ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
August 13, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
as change looms. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
It’s a week of collective holding of the political breath: no-one’s
saying much before the crucial vote tomorrow, which will decide who’s
going to run the Territory.
Scenarios include a minority government, Country Liberals (CL) or Labor
(ALP), with the support of independents Alison Anderson and Gerry Wood;
an election; or an ALP Government saved at the last minute.
CL insiders say they want an election because they don’t trust the
independents, and they are confident of winning a majority in their own
Meanwhile it’s zip the lip for the pollies as well as – surprisingly –
for some of the town’s major lobbies, despite the time being ripe for
lobbying for their priorities .
Mayor Damien Ryan says he’s got too much on his plate to be drawing up
a wish list right now.
Chamber of Commerce boss Julie Ross was out of town. Her deputy, Steve
Shearer, didn’t want to give his views, and referred us to the the head
of the NT Chamber of Commerce in Darwin.
Peter Grigg, of Tourism Central Australia (TCA), says that body would
continue to lobby for the Mereenie Loop Road to be sealed.
In the case of the CL taking power “we would remind local members of
promises they made previous to the last election” about that road, says
He says TCA has a good working relationship with the government’s
Tourism NT, and will be fostering that relationship no matter who comes
With its help the region is coping with the decline in international
visitor number “consolidating our core market, domestic drive”.
This season has seen Alice receiving more domestic drive visitors than
it has in a number of years.
Nature has had a hand in this more than the NT Government: Lake Eyre is
full, and visitors are driving on to The Alice.
Meanwhile Mr Grigg is preoccupied by two issues over which the NT
Government has also little control: the management plan for the Uluru -
Kata Tjuta national park, which is in Commonwealth hands, and the sale
of the Ayers Rock Resort, which is privately owned.
The scene at last Sunday’s Todd Mall Markets was indicative of the
The ALP stall was staffed by a sole supporter. The Alice News left a
request for a party heavy, for example, branch president Vince Jeisman,
to get in touch.
Jodeen Carney said almost nothing quotable in an 11 minute interview
with the Alice News.
Sample: “It would be unwise and foolish of me to report on those
negotiations [with the independents] at this peculiar stage of
The significant exception was that a CL government may halt the
handover of national parks ownership to Aboriginal interests, agreed to
by the Labor government against massive local opposition.
The policy is being implemented now, with parks east and south of Alice
Springs recently handed over.
Ms Carney says whether that process can be halted “is something on a
long list” of matters to be looked at by a new government.
Adam Giles, between chats with locals enjoying the mild morning, was
more forthcoming although unsurprising: he hits out at the government’s
abysmal failure to release or encourage the supply of residential land,
with rental vacancy rates below one per cent and sale prices, along
with speculators’ gains and real estate agents’ commissions, at obscene
Mr Giles says land shortage is one of the main obstacles to his
favoured “agenda of economic development and employment growth”.
He wants a “regional approach” to be achieved by “local solutions” with
input from local companies, contractors and labour.
Alison Anderson’s plan for 20 growth towns in the bush should continue,
says Mr Giles, although he claims it’s a copy of the Hub and Spokes
model promoted by the CL: “We need to have a focus on towns,” he says.
And this needs to go hand in hand with “decentralisation, bringing
services – state and Federal – back to Alice Springs and remote
“Things go wrong when you centralise the bureaucracy from a policy
administration point of view.”
However, there should be an assessment of “who can deliver and who
can’t. That’s what it’s about”.
So far as services to town camps are concerned, not Tangentyere but
“the town council should run the rates, roads and rubbish right across
“That’s their job.”
Another one to be under Mr Giles’ scrutiny is the Federal Minister for
Indigenous Affairs: “We’ve had an announcement from Jenny Macklin that
she’s going to have demountables built on town camps within the next
number of weeks.
“We’ll put a bit of a stopwatch on that to see if these things are
going to happen.
“I don’t think they will happen. I think we’ll miss out on another key
The current injunction granted by the Federal Court won’t help Ms
Macklin, of course.
Both Ms Carney and Mr Giles are vocal about SIHIP, the massive $672m
Aboriginal housing program, Federally funded but under joint management
with the NT.
It was the trigger for Ms Anderson to leave the government in disgust,
with not a single house built in two years.
Why is The Centre the poor cousin, yet again, with just a handful of
new homes to be built?
The need is greater in the Top End, we’re told (Alice News, April 17).
Where’s the evidence?
Nowhere to be seen, says Mr Giles: “I’ve asked for briefings and I’m
still waiting for briefings.”
And, of course, law and order is never far from the political mind:
“People are sent to prisons and prisons are a holiday,” says Mr Giles.
