By ERWIN CHLANDA
It was back to square one for Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) which will turn 10 next year with not a great deal to show for it: Faded into dim memory are the first chairman and former Federal front bencher Fred Chaney, philanthropists such as BHP, Qantas and Telstra, and senior staff tipped out after a damning review by CDU academic Don Zoellner.
The exception is the solar centre with 39 installations, up to 10 years old.
DKA’s new CEO, Lauren Ganley (pictured), who started in January, and has previously spent nine years in Alice Springs working for Telstra, says the centre is a world-renowned solar demonstration, with a website producing live data, visited by 5500 people and institutions, half of them overseas, with real time production read-outs from a region that is dry, hot and has lots of sunshine.
The National University of Singapore has just put in a test facility at DKA, operating together with two others, in a tropical and a cold climate, respectively.
At 11:32am yesterday (when I was writing this story) the combined power output was equivalent to the demand of 229 houses.
The centre supplies much of the electricity for the DK precinct, home to Batchelor Institute, the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), Desert Knowledge Australia, CSIRO, Territory Natural Resource Management, Regional Arts Australia, Central Desert Native Title Service and Indigenous Desert Alliance.
Ms Ganley, with a budget of $560,000 from the NT Government, has given herself the following tasks:-
• Engage consultants to draw up a plan for the future use of the precinct, 73 hectares, of which only half is developed.
• Create a role for the precinct as a tourist attraction, with the solar centre in the forefront.
• Working with the Tjuwanpa Women Rangers at the Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre at Hermannsburg “to increase their recruitment and communication skills for recruiting new rangers and talking about their work with the many people who request information,” says Ms Ganley.
• Developing Codes for Life, “a program that empowers Aboriginal men to help navigate the challenges of life by drawing on the parallels between the three codes of Australian Rules football, Aboriginal culture and Western culture.
“This is a men’s only programme run by Michael Liddle and Ken Lechleitner for the past 18 months,” says Ms Ganley.
(The Alice Springs News Online will publish a report on this program in the near future.)