June 15, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


A resident in the Golf Course Estate exposed to excessive noise from a generator in the town's power station says she's been told by Power and Water boss Kim Wood that the equipment may be moved to the Brewer Estate outside Alice Springs.
Liza Dubois, who lives in Range Crescent in the Golf Course Estate, says after she had complained to Power and Water over several months Mr Wood phoned her on Wednesday last week, and told her he "could not see why the generator could not be moved".
"It's on wheels," Ms Dubois quoted Mr Wood as saying.
He told her he had instructed staff to look at the costs of moving the machinery, and said a new transmission line to Alice Springs may be needed.
There is already a private generating set at Brewer Estate, near the railway stock yards on the South Stuart Highway, as well as an oil transshipment facility.
ESTATE The NT Government owns the estate.
The Alice News last week requested an interview with Mr Wood, which had not been granted by the close of this edition.
The News is especially interested how Power and Water will be using the $7.5m in the current NT budget "for expanding the generation capacity of the Alice Springs Power Station with a new generating unit," and where that unit will be placed.
MLA for Greatorex Richard Lim says having the gas turbine power plant there is "like having a jet aeroplane engine in the suburbs" and the racket can be heard over a wide radius.
Numerous other Golf Course Estate residents have also been complaining about the noise, says Ms Dubois.
She says she's encouraged by Mr Wood's statements to her, promising to personally keep her informed weekly about progress with the proposal.
She says previously her enquiries, including on the costs of the new equipment and a string of consultancies, had been been fobbed off by Power and Water.
The gas turbine set is currently installed outdoors at the eastern end of the power station's main building which houses generators driven by diesel-powered piston engines.
Ms Dubois says she understands the diesel sets are not used extensively because they are more expensive to run.
The gas turbine plant is not run at night.
She says she and her husband Darryl are the longest-term residents in the Golf Course Estate.
They had moved there in the knowledge the power station was just over a hill from their house.
But its noise at that time was "not invasive", and besides that, the estate's developer, Gary Hunt, had indicated the powerhouse was likely to be moved.
However, the turbine set installed about 10 months ago is emitting a shriller and much louder noise, as well as a strong smell, especially during start-up in the early mornings.
Ms Dubois says this is an intolerable imposition on the neighborhood, and had repeatedly moved her to tears of frustration.
Power and Water had made several promises to cut down the noise, but measures taken had not been "successful".
Ms Dubois says Mr Wood had told her that blankets had been installed but that had not helped.
HOME VALUES Baffles would be tried but "they may not work either," Mr Wood had told her.
Ms Dubois says the problem may be depressing the value of homes in the area, and they had been very slow to sell since the problems started.
Dr Lim says Power and Water should shout down the Ron Goodin power station, relocating all of it to Brewer Estate.
He says the project could be "cost neutral" with the proceeds from real estate sales offsetting the relocation costs.
Dr Lim says blankets at ground level of the generator work well to suppress noise in the immediate vicinity, but the problem in the wider neighborhood is the noise coming out of the chimney.


When Craig and Robyn Lambley were looking to expand their business, Mad Harry's, and move from premises on Gregory Terrace they were all set to rent again.
But when they looked at the cost, they calculated it would be cheaper to buy land and build a property from stratch.
The Lambleys would have had to fork out $250,000 a year rent for a 600 square metre property.
Although they won't say how much their new property in Parsons Street cost to build or how much they paid for the land, it still worked out to be a more profitable investment in the long term.
"We looked at moving into a purpose-built rental property but when we did our sums, the rental we would have paid over 10 years would have been similar to paying off a substantial loan over 15 years," says Ms Lambley.
"We had to sell everything we owned and more but it still worked out to be a smarter business decision than renting."
"The location is probably on the busiest and most active corner in town," says Mr Lambley.
"And this way we've been able to build the store exactly as we want it: make it fresh and bright with high ceilings."
The Lambleys suggest that Alice Springs has retail rents that are higher than in other places across Australia.
"I know that discount variety stores in most other places in Australia would not consider paying the rentals that are in Alice Springs.
"We have heard of several national discount variety stores that have looked into coming to Alice Springs but have baulked at the high rate of commercial rentals. For a relatively small regional centre, I think most real estate agents would agree we do pay top dollar here," says Ms Lambley.
"In regional areas around Adelaide, the rents are between 20 and 30 per cent less but probably twice as many people go through the shopping centres," says Mr Lambley.
This May, the Lambleys closed their Mad Harry's store in the Alice Plaza because of a dramatic decrease in custom when two food outlets (Zac's and Piccolo's) closed during the redevelopment.
"We had a 30 per cent drop in turnover," says Mr Lambley.
"Any good food court is a draw to a shopping centre.
"The Plaza gave us a timeline of six months when the renovations would be finished. I'd like to think they'd be over by Christmas but realistically it will take 12 months."
"We would consider moving back into the Plaza when the redevelopment is finished," says Ms Lambley.
Andrew Thorogood, the proprietor of Hourglass Jewellers in the Alice Plaza, says he's also noticed a decrease in turnover since the redevelopments of the Plaza began in October last year.
"The car parking has had a big impact on us: people are scared to park there because the boom gates keep breaking.
"That's the fault of the suppliers of the gates not the Alice Plaza management but it's still deterring people from coming here."
He agrees that rents in Alice are high but says Katherine is even higher because there is only one shopping centre there.
"The centre management have you over a barrel. And it's no better at Yeperenye: it's a like a Ford and Holden competition.
"Nothing has been spent on this shopping centre for 20 years but when the renovations are finished I firmly believe the Plaza will be the centre in town: the food court will be fantastic, the air conditioning will be upgraded and the new flooring."
Another store owner in the Alice Plaza says who wished to remain anonymous said that shopping centres like the Alice Plaza could be pricing themselves out of business.
"I think you'll find over the next few years more and more businesses will move from Alice Plaza to the mall and the surrounding areas. They won't be able to survive in the shopping centres.
"Rent is an absolute joke.
"Landlords know we have nowhere else to go and independent businesses don't have negotiating power. It's all cloak and dagger, boardroom finances and no one knows how much rent other stores are paying."
This point of view is echoed by Sasha Rosalski, owner of Katachi, a cafe and boutique in Todd Street. He tried to expand the business last November by moving the boutique into the Yeperenye Centre. Less than three months later was forced to move out because the high rent, at nearly $48 per square metre per month.
"For a town with such a small population which leaves for three months of the year, and a town which relies on seasonal trade, it's hard to justify the high commercial property rates to small businesses," says Mr Rosalski.
"If I went to Adelaide to the Myer Centre, I would be paying a very similar price to the Yeperenye Centre but the traffic would be ten times as much, minimum.
"The [Yeperenye] general manager was sympathetic and tried to help us as much as she could but said the prices were fixed by the board of directors."
According to the leasing department of the Myer Centre shopping mall in Adelaide rents range between $41 a square metre a month (cheaper than Mr Rosalski was paying) to $166 (much more).
Kevin Boland, manager of In the Picture, a photographic centre on Todd Mall, says rent here is more expensive than it used to be.
"I don't think rents are higher on the Todd Mall than other places in Australia.
"But once you could afford to be here but now rent is a big part of our turnover.
"Very few retailers are ever happy, wherever they are!"
Alice Plaza property manager, Tony Bruno had no comment to make on the cost of rents.
Yeperenye Shopping Centre manager Desley Cowley says: "From my 20 odd years experience in shopping centres, I feel the rents in Alice Springs are very competitive given the size and standard of the facilities.
"It's always difficult to compare like for like and it does to some degree come down to supply and demand. Other factors to consider are increased operating costs such as cleaning, security and hours of opening compared with other centres.
"The traffic flow in Yeperenye, I believe, is comparable to that of similar sized centres in both regional and suburban locations.
"There is lots of data available through industry analysts that would suggest our rents are very sustainable for business owners."


