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OUR REST & REFLECTION SERIES: Alice has magic but house prices and crime need a firm hand

I arrived in Alice Springs on August 20, 1957, and apart for two years after I was married, have always lived here.
If you drive into Alice through the hills early on any morning, you can see a slight mist over the town. I have always called this the “magic of Alice”.
Some people love Alice and some don’t.  It seems that some of the people of Alice stay about five years, others forever.  It can easily get into your soul.
There are so many conflicting views on Alice Springs these days, so thought I would just add my view.
I see that the prices of housing, either to rent of buy, is ridiculously high and completely over the top for families.  Why is this so? It didn’t use to be.
The ongoing problem with anti social behaviour is the biggest problem Alice has.  The alcohol consumption and the violence it brings, needs strong handling from the law, really strong, and the people of Alice should be prepared to support the police actions at all times.   Stop pussy footing around. Accept the law, completely.
Families should be held completely responsible for the behaviour of the children who roam the streets at night, totally responsible. The consequences for parents and children who do not accept that responsibility  should be hard and we should accept that,  regardless.
After all, parents are responsible for their children’s behaviour, not the schools and not the police.
I’m delighted to see the re development of the Mall, it is a positive move to bring people, both locals and tourists into the area again.  Let us all support this move.
We have excellent shopping in Alice Springs and can buy almost anything we want.  Shops open for extended hours, helpful to the locals and tourists. A service such as this  isn’t always available in other parts of Australia.
I am very pleased to see the ridiculous law of identification to purchase liquor has been removed by the new Government.
We have great medical and dental services in Alice.  I know there are some frustrations with the hospital, but generally speaking we are fortunate with the services we have.  The visiting specialists to Alice are exceptional.
We have wonderful sporting facilities available that support most of the sports people want.  This is often marred by the alcohol consumption of spectators.  Time for strong control of this.
I should like to acknowledge the presence of the police these days, the work they are doing is exceptional in controlling anti social behaviour.
It is a credit to them and people of the town should be very happy.  Do not knock the actions of the  police, support them.
We have simply wonderful education facilities for our children through preschool, primary and secondary level, with many courses available at the CDU in Alice.
One of the schools in Alice offers exceptional overseas exchange for students.  I firmly believe the students in Alice Springs have facilities that equal anywhere in Australia.
I say:  Don’t knock Alice, just get behind the opportunities available in this great and exciting town, but be prepared to support the law and order that is paramount to the success and safety of this town.
[Mrs Heaslip lives and works on Bond Springs cattle station, just to the north of the town, which has a small operation for tourists, accommodating them in the historic homestead. She is the patron of St Philip’s College, which she helped to found, and the patron of the Northern Territory Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association.]


  1. “I am very pleased to see the ridiculous law of identification to purchase liquor has been removed by the new Government.”
    Jan Heaslip’s comment needs to be seen in light of Bob Beadman’s article. It is well worth re-reading.
    Despite the government reports that he compiled on alcohol “the drink of mass destruction” abuse, foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and the social breakdown of the grandparent generation among Indigenous people, the message is not getting through to Territorians, least of all, the new NT government (see MP Adam Giles’ story).
    Having to show ID at a take-away alcohol outlet is a small inconvenience with a huge social dividend. Mr Beadman says that unless these matters are actioned, they will “destroy” the NT and send it bankrupt.
    It is unbelievable that anyone who has lived in the NT for decades can not see the harm that current alcohol supply has done in lives lost and to the economy.
    Trying to improve education and job training while the alcohol tap is left running at full bore is naive.
    In relation to her patronage of St Phillip’s, Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association and FASD, Jan Heaslip’s comment is difficult to understand.

  2. We have to keep reminding ourselves that it isn’t all bad at Alice Springs, as Jan suggests.
    Like Jan, I arrived in the Territory (at Peko Mine, Tennant Creek in 1957 when both towns were a bit like the Wild West – without guns). At that time, indigenous people weren’t allowed to drink and I think most “crime” in town related to fights between Caucasians usually of different ethnic groups. But generally, everybody got on okay and it was a wonderful experience to grow into adulthood in what was a land of magic and mystery. I had many conversations with Aboriginal elders and regret not having had the foresight to jot them down.
    I left the NT to do a stint in the Air Force, to go to university and marry, but the call of the Territory was always there, nagging away in the background … so I returned, to a greatly different society, but still with a great lifestyle and much going for it.
    The point is, the town is worth working for. Every town has its peaks and troughs and although we in The Alice may have had a longer trough than some, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    It just requires some give and take and some hard work from all of us. Maybe to put up with a bit of inconvenience with ID requirements, purchasing times, and other things.
    However, it would be good to see some evidence that what we are doing is working.
    There’s no point in continuing policies that don’t work.

