Winds could have trashed the town



Homes in the western suburbs of Alice Springs, Larapinta and Braitling, were under acute fire threat in the past few days, saved only by lucky wind conditions.

PHOTO Arid Lands Environment Centre. Looking west from Anzac Hill.

“The only reason Alice Springs didn’t suffer a similar fate to Lahaina in Hawaii this weekend was that there’s been no wind here,” says Alex Nelson, local historian and fighter for decades of imported buffel grass – the region’s most destructive bushfire fuel.

“That’s all that saved a large part of our town – especially the western side – from disaster.

“If there had been a strong northerly wind behind the escaped fuel reduction burn-off in Tjoritja National Park, nothing would have prevented that bushfire crashing into our suburbs.

“The Lahaina wildfires were fuelled by dry exotic grasses.

“One day our luck will run out.”

This is a running commentary by the police about the inferno – yet again – in Tjoritja known by most people as the West MacDonnell Ranges, the town’s world famous national attraction and the tourism industry’s lifeblood.

Saturday, 3pm

A fire [is] spreading on one or more fronts. Effective containment strategies are not in place for the entire perimeter.

Smoke from this fire may affect visibility. Active fire may occur close to the roadside. Firefighting crews may be working close to the roadside.

Conditions may change, monitor conditions in your area.

The West Side mountain bike tracks are all currently closed, and people are advised to avoid the area. For the safety of firefighting crews and other vehicles, drivers in the area are urged to slow down, turn on headlights and drive safely for the conditions.

Saturday, 6pm

Tjoritja, Larapinta, Ciccone, Araluen and Braitling. [The fire is] spreading on one or more fronts. Effective containment strategies are not in place for the entire perimeter.

Saturday, 7pm

Larapinta, Alice Springs. Murray Street, Patterson Crescent, Morehead Street, Grant Road, Saltwell Street and Lander Court are all now under the Watch and Act.

There is a heightened level of threat. Conditions are changing. Start taking action now to protect your family and your property.

Sunday, 1am

There is a reduced level of threat. You can resume normal activities. Effective containment strategies are not in place for the entire perimeter.

Sunday, 10am:

Tjoritja, Simpsons North.

Heavy smoke is affecting the Alice Springs Township and surrounding areas and those suffering from asthma or breathing ailments are advised to take precautions.

Effective containment strategies are not in place for the entire perimeter.

Smoke from this fire may affect visibility.

Conditions may change, monitor conditions in your area.

Crews are still employing defensive tactics in order to control the fire.

Government image burnt area 24 hours till 7am today.

We are seeking comment from NT Government authorities.


Police, Fire & Emergency did not provide a spokesperson to answer questions from the Alice Springs News.



36,000 hectares scorched in winter buffel grass fuelled wildfire: Statement from Alex Vaughan, Policy Officer, Arid Lands Environment Centre.

A controlled burn on Friday north of Simpson’s Gap, became out of control, burning huge parts of Tjoritja / West MacDonnell Ranges NP, then approaching Mparntwe Alice Springs. Ash fell from the sky and the town has been consumed in grassfire smoke.

This fire sends an ominous warning for the months ahead across Central Australia. Mark it in the diary, August 2023, winter, was when the 2023/24 wildfire season started.

Decades of NT Government neglect have put Mparntwe, remote communities and huge areas of the arid lands at risk. The events of the last few days are not a one-off, but are the culmination of decades of inaction.

“Remember that whenever buffel burns it is the first thing to come back, spreading further, putting more ecosystems at risk. It is a fire-promoting exotic species. Each rain and each fire is another chapter in the demise of Central Australia’s diverse and cherished ecosystems”

We urgently need Federal Government coordination and funding for buffel management. List buffel as a Weed of National Significance. It is already found in every mainland state and the Northern Territory. It has the potential to spread to 70% of this continent.

The Federal Government must implement its own 2014 Buffel Grass Threat Abatement Advice, with funding. This advice is scientifically based and comprehensive.

The NT Government needs to declare buffel grass a weed and transform its approach to conserving and restoring the arid lands. A fire promoting buffel grass monocrop is not in the public interest, nor does it support culture, environment or economy.

Learn from South Australia where buffel grass was declared a weed in 2015.

Thanks in large part to the great efforts over the weekend from firefighters, the fires appear to have been diverted from town.

UPDATE 8.55am

In light of the current fire management stuff-up by Parks & Wildlife burning out the WestMacs park adjacent to town, this item may be of interest.

It’s an article reviewing the successful progress of the dust control project during the 1970s, published in the NT Rural Review of Nov-Dec 1978, i.e., a few months after commencement of NT self-government.

It’s the earliest published mention of the fire risk posed by buffel grass that I’ve come across. It’s ironic, given that the current uncontrolled wildfire was started by a controlled burn attempting to reduce the fuel load of buffel grass in Tjorita / West MacDonnells National Park.

Sovereignty, two ways



“It is a total irony, when Indigenous Australians are talking about reclaiming their sovereignty while the rest of us are giving it away.”

It was a bullseye for guest speaker Alison Broinowski at the local Hiroshima Day annual commemoration, with its focus this year almost entirely on Australia’s relationship with the USA.

Peace group “actions” here in Pine Gap land, over the decades, have frequently been entertaining rather than bitter political demonstrations: Overweight Federal police officers trying to catch lithe hippies vaulting the “base” fence and after a chase gluing their hands to light poles.

