Monday, June 24, 2024

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HomeIssue 27Project Freedom: The camel or the horse.

Project Freedom: The camel or the horse.


During the Afghans’ days a horse and a camel were pitted against each other in a race from Oodnadatta to Alice, each carrying (I think) a piano.

The horse won and dropped dead.

The camel ran all the way back to Oodnadatta.

Now a new Alice Springs volunteer group says it hopes to fundamentally improve law and order in the town as the time has come we put our money on the right creature.

People convicted of a crime will be offered involvement in monitored commercial ventures, possibly horticulture and solar power generation.

These ventures will become the participants’ property, providing a good living for their families, and making them independent from welfare, ideally over decades or generations.

Most importantly, the prisoners will be able to negotiate an early parole, at the discretion of the sentencing judge, of course.

The sustained effort the prisoner invests into the venture will determine the parole conditions.

On the other hand, should the prisoner fail, his involvement in the scheme will end, he will be fairly compensated for the assets he may have already created, they revert to the scheme and the prisoner loses his early parole privileges.

But when all goes well, the ex-prisoner, during the gaol term and after, will accumulate property and community recognition and become a model for others.

We have raised this idea with Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Grant who encouraged us to pursue it.

Initially the focus of the commercial activities will be near the prison, close to the Brewer industrial estate, on the Stuart Highway, the railway line, water and electricity services.

Another bonus: Australia’s debilitating lack of fruit pickers won’t be a problem. We’ll have 600 potential ones in the gaol, in walking distance of the growing fields, who could be employed without having to be transported across the whole continent.

The “win-win”: Less recidivism; saving of $100,000 per adult prisoner per year on gaol costs; saving of $250,000 per juvenile prisoner per year for gaol costs; less court work; less police work; less family welfare assistance; ability to transfer the system to remote areas; increased food security for the region; increased GDP.

We will get administrative assistance from Dr Dan Tyne and the main sponsor will be the  Alice Springs News, 0418 890040,

Immediate tasks (put your hand up!) registration under the NT Associations Act; obtain head lease from NT Government on land near prison of Owen Springs, owned by the public, say 30 hectares of its 1,570 square kilometres; obtain 50 year agreement with Power Water for purchase of electricity from Project Freedom at the same rate Power Water sells it to the public; promote Project Freedom.

PHOTO: Pitchi Ritchi Railway.

All the best,

Erwin Chlanda

Mob 0418 890040


  1. Great idea Erwin, only one question, is the water suitable for irrigation?
    The aquifer (Rocky Creek?) to the east is much better, and is the one used by the Undoolya mob.

  2. 600 potential prisoners to work outside the prison? And who will supervise them?
    Are you including the ones suitable for outside work, and of those the ones that actually would want to work?
    Has anybody discussed it with them I wonder or is this white man dreaming? Will never, ever happen.

  3. A business plan will be needed to progress this project.
    The NTG are unlikely to assist with land without one.
    Suggest creating a business plan be added to the immediate tasks.

  4. @ Local 1: Yes, not all prisoners will be able to work outside the prison due to their health or security status and some do not want to work and others do not want early parole because of the restrictions on their lives after release.
    But several hundred inmates from medium and low security will be interested in this project.
    Any work outside the prison, such as work gangs, is in high demand.
    As for supervision, this project will free up custodial staff from inside the prison so that should be manageable.
    One candidate for this project is to supply the long standing shortage of desert raising (Solanum centrale) which now sells for very high prices at around $20 for 100g and has a national market.
    Our local AZRI has the horticultural knowledge to grow it commercially and would certainly lend a hand.
    The desert raisin is a shrub that grows very quickly and produces high value raisins for many months.
    Almost all prisoners are familiar with this bush tucker, have their own names for it and would be attracted to the idea of growing it.
    This could be a business with a million dollar turnover within a few years.

  5. That is our expectation, Jon – absolutely! Except we want it to be several individually owned businesses, with significant turnovers in their own right.
    Erwin Chlanda.

  6. If anyone wants to see a practical demonstration of what low security prisoners are capable of doing with minimal supervision, go check out the new plantings at Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
    The ongoing program of establishing many hundreds of new trees and shrubs commenced about two years ago, based on a method I first introduced there during 2006-08 which in turn I had learned at AZRI in the early 1980s.
    I’m uncertain how many trees and shrubs have been established at OPBG in the last two years by prisoners although it must now be well in excess of a thousand, including numerous plants growing outside the garden’s riverside boundary.
    Some of the new plantings are providing an outstanding display, not least the masses of Sturt’s Desert Roses in the middle of the car park area nearby the Visitor Centre growing in a patch of formerly hard compacted gravelly soil.
    The key to this method is the exploitation of termite behaviour in the soil, as explained in my piece “Let termites do your gardening“.
    Notwithstanding the obvious merits of this technique, there seems to be a studious disregard for it by researchers and professionals, yet here is an easy locally devised and explained planting method that performs extremely well even for low-skilled workers.
    It’s a method crying out to be trialed and modified for all sorts of plants for gardens, landscaping and horticulture all across the Centre – undoubtedly including desert raisins, if anyone was willing to try.

  7. @ Erwin Chlanda:
    “Sentenced to a Job” was a very well funded, ambitious program that ended up placing very few former prisoners in employment in the long term.
    Your plan is even more ambitious.
    Prisoner to business owner!
    A wonderful idea but the average prisoner is hardly literate if at all, has a history of alcohol abuse and is part of en extend family that in effect traps its members in a depressing cycle of repeated incarceration.
    Unfortunately, transformation of prisoners to business owning role models is simply pie in the sky.

  8. @ Jon: Yakajirri / katjurra $20 per 100g ($200/Kg). Wow, that is quite a jump from when I was involved in trading it.
    Wild harvest solanum centrale has been virtually unavailable for half a decade and the same climatic conditions which killed an estimated 20% of mulga, seem to have severely affected bush raisin root stock.
    It is my understanding that efforts at growing it commercially have involved some serious difficulties, on the other hand demand has consistently exceeded supply, so it is well worth having a go.
    Jon, I’m not questioning your price information, am just curious to know where you got that from.

  9. @ Corinne: Search Google and you will find list of ex-criminals who completely turned their lives around.

  10. @ Jon. Thanx for that. From 1990-2019 (financial years) Yuendumu Mining Company sold a total of 9.3 Tonne of Yakajirri at an average of $15/kg.
    The best wild harvest crop we bought was 3 Tonne in 2013. Supply virtually dried up after that and last lot sold was 20 Kg. in 2019 at an average of $45/kg.
    Subsequently we were offered $60/kg but couldn’t deliver. Mind you most of these sales were wholesale. Our 100g packets were retailing at $7.00.
    Do you happen to know how large AZRI’s crop was?

  11. @ Frank Baarda: The last AZRI crop was to fill a 200 kg order to supply a research lab in Sydney.
    They found that the raisin had remarkable nutritional properties not the least of which is a very high Vitamin C content.
    Afgan Traders sold it cheaply for $40kg in 2018, after which it was unavailable.
    Whether $40 kg or $200 kg, or somewhere in between, the desert raisin has the potential to be a money spinner providing a quick cash return to jail inmates.


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