“Politics isn’t about building this or building that.
“The answer is appropriate policy and appropriate rules.”
family call for calm in lead-up to trial. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Family members of the late Donny Ryder, over whose death five young
local men face charges of murder, have called for “calm in the
community over recent events and in the lead up to the trial date”.
Thomas Buzzacott, cousin of the dead man, read a prepared statement on
the lawns opposite the Alice Springs Courthouse last Thursday.
“We ask for the general public to disregard any form of intimidation,”
Mr Buzzacott was surrounded by family members, including the victim’s
mother, “Aunty” Theresa Ryder, the respected Arrernte artist, as well
as the victim’s fiancee.
They had waited all morning for the bail application hearings listed
for four of the five defendants – Timothy Hird, Anton Kloeden, Joshua
Spears and Glen Swain. The fifth defendant, Scott Doody, was listed for
a mention or plea.
Some family and friends of the defendants were also in court, though
not in as great a number as on Tuesday, when the defendants were first
listed for mention. Extra seats placed in readiness for the anticipated
crowd were not needed on Thursday and nobody was asked to leave. On the
Tuesday unfortunately many of the connections of the victim, who had
entered the court last, were required to leave.
The last application on Thursday was finally heard just before 1pm.
Bail was not sought for any of the defendants, though yet may be for
some at a later date. All remain in custody.
Lawyer for Joshua Spears, Tony Whitelum, said he may make a bail
application for his client on August 27.
Likewise John McBride, appearing for Timothy Hird, asked for a listing
for a possible bail application on September 3.
Russell Goldflam of the NT Legal Aid Commission, acting for Glen Swain
and Anton Kloeden, did not ask for bail application dates, only for
“case management inquiry” (CMI) listings on September 17. A CMI is a
standard administrative step for which the defendant is not required to
appear in the court.
Scott Doody is represented by Murray Preston. No application for bail
has been made but there will be a CMI on August 20.
Committal dates have been set for November 16 to 25. Committals are
heard in the magistrates’ court to decide whether there is enough
evidence to go to trial. Murder trials are held in the Supreme Court.
Outside court last Thursday family members expressed relief that all
five accused had not asked for bail and were still in custody.
Mr Buzzacott noted, in the prepared statement, that only one of the
families of the defendants had offered their condolences to the
Sister-in-law Karen Liddle said that these were the parents of Timothy
She also said: “Aunty Theresa has said all along we don’t blame the
families, the parents or the brothers and sisters.”
She referred to two among the other families as “really well known
Alice Springs families” who have been “associated with the Aboriginal
community over 30 years or more”.
“This is the toughest thing,” she said.
The Arrernte families’ statement also called for the “whole community
to support us in helping each other to make necessary changes to
current laws and practices that are clearly not working”.
It did not specify which laws and practices.
“We need to allow for better understanding of the different cultures
and work towards respecting our differences and beliefs. This will
certainly reduce violence in the community which has been affecting
each and every one of us.
“Current laws are creating unnecessary conflict within the community.
“This is a vulnerable time when all young children and youth need our
strength and courage to protect them.
“It is they who need our constant vigilance and guidance. Through our
love and support as parents and families we must help them to live
better lives, to allow for cultural exchange to broaden their learning
in life and help them to achieve their dreams and aspirations.
“This is a crucial time for the whole community and governments to come
together through compassion and understanding as human beings and as
The family also acknowledged the quick response to the death of Mr
Ryder by the Alice Springs Police and “The Northern Territory Regional
Team” who had combined “professionalism” and “cultural sensitivity”.
“For this we thank you,” said Mr Buzzacott.
They also thanked members of the community who had assisted police with
Emotions rose when Mr Buzzacott recalled Mr Ryder as “a young man full
of compassion and love with a vibrant energy for life” and “who always
held a welcome smile with a ‘hello’ for everyone he met”.
While the mood in court among family members had been sombre, there had
been no tears.
Now Mr Ryder’s mother and his fiancee wept openly, with their arms
around one another.
Mr Buzzacott continued: “His working life was bound by his enthusiasm
for life, connecting him with the spirituality of the land he loved
whilst embracing friendship with all people within the community.
“He was a popular and proud young man who was loved by all his family
“He possessed a natural ability to share his love and in doing so
maintained his personal characteristics as a true gentleman who was
Arrernte, a Territorian and Australian and this is the image we share
with the rest of the community.”
Tragically it is the second loss in three years of a young male member
of the Ryder family: in April 2006 Ricky Ryder, nephew of Theresa, died
after bleeding to death in the operating theatre of the Alice Springs
Hospital where he was receiving surgery for stab wounds received in a
violent assault on him.