Robin Laidlaw (photo at top) riding his emu blocked by a phalanx of cops.

More cops giving Captain Starlight dressed in drag a biffing inside a wagon fort of police cars.

And black clad Death with scythe standing on an upturned oil drum.

When the staff transports couldn’t be seen (they took the back-route via Ilarpa) a Yank wit explained they were using stealth busses that day.

Monday’s dinner in honour of Yami Lester OAM, a prominent Yankunytjatjara activist said to have been blinded by the atomic tests in Maralinga and Emu Field south of Alice Springs in 1953, was a lot more sedate and thoughtful.

Local politicians were invited but none turned up. Some had good excuses, says Mr Pilbrow.

The 55 people attending engaged in well-informed exchanges with Dr Broinowski and husband Richard, who between them have an impressive record as diplomats, academics, journalists and authors (22 books between them, and many articles on Australia’s interface with the world, particularly Asia).

Mr Broinowski was Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Central American Republics and Cuba and in the early 1990s, general manager of Radio Australia.

The dinner crowd – teachers, lawyers, nurses, First Nations organisations staff – was gender balanced and seemed aged between 30 and 86 (stalwart Maya Cifali).

Alice Springs Peace Action Think Tank convener Johnathan Pilbrow says the group has a core of 10, and 30 are on the distribution list.

The locals’ preoccupations became clear in their questions during the Q&A, and their unfailing approval of what the guests had to say.

Rachel Shields raised the question whether the Government had already decided secretly to create nuclear waste dumping grounds.

Dr Broinowski: We don’t hear about it because nobody is allowed to talk about it, and our media have given up asking about it or have become uninterested in asking. Wars take years to generate. Anyone who tells you wars happen suddenly is lying. It has been built up and planned over a very long time. And that’s precisely the process that we’re in at the moment. The nuclear waste issue is only one aspect of that planning.

Mr Broinowski said the public is by no means helpless. Traditional owners prevailed against the Federal government in a court case against a nuclear dump in the grain growing country near Kimba on SA’s Eyre Peninsula – this week’s news.

FROM LEFT: Alison and Richard Broinowski with MC Kieran Finnane and her book Peace Crimes presented to them as thank-you gift by the organisers.

Now Port Kembla locals are “very indignant” about the possibility that their town should become the home base for of nuclear subs.

Dr Broinowski said another example of war planning was Dick Cheney’s role in the Adelaide to Darwin railway – as the head of the company Halliburton and as advisor to American presidents, “a dead set war hawk”.

The rail was a project that flipped from too expensive, too hard “and suddenly it all became possible: American troops, who they were anticipating stationing in the north of Australia, would be able to have a back exit, together with their equipment, if they needed it.

“These are speculations, but don’t discount forward planning and don’t discount the implication of both sides of politics in this.

“Governments in Australia have never been forced to explain their actions or report on the consequences of wars. Never.”

Instead opponents of war are simply ignored.

Mr Broinowski: After the Iraq war “we [critics of the war] just got shoved aside until the issue died which is what they want. They want any controversial question to go away and die by being ignored.”

Dr Broinowski: “The mainstream media are killing it. It’s censorship by omission. The question is not even raised. The idea doesn’t even get floated. And that’s why organisations like yours are so important.”

Mr Broinowski: The wisdom always comes after the fact – with Vietnam, Iraq and now, questions are being raised about Afghanistan.

“What we’ve got now is the sense that China is an enemy, the United States is our friend, we need nuclear powered submarines. This could lead to nuclear weapons but we won’t talk about that now. We are mesmerised by this fear of China.”

To have “quite secretly” formed AUKUS (the military alliance between Australia, United Kingdom and United States set up in September 2021), in part to manage Australia’s acquisitions of nuclear submarines, “is a disgrace”.

“The US has something like 800 bases around the world. China has one, in Djibouti, and it was put in at the request of the United States to help control piracy in the Horn of Africa.

“China suggested a 10 point agreement as a way to solve the war in Ukraine and also brokered peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“[China’s] Belts and Road thing is not about taking over the world. They don’t have the hegemonic ideas of control that the United States has.

“The Chinese have a peaceful way of doing it – long may that last.”

We should not “provoke them into a war between us and the United States.”

Ms Cifali suggested the acquisition of nuclear submarines was in conflict with nonproliferation as they are “an instrument of war”.

Mr Broinowski pointed to an exemption: Uranium can be taken out from the safeguards of the international Atomic Agency and used in nuclear propulsion of a military vehicle. Australia is the first non-nuclear weapons country to have availed itself of this provision.

It is there because the United States had put on pressure when the non proliferation treaty was developed, and this may be encouraging other countries to make use of that opportunity.

Australia was at the forefront of developing the non-proliferation treaty, “under Gareth Evans particularly” but now “our reputation as a responsible international citizen is diminishing rapidly”.

Is there a way to get concerns through the system “which is so resistant to them?”

Dr Broinowski says Australia should consider the option of non-alignment: “That is at the heart of what we’re talking about.

“Our foreign policy and defence policy have been handed over to the United States. We don’t make it any more. It’s made in Washington. We just find out what it is and do it.

“The only way to turn that around is for Australians to rise up and say … if we want defensive weapons what we should have is armed neutrality.

“That has been proposed many times in Australia.

“Because it’s [now] new, because it’s something [about which] the media won’t say, been there, done that, that’s not a story.

