LETTERS: Dr Boffa honoured. Offer in Todd Mall: Want a girl? How many generations, Steve? And the bicycle track's missing link.


Sir – As the Todd River finds its way through Alice Springs, it’s easy to divide it into three sections. Two have received significant attention, while the third appears to have received almost none.
The first improved section lies north of the Stott Terrace bridge, and especially that part extending north from the Wills Terrace causeway. It’s here that Alice stages the Henley-on-Todd, where the cinema on the river is screened and where festival events spill over from Anzac Oval. It’s also here that on the eastern side the public park lands have become a pride of the river.
The other improved section runs from the Taffy Pick culverts south through Heavitree Gap. It’s in this section that some of the accumulated sand brought down in previous floods was loaded onto trucks and carted away about 10 years ago. The benefit of this is plain to see with deep cleared channels ready to let the next flood escape through the Gap.
I’m convinced that in the major flood a couple years ago, this dredging helped keep our feet dry.
The section in between these two, and especially that part between the Tuncks Road causeway and the Taffy Pick culverts, is a mess. It’s here we find the most number of tree skeletons left by the arsonists who keep trying to burn us down, and river channels that look like choked storm water drains.
It’s also in this section that one of Alice’s many impressive bicycle paths is missing a link. This path circles the river from the Schwartz crossing in the north to the Taffy Pick culverts in the south. The missing link is in front of Annie Meyer Hill between the Olive Pink Gardens and the Bridge to Nowhere off the south-eastern corner of Stott Tce Bridge.
Bicycle riders, dog walkers, pram pushers and those out jogging and walking share this public amenity with artists putting the final touches to works they hope to sell. I know Council has repeatedly asked the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority for permission to finish the job, but so far to no avail.
As an avid bicycle rider, I can only hope this area is not the focus of an intractable cultural demarcation dispute. Surely with good will from both parties a way can be found to complete this circuit.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs
Sir – The People’s Alcohol Action Group (PAAC) in Alice Springs is delighted and very proud that its spokesperson, long-time alcohol
reform campaigner Dr. John Boffa, has been named NT Australian of the Year.
He has been a tireless and absolutely dedicated campaigner for alcohol reforms for many years, and has made a huge contribution to getting urgently needed changes on to the local and national agendas.
He’s a very smart bloke, and his ability to absorb incredible amounts of complex information and persistently get it out clearly in the public
arena is quite extraordinary.
This is a great honour for John, for PAAC, and, very importantly, it recognises the growing support for a floor price for take-away alcohol,
other reforms such as changes to trading hours, and the need for early childhood development programs for vulnerable kids.
We congratulate John and hope for many more wins in the future.
Jonathan Pilbrow
PAAC Convenor
Sir – The Todd Mall was offering a bizarre mix for choice a couple of Sundays ago. Some of it was appealing, some maybe not.
The Sunday Market itself had a quiet, friendly early-summer feel to it. While replenishing a depleted stock of Harissa, my favourite jeweller showed me some of her lovely new work featuring antique Ethiopian glass. Christmas is just around the corner, and the option is a tempting one.
Then making my way south from the Sails I came to Gregory Terrace and looking west saw nothing on either side but closed doors and vacant shops. The impression was of a town in trouble.
I know it’s being said that the Internet is killing retail, but those shops used to book tours and sell indigenous art. Is the market for both dwindling, or have they gone on-line too?
Having by now been joined by others, it was time for lunch.
Then came the most bizarre experience of the day. While holding a table with a seven year old boy, and trying to fathom the fashion statements being made by some of the staff, I was joined by a local who began by claiming we were old friends and did I have two dollars.
This was disappointing because I had naively thought we were past this.
When I explained that I live here and don’t do humbug (my seven year old companion was beginning to look a bit startled), he changed tack and offered me a girl. When I declined, he offered me two. Fortunately the lad didn’t understand because he did keep on until the others joined us.
Among them were the young boy’s mother who is clearly expecting and another mother holding her young son. Neither were impressed when I explained what was on offer.
