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HomeIssue 35Cr Brown adapts Port Augusta solution to Alice Springs, calls for closer...

Cr Brown adapts Port Augusta solution to Alice Springs, calls for closer look at youth centre proposal

A councillor has described the new government’s plans of spending $2.5m on refurbishing the youth centre, announced in the dying days of the election campaign, as “another short term token gesture,” suggesting the project should be deferred pending a closer look.
Cr Steve Brown renewed his call to spend up to $40m for a new centre, possibly on the Memo Club or the Melanka sites, and featuring a string of facilities and services for young people and the general public.
In a discussion paper he will present at tonight’s Town Council meeting, he is also making a call for regular questioning by the town council of local departmental heads about the activities of their instrumentalities, such as it is carried out at Port Augusta.
In a comprehensive response to the report, commissioned earlier this year by the Alice Springs Town Council, about the “Port Augusta solution”, Cr Brown also claims that more harmony and fewer rules is the way to tackle Alice Springs’ problems.
He says there are too many rules creating bitterness and resentment, resulting in “anti social and criminal behaviour almost to a level that  could be described as general civil disobedience”.
By contrast in Port Augusta there is “a sense of cooperative togetherness” creating a “a nice clean law abiding place that cares about its citizenry”.
He also calls for –
• a Police Citizens Youth Club “similar to those found along the East Coast” to be incorporated in a new youth centre;
• for young people who are neglected, homeless or in trouble with the law, a bush camp with cattle and horses, modeled on initiatives by long-time youth worker Graham Ross, possibly at the government owned Owen Springs reserve;
• structured collaboration with other councils, including Tangentyere, and cooperation between council rangers and night patrol;
• council stimulation “by any means available, including that of acting as a developer” of more affordable housing;
• removal of “racist” provisions such as the one preventing town camp residents from drinking in their own homes;
• Federal and NT government funding to pay for return travel on the Bush Bus so that people from communities don’t get stuck in town.
• “Welcome to Town” staffed visitor centres at the northern and southern entrances with two functions, welcoming tourists and informing them about tours, attractions and accommodation, as well as an “Op Shop style outlet providing inexpensive clothing” and “toilet, ablution and change of clothes facilities for our bush visitors who often find it difficult to access these services on what may be a day visit to town.
“Tolerance, respect, cleanliness and good manners go hand in hand with harmony,” says Cr Brown.
“Recognising that many tourists and bush visitors don’t have access to ablution facilities when arriving in town, perhaps after days of travel and camping” these facilities would allow visitors to achieve “a personal cleanliness and dress standard” suitable for a stay in town.
Cr Brown says his aspiration is “to achieve a clean, law abiding, safe, citizen and visitor friendly, vigorous, fun, prosperous and growing community that accepts, respects and provides for all its citizens and visitors equally”.
The public has the opportunity of asking questions at the beginning of tonight’s council meeting.
Photo: Mr Ross (left) and Cr Brown inspecting a possible site for a youth camp west of Alice Springs, five years ago.


  1. I couldn’t agree more with the list of Cr Brown’s aspirations for the town. I have just one request to make regarding his ideas on how we get there. He wishes to abolish the “racist” provision of not allowing drinking in the town camps. Could he please have a yarn with the ladies of the camps to see if there is some other solution to just banning the ban. I am sure that they will have something to say about the open slather approach. AND they most likely have a few ideas and solutions of their own. After all if you have them on board you are halfway to a workable solution.

  2. @ Liegh I am not proposing an open slather approach at all. I am advocating an approach that doesn’t presume the entire community is irresponsible! I am advocating an approach that allows a law abiding citizen the luxury of having a drink in his or her own home should they so choose, as an equal citizen, and just like an equal citizen should they choose to misbehave behave unlawfully, I propose that they are clobbered by the law just as you and I would be.
    As for the women, well men an women are also equal creatures and as such responsible for their own behaviour, not that of anyone else, bar the kids of course. I would expect that an Aboriginal Lady in a Town Camp would be afforded the same level of safety and security as everyone else in every other part of town. If this is so she of course should have no more cause for anxiety than anyone else in the community. On top of that I would expect that people in the Town Camps will experience an enormous boon with the lessening of confrontation and anger over these idiotic alcohol restrictions that have seen them singled out and treated as lesser citizens. The sooner they end the better for all!

  3. I stand by my earlier comments … ask the people it will impact on the most. In this case, the women [children are also part of this scenario but, as you will agree discretion is required here]. You go round and round talking endlessly of rights and responsibilities … I am just asking you to talk to the women. Aren’t they disempowered enough?
    Just begin a dialogue, who knows where it will lead. Maybe good outcomes for all. And the name is Leigh.

  4. I have to go with Leigh Childs here. Talk to the women. Ask them how they want to proceed. Consider welfare management – without the women out on the communities testifying to how much it has helped them provide for their families, it might have gotten the chop some time ago.
    Ask Alison Anderson and Bess Price, and get ready to hear that request often over the coming four year electoral cycle.
    And let’s never forget that, equal rights and women’s empowerment notwithstanding, very few women can effectively stand up to a drunken man in full rage. They go from being clowns to scary monsters in the blink of an eye.
    It’s all well and good to say a man coming home from a hard day on the job is fully entitled to a quiet beer in his own home. No argument. Trouble is, that’s not what happens, and it’s naive to think it does.
    All that said, I anticipate an easing of restrictions on the consumption of alcohol in the town camps. That pretty much has to happen if the camps are ever to evolve into suburbs of Alice.
    So ease the restrictions, but at the same time – not later after waiting for evidence based statistics, but at the same time – put in women’s shelters and a 24/7 on-call support network.
    One way to approach that last point would be to amalgamate the Alice Springs Town Council Rangers, Tangentyere’s Night Patrol and the Public Housing Safety Officers.
    Yeah, right. And now who’s being naive?