“It is a story and could take off in the context of the dangerous situation which we are now facing. Keep your eye out for that.”

Brian Jeffries asked: Can America be trusted?

Dr Broinowski: “Unfortunately, no … the country seems to be disintegrating. The American government simply has not faced up to the fact that China, already since 2015, on many economic measures, is ahead of the United States.

“They won’t recognise that. America still wants to be the hegemon. China, Australia [and others] have to accept that. We all have our fingers crossed they all will do so.

Dr Broinowski: The present situation started with the Defence Strategic Review drafted in 2014 between Australia and the United States and turned into a report in 2015, “when the United States said, in effect, we are going to be able to do whatever we want to do in Australia and put whatever forces we want to put in Australia and they would be under American command.

“And they will do whatever we want them to do whether or not the Australian government know or approves. And that is the basis of everything that since followed right up to now.

“And that went through as if the Australian electorate’s eyes were closed.”

Mr Broinowski: “And that means that the United States can store nuclear weapons in Australia without telling Australians. They can park B52 bombers carrying those weapons without having to consult Australians.

“The United States is building a new base right now in the Northern Territory for storage of fuel for these aircraft. We have no territorial sovereignty over any of this.”

Will it change? Not likely – not since what happened to Gough Whitlam.

Dr Broinowski: “They knew. They got rid of him. They made sure he didn’t do it [close the US bases]. There is no Australian government that has dared to go there again. One thing governments care about more than anything else is staying in power. We have a Federal Government now that will not do anything that stands up to the United States. Not a thing.”

The combined intelligence base in Darwin is the latest example: “They will decide what sort of intelligence reaches Austraia, thereby conditioning the decisions that are made in Canberra if they are not conditioned enough already.”

Chansey Paech silent on what he told the ALP about St Mary’s



NT Minister Chansey Paech has not responded to a question, put to him three times yesterday by the Alice Springs News, whether his government is buying the land of the former St Mary’s Children’s Village just south of The Gap.

The land is up for sale by the Anglican Church. This has caused distress to some former residents as well as concern over the future of the chapel on the site.

Anglican Bishop Greg Anderson, when asked to comment, told the News this morning: “We have not received an offer from the NT Government for the St Mary’s site.

“I have heard reports on the grapevine (as you no doubt have also) that Chansey Paech announced at an ALP branch meeting in Alice Springs well over a month ago that we had sold the site to the NTG.

“I heard this from an acquaintance of an acquaintance of a friend, so that is a long way short of reliable. A number of parties remain interested in the site,” Bishop Anderson told the News by email.

“I’m sure that if the NT Government wants to buy the site they will let us know. They may well make a media statement to go along with that.”

The News emailed Mr Paech yesterday at 3.54pm, 5.13pm and 7.36pm, asking: “Is the government buying the St Mary’s block? If so, for what purpose and at what cost?”

He did not reply.

PHOTO at top taken in January.

A place that both attracts and scares


“SUB blends the body, sound, objects and lighting to imagine a future world where humans have burrowed underground to live.

“It is an incredible work for incredible times, speculating on the future of a world transforming before our eyes.”

That’s the take by Frankie Snowdon, celebrated local dancer, co-artistic director and performer of GUTS Dance, on a work created in Alice Springs, premiered here last night, and being performed again today and tomorrow at Araluen.

“It’s about escaping a surface world littered with crises,” says Ms Snowdon.

“We burrow into soil and stone to seek shelter.

“SUB cracks through our resistance to hope, a soft defiance in the enduring relationship of bodies and materials. 

In this place that both attracts and scares us, this wet, restless and difficult place, we engage with the terror and volatility of the living natural world.”

The performance, three years in the making, will tour to Queenstown in Tasmania in October.

Local bodies supporting the creation of the work included Red Hot Arts.

Movie clip and image by IVAN TRIGO.

Head south, young man



The Aboriginal Art Gallery? Interesting times we live in: Here is my vision of how south of The Gap could give a run for its money to all of the town north of the ranges.

What are tourists interested in? Just spend time at the Welcome Rock (2 on the Google Earth image) and ask them!

There’s a lot more than readily meets the eye.

1 The Transport Hall of Fame: What a waste of all that history at the back of a great display, when you go to Ilford, east of Longreach (pictured at top), and see what is possible. Also McLaren Vale is showing how far behind we are.

3 A giant image like at Aileron could go there, of an indigenous family, an Afghan cameleer, with camel, an European settler. This is the attention grabber for the whole of the NT, not just Alice.

4 Arid Zone Research Industry (AZRI). Desert research as in other desert countries – water usage and desert food research. Camelicious as in Dubai. Centre of excellence as per Townsville / Mega central in geology research, featuring the history of the ranges. Bush foods display.

5 & 6 Yirara  in conjunction with the planned cultural centre, with the students as “demonstrators of their cultures and a training area in commerce. 

7 Desert Knowledge with Indigenous training and education.

8 The strip of land between the highway and Kilgariff as a bush food heaven maintained by the jail workers as a demonstration of the emerging industry and Indigenous pride.

9 Bird watching.

10 I would also like to see a walkway at the Old Timers, with background signage about the history of some of the landmarks. I’ve just read Bryan Bowmans book.

11 Pitchi Richi now with historian Alex Nelson in residence, looking forward to new glory.

I was once told by a family lawyer that I was a dreamer. True enough, but it’s easy to be complacent.