Realising he was out of luck, the man left us. The police have been informed, and our discussions are continuing.
Lunch came and the food was good, the coffee even better.
I never did quite fathom the fashion statements.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs
Sir – Please note the following quote: “As a third generation Alicespringsian I grew up with great expectations of where this town was going, and we were going places.”
This comes from Steve Brown’s latest series of sprays on the Alice Springs News website with regard to the clearing of vegetation at the ANZ carpark. My astonishment of this extraordinary claim is only matched by amazement that nobody has seen fit to correct it. Steve Brown is – just like myself – a first generation born-and-bred local in Alice Springs.
Steve’s parents are Jim and Marion Brown. Jim Brown “came from near Launceston in Tasmania to Alice Springs with the fixed intention of having a dairy farm” – he arrived here in February 1946, according to his publication “Pasture Improvement in Central Australia”, published January 20, 2002.
Marion is the sister of the late Bernie Kilgariff – they arrived here from South Australia on one of the first Ghan trains in 1929. They established a dairy at White Gums, west of town, where they reside today.
The dairy was not established without some assistance. In July 1946, a few months after the arrival of Jim Brown, another person arrived in the Alice who was to become one of the most influential people in the history of the NT – it was Colonel Lionel Rose, who had just been appointed by the Chifley Labor Government to become the Chief Veterinary Officer of the NT and the founding director of the Animal Industry Branch under the Commonwealth’s Northern Territory Administration.
Rose was based in Alice Springs, as Central Australia was then the main centre of the struggling beef cattle industry of the NT. It was to Rose that Jim Brown appealed for help to establish his dairy – Rose was non-committal at first, but a couple of weeks later Jim received a phone call from Rose to come and collect his dairy herd that had just arrived on the Ghan.
Thus was White Gums’ future assurred, according to the information I’ve been told by one of “Rosey’s men” (as the employees of the AIB under Rose came to be known).
Rose’s accomplishments were numerous – when he passed away in May 1980, he was honoured with the NT’s first official state funeral in Alice Springs, and he was interred in the (then) brand new Alice Springs Garden Cemetery on the south Stuart Highway, directly opposite the Arid Zone Research Institute.
AZRI was founded by Rose in 1948, it used to be known as the AIB Farm. Rose had originally envisaged it as the “Ultimate Research Centre” to conduct scientific research specifically for the Centre and the NT – his vision presaged that of the Desert Knowledge Centre by half a century! (Nothing new under the sun in this country, be rest assurred).
The impending tragic demise of AZRI with the initial construction phase of a new suburb directly across the highway from the Alice Springs Garden Cemetery just couldn’t be more ironic – the suburb is, of course, to be called Kilgariff, named after Bernie Kilgariff, who was once a political colleague of Colonel Rose.
Rose was the Member for Alice Springs in the former NT Legislative Council during 1962-65, when Bernie was an appointed non-official member of that same body. In 1965 Rose became a founder and leader of the short-lived North Australia Party based in Alice Springs but was defeated by Labor candidate Charlie Orr in the elections of that same year (the last occasion Labor has won an Alice urban seat).
Orr in turn was defeated by Rose’s protege, Bernie Kilgariff, in 1968. Bernie remained the Member for Alice Springs until 1975, when he became the first senator for the NT. (He was elected outright, the new Labor senator Ted Robertson won the second senate position after distribution of preferences).
Bernie is also a founding member of the Country Liberal Party in Alice Springs in 1974, presaged by Rose’s ill-fated NAP almost a decade earlier.
Today we are witnessing the dismemberment of AZRI for the new suburb of Kilgariff, which is unequivocally the worst planning decision in the history of Alice Springs.
It’s a disgrace and a disaster, yet a decision which has long and loudly been supported by Steve Brown in his mindless campaign of develop, develop, develop, at all costs and hang the consequences!
We love to blame Darwin and / or Canberra for all our ills  – it’s our favourite art – but we are, truth be told, our own worst enemies. To quote the New Testament: “Before telling anyone to take the stick out of their eye, first take the log out of your own.”
I am so sick to death of the hypocrisy and cowardice of this blighted town.
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs


