Brave disclosure in Desert Knowledge Q&A show


The Desert Knowledge Q&A-style forum yesterday unearthed some gems.
One was the profoundly convincing and moving support for alcohol restrictions by Brad Bellette (pictured at right), whose father was a “very violent alcoholic”.
For someone who owns an advertising agency in a town dominated by the alcohol industry and culture, this was a brave statement.
And the other was Kenya-born Year 10 student Kemy Ogendi (pictured below) who with astonishing clarity and precision defined the problems between young and old in Alice Springs.
In a place where endless meetings and consultations take the place of real action, she said we need to know why teenagers are having “the nerve to go to someone older and beat them up or break into their house.”
Nairobi is infinitely more dangerous than Alice Springs: Some people would have walked here tonight, she said. They would think twice about doing that in Kenya’s capital.
The St Philip’s student said young people in The Alice are told: “Here is a role model. Follow them. They are leaving in a month.”
Generations need to develop mutual respect, she said, and have a meaningful dialogue, something that’s not happening now, despite the lip service.
Mr Bellette was doing a double act with Dave Nixon, the technical producer of the show which was streamed live.
Mr Nixon was putting tweets on the screen, as the audience, time and again, raised issues of crime and violence.
With respect to these problems, alcohol is the elephant in the room, Mr Bellette remarked.
Mr Nixon, between pans with his camera, tweeted: “Alcohol issue not hard to solve – stop takeaway sales.”
And later: “Ban takeaway. Allow for home delivery with proof of occupation. Can easily police town camp drinking then.”
(This is not unlike a proposal raised for discussion in May, 2006, and reported in the Alice Springs News, proposing takeaway sales for locals only on Tuesdays, the last day in the weekly welfare cycle. Liquor sales to visitor would be allowed 24/7 so long as they can prove that their usual domiciles is outside a 1500 km radius.)
Moderator Adrian Renzi, from Radio 8HA’s Territory Today, said: “Holy moley Dave. That’s a big can of worms you’re opening up there. Do we want to go there? You want to tackle the alcohol takeaway issue. You be my guest. You go your hardest, fellow.”
Mr Bellette: I actually agree.
Mr Renzi: Yeh. OK. There’s a brawl.
Mr Bellette: “The only time I remember having a good time was when [my father] wasn’t around.”
The other day he took his four-year-old son to the kindergarten. The teacher there asked Mr Bellette to do a drawing from the time when he was four: “I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t do it. I couldn’t remember and it wasn’t that good.”
Grog and crime questions were fielded, in a pleasant manner, by Senior Sergeant Peter Dash, but in the end he couldn’t tell the meeting more than his boss had done in September, at yet another public meeting.
Assistant Commissioner for Regional Operations, Mark Payne said then that during the crisis months of December and January, if required, the “big guns” would be brought in from Darwin.
Sgt Dash let slip yesterday that this would be the case for just one week.
He said for some truant kids “being on the streets sometimes is a lot safer for them than being in their own homes”.
It’s a measure of how tolerant of the intolerable this town has become for a sentence like that being spoken without all hell breaking loose.
“We do have those conversations with these children,” said Sgt Dash, and the matters are being referred to the authorities.
Are the parents being prosecuted for failing to provide the necessities of life for their children?
No mention of that.
Panel member Catherine Liddle, co-chair of the Alice Springs Community Action Plan Committee, fielded lots of questions, in a caring, bright manner, yet entrapped in bureaucratic jargon and processes – meetings, outcomes, consultations, programs.
Any reference to self-help was conspicuously absent.
Much of what was raised at the meeting had been said many times before.
Except for the proposition by Mr Bellette and Mr Nixon, no concrete suggestions for solutions were made.
No-one with the power and skill to implement solutions was in the room.
The good news is, live streaming is a great way to attend a public meeting.
You don’t have to leave home to be there.
You can have your say on twitter.
And if it gets boring and long-winded, you can sneak out without being seen doing it.