The three young men involved in that assault – Charles Hayes, 20 at the
time of the offence, his brother Benjamin, then 17, and Earl (Harry)
Hayes, then also 17 – were all convicted on a range of charges, but not
homicide as the Coroner found that Ricky Ryder’s death was preventable.
(The Coroner also found that the Alice Springs Hospital had since
addressed in good part the contributing factors.)
Murder charges over the death of Donny Ryder join others related to
killings in town going through the Alice Springs Courts at present.
Julian Williams and Graham Woods, both in their twenties, are charged
with the death of 37-year-old motor sport identity Edward Charles
Hargrave in April.
Their committal hearing is set for October.
And a 44 year old man is charged with the death of a 41 year old woman
in the Todd River on June 29.
[The family’s appeal and a photograph
were posted on the Alice News online edition on Thursday last week.]
Detail? What detail? By KIERAN FINNANE.
Despite a well attended public forum in June ‘08, a
consultancy involving broad “community consultation”, and costing
$136,330.92 the deliberations of public servants and then of a steering
committee formed in March this year, the so-called “details” of plans
for the revitalisation of the CBD amount to little.
Indeed, last week’s announcement on the subject by Minister for
Planning and Lands, Delia Lawrie, and Minister for Central
Australia, Karl Hampton, seems a classic case of “governing by media
Out of a 400 word release, only 127 words cover anything that could be
considered new. Four proposed projects were announced:
• A revitalisation of Todd Mall and providing a vibrant corridor with
new lighting, street furniture, shade and weather protection.
• Re-establishing open space that highlights Alice Springs’ unique
culture and provides space for artistic and cultural events and markets.
• A Green Streetscapes program to enhance the streets and encourage
pedestrian traffic with more shade, seating and new footpaths.
• More market and open space on Leichhardt Terrace between Gregory and
Wills Terraces for community and cultural events with a strong focus on
Indigenous culture and heritage.
Two of these proposals could reasonably be considered as new, the
second and the fourth.
The first, the revitalisation, has long been on the agenda of the Alice
Springs Town Council, with planning and work in abeyance while
“Planning for the Future” with the NT Government went ahead.
The third seems to be little more than a tree-planting and landscaping
program, unlikely to take effect until a carparking study is completed.
Council was to again have charge of that after expecting that it would
be an outcome of the “Planning for the Future” process.
Now, however, CEO Rex Mooney says it is “on the back burner” with the
“suggestion only” that it might be addressed by the Department of
Planning and Infrastructure.
For the second and fourth projects, the Alice News took the advice of
the release and went to <www.futurealice.nt.gov.au> for more
Trouble is, there is no more detail.
The News then asked the Minister’s media advisor what, for instance,
are the “open spaces” that will be re-established?
She sent a map which we have reproduced.
It is not enlightening about “space”.
The advisor suggested that the “open spaces” are “areas off the mall”.
The dot points for these, at this stage, unidentified areas concern
bordered desert gardens, aesthetic lighting, street furniture, shade
and weather shelters.
This sounds much like the first project and indeed, why aren’t the
first and second projects simply put forward as one, as they would
surely be vitally inter-related ?
The Leichardt Terrace idea appears to pick up on one foreshadowed
during community discussions by the consultant, Material Thinking’s
Paul Carter (see www.alicespringsnews.com.au/1530.html).
There was no information in the release or on the website that takes
the proposal further, except for this statement from Ms Lawrie.
She said: “Indigenous groups and leaders will be invited to make their
contributions to the proposed Leichhardt Terrace project that will
highlight the region’s strong links to Indigenous culture and
So nothing has really been “unveiled” as suggested by the media release
put out in the names of Ms Lawrie and Mr Hampton.
And nothing is “for comment” as suggested by the Centralian Advocate
How could anyone comment when there is no detail?
Even the media release says the projects will be put on display “in the
Meanwhile, however, a summary of the report by Material Thinking has
finally been released.
It is available on the “futurealice” website.
If one reads it in conjunction with the vague announcements above, some
fleshed-out projects begins to take shape.
And by the way, revitalisation of the mall and its “eat-west hinge”
areas is discussed as a single program.
But the good Ministers have not said anything about taking on board the
ideas proposed in the report.
Anonymous slug fest is level
of public debate in Darwin. By
Alison Anderson, now the Independent Member for MacDonnell after
quitting the NT Government and the Labor Party last week, says she is
fighting “a David and Goliath battle”.