  1. @ Alex in your haste to have a shot at me you have once again completely embarrassed yourself with another croc of inaccuracies in the endless spiel of drivel you inflict on us all, with delusions of yourself as the town’s self appointed historian.
    You forgot about my grandfather, Alex! Then I suppose you wouldn’t know that as you weren’t here! Steve Kilgariff, after whom I am named, father of Bernie, Marion, and Marg, came into the Territory along with his brothers Jack and Joe quite early on.
    I don’t have the dates at hand and not being a historian I’ll leave that to those who are. The Kilgariff brothers were responsible for a considerable amount of the early buildings in Alice. Uncle Joe worked on the overland telegraph line as an operator, built and ran the legendary first Pub in Tennant Creek also the Barrow Creek Pub and the Old Riverside here in town.
    Steve, with his team of Aboriginal workers, is the Stuff of Legend with a reputation of being capable of enormous amounts of work.
    He built the Church at Hermannsburg and Santa Teresa many private and public buildings here in town their story and contribution is immense and too long to enter into.
    But for the record, and for those that can’t count, my grandfather Steve was the first generation that we know of to live work and contribute to our town.
    My parents Jim and Marion Brown were the second generation to do the same. I, Stephen, along with my nine other brothers and sisters, are the third generation to work and live here. I also have seven children of my own who are the fourth generation to do the same and there are also now 13 grandchildren who make up the fifth generation in town.
    A Further inaccuracy Alex! Lionel Rose had nothing at all to do with setting up White Gums Dairy!
    Unless of course you call a monumental bureaucratic stuff up assisting, come to think of it with your background you probably do!
    There certainly was however backing from some wonderful Territorians, none more so than from Ted and Jane Hayes along with my wonderful grandfather Steve Kilgariff.
    Lionel Rose’s contribution consisted of a rather embarrassing “Gaff”, when my father made enquires about the availability of a dairy herd costs etcetera. Somehow during the enquiry process Lionel accidentally ordered the herd which subsequently arrived in Alice Springs completely unbeknown to my father who then had to find finance.
    As my dad put it, “very embarrassing at the time”.
    Furthermore to your bitter tirade, Alex, AZRI is freehold publicly owned land ideally situated between the existing town its airport and its major industry.
    People with vision as exampled by Reg Harris have long known it to be the logical sensible way to extend a town landlocked within the ranges, without actually building on the ranges.
    You Alex are obviously part of the small selfish minority who are quite happy to see our town stay the same, a stagnate economy in complete disregard of those who come after us, those who have every bit as much right to be here as yourself, and who need homes and employment into the future.
    The rest of us, Alex, are ecstatic about Kilgariff! Or will be if they ever get it on line. “Yippee”!

  2. @ Steve Brown. Have you any hard data on the environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts that the residential development of AZRI will have on the sustainability of our town?
    Can you explain why we have a growing number of houses and units for sale or rent and so many vacant commercial premises in our town centre?
    If you were one of the 250-300 locals who attended last night’s Climate Commission forum, with Tim Flannery, then you’d know that you are part of that “selfish minority” that prefers a “business as usual” approach for the town instead of planning for a carbon-free future.
    As a self-confessed non-historian, Steve, you could do to engage in a little research before shooting off more of your ideas.

