Story Archive » Volume 18 » Issue 38 »

October 20, 2011

After three decades in Territory schools she’s the best teacher in the country

What does it take to be the best primary school teacher in Australia? To have a warm and vivid presence might be part of it. Add imagination, keenness, a strong sense of possibilities, interest in the world. Then let’s not forget experience, support from colleagues, and a school environment where everyone is pulling on the same string to keep kids happy and learning.

This teacher, Jo Sherrin, and this school, Bradshaw Primary, can be found in west-side Alice Springs. Last Friday at a ceremony in Melbourne Mrs Sherrin, one of two teacher-librarians at Bradshaw, was named the nation’s Primary School Teacher of the Year at the inaugural Australian Awards for Outstanding Teaching and School Leadership. Pictured: Kaylana Hagan (left) and Casey Lally with teacher-librarian Jo Sherrin, who’s been named the Best Primary School Teacher in Australia. KIERAN FINNANE reports. FULL STORY »

Hot debate in council over youth curfew, public stays away

One barometer of popular support did not augur well for Alderman Eli Melky’s youth curfew motion: the public gallery at last night’s council meeting was half empty. A few people from the youth sector had turned up and Acting Commander Michael White from the NT Police was also there. But the 1000 plus signatories of the petition circulated by Alds Melky and Samih Habib Bitar, who seconded his motion, had stayed away in droves. Perhaps its defeat had been accepted as a fait accompli. Nonetheless, the issues were hotly debated by aldermen. Pictured: Young opponent of a curfew, Gavin Henderson, who organised a petition against the proposal, with supporters, counsellor and independent candidate for Greatorex at the next NT election, Phil Walcott, and Alderman Sandy Taylor, chair of council’s Corporate and Community Services committee.  KIERAN FINNANE reports. FULL STORY »

The facts the Amnesty fact finder didn’t find

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks told Q&A’s national audience on Monday: “We live in absolute poverty.”
Do they? At the very least the residents of Utopia have income support in the form of Centrelink benefits.
Does “we” include her and her family?
They have a three bedroom house with airconditioning, according to someone familiar with Utopia, 250 km north-east of Alice Springs.
That person spoke with us after watching Q&A and on the condition of not being named.
Others might be sleeping rough, but sometimes it’s a choice: it’s great for accessing the shop, a factor of transport rather than accommodation.
Sometimes camping rough is a necessity due to sorry business. No number of permanent housing will alleviate cultural expectations.  Some
people have access to housing on nearby outstations.
A local artist living on a truck was one of the exhibits when Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, called in on his
one-day fact-finding mission.
But the artist’s house on his nearby homeland was a fact not found by Mr Shetty because he wasn’t made aware if it, our source suggests.
If he had, perhaps his finding would not have been that “around 500 homeland communities are being left to wither as the Government starves them of essential services”. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.

Photo: Naronda William Loy, 21, with her daughter Karlishia Raggatt, 1, speak with Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty, at Mosquito Bore, Utopia, 8 October 2011. Courtesy Amnesty International.

‘Hunted like dogs’ by Intervention

Last night’s Q&A on the ABC was hugely useful for understanding the popular national debate about Aboriginal issues: Its perverse uselessness, to be precise.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (pictured) commented on the Federal Intervention, costing millions of dollars, in the wake of the chilling “Children are Sacred” report into abuse and neglect. She recalls that army, police and bureaucrats arrived in her home town of Utopia and proceeded to “hunt us like dogs”.

Moderator Tony Jones did not ask for an explanation nor elaboration.

It was a notable addition to Mrs Kunoth-Monks vocabulary: Last week she accused Australia of “ethnic cleansing”.

Was the Darwin audience outraged? No way. It applauded. Profusely. Photo: Mrs Kunoth-Monks makes a point during the show, flanked by NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson (left) and moderator Tony Jones. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA. FULL STORY »

Comment: Ethnic cleansing … what next?



