Alice a place of dreamers and doers – for millennia!


2389-daryl-gray-5-okBy 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.
2389-daryl-gray-cuSure, 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.


  1. Daryl, you kindly offered me a place to stay 17 years ago when suddenly I found myself, in my own home town, with nowhere else to go. Your kindness and tolerance is never forgotten, and always appreciated.

  2. Hi Daryl, what you got from Alice Springs you gave back in full. Before and after you became a paraplegic.
    You participated in many projects. I think I first met you when we started “The Anti Cancer Foundation” (now the Cancer Council).
    You participated in the Debutante’s Ball, Bang Tail Muster etc, etc.
    It’s the people who come here that make the town unique and you were one of those people.
    It is forever changing as new people come with new ideas. I am grateful for the memories of your time here.

  3. I don’t believe this, I was only just talking about Daryl today. Then read the article.
    We were discussing the original Seat Clinic and how some of the Alice Springs firemen went to Acacia Hill School to help make the students more comfortable in their wheel chairs and also to make them mobile on the big three wheeler bikes. A great effort!!
    And from that beginning, there is now a Seat Clinic at the hospital. (I think.)
    Season’s Greetings, Amelia.

  4. Amelia, Maureen, and Alex, thank you so much for the kind words and lovely memories!
    The sentiments are mutual, always good stories to tell people in Adelaide about the days of yore in Alice, and you all form many of those great memories and quirky tales of our adventures in the Red Centre. Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year!


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