  3. @2 In response to Steve Brown, just a few points.
    First, I’m well aware of the history and contribution of his parents, grandparents and relations to the history and development of Alice Springs and Central Australia, and that’s not in dispute. But they were not born here, and that is (as I understand it) the definition of being a “generation” of a certain locality. I’m happy to be corrected if I’m wrong but at present I stand by my assertion that both Steve and I are first-generation “Alicespringians”.
    With regard to Lionel Rose’s role in the “gaff” of mistakenly ordering a dairy herd for White Gums, I can only state that the original source of that information to one of Rosey’s men is your father, Steve. And (to my knowledge) it wasn’t claimed as being a mistake at the time, quite a few years ago, when this story was first related – it was actually done so with a very much more positive regard to Colonel Rose. But perhaps this is a case of “Chinese whispers”, I don’t know.
    With regard to AZRI, I can speak on this topic with a great deal more authority, having had (with the possible exception of my father) the longest continuous association with that area of land of any person alive.
    Steve, do you recall that there was a proposal for a 180 hectare citrus orchard utilizing the town’s sewage effluent to be established on AZRI in the early 1990s, to be set up and run by the Biggs family (who also estabished Territory Grape Farm at Pine Hill in the mid 1980s)? All exciting stuff – Fred Finch, the Minister for Power and Water, delivered a very enthusiastic Ministerial Statement to the NT Legislative Assembly about this project in late 1992, and the Minister for Lands, Steve Hatton, fast-tracked approval of the lease by early May 1993. But it was objected to by Aboriginal Traditional Owners on the basis of native title rights in early 1993, consequently the Biggs family withdrew from the project in May that year, less than a year after the High Court’s Mabo decision. Chief Minister Marshall Perron claimed this was probably the first example in Australia of native title preventing a development project from proceeding (Centralian Advocate, 21 May, 1993). Naughty TOs! But, don’t you know, we’ve not heard a word about this in any subsequent development affecting this land although a local Eastern Arrernte man (who lived at AZRI as a boy when I was there) never fails to mention this issue to me.
    AZRI, amongst other areas south of the ranges, has been considered for urban development in the past. A study was done about future development options for Alice Springs during the Whitlam government of the early 1970s, at a time when the town’s population growth was projected to reach up to 60,000 by the turn of the century. The “AIB Reserve” and neighbouring areas were deemed unsuitable for future expansion of the town. What’s happened to these reports, I wonder, and what’s changed about this land and geography since then?
    The NT Government, under CLP rule, adopted the same stance (with the same projected population growth rates) during the 1980s – all published material on the public record (and I’ve got copies of it).
    The local member, Ray Hanrahan, the Member for Flynn and deputy Chief Minister, personally told me in 1986 that the NT Government was never going to develop AZRI for urban development. I was a member of the Executive Committee of the CLP’s Flynn Branch, as were a brother and cousin of Steve Brown. Hanrahan subsequently formally announced (in 1987) the development of the Undoolya sub-division to the east of Alice Springs, and the NT Government officially allocated $10 million to commence initial headworks for the development in early 1988. This was still at the time when the population of Alice Springs was projected to grow to 50,000.
    All on the public record, and all of it strangely disappeared from discussion about development of Alice Springs that is occurring today. Interesting, isn’t it?
    [ED – The AZRI block, where the suburb of Kilgariff will be built, is Crown Land but the Federal Court has determined that native title over it has been extinguished.]

  4. Mr Pecorari, to quote Pauline Hansen, “please explain” your claim that Steve Brown is part of the “selfish minority”. I would suggest he is part of the majority, and you, Mr Pecorari, and the 250 others are part of the minority when you consider 250-300 out of a town of 27,500. You do the maths.

  5. @ John Barnes. Steve Brown, through his numerous letters, states a belief that minimal regulations be put in the way of our town’s developers, and that this will stimulate the economic growth that will solve all our town’s ills.
    Such a fairy tale could only be believed by his fellow developers, many of whom I feel have brought this town to where it is today through their senseless, profit-driven, short-sighted projects.
    Their “growth-at-any-cost” approach to development is increasingly discredited by today’s better-informed public, as evidenced by the turn-out at the Climate Commission forum.
    You may not be impressed by the numbers, John, but I think our political leaders certainly know how significant it is that about 300 or so voters, in a town this size, spared almost two hours of their time to attend.


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