  3. In reply to Robinoz (Posted January 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm): re your observation that “it would be good to see some evidence that what we are doing is working”.
    As it happens, I can assist you there.
    The most recent over-view report on the impacts of alcohol reforms and regulations in Alice and Tennant (the NDRI’s Longitudinal Study of Restrictions in Alice Springs from 2000 – 2010) is also the most comprehensive look at the topic to date.
    It contains analysis indicating there was some good news during that period, particularly in relation to reduced rates of per capita alcohol consumption, and a halt to the upwards trend for serious alcohol-related injuries and deaths (especially for Aboriginal women).
    This report, which was compiled by a number of eminent researchers from various institutions and agencies, was published by the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) a couple of months ago, and may be found at on the web.
    The NDRI report examines in detail the impacts made during three separate periods in Alice of restrictions to alcohol availability using different combinations of regulatory mechanisms.
    It concludes that the most recent arrangements (those applying since Clare Martin and the Licensing Commission introduced a well-calibrated package of regulation reforms in October 2006, which was later refined by Paul Henderson, especially via his “Enough is Enough” legislation and programmes which he introduced in 2011) have produced some valuable results. (The data available to the NDRI researchers was generally only that which had been collected to the end of 2010, so the actual impacts of Henderson’s reforms could not be included. Henderson’s reforms included substantive measures such as the SMART Court, the AOD Tribunal, the Banned Drinkers Register, increased police powers to deal with habitual drunken offenders, and domestic violence prevention and intervention programmes).
    If Terry Mills, Robyn Lambley and John Elferink had their heads screwed on properly, they would have moved mountains to ensure that the various departments fast-tracked alcohol-related data collation for the period to the end of 2012, and commissioned an extension of the NDRI study to examine the trends emerging since the end of 2010.
    Then they would have been in a much better position to make accurate assessments of the real value of the SMART Court, AOD Tribunal, domestic violence programs, Banned Drinkers Register and the other valuable, long term tax-saving mechanisms which they have very recently demolished with axes via their amateurish “mini-budget”.
    The fact that they chose to go with the flow of ideology and prejudice rather than reason and evidence in making these destructive decisions shows that, unfortunately for the people of the NT, they are more like ignorant barbarians than wise rulers.

  4. I moved to Alice two years ago and I have seen the living standards steadily declining. The CLP government is presiding over an acceleration of this decline.
    The issues of “crime” and “anti-social” behaviour can be traced back to the disempowerment of indigenous peoples going back over a century. The intervention and other legislations have enhanced this disempowerment. State interference and heavy handed policing is steady eating away at the dignity of the world’s oldest culture.
    I have lived all over the world and never been in such a racist town. The media and politicians only talk about the crime problem not about the social inequality. No one is talking about this and no one wants to face up to it. There is good reason why in the rest of the world Australia is seen as the new South Africa, why the UN has repeatedly lambasted Australia for its abuses of human rights and breaches of the declaration of indigenous rights.
    Why is it so hard for us to wake up to this truth! We the white media fed population of Alice Springs are the dominant culture doing everything we can do maintain our dominance and it is regressive historical delusion.
    I have NEVER in this town seen a police officer having a friendly walk around town, chatting to locals or getting to know people, introducing themselves. ALl the police in this town sit in their expensive pursuit cars intimidating the population with their lack of social skills, the only time I see them wandering in public is when they are in line at the cafe waiting for their coffee.
    Talking to the aboriginal youth in this town, the way they see things is that they are second class citizens and are expected to be “anti-social”. The tough on crime and extra police simply ups the stakes in their risky game. Risk taking teenagers with little or no hope in their damaged psyche will defy their parents and the cat and mouse chase with more police is a hard game to stay away from when your crime record is a badge of honor. How painful it must be for the parents to be treated with such racist disdain and lose the respect and control of their children?
    This new government has taken away service for youth and is doing NOTHING for crime prevention, instead informing us with well dated policies of tough on crime failures that have NEVER worked and especially will not work here, again. What a waste of money and Alice Springs will bear the brunt of this over the coming years. Do some research and look around the world and see how removing punitive crime punishments and replacing with social programs is what reduces crime.
    And oh yeah, we have to pay this huge cost for electricity with no plan for sustainability. With more sun and access to technology like nowhere in the world, the govt and its supporters are damning us to another generation of backward thinking and high prices for energy … and not a solar panel funded … ridiculous, and all they want to do is pay the money back to the banks while ignoring investment in the greatest resource of all, people. What a shame.

  5. In reply to Lore Solaris: Your overall statement is not only wrong but also your view is the reason why racism still has a strong hold on societies here and around the world.
    Aboriginal people are not a separate race of people. They are not a special species that needs to be studied and kept separate from everyone else. What you espouse is racist.
    Our police officers are decent and do their best in very difficult situations and they do interact with the public in very friendly manners and like it or not, the police force is made up of people who are very different (like the rest of us).
    If you want to point the finger at racism try this … point it at the policies that encourage and enforce segregation like the Central Land Councils, schools designed for Aborigines only, departments accessible to Aborigines only … you do not find white Australians only departments. Segregation has its roots strong in separation by race policies and organsiations that support racism.
    And by your comments you are the true face of racism as you mark out very strongly the differences in our town.
    This town is made up of many races and many faces but we are all Australians or want to be in many varied ways.
    But we are Centralians and the problems are ours to resolve and find solutions without the tags of segregation that you and others wish to impose. NO MORE SEGREGATION ****** Let’s just rid ourselves of the government bodies and policies that instil racism in our town, Territory and Australia. Freedom comes at a price it comes from the price of acceptance and tolerance.