At 12.28pm last Friday a minder for alcohol licensing minister Syd Stirling announced he won't be issuing any new take-away licenses for 12 months, branding the move as "a major effort to tackle alcohol abuse".
Two hours and 20 minutes later a minder for Chief Minister Clare Martin circulated a media hand-out declaring that "the Alice Springs Alcohol Task Force has supported new measures being implemented by the Territory Government to tackle alcohol abuse and antisocial behavior".
The blurb goes on: "'The Task Force was very supportive of these moves which will relieve some of the pressures being felt in towns like Alice Springs from alcohol related antisocial behaviour,' Ms Martin said." Ms Martin heads up the task force.
And so her propaganda machinery, which senior staffer of the Opposition, John Elferink, claims will soon cost the taxpayer $10m a year, has perpetrated yet another hapless attempt at hoodwinking the public into believing the government's doing something decisive whereas, of course, it is not.
The 12 existing take-away outlets can easily provide enough grog to cement Alice Springs' new reputation as the nation's (the world's?) homicide capital, or even to make it worse.
Mr Stirling's pathetic decision is an insult to Alice Springs where community leaders are calling for dramatic measures, including abolishing take-away altogether, except for tourists, and substituting it with home deliveries.
And what's Ms Martin's task force doing? Not much. "Discussing the new antisocial behaviour laws that will come into effect this month": an Alcohol Court with the power to force offenders into compulsory rehabilitation (to which only 10 per cent of drinkers will respond, research shows), or ban offenders from licensed premises (so their mates will buy the booze). New "dry area" laws: How come the old ones weren't enforced? Acceptable behaviour agreements for public housing tenants: good luck!
The blurb says: "We also received an update from Racing, Gaming and Licensing about the status of the local alcohol management plan. "
That's the same instrumentality that woefully mishandled the most recent trial when port replaced wine swiftly and unchecked.
"Ms Martin said the Licensing Commission would be holding informal talks with stakeholders in Alice Springs next week about options to reduce alcohol abuse," the blurb informs us.
Is that the same Ms Martin who five years ago pleaded for your vote "because we're ready for government?"
Ready for more talk and reports, it seems, not leadership.


In 1949 Dave Fogarty drove 1200 cattle from his station in the Top End to Central Australia. It took him seven months.
Now 87, his colourful life has seen him riding in rodeos until he was 80, despite nearly losing his leg (he even rode with his leg in plaster).
Here is the story of an extraordinary pioneering pastoralist.
Dave travelled down to Central Australia with Ajax, an Aboriginal station hand, and some of the time with his brother Ted.
He was moving between his station, Buffalo Springs, to cultivate new pastoral land at Mulga Park, 1200 square miles in size, lying between Ernabella and Fregon.
"We stopped where there was water," says Dave (pictured at left).
"But you had to watch the cattle at night so they didn't run everywhere.
"We had to use donkeys for packs: we couldn't use a vehicle in those days.
"When we got to the highway we bushed the donkeys, let them go, and used horses and mules instead.
"Even though we didn't feed them or anything, the donkeys hung around and followed us every day. They saved the day: when we got to Tennant Creek the mules were knocked up and so we rode the donkeys for the rest of the way."
Dave had worked on Buffalo Springs for about five years before he decided to move. "It was definitely different land down here.
"No one had done much with it, we started from scratch, getting the land ready for cattle.
"We put down a lot of bores with an old mud puncher, we bought a drill and had to learn how to use it. We built and put up all of the fences.
"We lived in a lean-to we built out of timber at first. Then we built a Sydney Williams shed and we filled in the sides.
"It was quite comfortable."
Dave was helped in all this by Ajax, the Aboriginal man who had worked for him at Buffalo Springs.
"Usually they don't move out of country but he did. He was a really good old bloke.
"He pinched a one legged wife from down here and they had six kids. People always said he was from the wrong country. But he stayed with me forever."
The brothers would sometimes not come into Alice Springs for 12 months, depending when they needed supplies, but while they were setting up, Dave would ride between Buffalo Springs and Mulga Park.
"I got an old Harley Davidson from the army and went up and down on that," he says.
In the first years of setting up the station, the brothers suffered a seven-year drought.
"It was pretty devastating. If it had been another couple of years it would have been a problem. But we bred back up."
After the drought Dave went to Lucy Creek while Ted ran Mulga Park. This lasted for three years before they exchanged stations and decided to amicably break their partnership and run the stations individually.
Described by long-time cattleman friend Doc Cunningham as "one of the best riders I've ever seen", Dave's passion for horses still remains: he attends every race meeting at Pioneer Park and still trains his own horses.
He won the Victoria River Downs racing cup twice and was still riding in rodeos when he was 80 years old. After having an accident at a Tennant Creek rodeo he still rode and trained horses with his leg in plaster.
"I always rode. We used to go in bush races, rodeos: down here, at Harts Range, in WA. It was a good get together, a big gathering.
"Some places had a picnic meeting, people would muck around, riding double bank. I suppose I was lucky when I won."
Dave had lived on cattle stations all his life: his mother was a well-known outback pioneer Sarah Fogarty (later Shaw). Ted, their father, was a brumby runner and lived in Queensland before moving to the Territory with his family when Dave was two. As well as his brother Ted, he had two sisters, Anne and Margaret.
He began droving when he was 12. "You had to get a receipt for the cattle before you started off," remembers Dave. "Because I was too young I had to put it in the cook's name. She got all the money when I got back!"
In these early years he nearly lost his left leg in an accident.
"We were about to drive around Australia when I was eight. The driver hit a tree and my leg got hurt.
"We went to every capital city in Australia to try to get treatment. Everyone said they would have to cut it off. In the end a doctor who had been working on a navy ship bandaged it up but it went gangrene.
"They managed to save it but it really hampered my droving."
Described as a very handsome young man, tall, dark and lean, Dave met his wife, Joyce, on Montejinnie Station (in the Katherine area) when he was doing some work for her father.
They had a radio romance: when he moved on, the only way to communicate across the vast distances was via two-way radio.
She was 18 when they married but she died at only 39 from cancer (she's buried on the station). Dave says she was invaluable to him.
"She'd been on stations all her life so when we came down here, she settled in. Same as Kathy [his sister in law]. They knew what they were getting themselves into!
"Without a wife you'd be on your own out there. When I would go out mustering she'd be there in control of the station. We'd go out for weeks on end."
At Buffalo Springs, much larger, most of the mustering was done on horseback. In Central Australia, Dave would round up the cattle by trapping them near bores when they came in to water. He would take three weeks to walk the cattle to the Finke River and send them to market in Adelaide on the train.
Dave and Joyce had six children: Marie, Mickey, Johnny, Peter and Margie. Sadly, their son David was killed when he fell off a back of a Toyota on the station.
Marie, who still lives in Alice Springs, lived at Mulga Park until she was 18.
"One of the hardest parts, especially for mum, was that you couldn't get medical help straight away. The Royal Flying Doctors are brilliant but you still have to cope with the crisis on your own until the aerial medical got there, like when my brother got killed, or when Dad had accidents and got knocked out, and when mum lost a baby."
But she remembers her time growing up on the station as happy.
"It was a good life, a free life.
"We all helped, just as any family does today.
"My brothers and sister and I did School of the Air until grade seven and then we went to boarding school in Adelaide.
"I hated it. It made me appreciate what was here!
"I left before we got a proper telephone. The earliest memory I have of Alice Springs was coming in when I was eight. There were only about 8,000 people then and only two shops: Fogarty's (not ours!) and Laughton's."
Marie later bought Kulgera Roadhouse with her dad. Her brothers Mickey and Johnny worked on Mulga Park until they sold it 12 years ago to the Nicol family which operate it today.