“It’s wearing me down,” she told the Alice News – referring
particularly to the pounding she was getting in the NT News and from
the Labor “party machine”.
She found the proportion of negative letters and text messages
published in the NT News out of kilter with the support she was
receiving on the street and the texts she was receiving on her own
mobile after publicising its number.
She said 80% of that feedback was positive.
The remainder she said came from the “party machine”, calling her a
disgrace, or else people were asking why she hadn’t stayed to deal with
her issues of concern internally.
What does she say to that question?
“I tried to, but the wheels of the internal mechanism take a year to
“I took my concerns about SIHIP to the government over six weeks and to
the highest level, Cabinet, but I saw no urgency – what do you do, let
it go or try to do something about it?”
What about Working Futures, the policy she introduced in early May this
year that should see 20 of the larger remote communities becoming
growth towns and supporting “hub and spoke” service delivery to smaller
communities and outstations?
Has she sacrificed Working Futures for SIHIP (Strategic Indigenous
Housing and Infrastructure Program)?
“SIHIP is moulded into Working Futures,” she said.
“If SIHIP is not right, Working Futures will never be right.”
She does expect Working Futures to get “whittled down” if Labor retains
Returning to the issue of feedback on her stance, she said people had
told her that their supportive letters and texts were “not getting
through” at the NT News.
A quick tally of the August 6 edition showed 18 letters and texts
opposed to Ms Anderson’s stance, and four supportive.
On August 7, 17 were opposed, two supportive.
On Saturday the NT News promoted six pages of letters and text “to
Alison and Gerry [Wood]”.
It was accompanied by another editorial highly critical of Ms Anderson.
Chief Minister Paul Henderson’s failure to respond to the paper’s
editorial of the preceding Saturday – which had lumped Labor’s
Indigenous MLAs together, describing them as indulging in “one-issue,
self-centred politics” and acting like “spoilt children craving for
attention” – was the last straw for Ms Anderson, precipitating her
The balance in the letters last Saturday was three in support, five
opposed; in texts, it was seven in support, 27 opposed.
The lead letter however was “pro-Alison” and letters critical of the NT
News also ran, in which the paper was accused of witch-hunting and bias.
The weighting of “pro” versus “anti” letters would have been
influenced, at least in part, by the paper’s lampooning of Ms Anderson
and fellow Independent Gerry Wood.
Two unflattering photos, showing each smiling rather goofily and with
crowns placed on their heads and Ms Anderson appearing to be sweating,
were photoshopped together, with readers exhorted to “Tell GERRY and
ALISON what YOU want”.
Editor of the NT News, Julian Ricci, told the Alice News that by
Saturday the paper had published every text they had received by Friday
lunchtime, bar those deemed by their lawyer as too abusive.
Had these been published, the proportion of texts critical of Ms
Anderson would have been even greater, he said.
Mr Ricci said the paper checks the bona fides of texters by ringing a
percentage of the numbers to verify.
Of the 200 or so texts received, they had called about 20, he said.
He said if multiple texts are received from the same number, only one
A substantial number of the texts were characterised by, if not
personal abuse (“dummy spitter” being the most common term), then easy
None bear a full name. (The Alice News has a policy to not publish
letters to the editor from people hiding behind anonymity.)
As a way of communicating political views, the text message medium
certainly scrapes the bottom of the barrel.
“To woods & anderson. The voters might have a surprise for you pair
at the obvious upcoming election. You wet your own bed. Don’t blame
others. Worried f/bay”.
“Angry Anderson and backflip scrymgour r an embarrassment 2 the nt. And
theyve got the cheek 2 call on the racism issue. How dumb do we all
look su, parap”.
“Alisn. No black way or white way eh. well how about you giv alf the
money to your mob and the rest to pensioners. after all it’s taxpayers
money .. Jmac, humpty doo”.
“Marion & alison get back to bloody work & stop wasting my
bloody tax money with your little hissyfits! Fair dinkum! Do your selfs
a favour & p.. off these so called advisers (leeches) & start
thinking for your selfs. Marion your better than this. An old mate
The Alice News asked Mr Ricci if he thought their publication
contributed much to the political debate.
“Absolutely,” he said, “every text and letter we published comes from a
resident of the Territory.
“They have a right to an opinion.
“Alison Anderson and Gerry Wood wanted people of the Territory to tell
them what to do and that’s what our texters and letter writers are
One thing is certain, the political comment game is played more roughly
The NT News editorials and letters and text message pages make the
public debate in Alice Springs, in the print media at least, look
Land council and oil company
lock horns. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Don’t mention money – that is the requirement from the Central Land
Council (CLC) for negotiations between resource companies and
Traditional Owners (TOs), according to Bob Liddle, land manager for
Central Petroleum Limited (CPL).