The instant expert proffering solutions after a one-day visit has long been a figure in the debate about Aboriginal “problems”.
But Indian man Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, of which one has much higher expectations, doing a double act with
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, provided a new low point last week.
Her confident, dignified demeanor and tireless advocacy, as well as her profile as the actress who played Jedda in that celebrated movie, make Ms Kunoth-Monks (at left) a sought-after spokeswoman on Aboriginal causes.
Her inclusion in the panel of tomorrow’s Q&A panel on ABC TV is unsurprising.
Trouble is, what she has to say, on too many occasions doesn’t bear close scrutiny.
How does she muster the impertinence of saying, quoted by AAP, that Australia is practising ethnic cleansing?
While the taxpayer is forking out $1b on Aboriginal housing in the NT, as we speak, Ms Kunoth-Monks suggests her country’s treatment of Aborigines is akin to Serb forces slaying more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim boys in Srebrenica.
And Mr Shetty chimes in in agreement.
The claim that “around 500 homeland communities are being left to wither as the Government starves them of essential services” is all his own work. Yes, 500.
What he and Ms Kunoth-Monks trotted out was the usual tripe. Lucky for them the media run by people in the state capitals 2000 kms away can’t get enough of it.
As our current report and readers’ comments show, the outstation movement is a complex issue, after years of debate still undecided, but revolving largely around this question: If a small group of people want to settle in some remote place of their own land, what extent of services – if any – should the taxpayer be providing? In every case a school? A hospital? A police station? Sealed roads?
How many of these outstations have been built, equipped, trashed and abandoned?
Ms Kunoth-Monks’ home region of Utopia has had a thriving art industry for a couple of decades.
Where did all that money go?
Nearby TiTree is one of The Centre’s most prospective areas for horticulture.
It had and still has major vineyards and other plantations. There is plenty of water and cheap backloading freight to Adelaide.
How many of the unemployed in Ms Kunoth-Monks’ communities have worked or are working in these enterprises, constantly hampered by having to bring in labour from interstate, whilst being surrounded by hundreds on the dole?
How many plantations have been started by Ms Kunoth-Monks and the other local elders?
How many cattle are they running in this prime beef producing area?
How many of the men are continuing the proud tradition of Aboriginal stockmen – as workers on surrounding cattle stations, or in their own
enterprises, on the vast stretches of land given to them under landrights?
How come Aboriginal-owned cattle stations in Ms Kunoth-Monks’ neighborhood are leased out to white pastoralists?
Where is the citrus plantation that’s been on the drawing board at Utopia for the best part of two decades?
Let’s see what Q&A makes of all this. FULL STORY »

Alice takes the NT lead for violent drunks but at least there are fewer of them than last year

Recorded assaults in Alice Springs are down 13.2% for the period July to September this year, relative to the same period last year.

This is better than the NT wide figure (down 9.1%) but not as good as the decreases achieved in the Top End. In Darwin the assaults dropped by 15.9%; Palmerston, 16.5%; Katherine, 19.2%.

Alice’s drop is off a very high base relative to these centres. There were 401 recorded assaults in Alice for the period last year, scarcely lower than the total for Darwin (414), a city with three times the population.

This year Darwin experienced 348 in the period, and Alice, exactly the same number.

The NT Government, releasing the preliminary data today, is linking the decreases to the introduction of the Banned Drinkers Register.

Looking at the regional breakdown of people on the register, Alice Springs towers above the rest, with a total of 208 on the register at the end of September, compared to 98 in Darwin; 63 in Palmerston; Katherine, 73. – Kieran Finnane FULL STORY »

A ‘happy, safe and well-supported’ tribe

It’s been a big week for Bradshaw Primary School: on top of teacher-librarian Jo Sherrin’s national gong (see separate story), the school was a winner in the 2011 Northern Territory Smart Schools Awards for “Excellence in Student Inclusion and Wellbeing”.

The fact that the school applied for that category in the awards reflects its values: the first thing that principal Jill Tudor mentions is keeping children happy, safe and well-supported so that teaching and learning are the best they can be.

Then there are the school’s few guiding ‘e’ words: equity – children get what they need, rather than everyone getting the same;expectations – they’re high as with the right support every child can learn; effort – the harder you work, the smarter you get.