  6. Lore (Posted January 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm: Good to hear you speaking up with passion, raising many valid issues.
    I can’t blame you for thinking you are alone in your concerns that “No one is talking about [social inequality] and no one wants to face up to it.” However, a check of the back issues of this journal and the Advocate will show that Jimmy Cocking has raised the issue repeatedly, as has Russell Guy.
    Aboriginal leaders have been focussing on the need for greater equality for many years. A check of interviews with spokespeople from CAALAS, CLC, CAAC and Tangentyere will confirm this.
    In early 2011 Central Australian Aboriginal Congress launched a pivotal strategy “Rebuilding Family Life in Alice Springs and Central Australia: the social and community dimensions of change for our people” (see
    This document, which CAAC representatives have promoted continuously during the last two years, nominates income inequality, low social status and poor self-esteem as the fundamental issues underlying most other problems for many Aboriginal people.
    “Rebuilding Family Life” proposes programs and advocacy to address these problems, primarily hinging these programs on increased empowerment and greater control over their own lives and circumstances. The key areas which it pinpoints as requiring urgent action are early childhood services, education, employment, health, accommodation, improved youth services, and programs to reduce alcohol problems and improve adult literacy.
    Twelve months ago I also pinpointed inequality as one of two key issues in my analysis of the NT’s problems here .
    Liz Martin and John Reid (and probably others) raised the issue in the context of the Alice town council election campaign.
    Warren Snowdon often speaks about the problems associated with inequality in his public statements and speeches. The local ALP branch advocates for more attention to equality by governments, and did so at the recent conference of the NT ALP.
    So although the issue may sometimes appear to be not receiving the attention it deserves, you are not alone; there is in central Australia a strong advocacy movement struggling to achieve greater equality.

  7. @ Lore Solaris
    There is a very interesting News Limited article which is an extract from Stephanie Jarrett’s new book, Liberating Aboriginal People from Violence.
    Alice is more complex that your spray would indicate, and I think you are dead wrong when it comes to our local police. Had you been here for three years instead of just two, you could remember what it was like when the NT Police lost control of our streets. Their current efforts in front of the take-away grog shops is saving us this summer, and I think it’s unfortunate that you don’t see that.
    Of course more needs to be done. When didn’t it? But we are a town of many cultures, and most of us are working hard to make it work.
    And that racism tag is one mean two-edged sword. It should be used with caution.

  8. Further re Lore Solaris (Posted January 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm): I agreed with Hal that your criticism of the police is too broad brush, and unfair in that it is the unhappy lot of the police to have responsibility to be compelled to deal with many people who are angry, unco-operative and often aggressive. This is extremely difficult and testing work. Despite this, many police do manage to communicate with all members of the general public in surprisingly respectful ways. Many police participate in sport, mix with all sections of society through school and church activities, and socialise in clubs.
    The presence of police (and even more so, their potential presence) often empowers many people to have confidence and deal with problems which they would otherwise be completely powerless to handle.
    The NT Emergency Response legislation (and now the Stronger Futures program funding) are providing more than 60 extra police, and 18 police stations, in places which formerly had no police presence and where vulnerable people were often previously scared to challenge drunken bullies, drug dealers, grog runners, domestic violence perpetrators and other lawbreakers.
    Most police are well behaved and courteous to people. If they aren’t, people should be lodging complaints about particular incidents and behaviour that they find unacceptable. Senior police take such complaints seriously. There are several publicly funded legal services which are prepared to assist people to lodge valid complaints, so long as they are not frivolous or vexatious.

  9. If our police didn’t have to spend so much time “losing control of our streets” by policing alcohol misuse, they might be in a much better mood.
    Likewise, if the current NTG brought in a take-away free alcohol sales day, it would show some sympathy for our police.
    It would be effectively hitting two birds with one stone, but it seems that the NTG’s understanding of “effective” is to keep the police on the grog beat, rather than apply any number of evidence based AND PROVEN supply reduction instruments.
    It is only a matter of time before their liberal free market ideology is proven ineffective at enormous cost to the “poor pensioner” whose cheap tipple is perceived as sacrosanct.
    I wouldn’t give two-bob for the economic management of the current NTG and here we go again with the Mall re-development, trying to plaster some astro-turf over the Ford Plaza.
    They wasted a few million of our taxes dismantling the BDR and replaced it with highly-paid executives. Re-read the Bob Beadman story and you’ll find that he’s already done some of the math.
    In light of all this, what are we to make of the Chief Minister’s Productivity Commission?
    All for the sake of people being able to drink alcohol seven days a week, not withstanding the health costs of this perverse paradigm.


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