He claims the CLC arranges for the company to make presentations to TOs
about land where CPL wants to carry out exploration work, but always on
the condition that the size of compensation payments is not mentioned.
The CLC, when asked for comment, pointed to provisions in the
Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
It says the applicant may attend –
• so much of the first meeting at which the substantive content of the
exploration program is discussed;
• and so much of the first meeting at which the terms and conditions
as is appropriate for the purposes of presenting and explaining the
The applicant can attend subsequent meetings “unless the traditional
Aboriginal owners, as a group, decide” that the applicant can’t attend.
Mr Liddle says the process as he has observed it exposes TOs to
manipulation, and possibly deprives them of information about the cash
they may be earning by giving consent for exploration and, ultimately,
CPL has extensive current or intended exploration interests right
across Central Australia.
Mr Liddle this week presented a cheque for $550,000 to the CLC as
compensation for exploration on Aboriginal land in The Centre, where
CPL has made significant discoveries of oil and gas, and found one of
Australia’s largest coal deposits.
“This coal deposit, down the track, will be used to produce gas to
liquid, which would result in 140 barrels a day of clean diesel, naptha
and jet fuel,” he says.
But he is concerned about the distribution of the money: “I can safely
say the traditional owners have no idea of how much money goes into the
“The CLC has just been given a new office for $16m, and some
traditional owners can’t even get a small generator,” says Mr Liddle.
In response, the CLC says the cost of the building was $10.8m: “The
Australian Government provided $6.8 million for the building from the
Aboriginals Benefit Account with the Council meeting the $4 million
Mr Liddle says TOs frequently ask the company for donations.
The role of the CLC as a distributor of funds came under the spotlight
at recent Senate Estimates hearings.
CLC director David Ross and general manager Bruce Nystrom were
questioned at hearings in February about mining royalties.
Senator George Brandis said: “In 2007/08 there was a distribution of
only something a little short of $7.5m although there were receipts ...
of some $23.5m ... I’d like to know who the payees of those sums
Senator Brandis said NT Senator Nigel Scullion had already asked the
CLC for a list of recipients but had not been given it.
Mr Nystrom took Senator Brandis’ question on notice.
The CLC says: “The information has been supplied to the Secretary of
the Senate Committee.”
The information consists of three lists, one for each of the financial
years 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08.
Each list has the names of about 75 Aboriginal Corporations, and
between six and 40 traditional owners or firms such as Elders Ltd
Merchandise and Tanami Transport.
Neither the number of people involved, nor the the amounts paid, are
Senator Brandis did not ask for those details.
The lists are at
Mr Liddle, a member of a prominent Aboriginal family in Central
Australia, in 2004 called – unsuccessfully – for an audit of the
distribution by the CLC of royalties from the Mereenie oil and gas
He says the CLC had recently rejected a CPL exploration application for
land near Santa Teresa.
The CLC confirms that.
Mr Liddle says the CLC had failed to properly consult adequately with
traditional owners in the Willowra area before rejecting an exploration
The CLC says a consent decision had been agreed to in the Federal
The CLC says it had overlooked notifying the applicants of certain
meetings as required.
The company now has the right to make a fresh application.
Mr Liddle says the process of obtaining exploration or mining approvals
on Aboriginal land is deeply flawed.
Meetings with traditional owners (TOs) can cost around $60,000.
Yet there are usually no interpreters present, so the TOs may not be
fully informed about any impact exploration work would have on
In some cases the impact is just trucks driving through a community, to
remote and uninhabited areas.
“We know that a lot of people approve, and some don’t,” says Mr Liddle.
“What are the criteria for saying yes or no?
“We want to know what the numbers are, for or against.
“This is not spelled out in the Act.”
He says he is concerned that TOs are not given a full understanding of
the impact of the work, and particularly the benefits, such as
compensation paid during exploration.
“Months and months down the track we get a letter from the CLC saying
that an application has been rejected.
“No details are given,” says Mr Liddle.
However, the CLC says “reasons have been provided to the applicant” for
the rejection of CPL’s Santa Teresa application.
‘Hardening’ Rainbow Valley. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The conservation reserve at Rainbow Valley has to be “hardened up” to
protect its highly erodable landforms, says Chief District Ranger for
the Central, Eastern and Barkly parks, Wayne Gaskon.
The Alice News put to Mr Gaskon that the restrictions on what visitors
can and can’t do at the famous site make for a very narrow experience.
