expected yet authorities are still not ready


Photo above: Map of bushfires in Central Australia earlier this week. Bottom: Peter Latz, native grasses in the left of the photo; thick buffel on the other side of the fence.


Massive rains last year boosting exceptional plant growth made it inevitable that 2011 would be a major year for bushfires – but authorities are still gearing up to cope with them.

The fire west of Alice Springs is still burning out of control, but no longer in the immediate vicinity of the town.

Matt Braitling, from Mt Doreen Station, the chairman of Bushfire NT’s regional council, says the fire fighting effort had to focus on protecting assets, including Aboriginal outstations at Bond Springs and the Golden Mile just west of the town, either side of Larapinta Drive leading to the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Meanwhile according to one of Central Australia’s most eminent wildfire experts, botanist Peter Latz, the massive blaze last week burning right up to the western edge of Alice Springs is no surprise but came a bit earlier than expected.

The author of Bush Fires & Bush Tucker and The Flaming Desert says the fire will probably protect the town from a much worse one later in the year.

Dr Latz says the ferocity of the fire was caused mostly by buffel grass, introduced as a dust suppressant by the CSIRO decades ago, and now covering much of Central Australia.

While trees mostly survive the “cooler” flames of native grass, many were destroyed, including trees in the West MacDonnell national park: “Where there is thick buffel under the mulgas they are dead.” ERWIN CHLANDA reports.



Anderson blames ganja for youth suicides

With the funeral of a nephew who took his own life fresh in her mind, MLA Alison Anderson in last night’s Legislative Assembly debates asked for a breakdown of statistics on suicide in the Northern Territory. She wants to see what the picture is in urban, rural and remote settings, suspecting that, from her experience, young people in remote communities are more vulnerable.

The nephew buried last week in Mutitjulu was the second in Ms Anderson’s family to suicide this winter. The second young man took his life in a suburban street of  Alice Springs. He was buried in Hermannsburg on the same day as his father, who Ms Anderson says died from alcoholism. PICTURE ABOVE: MLA Alison Anderson at a rally this year outside Parliament during its sittings in Alice Springs. By her side is Councillor Mildred Inkamala (pink shirt) of the MacDonnell Shire Council. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Beyond Blue –

Reach Out – FULL STORY »

Alice Springs Festival: let the fun begin

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Mayor Damien Ryan and Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton, with two young helpers, took the launch of the Alice Springs Festival literally, with a flotilla of paper boats in the Chifley Resort pool. A zany poolside performance by the Dusty Feet Dance Collective provided light relief after the obligatory speeches.

Our film clip also has chair of Red Hot Arts, Kalikamurti Suich, and festival and events manager Scott Large, explain why they are heart and soul immersed in the annual spectacle.

The first event is as soon as next weekend – the hugely popular Wearable Art Awards, where the arts of bodily adornment are taken in ever more unexpected directions.

The festival proper kicks off on September 9 with the sunset street parade leading into a weekend of music, performance, workshops, a children’s carnival, all at the POD Space at Anzac Oval.

Imported drawcard for the Friday night is urban roots act Blue King Brown, fronted by Natalie Pa’apa’a, supported by local bands Dr Strangeways and Tjupi Band.

The Bush Bands Bash takes to the stage on the Saturday night, while Desert Divas – women vocalists from around the region – will perform at lunchtime.

The Darwin Symphony Orchestra are the Sunday night attraction, combining with singers Warren H Williams, Catherine Satour and Jacinta Price for an event called Big Sky Country. The orchestra will also perform at the Desert Park on the Tuesday (Sept 13), with NT Administrator Tom Pauling reciting Shakespearian sonnets to a composition by Cathy Applegate.

A play about the extraordinary Olive Pink, called The First Garden, will have its premiere the following weekend. The play has been written by Chris and Natasha Raja and will be presented at  Olive Pink Botanic Garden.

Desert Mob at Araluen  is the premier visual arts event of the festival, but there will also be some interesting shows around town: Souvenir, a reinterpretation of the “red centre” at Watch This Space; work from the dynamic Tjungu Palya Art Centre at RAFT Artspace; a first solo show for Kay Rubuntja Naparrula at Muk Muk; and an intriguing artists “lock in” at the empty shopfront next to Monte’s.


Amnesty’s Utopia report full of omissions and misrepresentations




The human rights organisation Amnesty International has released what
it calls a research report, focussed on the changes in government
policy, particularly since the Intervention, that have affected the
Utopia homelands in the Northern Territory.