It’s Mrs Tudor’s third year at the helm at Bradshaw, but she credits former principal Ursula Balfour for putting in the “hard yards” to develop the inclusive culture that is the now hallmark of the school. Pictured: “Happy, safe, well-supported children” at work: Karen Stewart watches her students using their “One Laptop Per Child” computers to practice their spelling. Photo courtesy Bradshaw Primary School. KIERAN FINNANE reports.  FULL STORY »

LETTERS: Young gun fires at turf club; farmer at the PM

Steve Brown, your article gets the gong from me and many of my fellow land holders. We all  have to lobby our local members and the public in general that to close down produce producing properties any where in Australia is going against the philosophy of Australia being a food bowl. The present PM thinks we should develop other industries to take us forward but I assure you that whatever we do, everyone still has to eat. Tony Sanderson


Ok we all love young guns, it’s a day for the boys and girls of Alice Springs to evolve into ladies and gentleman with our frocks and suits, but 40 dollars a ticket that’s outrageous.  It wasn’t that long ago it was only 15 dollars a ticket and everyone went, now barely anyone wants to go! It’s a great day for the community to band together and socialize. When the price went from 15 to 20 dollars a ticket the number of people who went dropped. Turf club what are you doing?? The demographic “young” guns is aimed at can’t afford to spend money there, if they used most their money to get in the gate Drop the price back to 20 dollars and you will be amazed how many people come along Ashley Ogden

Alice Springs FULL STORY »

The subtle transmissions of home

Coming to this place has called up another for young artist and musician Claire Wieland. It’s not that she isn’t seeing and listening to this one – her Emu series and recording of local voices and songs are charming testimony that she is.  But time spent in the western desert, volunteering in the women’s centre at Kintore, and then here in town where she has rented a studio at Watch This Space and mounted an exhibition in its gallery, have got her thinking about family and home. The sense of those words for her stretches across the globe, to the native Switzerland of her father. She was born in Australia but the Swiss-German connection is strong, not so much through her direct experience as she has only been there a few times, and only once in young adulthood. It’s more a matter of cultural osmosis, for instance, through the kind of objects that were around her as she grew up. Pictured: Above – her ‘family’ of hand-made objects.  KIERAN FINNANE reviews.  FULL STORY »

Safe spaces

After travelling alone overseas, including in southern Morocco, ESTELLE ROBERTS returned to Alice, grateful for its relative safety. Her confidence has been undermined by a near miss with an intruder and after learning of the brutal rape of a local woman who had left a party that Estelle would have gone to had she been here. Pictured: Sunset off Morocco’s Atlantic coastline – beautiful, but hard to appreciate when you’re being hassled by local men with their stereotyped ideas of western women. Returning to Alice was a relief … at first. FULL STORY »

Peer (Pir) Mohammed: camel entrepreneur between continents



Tall Tales but True – a series courtesy the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.


Like many of the “Afghan” camel men who came to Australia Peer Mohammed (Mahomet) claims to have fought for the British Army with the Amir’s contingent during the Boer War.

Peer (at right) left a wife and children behind in Peshawar, now Pakistan, and married again in Australia. He never saw his Afghan family again.

He was originally a goldsmith and jeweler before coming to Australia where he later married Ruby Stuart, the daughter of an Englishman and an indigenous woman. Peer Mohammed worked as a camel driver and importer and is recorded as having sold camels to Baricot in Afghanistan in 1902.

In 1882 he bought a string of laden camels through the MacDonnell Ranges into the tiny settlement of Stuart (now Alice Springs). This was just a decade after the opening of the Overland Telegraph Line and he recalled the completed line of wooden poles.

After returning to India for a period he came back to Alice Springs with his camel team again in 1885 and was shocked to find that white-ants and fires had taken their toll and the poles were being replaced by iron ones.

Peer returned to India in 1905 but by 1910 was living at West Camel Camp in Broken Hill, working as a camel driver for Basha Gul.

He returned to India again and in 1911 was resolutely refused re-entry into Australia; but he came back anyway.

He then operated a small mine at Sliding Rock in the Flinders Ranges, SA, but this was not as lucrative as he’d anticipated and he turned his attention back to driving camel teams.

Once motorised transport started to make inroads into servicing the freight needs of the cattle stations throughout the outback Peer Mohammed found work carrying railway sleepers for the east-west railways before finally retiring. Peer Mohammed died in Port Augusta in 1940 and is reported to have been destitute.

His son Gul (Gool) Muhammed also worked as a cameleer. Gul married Miriam Khan from Marree and went on to become one of the last cameleers to operate in the Alice Springs area.

Gul’s son, Sallay (Saleh) married an Australian woman, Iris, and went on to form a trucking company in Central Australia with his sons John and Noor.

In 1979 Saleh (at right) delivered four racing camels to King Khalid of Saudi Arabia as a gift from the Australian Government. FULL STORY »