[TREVOR SHIELL is a veteran tourism operator in The Centre.]

Anger over $7.17m gallery design but Paech mum


Arts Minister Chansey Paech will not answer questions dealing with consultation about the design and construction of the so-called National Aboriginal Art Gallery.

We asked him this morning for names (not for publication) of the respondents to the consultation and what – in summary – each of them had said.

The answer from an NTG spokesperson was: “Consultations carried out to date are for the consideration of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery Project Working Group.

“A public information campaign is set to rollout during August and September.”

Interstate BVN Architecture, in collaboration with Alice firm Susan Dugdale & Associates, was awarded a $7.17m tender to design the NAAG in March 2022. The concept design unveiled last Friday is part of the design process, according to the spokesperson.

Our questions were prompted by a statement from Graeme Smith, CEO of the local native title organisation, that Ms Dugdale, was in charge of gauging opinions of Aboriginal people. He said he did not know so far what the result of this process had been.

Ms Dugdale referred us to the Department of Infrastructure, Planning & Logistics.

Meanwhile the News received 11 comments from readers – all of them negative towards the project.

Its proximity to Anzac Hill (arrow in illustration) has sparked angry responses.

The News disclosed on May 15 a government tender for a “Consultancy – Development and Implementation of a Fundraising Development Strategy” which revealed that the gallery is due to open in 2028.

Gallery spin continues


The government spin around the so-called “flagship National Aboriginal Art Gallery” in Alice Springs, now with Minister Chansey Paech at the helm, is continuing.

After years of controversy and conflict, richly documented by the Alice Springs News, the Darwin based and overseas owned and controlled NT News published a concept design with drawings, a video and statement from Mr Paech at 7:02 this morning.

It claims as an “exclusive” the story reporting, in the past tense, that the minister “revealed the plans for the four-level gallery on Friday”.

Today is Friday. So when did they do the story?

Mr Paech (pictured) and his government’s handling of the gallery project all along may have been a dog’s breakfast, but time travel is clearly a new string to their bow: The photo of Mr Paech in the NT News, unveiling a picture of the planned gallery, was taken in bright daylight, yet apparently made its way into the Darwin tabloid after being snapped, laid out in the paper and printed all before the sun rose. Wow.

Asked about the gallery’s location Mr Paech “emphasised”, according to the NT News, that “the government had heavily consulted with local community groups and organisations including Lhere Artepe”.

The CEO of the native title organisation, Graeme Smith, may well wonder if discussing location with him is the next stop in the Minister’s time travel.

The News saw today’s significant event as a reason for asking major organisations: “What consultation by the NT Government has taken place with you or your organisation about the proposed design for the so-called National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs announced today?”

Mr Smith said the concept design process of the Aboriginal project released today is “none of my concern.

“That’s a concern for the NT Government. It’s their project. I have not seen a concept design after consultation.”

He says he has not seen the concept design released today.

Lhere Artepe’s advice to local architect Sue Dugdale had been to consult with the traditional owners, and he does not know whether she has or has not, nor what the results have been.

The News will ask Ms Dugdale, a prominent local professional, about her survey.

The results of her consultation did not get a mention in the NT News story nor in Mr Paech’s handout that the rest of us journos finally got at 1:22 pm.

It is likely we would have asked questions about results of Ms Dugdale’s general consultation had Mr Paech held a media conference rather than giving the Murdoch paper a free kick.

Mr Smith says the native title body’s board had expressed the view that the building should fit within the landscape: “That was our consultation, but Lhere Artepe is not putting any resources into this consultation process. We did not.

“I was not going to use one staff member, or one vehicle, or one second of my resources, to [conduct] consultation about concept design for the art gallery. That was nothing I was prepared to get into.”

The Central Land Council said: “Sera Bray gave our executive committee a presentation of the gallery design and concept this week.”

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress said it did not wish to comment.

The Town Council said: “Council was not involved in the design of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery that was released today.”

We’re still waiting for a reply from Tangentyere whose media person was away.

So here we’re stuck with Mr Paech’s blather and numbers: Territory Government $69m. Australian Government $80m.

“The gallery will showcase the stories and artwork of one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures, brought together under one roof in the spiritual heart of the nation and the birthplace of contemporary Aboriginal art.

“Features of the gallery include a cultural welcoming circle, top floor event space with spectacular views, healing gardens, ground floor cafe, Kwatye (water) Play and an impressive four-level atrium.”

And so on.

IMAGE: Present plans put the gallery next to Anzac Hill (Untyeyetwelye, arrow), an important Arrernte sacred site which caused significant controversy.

Government fiddles while buffel burns



Fire is one of the terrible consequences of buffel, the invasive grass many call a weed, and which is declared as such in neighbouring South Australia.

Buffel grass has an extremely high fuel load and increases the frequency and intensity of fires.

Furthermore, buffel grass responds well to fire. Research suggests it creates a positive feedback loop which promotes further buffel regeneration at the expense of local ecosystems.

Science Direct pulls no punches about the weed that threatens to turn our magnificent landscape into a monoculture:

“Buffel grass is often first to remerge on ash beds, hence forming a positive feedback loop which favours its own regeneration, and modifies the invaded system irreversibly.

“There is some evidence to suggest that the more severe the fire, the more rapid the post-fire recovery of above ground biomass, with one study suggesting that Buffel grass cover doubles after fire.