The only activity allowed without a permit or without participating in
a paid, pre-arranged cultural tour, is a short walk along a marked
Mr Gaskon explained that people used to drive on to the claypan and
camp there, which had led to environmental degradation.
He said that Noel Fullarton’s camel activities, among others, had also
contributed to the erosion of the sandhill behind the bluff, the
spectacular feature that makes Rainbow Valley such an alluring
landscape for visitors.
“Even activities which are considered low impact can still cause
damage,” he said.
“Zoning is a management tool used on most parks and reserves throughout
the world to ensure [their] values are protected.”
He said that joint management with Aboriginal traditional owners has
led to more of the reserve being opened up: there is now an art site at
the centre of the reserve which visitors can see on a guided cultural
The Alice News put to him that for the “free independent traveller”,
driving in from the Stuart Highway without pre-booking, this is not an
Mr Gaskon said a lot of work has been done by Tourism NT in making
pre-visit information available to free and independent travellers and
in promoting Rainbow Valley “as an integral part of an overall
experience rather than simply a destination”.
He also said the Parks and Wildlife service is working with Ricky Orr,
the traditional owner who runs the cultural tours, to make “tag-along”
participation on the tours possible.
This still means that, under joint management, 90% of the reserve is
off limits to the casual visitor – in contradiction to the “no fees, no
permits” promise of the Northern Territory Government in relation to
the handover of national parks to Aboriginal interests.
Mr Gaskon said that his service is also having discussions with
traditional owners about opening up a walk along the edge of the
claypan to the west.
He says the service is not receiving negative feedback about the
restrictions at Rainbow Valley, and there have been increased numbers
of campers there this season.
The Alice News put to him that the assumption that all visitors want to
do is take a photo of the site and move on is an insult to the
aspirations of many who seek much more than this in their contact with
the natural environment.
Mr Gaskon says he has seen visitors not even get out of their car, take
a photo and go.
He also said for many tourists Rainbow Valley is but one stop on a
longer driving tour, whether via Chamber’s Pillar or through Owen
He said the site is known for its beauty at sunset; many visitors
arrive at this time and then return to Alice Springs for the night.
To the Alice News’ suggestion that the signage is not informative, and
especially not about cultural reasons as to why areas are off limits,
Mr Gaskon said there is “potential” for more information about the site
to be given.
He said under joint management some parks will have more access, rather
than less, some parks being hardier than others.
Local plays short and sweet. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Ten minutes can deliver a satisfying theatrical
experience, as a number of offerings on the Bite Sized menu showed.
The evening of 10 x 10-minute performances, at Araluen on August
1, was an initiative of Red Dust Theatre, “designed to foster growth,
development and inspiration in Territorians and Territory theatre”.
Although Red Dust is Alice-based, its search for scripts went
Territory-wide, and writers from Darwin (four) and Tennant Creek (one)
were represented alongside five locals.
The playwrights were mentored by a professional dramaturge, Peter
Matheson, while the directors and actors also had workshop
Apart from its developmental role, the evening also offered an outing
for some established talents.
Michael Watts deserved the rousing applause for Hot Tin Roof, which he
wrote and directed, while also performing in one of the roles.
Returning to a familiar theme for him – the gulf of understanding
between men and women – Watts treated it with a light, humorous touch.
The play had all the advantages too of unity of space and time –
allowing for a single image set and compact action.
Watts’ own delivery of lines was slightly flat, but I did enjoy the
performance of the long-legged Luke Scholes.
The whole was deft and enjoyable.
Together with Danielle Loy’s Dead Ringer, Hot Tin Roof will be staged
again during the Alice Desert Festival.
Dead Ringer was the most “out of left field” offerings of the evening,
venturing away from the serious, social realist character of Loy’s
previous plays into darkly humorous, surreal territory.
Imaginative direction in the hands of kerzlake and an effective
performance from Jim Coad added to its impact.
kerzlake was directed in her turn by Craig Mathewson in Drew’s Seizure,
written by Chris Raja, adapted from his own short story.
His subject – a carer’s response to the frightening epilepsy of her
client – is unusual and reveals an eclectic breadth to Raja’s
kerzlake is a skilled, obviously experienced performer, but
occasionally edged towards hysteria, in contrast to the “less is more”
set and the way that it was used to structure the action – trademark
Maryanne Butler’s The Sound of Waiting, directed by Jo Dutton, dwelt on
the extraordinary transitional moments between life and death, told
through the experience of two young women, one drowning, the other
throwing herself from a cliff.
A challenging subject and its treatment, both in writing and direction,
didn’t always avoid melodrama, but it moved me nonetheless.