Education Minister Syd Stirling could be on the right track with his middle schools initiative but will never get a prize for winning hearts and minds on the issue, even with the help of a top flight, and no doubt expensive, national public relations agency.
His decision to maintain Alice's two junior high schools as "specialist middle schools" was hailed as a victory for the fiercely fought local campaign against any merger of the schools.
But whether locals like it or not, he is still insisting on Year 10 students going full-time to Centralian Senior Secondary College from next year.
"We believe that Year 10 students are mature enough and ready to be treated as senior students.
"It is important to their future beyond school for that movement to occur now," Mr Stirling said in a media release last week.
Parents remain unconvinced. Anzac Hill High School Council put out their own media release:
"We still find this proposal totally unacceptable.
"It seems to be based on gut feelings, economic rationalism, and 'something once worked well somewhere'; we have been given no research or evidence to say it will benefit students.
"In fact the research cited by the Government (the SACE Report) recommends year 10 be set up as a transition year exactly as Anzac does now."
This is what that report says, in part, under the heading "Stages 1 and 2 and the role of Year 10": "The Review Panel ... believes that the process of reforming SACE should play a part in strengthening Year 10, by creating a clearer and more systematic connection between the current compulsory and post-compulsory years of education.
"This can best be achieved by understanding Year 10 as a sort of 'staging post' in a student's education journey.
"From this perspective, most students would continue a broad general education while starting a process of reviewing where they want to go next.
"However, during Year 10, students should be able to take two SACE required learning units (worth 10 credit points each) at Stage 1 level: one Personal Learning Plan and one Extended Learning Initiative, and gain 20 credit points towards the SACE before entering Year 11.
"This should act as both a reward and an incentive for students, with the result that a higher percentage of students would stay on into Year 11.
"Research indicates that making firm connections between different stages of education in this way is more likely to retain students in education, rather than a system where there are clearly defined breaks between one educational phase and the next."
Technical terms aside, this sounds close to what Year 10 students have already been doing in Alice, undertaking some Stage 1 or VET subjects at Centralian, while still having their home base at the two junior highs.
However, elsewhere the SACE report looks quite specifically at "the Northern Territory context".
Perhaps not everyone realises (although the school councils no doubt do) that senior secondary students in the NT have been involved in the SACE since 1993.
The Territory has its own senior secondary certificate, the NTCE, but it is based on SACE curriculum and assessment frameworks and largely administered by SSABSA (the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia).
It thus makes sense for the Territory's Education Minister to look closely at the SACE review and respond to decisions in SA that flow from it.
The review looks at the distinctive features of the Territory context "that require a high level of responsiveness from the Territory's education system".
These are to do with remoteness, Indigenous status, age profile and the like, factors generally well understood here.
It goes on to detail a number of key indicators relating to performance, including the one that dominated early discussion in Alice of Mr Stirling's proposals: that over the the past five years the average Tertiary Entrance Rank (TER) obtained by students in the Northern Territory has been consistently around five points lower than the average TER attained by students in South Australian schools.
But then it reports a significant exception that never seemed to gain any traction in the debate: "However, the average TER for students attending the Territory's two largest high schools is comparable with the South Australian average.
"These two schools enrol more than 43 per cent of the Territory's total Year 12 cohort and are able to offer a wide range of subject choices, supporting the contention that there is a link between school size and the capacity to provide a curriculum that forms the platform for students' academic success (NT Government 2004)."
By sending the Year 10 students to Centralian Mr Stirling is creating a larger senior secondary college in Alice Springs: presumably the economy of scale made possible by the move will get them the "wide range of subject choices" that is deemed to be essential for contemporary students' engagement in education.
Another ground for objecting to Mr Stirling's decision was put thus by the Anzac school council: "This move is all about improving the grades at Year 12, with no evidence it will work, and at expense of students who are less academically inclined.
"Our current set up with Year 10 allows students to prepare for further study or employment - this needs support and enhancement."
Again, Mr Stirling does not seem to have taken his cues well from the SACE review.
Its subtitle is "Success for all" and it considers at length the needs of students who are not academically inclined.
In its introductory pages it says in part: "The Review Panel is convinced that new ways of thinking about the structural, organisational and relational dimensions of Years 11 and 12 are required.
"Conventional binaries separating education from training, academic from vocational, and theory from practice have outlived their usefulness.
"Old mindsets are simply not helpful in addressing the challenges of new times. Productive participation in education and / or training for all young people beyond the age of compulsion is essential for personal health and wellbeing, as well as for the social, political and economic health of a community.
"This does not imply that all young people must stay on to the end of Year 12. There are other avenues that can be followed, including moving into full time work where a young person can continue to learn through training or education opportunities."
It goes on to talk about maximising completion to the end of Year 122 and what the SACE should provide: the development of the whole person; a basis for further education, training and lifelong learning; a rite of passage‹a significant point in a young person's life. It is a public recognition of a student's participation in and achievement of a certain standard of education that forms a basis for further study, work and community engagement.
All of this sounds like the kind of philosophical framework that local people interested in the education of our youth could comfortably work with.
It makes Mr Stirling's framing of the issues, not withstanding the engagement of SOCOM, a national public relations company, seem particularly inept.
Meanwhile, what has looked like a rushed decision to parents and students, has been long expected and greeted with relief by education circles, says general manger of schools in Central Australia, Paul Newman.
He says issues raised by the Territory's review of secondary education almost four years ago have been the subject of "quite a deal of discussion" by educators since then.
He says the time frame is reasonable to "bed down" the practical arrangements at Centralian Senior Secondary College.
At present the university occupies a large part of the college building but will be moving to its new accommodation, under construction, in Term 3.
Planning for the refurbishment of the college building, at a cost of $975,000, is underway.
Mr Newman does not yet have details on new facilities or course offerings but said said he expects both to be enhanced.
Certainly the staff to student ratio would be improved, from 17:1 to 14:1, and this would afford enhanced pastoral care of students, especially those of compulsory school age.
Continuity of Stage 1 and Stage 2 patterns for existing students is assured.
CSSC will still offer flexibility and greater autonomy to those post-compulsory students, but "I can't give a guarantee that there won't be some changes," says Mr Newman.
Existing programs for "special clientele" like Future Directions and Alice Outcomes, base at ASHS, will be maintained at CSSC, says Mr Newman.