“Fire immediately reduces competition with surrounding vegetation, and hinders recruitment of juvenile woody vegetation, preventing future recovery of the landscape and making it more vulnerable to rapid colonisation by fast growing species such as Buffel grass.

“Fire also temporarily increases available phosphorus in the soil which Buffel grass may be able to rapidly exploit.”

Yet the NT Government seems to be responding to this emergency without great strategy, judging by answers given to Araluen’s independent MLA Robyn Lambley, who put questions in Parliament suggested by the Alice Springs News.

Ms Lambley asked: “How many hectares of land were subject to preventative aerial incendiary and ground burns across the Northern Territory in the last 12 months?”

The answer indicates that in the Alice Springs Fire Management zone 3,377,000 ha were subject to burning.

The answer then breaks down the burning by district. In the Tanami and Lasseter districts it is reported that 246,000 ha and 180,000 ha, respectively, were burnt via aerial incendiary program.

It is reported less than 13,500 hectares was subject to programmed burns on pastoral properties, 13,000 hectares on Central Australian parks and 5,000 hectares on “Curtain Springs” (the correct name is Curtin Springs).

The amount of land reported to have been subject to preventative burns contrasts starkly to maps of fire scars for 2022 and 2023 from the Northern Australia Fire Information website which shows that very large areas of Central Australia burned in those years.

We do not know nearly enough about how to manage and mitigate buffel grass fires.  What we do know suggests fires, both planned or unplanned, without follow up buffel control, risks accelerating buffel invasion and ecosystem transformation.

I have tried to make sense of the NT government buffel grass fire management strategy by reviewing the Alice Springs Regional Bushfire Management Plan.

Unfortunately this document does not state where or how much country will be burnt, or the resources to be expended.  Instead it lists the types of categories of land which may be burnt, with no locations or performance measures. Furthermore it does not address the environmental acceptability of burning buffel grass, map buffel grass itself or describe what follow up is required.

Ms Lambley’s question 3 queried how many hectares underwent buffel eradication programs. In response the NT Government provided vague descriptions of the types of places where “mitigation” might occur.

In summary, buffel grass invasion promotes fire and the answers provided offer no assurance that the NT Government cares whether fire regimes are exacerbating the buffel grass invasion or the fire risk it poses.

I suggest the following additional questions should be posed:

• How much of this area burnt was invaded with buffel?

• How much burning was followed up with herbicide treatment or other follow up forms of management?

• How were assets (sacred sites including trees, areas of ecological and cultural significance) protected from the fires?

• Is burning in fact just accelerating the buffel fire feedback loop?

• How much is the NT government investing in research that will increase our ability to respond appropriately to buffel grass fires? Do you consider this level that matches the urgency and magnitude of this threat?

Adrian Tomlinson is the Chief Executive Officer of the Arid Lands Environment Centre in Alice Springs.

PHOTOS by ERWIN CHLANDA: About a square kilometre of mostly buffel burned on March 24 this year on the south-eastern edge of the Alice Springs municipality, destroying three dwellings and burning countless trees. Today buffel – and little else – is growing vigorously, stretching down to the Todd River, a nature playground for nearby residents, where big gumtrees were destroyed.

Police to detect, seize and destroy weapons, ban people


Amendments to the Police Administration Act will authorise police to use handheld scanners to detect, seize and destroy weapons being carried by individuals – also known as wanding, according to a statement from Chief Minister Natasha Fyles this afternoon.

She also announced additional high risk areas where police have the power to use new wanding powers and issue banning notices.

“These locations correlate with high risk alcohol areas which we know fuel alcohol related crime,” she says.

All CBD districts across the Territory are already high risk areas and the Alice Springs precinct has been updated.

“Persons who are caught engaging in crime, anti-social behaviour, alcohol-fuelled violence or those who refuse to leave a premises can be banned from entering high-risk areas for up to 14 days.

“Along with high risk areas, public transport facilities, public transport vehicles and a suspected offence area, will be areas where wanding can take place.

“Carrying a knife in our community will not be tolerated – and there is no excuse.

“Identifying high risk areas where we know alcohol fuelled crime occurs will allow police to use their wanding powers and take any weapons off the street.

“People caught engaging in crime, alcohol-fuelled violence or anti-social behaviour will also be banned from entering these high risk areas.

“High risk areas are decided upon through monitoring and data, and is something that we will constantly review,” says the Chief Minister.


UPDATE July 26

Letter to the Editor:

Will it be illegal for me to carry my Swiss army knife in my pocket”

Dave Oakes, Alice Springs

Broad solar use gets closer, but what about red tape?



Working with real customers and the variety of their solar equipment, and integrating it into the power grid, is a key task of the Virtual Power Plant research now coming to an end in Alice Springs.

The scheme, one of five elements of the broader Alice Springs Future Grid program, also got a look at what it takes for the erstwhile Solar City to live up to its former name: The nuts and bolts are the easy part. Government regulation is not.

Lyndon Frearson, head of the Future Grid $12m program under the auspices of Desert Knowledge, says while there are similar VPPs around Australia, some of them several times larger, the local effort is examining the aggregate impact of multiple trials concurrently on the “messiness” of the market.

“We didn’t operate on the basis of only working with new systems. Some VPP trials started out with using the same size of batteries and clients with the same systems installed.

“We worked with a range of system sizes, older and newer ones, and a range of different battery manufacturers.