I’m not mentioning every merit of the evening here but the ones that
have most stayed with me. Even the weakest of the plays had something
to offer, whether in subject matter, performance or direction, and
would no doubt benefit from further development.
Meanwhile, Maryanne Butler has a new play, Half Way There, a
co-production between Knock-Em-Down Theatre, JUTE Theatre and Darwin
Theatre Company, being presented in Alice by Red Dust.
In tiny remote Half Way in the Northern Territory, Harriet and Wes run
the pub cum brothel that is falling apart around them. Wes wants
to leave but Harriet is not moving.
Enter Sabrina, the new manager, eager to turn Half Way into the
ultimate luxury destination.
Described as “a story with a poetic and comic heart that explores
deeply moving, human themes with a uniquely Australian sense of
humour”, the play shows at Centralian College Theatrette on August 27
The harder they try the
behinder they get. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
There’s a clear relationship between overcrowding and the
supply of housing.
That seems to be a no-brainer.
It isn’t, at least not in Alice.
Compelling anecdotal evidence suggests that the more houses are
provided in town, the greater the problem becomes.
To put it another way, the overcrowding problem is growing in direct
proportion to the number of houses supplied.
This is how it seems to work: there are hundreds, maybe thousands of
people waiting to join the accelerating urban drift, quitting the
stultifying boredom of life in bush settlements for the bright lights
Many of these people have a background of living, for generations, in
humpies and houses that in most developed world jurisdictions would be
condemned, on a variety of grounds, and bulldozed.
Living 20 or 30 to a house is routine.
Couple that with rellies who’ve just been given, at public expense, a
brand new house in The Alice, and forbidden by traditional to say “no”
to demands from clan members, no matter how unreasonable, and – bingo –
we have a case of the cure being worse than the disease.
It’s likely the 85 new homes built under the $138m town camps package
will not ease the “housing shortage” – they will exacerbate it.
One would imagine that the authorities, spending taxpayers’ money,
would do two things.
Firstly, establish how many vacant homes there are in the bush already
– all built with taxpayers’ money.
The Alice News has published several reports of homes, and sometimes
whole outstations, that are quite new, empty, and sometimes vandalized.
We asked the NT government if it has an inventory of such dwellings,
only to be told by a minder that he would not “dignify” our enquiry
with a response.
Secondly, one would expect Territory Housing to have rules, diligently
enforced, that prohibit a level of occupancy bound to result in the
destruction of public property.
Alas, there are no rules limiting the number of “visitors”. This is
what we do have, according to a spokesperson for the department: “All
tenants in urban housing dwellings have tenancy agreements in place
which allow for guests to stay for up to six weeks.
“The agreements do not stipulate how many visitors are allowed at a
“However, the Department of Local Government and Housing can intervene
if visitors cause a disturbance that affects the tenant’s neighbours in
line with the responsibilities of tenants set out under the Residential
“A framework for remote housing tenancy is currently being finalised
and is expected to reflect current urban housing policy.”
Great. We’ll then have the same useless regulations in the bush that we
now have in town.
With the provision of housing across the community a number one
issue in Alice, what can explain the closure of Mt Gillen Supported
Accommodation since January of this year?
At that time, the former operator, Darwin Christian Outreach Centre
Ministries, withdrew from the facility – “for economic and staffing
reasons”, the Alice News was told.
When it reopens it will cater for 68 temporary residents – mothers and
children and “general transients”, according to Aboriginal Hostels
Limited, who will be the new operators.
But that won’t be until January, 2010, says a spokesperson for the
Department of Local Government and Housing.
Why, when the need is so urgent, is it taking so long? The spokesperson
says major work is required to bring the facility, originally
residential units, up to NT Building Act requirements.
“The work scope for the inclusion of a new commercial kitchen/dining
facility and upgrading the existing office and security of the complex
is currently being assessed together with a new fire service protection
system,” says the spokesperson.
“A DLHG officer is on site this week to assess and determine the
remaining works and organise the completion of all outstanding works.
“The Northern Territory Government has recently submitted a bid to the
Commonwealth Government for funding under the stimulus package. This
bid includes a number of managed accommodation projects.”
ADAM'S APPLE: More cowboy hats
than in a Slim Dusty convention!
I’m pretty sure that man went to the moon. I’d like to believe that the
moon landing was not staged on a set at Universal Studios in
I will however concede that if NASA really wanted to stage the first
steps on Mars they might want to head out to Atitjere.
For a boy from the city, the landscape which forms the backdrop of the
Harts Range Amateur Race Weekend is as close to the Mars orbiter
pictures as he’s ever going to get.
