By DARYL GRAY
This is the first story in our Rest and Reflection series published during the festive season and written by people who have made a difference to Alice Springs.
I said “yes” to a friend when he asked if I would like to go for a quick drive from Adelaide to Alice Springs to deliver some furniture to his brother. Thus began my twenty year association with Central Australia.
When he drove back to Adelaide, I stayed on in Alice Springs. This is not an uncommon story for people born outside of Alice Springs – the multitude who never planned to stay in Alice but ended up becoming a part of the eclectic mix of “locals” that make the Red Heart of this wide brown land such a wonderful place to call home.
As a twenty year old I was keen to try anything and everything. In Alice unlike Adelaide the opportunity to try new things didn’t depend on which school I went to, but rather on the level of enthusiasm and honest desire I brought to the table. My kind of town!
Here was a place where you were judged on merit, not on age, social class, or whom you knew. I got to learn so many things, and more importantly to develop as a man in a caring community.
Sure, like anywhere there were exceptions, I am not Pollyanna, but I was also not such a pragmatist that I couldn’t dream! Heaven forbid, after all Alice is full of dreamers and doers – has been for millennia!
So I worked as a draftsman with a mineral company, as a bar man and waiter, as a community development worker out bush, as a house parent in a local college, I had a lawn mowing and handyman business, trained as a fireman, and after a spinal injury I retrained as a disability advocate and activist, an alderman, and finally a TAFE teacher.
In social activities I learned briefly to fly light aircraft, sky dive and parachute, shoot air pistols, rock climb and bush walk, act in amateur theatre, fix roller skates and make puppets.
Now maybe I could have done these things in Adelaide, but I doubt I would have had the opportunities to engage with people and clubs so easily as I did in a smaller and encouraging community.
Alice is a great place with a pioneer spirit – it is infectious, and that is a good thing. Long may the openness and strength that comes from being a part of a regional town prosper in Alice Springs.
There are always going to be social and economic issues, and even a harsh climate that will test the resolve of the most stalwart Territorians.
But, in my experience Centralians always rally when the chips are down, and demonstrate the best that is the human condition. I experienced that love and support when I became a paraplegic 32 years ago and the people of Alice showered me with generosity of heart, and tangible financial, emotional and spiritual support.
Alice and its people are a part of me, and always will be. Long may there be A Town Like Alice.
By DARYL GRAY