  1. Sounds more like a meeting of evangelists than anything to do with developing public policy! Maybe Desert Knowledge should give so consideration to creating their own religion, at least that might generate some wealth for the regions and way more practical than most of what they do.
    I would have thought that anyone with the background issues that Brad Bellette claims would be the least likely to have a balanced approach to the use of alcohol and would do well to deal with those issues privately. All too often we see alcohol policy being developed or manipulated by those who have a less than even-handed approach, coming up with all the evangelical impractical solutions of crusading zealots. The result to date has been an ever worsening problem. Meth and gunja are both banned “all of the time” yet we have an ever deepening problem with them. A complete seven day a week ban on alcohol will not change the issues surrounding alcohol abuse!
    Most communities already have those bans which simply shift the problem elsewhere, contributing a continuing loss of life by those that seek to circumvent the bans. There is no easy cure for our alcohol issues! No change to alcohol availability will resolve the abuse issues. Alcohol abuse will diminish when quality of life increases, not before.
    Changes in regulation that remove people’s right of choice simply exacerbate the situation. Regulation around alcohol sales must consist of a carefully assessed balance between maintaining some kind of constraint on consumption without minimizing the availability so much that it triggers binging and retaliatory responses. This requires sensible hours, modeled around convenience and constraint. Hours should be bought back to an earlier opening, earlier closing, seven to seven on seven days, a week then left strictly alone! To date the continual interference, the manipulation of alcohol supply by both zealots and those wishing to further own careers have been a complete disaster. Interference in people’s right of choice, driven by the bare-faced racist belief that considers Aboriginal Australians incapable of making their own unguided choices, coupled with an arrogant disregard for the lives of those other than of Aboriginal background, has resulted in a festering pool of resentment. It fosters ever increasing retaliatory behavior and is exacerbating the problem with other even less controllable substance abuse.
    This is causing an ever deepening division and isolation of races. All this when all along there is one simple step that will remove the heat: return some joy and some civil behavior to our streets. That Move? Butt the **_* out of our lives!

  2. It doesn’t make sense to fund an advertising campaign beatifying indigenous culture while leaving the framework for indigenous cultural disintegration in place. Ban takeaway sales and add the imposition of home delivery to the cost of living here: short term pain for a long term gain.

  3. I was under the impression this was a public meeting to discuss the future of our town not an AA meeting for friends and family. Brad you were invited to the panel to share ideas about how we move forward. Why was alcohol the main point? We have a town strangled to its dying breath by a government which doesn’t give a damn.
    A town so tied down with rules and regulations put in place by petty bureaucratic stupidity. And it appears the panel were led by the nose and directed away from the real issues. If a balance was needed on the panel Steve and I were available to attend. Why were we not invited? Because unlike the others we care about our town. And we are not followers. We are leaders. Something needed in local government and Territory.

  4. I assume someone has hacked into Janet Brown’s email and made that last post. Even she would not have been so immodest, egocentric and arrogant to have made that comment. Surely?

  5. Ian, the same hacker seems to have struck also on the letters page of the Advocate on Friday 2nd December, producing a near-perfect parody of Janet at her most Cleeselike. However the hacker gives the game away by reaching a peak of megalomanic incoherence that the real Janet would never attempt to attain, and a cheeky Pythonesque flourish in the final paragraph.

  6. Confused?
    Ban take away sales of grog and do as suggested and see home break-ins skyrocket more than they currently are. And buy a big nasty dog.
    Seriously, is that really the best suggestion to address the problem?
    Like the current plan, BizSecure, which gives businesses 20K to secure themselves against potential break-ins? Hopefully.
    Wouldn’t a better solution be to not have so many break-ins?
    But, as some may correctly point out, that’s NOT good for some ongoing local businesses.
    A bit sad really, but they do say crime pays.
    And sadly again, not just for those committing the crimes.
    Why don’t we privatise the NT police force?
    And pay per arrest or conviction?
    Now there’s a money making opportunity moving forward. Until crime dies out:-(


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