“That’s the nature of customers. They’re all different.”

Forecasting methodologies, linking in with larger producers such as Uterne on the South Stuart Highway, pricing structures, battery systems and looking at how they are reacting with each other are all part of the experiments.

The big question is to manage the progressive change from fossil to renewable power when customers are all at different stages with respect to equipment, spending money and aspirations, while also ensuring the delicate balance of supply matching demand each and every second.

“It can be a lot messier than what advocates suggest,” says Mr Frearson.

Many more organisations are now involved in the power generation system. Sometimes words have different meanings depending on the technologies people are coming from: “Developing a new lexicon for the future power system is actually critical.”

There are seven to 10 full-time, and the same number of part-time staff as well as local installers working on the Future Grid program along with around 60 residential participants.

A string of reports are scheduled to be written by the end of the year, “for government, business and the community”.

Meanwhile people and their neighbours in Alice Springs seeking to become independent from government and from commercial electricity generators will find two lots of obstacles: Technology is the lesser.

Regulation is the big one, and governments are poised to keep control.

On the technical side there will be central control systems which govern charging and discharging.

There are already examples of that in Central Australian outstations.

Connecting rooftop gear and batteries between several dwellings via poles and wires or underground is no big deal.

The regulations side is a lot more tricky. Our current subdivision and planning requirements require that all properties have stand-alone access to electricity.

They don’t have to use it (but they still have to pay Power Water Corporation for the presence of that equipment).

“You could seek to develop a generator licence for a power system on your property, and seek to procure a licence for generating electricity to a neighbour,” says Mr Frearson.

“The process, for an individual, would be complex. The mechanism would require the groups to come together to develop the infrastructure, the poles and wires, which would require easements, so that at all times there is a right for those wires to be passing through.”

Difficulties may arise when – for example – three householders agree to share power and later the middle one sells his home and says I don’t want this infrastructure on my property. I’m pulling out.

In Alice Springs the easements are largely for poles and wires owned by the Power Water Corporation which private producers can use – for a fee, of course.

Private producers on a larger scale would be required to guarantee uninterrupted supply.

Further, you’ll need a network licence.

To use the PWC wires you’d need a network access agreement, and possibly a retail licence to allow you to enter into a commercial agreement with your neighbours and a generator licence to generate electricity in the first place.

“These licences impose obligations around what you are allowed to do, [even] your creditworthiness.

“Are you a fit and proper person to run a power system because as soon as other people are relying on that they need to know you’re [the right person] to do that.”

The licences are provided by the Utilities Commission, a Territory instrumentality, also in charge of approving pricing.

Concurrent with that is the Australian Energy Regulator, the national body determining the amount that network bodies are allowed to charge for use of their infrastructure.

“The commercial and regulatory hurdles are high,” says Mr Frearson.

There are locations into which bureaucracies can’t stick their nose: “Properties within certain municipal areas will have access to common use infrastructure. And that provides a benefit to everyone but it also limits third parties from providing those services.

“If true independence is what you’re seeking you’ll have to look at a location where that planning and common use infrastructure are not already present. In Alice Springs they are present.”

Mr Frearson says there are new urban subdivisions in Australia where energy can be shared.

“It’s easer when you’re doing it in a greenfield environment where you can build the infrastructure and you can mandate that everybody participates.

“You can put solar on everyone’s roof, batteries are there and you can only buy a property if you agree to the terms of this process.”

There are only few of these because it has proved difficult to manage the trade-offs between that broader community benefit of common use infrastructure and the constraints that are in place.

PHOTO: Our report $75m power station the wrong decision: WA experts, on July 20, 2016 was part of our coverage of the local solar debate, fired up by the government’s decision to buy for Alice Springs 10 gas fuelled generators worth $75m that later was reported to have ballooned to $100.

Alcohol measures extended despite disappointing results



The alcohol control measures introduced in January have had little impact on the crime figures in Alice Springs yet the Chief Minister has extended the restrictions indefinitely.

With the May figures released yesterday now in hand the total number of crimes reported to the police in Alice Springs was 4144 for the period, marginally less (4615) for the corresponding period in 2022 and 4622 for 2021 (see table below).

Ms Fyles, to justify her decision, says in a media release that domestic violence has halved since the restrictions were introduced.

She is clearly taking no account of the difference between the impact on the society of DV – which is horrendous but usually happens in a private space, and needs targeted measures – and the crime that happens mostly in public locations, much of it committed by children: its reporting in national media – factual and fabricated – has led to a drop in the town’s vital tourism business by about 50%.

The farcical restrictions of times and quantities for alcohol selling have added more frustrations for visitors and locals alike.

The Chief Minister’s decision was apparently made without adequate information: The wholesale alcohol supply figures published by the NT Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade are available only up to the quarter ending March 31, 2023, not the June quarter, which would have indicated any difference in the amount of consumption, allowing Ms Fyles and the public to make informed judgment.

These are January to May 2023 crime figures compared to that period the year before and in 2021: assault 978 (1018, 793); house break-ins 458 (525, 370); commercial break-ins 412 (390, 255); property damage 1244 (1350, 182).

The Chief Minister makes no secret that alcohol abuse management has been a string of failures.

She says in her release: “From risk-based licensing to the Banned Drinkers Register, from the minimum floor price to our Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors, and with record funding for alcohol treatment services and domestic, family and sexual violence, we continue to do more than any previous government to tackle this problem. But we know we’ve still got more work to do.