Year Nine students at Alice Springs and Anzac Hill High Schools are in the hot seat for Education Minister Syd Stirling's secondary education reforms: they'll start senior college next year, a full 12 months ahead of when they expected to.
The Alice News asked student leaders in Year Nine at Anzac Hill High, Stephen Carroll and Hannah Irwin, and their colleagues Blake Kruske and Megan McAllister, how they're feeling about the prospect. Stephen: I'm not looking forward to it. Most people have been telling me they're going to drop out when they turn 15. I'm not going to drop out but Years 10s this year will be getting ready to go over for the whole year. Now we'll get ready for the last two terms. I'll be able to cope with the learning but going in with ASHS students will be strange.
Hannah: It's stupid because there's no need to move us. We've all been looking forward to being in Year 10 here. Being the oldest we'd get more advantages, now we'll be the youngest at Centralian. But it has got a lot more to offer than Anzac, the types of subjects, and I'm looking forward to that aspect of it. We'll make the adjustment but we shouldn't be forced to. Blake: I'm kind of glad I'm going there. It'll be a better learning experience. Megan: I don't think I'll be quite prepared and it'll put a lot more pressure on everyone. And there'll be more conflict with students from the two schools merging. Blake: I've got nothing against the ASHS students. I've got friends at ASHS.
Hannah: Each school has got its own problems. If you put them together it'll make it worse. You should just leave it the way it is.
Megan: By the time we'd get to Year 11 we'd be more mature to deal with the problems.
Steve: I'm OK about it - I've got nothing against ASHS.
All of the students felt they had more questions than answers about what the changes will mean. "We haven't been told," said Blake.


This is the second installment summarising Bob Beadman's 2004 paper, Do Indigenous Youth Have a Dream?, published by the Menzies Research Centre. See the first part in our issue of June 1. Mr Beadman was a senior public servant for the Territory and Commonwealth Governments for 43 years. Although retired, he is still chair of the NT Grants Commission.
Welfare hit remote Aboriginal communities with a double whammy, suggests Bob Beadman.
Not only did it allow people to sit down and get something for nothing, with all the insidious effects that have flowed from that. He argues it also contributed to the deteriorating quality of outside staff on the communities, at a time when the communities became increasingly dependent on those staff for their functioning.
In the 1960s and '70s, a period of high employment, he says the annual advertisement of Patrol Officer-in-Training positions would attract "many hundreds of quality applicants".
By contrast in the 1980s and 1990s it became "extremely difficult to attract high quality applicants to highly paid positions in the main urban centres".
He speculates on the reasons for this: was it to do with the closure of the Australian School of Pacific Administration which prepared patrol officers for their work with a two year course?
Had the Commonwealth become a less attractive employer after self-government?
Had goodwill towards Aborigines dissipated after they got access to welfare benefits?
"Or," he asks, "could it have had something to do with the ready access to welfare benefits, and the emergence of the term 'dole bludger' to describe, amongst other things, youth chasing the sun with surfboards on their roof-racks and the Department of Social Security, as Centrelink was then named, obligingly noting their changing addresses for the purposes of sending them their cheques?
"My point is that not only did the generous extension of welfare benefits have negative effects on the social fabric of remote communities and consequently the attractiveness of work in a cross cultural setting, the negative effects are also readily found in the lack of preparedness of [mainstream Australian] people to chase work and indeed their ability to elect not to work."
This decline in quality administrative staff came at the same time as Aboriginal councils, funded by government grants, began to take on a raft of services and controls previously managed by others, with responsibility for recruiting and training their own staff.
"No longer would the Missions or the Government offer a career environment, or do any of the screening of applicants," reports Mr Beadman.
Occasionally "an exceptional talent emerged" but, he says with brutal honesty, "some absolute doosies emerged from the swamp".
In this context there was also "exponential growth in the scope of activities [on communities] eligible for support, and in the number of agencies offering it".
"It became a complicated science to identify which department was responsible for that particular program needing to be tapped for those particular requirements."
The common requirement for accessing funds was incorporation on a community-wide basis.
"So notwithstanding the demise of communalism all around the world," writes Mr Beadman, "governments stipulated such a requirement here Š out of a mistaken belief that mutual support systems they had observed across extended family structures, also extended right across language group structures.
"They do not! Each extended family group is quite an autonomous structure, which is why you see them taking over community cooperatives by stacking meetings, contriving the spread of public notices about the time and place of such meetings. In other words the full kit bag of tricks learned well from their exposure to the world. So much for the efforts to avoid nepotism! .. This is how we ended up with a 'parallel universe of Indigenous services'."
This parallel universe (Mr Beadman owes the term to anthropologist Peter Sutton) developed behind the closed doors created by the permit system, "a two edged sword".
On the one hand it helped control "the worst aspects of the encroaching society", but on the other "it stopped the migration of businesses of every kind in their tracks, leaving the ill equipped councils to provide such services normally provided by governments and private enterprise". "Ironically, the further out, beyond the fences, the least range of skills transfer to local people, the more difficult to recruit quality staff, the wider range of functions the councils will have to take on. Like Australia Post, Centrelink, Which Bank, Air North, Telecom, PowerWater to name a few.
"Then there is the service station, store, windscreen replacement and tyre repair workshop. None of these responsibilities have to be taken on by the big municipal councils.
"With the benefit of hindsight, these overloads contribute also to councils becoming dysfunctional.
"The point is there are generally no privately owned enterprises."
This, says Mr Beadman, is also a factor of the type of land title in Aboriginal communities.
More on this next.