  5. The solution is NOT treating people as an underclass, rather the solution is educating and encouraging people to be equal thus able to use solutions available to all.
    Judicial tendency is to support victims, disadvantaged against their oppressors.
    Persuading legislature to improve solutions available to judicial forces also helps.
    A significant obstacle remains – lack of preparedness to invest time and money to improve own circumstances.
    Largest obstacle remains “Special Benefits” as presented in the song.

  6. If you imagine that I sat in my home deep in thought staring at the ceiling to come up with the solutions I offer, you would be extremely wide off the mark. I have spent my life, now 58 years, living and working amongst the peoples of Central Australia, men and women. I have played an extremely active part in the increased participation of Aboriginal Centralians in the politics of the Country Liberals. I have a long association with both Alison and Bess and many other lesser known Aboriginal men and women.
    In my everyday job as an electrician I enter many housing homes in the town, in the camps and on the communities.
    I know first hand what the issues are from a lifetime of talk, friendships and observation. I haven’t reached any of the conclusions I offer lightly or on my own, I am simply putting into words the combined thoughts of many active minds.
    Centralians who know without any doubt, we’ve been going the wrong way. Centralians who have reached the realization that things have to change drastically, that the gushing destructive paternalism of the past, the mindsets of victim hood and dependency have to be flushed from the system.
    The absolute first part of this process is to recognise each and every individual’s right to firstly make their own life choices, and secondly, to take responsibility for those choices. We begin by removing any existing rules that make a distinction based in some way on race, including those ridiculous rules on alcohol.
    Put away the argument that Aboriginal people need to have special provisions made for them, because they are “disempowered”! They are “disempowered”, because we have been making decisions for them! For instance, a comment above suggests women in camps need protection from alcohol because women in camps are supposedly “disempowered”.
    I can absolutely tell you that that hasn’t been my experience, in fact I would consider the Aboriginal ladies of our community to be a darn sight tougher and more empowered than most in the rest of the community.
    So in the slow steps to town harmony, step back a little, examine your own role and learn to respect Aboriginal people’s right to run their own lives, make their own mistakes as equals and if you really believe something needs doing i.e. as in protection from alcohol, do it for the whole community, or don’t do it at all.

  7. I don’t have an argument with many of the proposals put forward here by Steve Brown but, as usual, I’m reminded of various attempts and proposals from the past to deal with these issues.
    Steve Brown’s youth centre proposal echoes a suggestion I put forward over 20 years ago to convert the abandoned Turner Arcade at the north end of Todd Mall into a youth-oriented facility in which the young people of Alice Springs would have a direct say in its management and operation, and would expose them to real-life experience of business and commercial operation. I wrote specifically to Alderman Carole Frost about this idea – she was also the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Alice Springs and was a prominent identity in the Alice Springs Branch of the CLP. I received a nice letter of acknowledgement in reply but the idea never proceeded.
    A few years later Turner Arcade was bulldozed, along with the Shell Todd service station, to make way for the existing carpark at the north end of the mall, in conjunction with opening up that end of Todd Mall to traffic in the current cul-de-sac – all at the cost of $5 million to bring more people into that end of the town again. Hmm, sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? But I digress.
    It was also in the very early 1990s that another attempt was made to create a youth complex (a Youth Multi-Function Centre) in response to the entrenched issues of youth crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour that was plaguing Alice Springs at the time. A committee was established, including Tangentjere Council, and a number of sites were listed for the proposed youth centre, including the abandoned water-slide site (now Mercorella Circuit) and the Transport and Works depot off Smith Street (from where the large shed for the Road Transport Hall of Fame was obtained). However, the timing could not have been more inauspicious – Australia was enduring the “recession we had to have” and the NT Government had enacted a program of freezing recruitment in the NT Public Service, slashing over 1220 positions in the process, and implementing wide-ranging cutbacks in expenditure all over the Territory. No prizes for guessing what happened to the Youth Multi-Function Centre proposal!
    Finally, in regard to the treatment of Aboriginal people with the “gushing destructive paternalism of the past”, it’s perhaps salutory to take note of Albert Namatjira’s opinions on this issue published on the front page of the Centralian Advocate in October 1952, almost exactly 60 years ago. Namatjira was seeking citizenship rights equal to that of white Australians for himself and a few other Aboriginal people; but he expressed strong reservations about extending such rights to all Aboriginal people for he feared that “they will drink liquor like water”. In light of subsequent history he clearly knew what he was talking about.

  8. @ Alex Nelson Posted September 14 2012. Alex Nelson it is great to read your thoughts as always. I do mean to be pedantic and clobber me if I am out of line but is not Tangentyere spelt with a y?
    Would love your comments on the recent story by Dave Richards on the pool process in light of what Mr. Muldoon said on the same topic recently in Alice online.
    In my opinion, this is a very hot topic and matters not so much to addicted lappers like Dave. We must do what we can to ensure town council do the right thing by all pool users not just children and Masters competitors.
    D. R. Chewings aka THE lone dingo.

  9. In reply to David Chewings concerning the correct spelling of Tangentyere Council – jes, jou’re probably correct but I’m fairly sure the name was originally spelt with a ‘j’. That’s me, always living in the past! There’s nothing unusual about the evolution of spelling of Aboriginal names; for example – Aranda, Arunta and now Arrernte.


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