“I know that some retailers may not like this approach. It’s a difficult decision, but it’s the right decision. It has to be done.”

PHOTO: The location where last Saturday a woman was fatally injured with a blunt object. A man as been charged with murder. The site, an informal camp amidst a field of saltbush, is near the busy Sadadeen Connector Road, within metres of a residential homes cluster, close to a tourist hotel and on the edge of the town’s CBD.

UPDATE JULY 23: Letter to the Editor

The latest NT crime statistics released on Friday clearly show the NT Government lied about Alice Springs crime rates in statements they made in late June, then tried to cover it up.

On June 27 the NT Deputy Police Commissioner, Murray Smalpage, made an astounding statement about crime in Alice Springs, in a Darwin Press Conference, that “Alice Springs recorded its lowest recorded numbers and incidents in four years of crime”.

This 100% false and misleading statement was subsequently backed up by the Minister for Police, Kate Worden, who came up with an extraordinarily explanation that included “criminal” and “non- criminal” crime data.

The Alice Springs crime figures they were referring to was May 2023 compared to May 2019. With the latest crime statistics to the year ending on 31 May 2023, now publicly available, their allegations can now be examined.

The way in which data was defined and collected in May 2019 is very different to how it is collected now.

For example in 2019 there was no specific category of crime for domestic violence or alcohol related assaults. But what is potently evident is that crime in Alice Springs has increased across the board, month on month, year on year, consistently and incrementally, from May 2019 to May 2023.

Property crime in Alice Springs during the year ending May 31, 2019 saw 7311 incidents, compared to the year ending in 31st May 2023, there were 7751 incidents.

“Whatever way you spin it (and contrary to what the NT Government tells us), crime was significantly lower in Alice Springs in May 2019 compared to May 2023” said Mrs Lambley.

“However, it has now transpired that instead of Minister Worden and Deputy Police Commissioner Smalpage apologising (or even resigning!) for misleading Territorians for this serious breach of trust, the NT Police director of communications Margaret McKeown was allegedly sacked a few weeks ago, presumably for her part in this debacle.

And the Chief Minister has since installed a “marketing strategist” in the police media unit to ensure more politically favourable police messaging.

Despite the small reduction in crime in Alice Springs over recent months primarily due to the reinstatement of widespread alcohol bans, we still have a “crime crisis” with significantly higher levels of crime than what we experienced before Labor came to Government in 2016.

Lying to Territorians is a sure sign this Fyles Labor Government has not only lost control of crime but has lost their integrity along the way.

Robyn Lambley, Independent MLA for Araluen.

On a roll in the Todd



John Wallace, Michael from Uluru, Donella and Lawrence Hayes sit on a blanket playing cards. Adrian Hayes snr sits astride the inverted milk crate.

At slight remove from the game are Dorrie Campbell, Michael Hayes and Denise Doolan. Joey Hayes approaches the group.

I recall concentrated games in Todd River when a player looked to be on a roll and friends and family hovered at their back, waiting for a share in the winnings.

I’d been amongst them once for the same reason, hoping Bernard Neal’s streak would continue as he’d promised to “square up” the $50 he’d borrowed some weeks earlier. Thursdays were his “money days” and he’d invited me to the river where a sizeable group gathered in the shade of a large river gum.

“Not now,” he’d said. Closing his eyes, he added. “I’m thinking cards.”

His thinking was right on track. His attention lapsed a minute as he turned to settle with a fistful of notes.

More than once I heard of someone allowed to withdraw from such circles with their shared knowledge that the winnings were required for a significant purchase of fridge, car, or TV, or repaying a debt.

But the big games seem to be a thing of the past. Not only in camp but the river and hospital lawn (Stuart Park), as well. Perhaps the gambling itch is now satisfied at Lasseter’s Casino.

The stick and pebble games kids played in the sand have also disappeared. Discarded plastic toys now lie amongst ground litter.

Card game at Whitegate, 1999

Crowd big, trade a little slow: Alice show



Preliminary crowd figures for the Alice Springs Show were 19,000 over the two days.

“We’re very pleased,” says event manager Holly Russell.

Brendan Fogarty (above), a trade exhibitor over several years, says it was quieter than usually but better than last year.

His Spitwater stall (pressure cleaners, heaters, vacuum and industrial cleaners) was one of only two commercial stalls in the outdoor business display area, amidst itinerant traders, food seller and government displays.

“A few enquiries, a few sales, not a bad weekend,” says Mr Fogarty (pictured). “There’s always someone to have a talk to.”

The commercial exception was the cattle section with a high-price bull sale.

It was the eighth Alice show for Ron and Elisabeth Hill hailing from Mildura and owning a store in Broken Hill, manufacturing and selling leather goods.

They attend 10 field days and agricultural shows a year, also including Katherine, Kununurra and Wentworth.

Mr Hill describes the Alice show as “fairly consistent” although this year his trade was down by 20% on last year which was “extraordinary”.

That bull is worth a lot of money


Wally Klein, of Orange Creek cattle station, paid $19,000 at this morning’s Show Sale, well over double the average price for the day.

“We never paid that much for a bull before. We bought a lot of bulls for $10,000,” he says.

“The bull is just the cheapest investment in your cattle.”

He says beef prices have been very high.

Mr Klein with grand-daughter Annabelle Nelson and his son Jacob.