Trevor Jamieson, the central presence in Ngapartji Ngapartji, is a brilliantly entertaining performer and has a passionately interesting story to tell. Together with writer/director Scott Rankin he has put the story of his family, Pitjantjatjara people devastated by atomic bomb testing at Maralinga in the 1950s, on a large canvas that shows how the tides of international history have intersected in the Pitjantjatjara lands and continue to be felt in individual lives today.
The concept is hugely ambitious but could succeed with a less is more approach. The showing at Araluen last week was described by its producers as developmental . The development should go, I believe, in the direction of paring down - of elements of the text, the action, the imagery, the set - and of better integration of the remaining strands.
At this stage Jamieson is holding the strands together by sheer force of his presence and personal commitment to the story. He would be set free to do even more if the material wasn't shooting off in so many directions.
Life is like that, you might say, but theatre's power is distilled from life, reflecting meaning back to it. It loses its potency if it goes with life's magnificent, though too often tragic, mess.
There are many sections of distilled power in Ngapartji Ngapartji: the disturbing, revealing filmed sequences focusing on Jamieson's alcoholic brother; the stories of his two murdered grandmothers; the stories around the bomb testing and its aftermath, particularly the washup of the dispersed Pit people, sick and desolate, in Kalgoorlie.
Sitting out from these are important strands that need work. The singing and language teaching have their own charm and are important in establishing a relationship with the audience, but they need greater integration with Jamieson's unfolding story, which should not be hard to achieve.
The sequences on the bombing of Hiroshima and on the fate of contemporary Afghani refugees trying to reach Australian shores are fundamental to Jamieson's and Rankin's big picture concept but are too long and too stylistically different.
The overall effect is of fragmentation rather than of complexity.
I think the work is striving for complexity, in an often engaging and insightful way, but it also falls into its own easy generalisations.
Jamieson addresses "You mob", the audience, as synonymous with the British colonisers and the stereotypical Westerner who spends his or her moronic life tapping at a keyboard and visiting the cash machine in recompense.
He suggests his mob's high birth rate will soon turn the tables and they'll be there to "smooth [the whitefeller's] dying pillow".
This all drew a laugh but it's also a bit glib and you can't really have it both ways: proposing more complex understandings on the one hand, and handing out clichés on the other.
And audiences aren't homogenous: in Alice last Friday a good many in the audience were Aboriginal people themselves, which, as an aside, shows that work with direct relevance to people's lives is one obvious way of "growing audiences" for the arts.


Motorbike legend Phil Lovett reckons the 19 year old bike winner of the 31st Finke Desert Race can go on and on.
The three time Finke champion who raced his 21st and final time in the event this year (missing out on first in his class by three minutes) said: "He's built like me and got a lot of potential.
"I spoke to him on the start line: I said get in there, do it properly. He didn't need any advice off me. He knows what he's doing.
"It takes a special kind of person to race in the Finke and win it."
Branford shared his elation with the legend, shaking his hand as he said he was proud to "join the list" with him and five-time winner Randall Gregory.
"The smile hasn't left my face," said Branford.
"It's been a really, really good day.
"I've been training at the gym and bike riding down the track and it's all paid off.
"The whoops were the hardest part of the race," said Branford. "They were really, really rough.
"But without my dad and Greenie [former Finke champ Stephen Greenfield] this wouldn't have happened."
And the best part of winning? The $10,000 prize money.
"This is what I'm talking about!" he yelled as he held the giant cheque above his head on the winner's podium before being sprayed with champagne by second and third men home, Brad Williscroft and Ben Grabham.
Branford's father, Frank, reckons his son will win again next year.
"It's as much a mental as a physical race, especially for him as he's so young and was under so much pressure," said Frank who helped finance the $15,000 for his son's bike, safety gear and other race costs.
Branford's grandparents, Robert and Marilyn, watched their grandson race home in the lead at 20km. "He said he saw us watching him. We were nervous all the way for him. But his determination won it for him. He's always had a mind of his own."
"I'm proud as for him," said his younger brother Travis. And Ryan's girlfriend, 15 year old Matika, said she "felt sick" during the race but was "really happy" he'd won.
Meanwhile, Lovett, who celebrates his 50th birthday next month said he can retire happy knowing new blood is coming through in his beloved sport. "I think it's really good that someone so young has won.
"But I'm ready to go home now.
"I'm over the hill. This is my last race.
"What's convinced me? I'm hurting and I need a beer. It's too hard, it's a very difficult race. I'm not fit enough. I've done my time."
Lovett won the event in 1981, 1982 and 1985, with a second in 1988 and a third in 1992. "My favourite memory? In 1985 when I won it.
"I beat the best of everybody in motocross in Australia, the likes of Steven Gall and Jeff Curtis."
He says the Finke has changed a great deal.
"It's become Australia's premier race. But it's got much harder, much harder. The track is much rougher.
"I used to be able to sit down the whole way. Now I have to stand up because of the whoops: there used to be about 30km of them. Now there's over 100 km."
He said it was his lower back that hurt the most during the race, and joked that his once washboard stomach has become like a Camelbak. But despite the stiffness in his legs and arms, he said he'll hang up his 881 bike number with sadness.
He is the first winner of the Greg Lincoln Memorial Trophy, awarded to celebrate the life of Greg 'Bags' Lincoln from Victoria who died while riding in the prologue in last year's event.
Bradd Lincoln, Greg's son, rode in his father's honour this year.
"I didn't know him but I was affected by his death last year. I am honoured to be given the trophy," said Lovett.
He says it will be one of his many indelible Finke memories.
"Alice Springs is such a nice place. I really enjoy coming here every year, I've got nice friends here.
"If I ever wanted to move out of my home town in New South Wales, I'd move here. People know how to party here!"