The report argues that through leasing and inadequate
funding governments are actually taking land away its traditional

Nowhere in the report is there an acknowledgement that leasing only
applies to a tiny fraction of Aboriginal lands, that is the land on
which government is building and maintaining infrastructure.
A “group of Aboriginal elders” is quoted as saying in part:
“Through harsh changes we have had removed from us all control over our
communities and our lives. Our lands have been compulsorily taken from
us. We have been left with nothing.” There is no explanation nor
qualification of this dramatic claim.

The only named contributor to the report is senior Aboriginal woman
and activist Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, of Jedda acting fame, who provides
the Foreword for the paper which lambasts the new shire system without
mentioning that she is the president of her shire.

And the report advances mixed evidence of the benefit of living on
homelands, including that they are a “central” component of the Northern
Territory’s $775.78m tourism industry, with no scrutiny of the
realities, including welfare dependency. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Photo at top: Jeffrey
Pepperill Kemarr and family at Camel Camp on the Utopia homelands,
about 30 kms from Arlparra. Source: Amnesty International, Lucas Jordan.
Above: Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, with daughter Ngarla and granddaughter Ruby, in 2006. From the Alice News archive.


Hampton mum on Kilgariff suburb

ABOVE: The $10m headworks for the Kilgariff suburb well under way but no word yet on the development deal.


The NT Government is spending $10m on headworks for the new suburb of Kilgariff, but still hasn’t made up its mind – or won’t tell – how the 1200 block project will be developed.

The usual process for opening up public land for private housing is for the government to call tenders. The winner then puts in the internal services – roads, water, power, sewage, and so on, in accordance with government specifications.

The best guess for this development cost per block is $60,000.

The developer then gets to sell the blocks for whatever he likes – the going rate till recently has been $300,000.

A nice little earner, but no great help for the – at least then – drastic land shortage and the skyrocketing prices.

Robyn Lambley, when successfully campaigning for the seat of Araluen last September, was asked in an interview with the Alice Springs News whether the Kilgariff land should be sold for the development cost.

Ms Lambley said: “That could be an option. Perhaps somewhere in the middle, between market value and the cost of development, is a good place to negotiate.”

The News asked: If it’s somewhere in the middle, who would get the profit which would still be around $100,000 a block?

Ms Lambley said: “It would go into the government coffers. You could argue that the profit could be used for interest free loans to people breaking into the first home owners’ market. That would be a neat little package, really.”

No matter how vital this debate is for the community, it’s not an issue that Karl Hampton, the Minister for Central Australia, will engage in.

The News has been seeking an interview with Mr Hampton since May – no luck.

We caught up with him at the Alice Festival launch last week …


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… and with that Mr Hampton, the only Labor MLA and Minister in Central Australia, blended into the crowd. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. FULL STORY »

Work starts on new Flying Doctor tourist centre








A $3m contract to redevelop the Royal Flying Doctor tourist centre in Alice Springs has been awarded to Probuild NT Pty Ltd.

The project includes a 70 seat theatre, interactive information portals, increased retail space and a full scale replica of the fuselage of an operational Pilatus PC 12 Aircraft.

Construction will start mid August and is expected to be completed by mid February 2012. FULL STORY »

The lighter side of law-making

If you think politics is dull and PC, here’s proof that in the Territory it’s not.

The live cattle export industry has a lower mortality rate on its ships than P&O cruises, says Shadow Business Minister, David Tollner.

Calling on the Chief Minister to push for a fighting fund promoting the industry “down south”, he says the live export and the pastoral industries “should be a source of national pride.

“Unfortunately, as a result of gutless Labor governments in Canberra and Darwin and manipulative animal welfare activists, the industry in northern Australia is on its knees.”

Mr Tollner says: “Cattle ships are sophisticated feed lots which keep animals healthy en-route to overseas markets, there are nutritionists on the ground in Indonesia and the industry supports the livelihoods of thousands of Australian businesses and families.

“Southern Australians need to understand the strengths of the industry to protect it from animal rights extremists.”

• Shadow Minister for Transport Adam Giles (pictured) yesterday re-stated the Country Liberals commitment to open speed limits.

He says they were removed in 2007 by the current Labor Government after undertaking a road safety review.

“That review found that tourists, young drivers and Indigenous Territorians were over represented in the Territory’s road toll.

“The review also identified drink driving and not wearing seat belts as the two main contributing factors.

“Speed was never isolated as the sole cause of the majority of accidents.

“Official road toll figures in 2006 were 44. Following the removal of open speed limits the toll increased to 57 and then 75.

“Last year it was 50, higher still than when speed limits were removed.”

