Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeVolume 28Four decades on the town's fringe

Four decades on the town’s fringe

Text and painting by ROD MOSS

Edward Neil points an accusatory finger at the viewer. At the base of the ridge a group of dogs feast on a kangaroo carcass. The row of camp housing sits further back.

Forty years have passed and no substantial housing has replaced the “chicken sheds” and humpies. Three kilometres from the GPO, and still no connection to town power and water. A litany of promises by various shades of government remain unfulfilled.

From my perspective two changes at Whitegate stand apart from the constant dynamics. First, the rollover that killed Alphonse Hayes and ended the Johnsons’ residency. Only Arrenye and his sister, Eva, married to Patrick Hayes, remained. The Hayes moved in.

Demographics remained much as they had been, if slightly more. Forty or so with occasional increase from family visiting from afar.

Initiation ceremonies, footy carnivals, hospitalisation, diabetic treatment, court orders, the Show, and tellingly, funerals added stress to resources and were exacerbated when water piped from Hidden Valley was cut in 2014.

Then the momentous Intervention. Many of the younger mums who were my kids’ playmates in the early 1990s, reluctantly opted for commission housing in town or at the nefarious Hidden Valley camp, Ewyenper-Atwatye, serviced by Tangentyere.

Raising kids without essential services and getting them to school were a tough ask at Whitegate. If the many promises had been kept those mums would be back on their country in a flash.

Bypassing Council permission and regulations in April 2023, a company installed solar panels that draw fresh water from the air, storing it beneath the panels.


  1. I lived in Alice in 2008/09. In that time I remember relocatable homes being built out near the airport for outstations and town camps. What happened to these?
    I do seem to remember that they were costing three to four times the cost of what they were worth, but that’s Government tenders for you 🙄!

  2. Why has it been so hard to get power and water to WhiteGate, just out of town on the Undoolya Road? Bess Price, Jacinta’s mum, had a chance to do so when she was a Minister in the Giles CLP Government a decade ago … but she knocked it back.
    Hard to understand, why go into politics and put up with all the argie-bargie if you can’t do some good?
    I don’t know why she made that decision, I don’t know what obstacles her advisors raised, but red tape is there to be cut when the good is so obviously clear.
    When we lived on the corner by the Undoolya Road grid in 1986, last house on the edge of town, people from Whitegate would get water from our garden tap, cart it back the couple of kilometres to the camp.
    Sometimes we drove out there with a jerry or two for them. 1986! and still no water or power connected.
    If only Mike Bowden had been elected in Araluen in 2001 when Clare Martin swept Labor into power after decades of CLP rule!
    Mike would have been the first ALP candidate to win a seat in Alice township since self-government, but he lost by a handful of votes.
    If he had won I’m sure Whitegate would have got power and water pretty quickly.
    Perhaps now his son Joel is a Minister in the NT Government he will be able to get it done. It can’t be that wicked a problem.

  3. Had 100 solid Besser Block mansions been constructed there since 1975, they would ALL have been destroyed by now also. Why post more poor bugger me silly little illustrated sorry stories?

  4. @ Peter: “They would ALL have been destroyed by now also.” How do you know?
    I often quote Bruce Pascoe from his book Dark Emu: “Then all of us must be alert to that greatest of all limitations to wisdom: The Assumption.”
    As for dismissing Rod Moss’ brilliant elephant in the room paintings and the stories they tell as “poor bugger me silly little illustrated sorry stories”: Some will regard that comment as ignorant. Mean spirited at least.

  5. Calling this a “poor bugger me silly little illustrated sorry story” is offensive.
    Mr Neil, the subject of this painting, was a wonderful man with dignity and kindness at his very core. It is shameful that basic needs were not met in his lifetime. May he rest in peace.


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