A champion of the Finke Desert Race for two years running hasn't made father and son team Shannon and Ian Rentsch forget about lending a helping hand.
Despite a looming 2am wakeup call, on Sunday night Shannon was up until 9.30 at the Finke camp helping his next door neighbour in Victoria, Glen Owen, fix his gearbox.
Rentsch says it's all part of the uniqueness of Finke: top riders and Sunday drivers enjoying the race together.
"It's our most favourite race all year. The whole town gets behind it and it's the most challenging track.
"It's unreal to win again. All that hard work was all worth it.
"It's a family affair, not just because of Dad but Mum helps out and my girlfriend Katie."
And there must be something special about the town of Warrnambool in Victoria: the Rentschs' next door neighbour, Owen with navigator Deon Beattie, was lying in third place at the start of the second day of competition, eventually finishing in 14th place.
"It's got to be the water," laughed Owen.
"There's no club there but there's always been the interest and good cars."
Although a similar size to Alice Springs (33,000) Warrnambool's landscape is completely different to the Centre's yet the town has regularly produced Finke competitors including Paul Simpson who won in 1997, and top competitors Reg Owen (Glen's father) and Dion Simpson.
Owen says living next door to the Rentschs means he gets to talk cars to his heart's content.
"We get on really well. And they've got a great team strategy," he laughs.
"Ian gets me over for a beer and we watch Shannon racing past. He's a bloody great competitor, Shannon. He's super fit." Shannon says racing cars is a 365 day a year sport. "You have to constantly prepare the car, about 20 hours a week. And I swim and bike ride to keep fit.
"When you win, it makes all the hard work worthwhile."
But his mum, Dianne, says it's frightening having both her men competing in motorsport.
"I say to them, why can't you take up tennis. All you need is a racquet and there are no flats!
"It is nerve racking having them both in the car.
"But they've never had a serious accident and I know Ian keeps things under control."


As urban drift of Indigenous people into Alice Springs accelerates Tangentyere Council has axed its free service which takes people back to their communities.
The Back to Country program has been scrapped because of lack of funding, says EO Tracey Brand.
The new program, Back to Home, will see Aboriginal people paying back the cost of fuel or the price of a bush bus ticket through deduction from their Centrelink payments.
Brand says the council has been given $50,000 less by the NT government because Back to Country and day patrol services merged.
³Weıre not able to sustain the level of program delivery,² she says.
But Ms Brand was adamant the changes wonıt mean Aboriginal people will be stuck in Alice Springs.
³Iım confident that it will work and weıll get people back to their communities.
³Aboriginal people are willing to pay their own way.
³Itıs not a matter of people having the money up front.²
She said the program will be monitored: ³Weıll go back to the government if itıs not working.² Ms Brand also said that the day patrol service will resume on July 1 after being suspended since February.
Wardens, who have stopped working, will again patrol the river and public places including the CBD between 6am and 3pm.
CAMPS The service will not include town camps as it did previously and there will be a space of two hours before night patrol wardens begin their watch at 5pm.
Ms Brand confirmed that four people from Tangentyere Council have lost their jobs over the change in the services although says three (thought to be drivers) have been given jobs elsewhere in the council.
The former co ordinator of the service is believed to have been asked to leave.
Miguel Ociones, the regional organiser of the union which represents workers at Tangentyere, was due to hold a meeting this week with employees.
³If funding has been cut then Tangentyere is allowed to cut workers.
³But employees have approached me because they are afraid of these redundancies and whether there will be more.
³I canıt say anymore until Iıve met with Tangentyere Council to find out what the situation is to make sure it is legal and in accordance with rules.²
Rex Mooney, the CEO of the Alice Springs Town Council, says that the council is still upholding its memorandum of understanding with Tangentyere.
³We are still prepared to work together with Tangentyere.
³Our rangers ring Tangentyere on a daily basis to make referrals of people who wish be taken back to their communities.
³There is no reason for any change in council assistance.²


They were the last to set off but gained an astonishing amount of ground to just miss out on third place in their class.
The 2006 Finke was a Herculean struggle for Andrew Pinto, the 24 year old son of double Finke winner Tony Pinto, and navigator Clint Aldridge. Seven minutes separated the pair from being place getters after a disastrous getaway.
The pair failed to finish the prologue after they rolled their 3200cc Jimco buggy and so began day one of the race 40 minutes behind the first starters.
Despite the near-heartbreak, in their first ever race together they clocked the fastest recorded time over the finish line on Monday morning, zooming over at an impressive 122 kms an hour.
This was despite not being able to find sixth gear and the fact that the first time they had driven the car was for 10 minutes at scrutineering on the Friday night.
"They'll win one day. I don't know when. We'll see," said Tony Pinto, visibly moved at his son's success after meeting him trackside and hugging him several times.
"I am very proud of him."
Tony Pinto was a navigator for 12 years for David Fellows (who finished less than two minutes ahead of Pinto and Aldridge), winning Finke twice with him.
After giving up racing two years ago he said he's shared all his motor racing knowledge with his son. "It's in our blood I suppose.
"I've passed on everything I know. I tell him be calm, take one step at a time.
"They could have panicked after the rollover in the prologue. But they did a very good job on day one: everyone who has ever raced will know how hard it is to pass a car, especially starting last.
"It's hard to say what they could have achieved with a good starting position but they probably could have contested a place."
The rollover in the prologue was devastating for the pair.
Pinto was near to tears and Aldridge had his head in his hands as the tow truck pulled their $150,000 buggy in the pits.
"They're heartbroken.
"It meant everything to them," said Christine Pinto, Andrew's sister.
"They've spent hours and thousands on it since Christmas, getting the motor from Japan," said Karen Aldridge, Clint's mother.
"We haven't seen them for a week. They were so pumped this morning, they've been up since 4.30am.
"All their mates have flown in from Adelaide, Brisbane, all around Australia." Aldridge's sister, Farley, was relieved they were safe.
"My dad saw the roll and I felt sick when I heard about it," said Farley.
"We didn't know if they were OK. There was no commentary from the box. We didn't see them until they came into the pits just now," Karen said, who remained philosophical about the accident.
"If they can walk away from this unharmed, they'll walk away from anything.
"It's got to be the safest sport: the roll cages, all the safety gear."
But Tony Pinto never doubted the pair would be in the race the next day. "It will be fine," he said, although he believed the accident could have been avoided.
"It might bring them back to their senses: make them realise they do have to have better preparation.
"They've had six months to check all this out. They should have checked the bit lock before the race. It was that which came loose and caused the tyre to come off."
But by 10pm that night the front arm, rear disc and the lights were fixed.
Karen and Farley went to Finke as part of the support crew. "Basically we're their slaves," says Farley. "We'll feed them, rub their legs."
When they pulled their helmets off after crossing the grid, both Pinto and Aldridge were beaming: they couldn't believe they'd raced so well after their Finke campaign nearly ended in disaster on Saturday.
"I didn't know how we'd do after starting dead last," said Pinto.
"I took it a bit easy at the start because we didn't want to roll again.
"But we were catching them so quickly on the way down to Finke. Before we knew it we were right on them. We had the power to get over them."
However, a second disaster was narrowly averted as Pinto cut and bruised his eye after he checked the brake fluid under the bonnet on Sunday morning.
"I thought I'd be half blinded for the race," he said.
They left in 13th position on Sunday morning and simply flew home. Aldridge said their campaign was steady until the ferocious winds made it impossible to see any other cars. "We caught a couple of people before the first section and then it got really dusty. I couldn't see behind us in the mirror.
"We came close to tipping up and going head over a couple of times over the whoops."
The boys passed Mount Squires in 12th place half an hour behind the leaders Shannon and Ian Rentsch but by Rodinga had caught up to sixth, clocking the fastest time behind Dave Fellows and Andrew Kittle for the stretch between Rodinga and Deep Well.
"I knew Dave [Fellows] was behind us," says Pinto. We could hear the chopper so we knew he must be close. They passed us after Deep Well.
"We got a love tap from him so I gave him one back as we came in!"
The boys raced over the line in fourth position, coming in at 2:10:51, just 14 seconds behind Fellows and Peter Kittle who were third.
"I can't believe it after yesterday," said Pinto.
Both were modest about the physical and mental energy it took them to complete the race. "I feel all right," said Aldridge. "A bit tired. My knees will be real sore tomorrow. I'll go home and go to sleep this afternoon."
The pair seem to have the perfect ingredients for a successful racing team: the fiery determination and Portuguese passion of driver Pinto mixed with the steady, level-headed cool navigating skills of Aldridge. And both boys' fathers have been past Finke competitors (Ken Aldrige raced numerous times as a bike rider).
They have been friends since they were 12, meeting at St Philip's.
Says Aldridge: "Although this is our first race together we've been mates for a long time."
Celeste Pinto, Andrew's mother, says she's not surprised her husband's passion for motorsport is in her son's blood.
"Their father is a champion, he is a champion. I am very, very proud of him. He has done so well.
"He's always raced everything: go karts, motorbikes. He loves racing. He loves competing."
Pinto won his class of the Finke in 1996 on a 250cc motorbike.
And what of next year? "We'll be back," says Aldridge. "Will we swap seats? No way. I can't drive!"