• Shadow Treasurer John Elferink says under Labor, the Territory’s net debt has blown out to $6.7billion, including liabilities. A dollar coin weighs 9 grams, is 25mm in diameter and 3mm thick. There are 111 dollar coins in a kilo, 111,111 in a tonne.

He says the Territory’s debt takes on mind-boggling proportions when considering:

– It would take $2.2million to fill a 20 tonne road train trailer and $6.7million to fill a three trailer road train.

– It would take 1000 road trains – extending about 50km – to haul the Territory’s debt plus liabilities.

– A $1 coin covers an area of about 500mm square and it would take $2million to fill 1km square.

– Darwin’s area is 112km square. Placing all our dollar coins within Darwin’s footprint would make a stack 90cm high.

– Stacked on the Parliament House footprint, which is 12,900 metres square, the Territory’s debt with liabilities would make a stack 7.8km high.

– Joined end to end, the $6.8billion debt with liabilities in dollar coins would stretch 167,500km – over four times around the world.

– Under Labor, the Territory has accumulated a mountain of debt – approximately $29,000 for every man woman and child and $56,000 per taxpayer.

Says Mr Elferink: “The Labor Government is addicted to spending – and Territory taxpayers are paying.” FULL STORY »

Threatening sign at Nyirripi unauthorised and removed

An aggresively worded sign about dog control, posted by a Central Desert Shire officer at the store in the western desert settlement of Nyirripi, has been removed.  The sign included a threat that dogs hidden from the visiting vet would be shot.

Nyirripi has a population of some 320 and is roughly 440 km north-west of Alice Springs, or 150 kms west-southwest of Yuendumu.

CEO of Central Desert Shire, Roydon Roberston, said he became aware of the notice yesterday (Sunday) and “ordered that it be removed”.

He said the notice was placed by the shire officer “in conjunction with senior community members”.

“No authority was given or would have been given by Executive Management as the sign is not in keeping with Council Policy. Further discussions will be held with the staff member involved,” said Mr Robertson.

A vet is in the community today – as advised by the sign – and is expected to attend to 15 dogs today and a total of 30 before leaving tomorrow.

The shire’s Dog Management Policy, adopted in October 2008, stipulates a maximum of two dogs per household.

Mr Robertson says compliance with the policy has been “mixed” across the shire, while reported dog problems have “escalated” at Nyirrpi, becoming “worse than other communities”.

He says the shire council has received numerous complaints from government agencies and council staff concerning dogs, including packs of roaming dogs.

He says the Local Board at Nyirrpi, has been very keen for the vet to again visit. (Local Boards are appointed to advise council on local issues and aspirations.) FULL STORY »

Public meeting delivers report card on the Intervention and suggestions on where to go from here

“I’ve got 55 positions across MacDonnell Shire – I can’t fill all of them because I have to compete with Centrelink.”

It was one of the starker statements of the two and half hour public meeting held in Alice on Tuesday evening, about the second phase of the Federal Intervention.

The speaker was Tracey McNee, coordinator of Community Safety at the shire, making a point about the disincentive to work created by ease of access to the dole. She “took her hat off” to shire residents who had taken the work, but commented on the remaining vacancies: “[People] don’t necessarily have the same pressure and pushes to apply for those jobs.”

The jobs are with night patrol services: “No-one is saying night patrol is an easy job, but it is a job,” said Ms McNee.

Centrelink is potentially “a large part of the solution,” responded veteran community development worker Bob Durnan, suggesting that the organisation has the motivation and capacity as well as permanent staff in communities to help people into jobs (presumably with some forcefulness, if necessary). He said while government has poured a huge amount of money into job networks, they are not based in communities and don’t have local knowledge. Centrelink is in a good position to take over job network functions, he said. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Photo: Youth worker George Peckham on the microphone at Tuesday night’s public meeting. FULL STORY »

Stepping over the edge


How to start? How to end?  And what’s in the middle? A jelly belly paunch, a rippling washboard or taut curves?

I used to be a beekeeper. Keeping bees was an interesting one amongst the many incarnations I’ve had in the employment world. I’ve been a wine-maker’s sidekick or ‘lab technician’ as my CV states.  I’ve cooked, cleaned, gardened, painted and bar wenched at a truck stop. Looked after baby birds in Ireland and fingered beautiful coats, hats ‘n’ scarves in smoky cloakrooms in Paris. And of course I’ve made countless coffees and waited thousands of tables.



Transport Hall of Fame important for town: Gunner

2472 Michael Gunner SM



Police will be providing protection from criminals and departmental officials assistance with “compliance and governance,” says Chief Minister.