I think I get complacent about the unique beauty of the country around
here. I guess I’m too busy trying to get to K-Mart before it shuts to
truly give the landscape its dues.
Harts Range is a beautiful place. Rocky slivers of hills rising from
seemingly nowhere against a perfectly blue sky. A quiet which gently
whispers its ancient spirit and a vastness that reminds you of your
place in the universe. A perfect place to get drunk and dance with
cowgirls. I thought this year I’d do my best to fully embrace the
Territory experience and Harts Range is a perfect place to get my fill.
More cowboy hats than a Slim Dusty convention and more belt buckles
than Wrestle Mania, I was quickly under the impression that I wasn’t in
mobile coverage any longer, Toto.
I do have one suggestion from the get go. If the way out to Harts Range
is a corrugated dirt road and the only way to allow a vehicle to pass
you is to pull into the bush, perhaps you might want to not call that a
After my internal organs settled back into their original positions, we
found a spot to roll out the swags. Oh yes, swags. None of this soft
bloody camper van business for us.
No generators for lights and refrigeration here, let me tell you.
Nothing bloody comfortable about our sleeping arrangements. It’s all
central Australian icy gales and three corner jacks to add to the
Within a half-hour I found myself fully immersed in the Territory
experience. There I was, drinking a can sitting on top of a
Landcruiser, watching a bloke try to not fall off a very irritated
bull. I’m fairly certain that’s one of the quests that make you a
Territorian. I hope it is anyway. The other scenarios are quite frankly
I have played rugby. I have participated in a demolition derby. I have
on occasion stood up too quickly from a seated position. I’ve done my
fair share of laughing in the face of danger. Mostly a nervous laughter
but laughter none the less.
But can anyone, anyone at all, tell me why people ride bulls? Are there
significant pieces of these people’s brains misfiring? These animals
are genuinely huge and genuinely pissed off. I’m not sure if you’ve
read the bull’s body language but I’m guessing he’s not that keen on
Feeling very Territory, I shimmied down from the top of the truck and
went into the arena area for a closer look at the lunacy.
It was at this point that I realised I wasn’t as outback as I might
have felt. Ducking under a railing in a highly masculine fashion I
heard a rather loud tearing sound. Great.
The front of my jeans had torn from zip to crotch. This was
particularly devastating considering that my closest change of pants
was about 200 kms away.
It was while I was sitting in the stands watching the crazy people
riding the bulls that I realised how glad I was that I chose not to
wear the red undies. With my under garments in full view of the savage
bulls, red would have been unfortunate to say the least.
So for the next 24 hours, I would be roaming the outback, intermingling
with people and entering the Tug-o-War and dancing all the while
feeling the icy cool breeze around my nether regions.
But that’s the great thing about Harts Range. It didn’t matter. I spoke
with ringers and the blokes on night patrol and townies and tourists
and station owners and had a grand old time.
LETTERS: Could the Feds
do any worse?
Sir,– It must be a dire situation north of the Berrimah Line if both
current ALP member Alison Anderson and former CLP Chief Minister
Paul Everingham are calling for the Feds to pink-slip the NT
Maybe the fallout from the current imbroglio will see another
government take office in Darwin, or maybe the ALP will hang in.
But in either case the question increasingly becomes, what use are they?
Perhaps more to the point, are State and Territory governments still
We see bloated state bureaucracies maladministering the nation’s wealth
while padding their own job security, and politicians increasingly
exposed as having little to do except offer excuses on the evening
Do we still want them? Can we still afford them?
I imagine it will be a long, hard task shifting state governments out
of Brisbane, Sydney and the other state capitals, but here in the NT it
might be a good idea to knock our government on the head now before it
gets a chance to grow any bigger.
The thought of those clowns draping themselves in the mantle of
statehood is frightening.
Would the Feds do any better? Could they do any worse?
Amoonguna supports “no school, no
Sir,– The MacDonnell Shire community of Amoonguna has begun supporting
and implementing the “No School, No Service” program in an effort to
help deal with children who are not attending school.
Amoonguna community members approached their Shire Service Manager
after they saw that shops and businesses in Alice Springs were
supporting the program.
As the Shire Council manages and operates the Amoonguna Store it was an
easy decision for the MacDonnell Shire Council to support the
Shire Council staff then began working with the Amoonguna School, the
NT Department of Education and Training Central Australia and the Alice
Springs Chamber of Commerce to begin the program at Amoonguna.
From now on only children who have an official leave pass from the
School will be served in the Amoonguna Store during school hours.
Posters have been displayed in the Amoonguna Store to notify young
people that they will need a pass to enter during school hours if they
are under 15 years of age, and the passes can only be obtained from the