The Finke epitomises what Alice Springs stands for: doing it tough, mateship and pride in our land.
For the 360 bike and 88 car competitors along with the 12,500 campers and the 4,100 who watched at the finish line, the 2006 Finke Desert Race will be one they'll never forget.
On Sunday morning, as the sun rose and the crowd listened to the national anthem two figures dropped from the sky wrapped in the Territory and sponsor's flags.
In the pits the sound of revving engines was deafening.
The smell was of muscle rub mixed with dust and petrol as men changed into thermals, strapped fluids to their backs and gave their wives and girlfriends last minute hugs.
They paraded onto the grid, gleaming knights in reflective armour, ready to do battle in the one of toughest races in the world.
"It's a test of endurance like no other," said Andy Clark, the chief steward of the Australian Off Road Championships.
"It's one of the most demanding courses of any of the rounds in this series and a real adventure." The 300 volunteers in bright orange jackets with special passes fluttering around their necks were sprinkled across the track, working tirelessly in the freezing cold.
The thrill of standing on the start line as the lights changed from red to amber to green and the vehicles roared off was matched only by the returning winners and finishers.
It was amazing to see the competitors come through: buggies on three wheels, motorbikes doing wheelies, all proud that they'd conquered the desert whether it was their first or 21st Finke.
The mental and physical exhaustion wasn't often apparent until helmets and gloves were off.
Luke Forte, who came in fifth in his class, rode the whole way back to Alice Springs without any feeling in his left hand and both hands were bleeding with blisters.
"I couldn't even change the clutch," he said.
"I had tendon damage in my palm which was all good but every time I took off, the whole of my arm was dead.
"It's the toughest and roughest I've seen the track."
The Bureau of Meteorology recorded the wind conditions as higher than average for Alice Springs, gusting to 50 km an hour over the weekend and Monday, with temperatures a freezing zero degrees Celsius on Saturday and Sunday nights.


Sir,- On researching the early days of indigenous - colonial contact in Central Australia, especially for outlying areas near Alice Springs, we came across the following statement written in about 1948 and published in 1950, under the title "White Settlers and Native Peoples". A. Grenfell Price, C.M.G., D.LITT.,F.R.G.S. Master, St Mark's College University of Adelaide writes:
"Many aboriginal people still suffer from lack of land, lack of practical education, ill health, bad housing, poor diet and social discrimination, which produce grave problems that deserve the most serious and scientific attention."
Now, 56 yeas later, what has changed? Fundamentally, Indigenous Australians are still expected to be multi-lingual, apply cultural systems which are so foreign that many cannot be translated into their own language, accept the under-valuing of their cultural knowledge and practice in comparison to mainstream knowledge systems, and partake of an individualistically driven society.
How many decision makers, policy writers and government representatives are there who are not themselves Indigenous but have learned one or more Indigenous languages?
How much planning has been put into community housing design and lay out? How much consultation about where communities are built?
What about fundamental services like transport between communities, homelands and towns?
Where are the mentor programs to assist Indigenous community people in learning and undertaking leadership roles in communities? Where is learning for life?
We echo the call by many Aboriginal leaders, concerned professionals and individuals. It's time now for action, there's been enough talk.
All the studies have been done, all the reports written, all the talk fests have had their say.
Successive governments have failed to listen and to ensure that the first peoples of Australia are given a fair go, are understood and respected in their own culture.
This present federal government is spending hundreds of millions on our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and other far off overseas countries: would it not be better spent putting our own house in order by giving hope and opportunity to this country's own people?
It's so much easier to blame the victim, than it is to accept responsibility for acculturation and a lack of culturally safe governance. That is what government after government has done, blame the victim.
Now in 2006 it is time to do some things that really do make a difference and, yes, that does mean spending money, time, effort and respect. Listen.
For future generations of Aboriginal people it would be money well spent. For all of Australia it would be a true investment into this country and its health.
If we do not act now another 56 years may pass and someone else may quote from Mr Price's book and ask the same question: "Why don't we act now?"
Judy Lovell and Alan Tyley
Alice Springs


Sir,- Now I'm not usually into the whole "writing to the editor" thing and I'm not very good at putting pen to paper but your story regarding family planning services (Alice News, May 11) really hit home.
I am 21 years old and I have used the services provided by the wonderful doctor and nurses of Eurilpa House for the past two years.
I wonder if I could say that I'm speaking on behalf of all young people here by saying, "Give us our service back!"
Over those two years I've built up a relationship with the nurses and doctor at the clinic, so that even the most embarrassing subjects can be talked about. I have felt safe at Eurilpa House, but now they (government?) are taking it away? Or maybe that's what my limited knowledge perceived your story to be saying?
I don't want to go to some clinical doctor's surgery for my Paps every two years, what's comfortable about that! I don't feel judged at Eurilpa, as some of us younger people are at a doctor's surgery.
Why take away something that was so vital to us? How many young pregnancies are going to happen because: a) no money to go to the doctor's clinic; b) too ashamed to go to a doctor's clinic.
I have to wonder, how many STDs are going to be left undiagnosed because of Eurilpa not having a doctor?
Did anyone ask the Alice Springs youth what they wanted or needed or is it proven once again that the youth of Alice Springs mean nothing to the "higher powers" out there?
I urge all youth who use this service to stand up and voice your concern - because if they close this service, I worry what else is going to be next?
Christine Cooper
Alice Springs


Sir,- Senior Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs, Dr Mike Nahan, has brought down a damning indictment on the States and Territories for their fiscal irresponsibility. In his paper, "Opportunity Squandered: How the States Have Wasted the Reform Bonus", Dr Nahan points out how the NT, as well as the other states, has wasted its opportunities with the extra revenues and taxes collected by the states. One of the comments that Dr Nahan makes, on page 10 of the report, is that the country's new taxation system has provided the States with "enough money to drown to voices of opposition, thus dulling the most potential sources of accountability in our democratic system". A central plank of the paper is that the State and Territory Governments have squandered the vast majority of this increased income on wages. Since 2001, when this Territory Government came into power, the cost of wages to government has gone up by 38% to $1.237b.
Dr Nahan makes the point that much of this extra expenditure has been soaked up by administrative and executive staff rather than front line services. The Territory Auditor General said the same thing about the Territory's results in February this year.
Staff numbers and wages have been going up with no improvement in service delivery. In fact in the area of elective surgery waiting lists the results have been getting poorer. The worrying thing is that projected wages growth and projected revenues do not match.
The trend around the country at the moment is to project wages growth that is larger than projected revenue.
This means that pain is coming for public servants who will face layoffs if the current fiscal regime is applied. Dr Nahan says that the layoffs that the NSW public service is currently undergoing could spread to the other States and Territories because of these poor management practices. Dr Nahan is critical of the failure of the states to nation build with their increased income. The extra cash should be spent on infrastructure, yet this year the cash spend on infrastructure will be the lowest the Martin Government has ever produced. Compared with 2001, this year the government will spend $14m less cash on infrastructure but $341m more in wages. All this on a population that's hardly shifted in that time.
Terry Mills
Shadow Treasurer

ED - The Alice News offered Treasurer Syd Stirling a right of reply: The Government has produced three budget surpluses out of the last four budgets. At the same time record spending has occurred in infrastructure. The author of the report, Dr Nahan, has acknowledged that the Territory has achieved record infrastructure budgets.
We are in the best position of any jurisdiction, and are proud of the fact that we have boosted public service numbers in the critical areas of health, education and police.


Sir,- The recently appointed administrator of the Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation (NAC), Eamonn Thackaberry, has confirmed that the Nyangatjatjara College is operating as usual.
The Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations appointed an administrator under section 71 of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 to manage the affairs of NAC due to issues of concern that require attention. However, Mr Thackaberry has confirmed that the college is unaffected by the recent court action. He said that the college would remain open while he looked at the affairs of the corporation, and examined any issues that may be of concern.
The Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations
Canberra, ACT

ED - See our web archive for stories on NAC, including last week's "Court case gives glimpse into multi-million dollar Aboriginal business".


I might just be the last person on the planet not to have read The Da Vinci Code. I haven't seen the movie nor have I purchased the limited edition shopping bag.
In fact you might say that I'm the type of person who has no interest in the Da Vinci CodeŠor so I thought until one cold and windy Wednesday not so long ago.
I was walking past the Flynn Church that Wednesday night. It was dark and cold. I was away with my thoughts when suddenly a woman in the middle of the mall confronted me. She had a mysterious aura around her head, like an angel! As she came closer I realised that it wasn't an aura, it was her glittery beanie, but she still looked mysterious. She was dressed in robes and in her hand she held eight or 10 pieces of canvas all with intriguing patterns painted upon them.
In a very Pentecostal manner she told me her name has Mary and her paintings describe "the secrets of Alice Springs"!
I bought an artwork. No sooner had I put my wallet in my pocket had she vanished without a trace. Was this some sort of angelic apparition?
The whole experience shook me. I stayed awake all night transfixed on the painting, looking for a celestial meaning behind the traditional dots and dashes that covered the small piece of canvas.
As dawn broke I tried to convince myself that the event of the previous evening was just another weird thing to happen in the Todd Mall.
But when I got home from work that day, there it was, still on the kitchen table Š Mary's painting, "the secret of the Alice". After hours of silent study I must have fallen asleep, for the next thing I remember is the alarm clock ringing. There I was at the table, with the painting, a couple of library books and a now very cold cup of tea. As I picked up the cup I noticed the ring it had made on the top book. The book! A History of Alice Springs. I furiously read every word, hoping to find a clue to this mystery.
In the book I discovered that Alice Springs has a very Lutheran past. Many of the early missions were of Lutheran origin. Could they know the secret? Had it been lost over the years? Was Mary the only one left who knew the secret?
I raced to the Lutheran Church on Gap Road desperate to find the answer. It was closed. Gutted, I sat on the fence questioning my sanity. The wind was blowing hard and debris was making its way upon it into town. A piece of paper blew onto my leg. It was a flyer advertising The Da Vinci Code. On the flyer was Da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper". Suddenly everything started to make sense. I rushed home and printed an A4 size copy of the famous fresco off the internet. I knew I was about to make the most important discovery in Central Australia since Stuart stopped by. I cut out the heads of all the disciples and placed the paper over Mary's painting. Inside the head of the first disciple a dot and a dash showed through. The Morse Code for A. In the second head, dot, dash, dot, dot. L! Twelve disciples, twelve letters, ALICE SPRINGS. A cold shiver engulfed me at the discovery.
That left Christ himself. I cut out the complete figure at the table. Underneath was the morse code word GARDEN!
Mary was trying to tell me that Alice Springs was once the Garden of Eden.
I have kept this secret for as long as I could. What you do with this knowledge is up to you. But promise me this, if you decide to make a movie about it, don't cast Tom Hanks to play me.

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