“They slipped a little bit but I think that’s only short term. Obviously we sold a lot of cattle last year for really high prices so we put a bit back into our herd.”

Orange Creek’s green circular lucerne patches (Google Earth photo below), on the Stuart Highway 91 km south of Alice Springs, are a surprising sight for airline passengers flying between Singapore and Sydney.

Mr Klein has 100 hectares under the perennial flowering plant, also called alfalfa.

He says it is now irrigated entirely with solar powered bores, pumping 40 litres a second “with the sun.

“It’s really fantastic,” he says.

The bull, a Poll Hereford, also judged the Bull of the Show, came from Tom Honner’s Minlacowie stud of JJ Honner & Sons in Minlaton, SA.

The second bull entered by the stud was judged the second champion of the show.

The average price for the sale of the 13 head was $8576.

There were seven Poll Herefords, including five from Days Whiteface in Bordertown SA, and six Droughtmasters from Hale River Homestead east of Alice Springs.

The Poll Herefords averaged $11,571 and the Droughtmasters $5083.

Councillor tops Sponge Challenge


Four eggs, 3/4 of a tablespoon of caster sugar, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, half a teaspoon of bicarb soda, 3/4 of a tablespoon of corn flour and just two teaspoons of flour and – Eureka – here was the creation earning Councillor Marli Banks the blue ribbon for the Sponge Challenge at the Alice Springs Show this morning.

The criteria were taste, texture, presentation, fitting the category and looking good.

Since 1960 the annual show has been known as the function where you see everybody you haven’t seen since the previous show. The crowd is 20,000 (give or take) of the town’s population of 25,912 (August 2021).

The rides are immensely popular, especially for Aboriginal show goers.

The cattle industry, which was instrumental in getting the Show under way, was represented by exactly 100 beasts from as far away as De Rose Hill in SA, 300 km to the south, and Tennant Creek, 500 km to the north, from where high school students brought nine head which are part of a pastoral school course.

Missed the Show? Don’t worry, tomorrow is Day Two, ending with a spectacular fireworks.


Kids matter

“When our children come to us, and we’re available, we are there, and we’re listening, and it could just be just 30 seconds, it could be something very important they want to tell us, then stop and listen, send that message that we are available.”

These thoughts come to a town that spends a great deal of time talking about a cohort of children, different ones from year to year but always around 50 to 120 of them, out in the streets at night, breaking into homes and businesses, trashing, stealing cars, torching some.

People are leaving town because of them, or are not coming. Authorities are at a loss about what to do.

The thoughts are from Michell Forster, from Triple P, short for Positive Parenting Program, well represented in the NT, an international organisation which in Australia is funded by the Federal Government.

Its broad range of programs delivered in person or on-line are for parents and “practitioners”, putting kids first, and on the opposite end of the usual responses of curfew and lock ‘em up.

The trouble is, some parents here are not available, they may be drunk or in gaol. Should Aboriginal organisations which are receiving generous public funding step in?

Ms Forster spoke with editor ERWIN CHLANDA.

NEWS: The majority of the parents here are doing exactly what you describe. The problem are those who don’t. What do we do about the parents who couldn’t care less for their kids?

FORSTER: Don’t they? We don’t know that. I think they do love their children. I don’t think we can say they don’t. I think maybe they lost a bit of control. Maybe children are bouncing off social media. What we have to start thinking about is spending quality time with our children. Just let them come to us, stopping what we’re doing, paying them attention, listening to them and talking to them. Having conversations. Talking about our cultural values. Our dreamtime stories. And also being good role models as well.

NEWS: Some parents, tragically, are not good role models.

This, Ms Forster insists, is where the programs of Triple P can come in. It has services for individual parents, for practitioners, jurisdictions, governments, agencies and organisations.

In Alice Springs that would include Congress (operating income 2022 $64.8m), Tangentyere (operating income 2021 $33.8m) and the Central Land Council, shareholder in Centrecorp Aboriginal Investment Corporation Pty Ltd whose principal investments are Peter Kittle Motor Company, Yeperenye Shopping Centre and other properties, LJ Hooker Alice Springs, Milner Road Foodtown, Mercure Alice Springs Resort, Alice Springs Memorial Club property, properties at 75 and 82 Hartley Street, Alice Springs and Hertz Commercial Vehicle franchises in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

NEWS: How could these major organisations, Congress and Tangentyere mostly government funded, mesh into initiatives dealing with what has been the town’s most pressing problem for decades?

FORSTER: They could come and chat with us. We could talk about training, and what would best suit those practitioners and how they deliver, and what would suit the parents.

NEWS: If these organisations became Triple P practitioners, what would they tell the parents?

FORSTER: We never tell the parents what to do. If we did it would more than likely fail. We offer lots of tips and strategies and support parents and practitioners we are training, and the parents will take what they need. One strategy that is easy is to spend time with your children. Having two-way conversations with them. They learn to communicate. Spending quality time. 

Ms Forster says not engaging with children, sending them away, is likely to lead to boredom and then trouble.

FORSTER: Bringing our kids in, not pushing them away. Praising our children, taking notice of the good things they do. We often take notice of the bad things. We’re always growling at them, especially when you have a really challenging child. Not focussing on the negative stuff. Positive stuff, such as when they say thank-you. Thanks for using your manners. Or they make grandma a cup of tea. When we praise them for good behaviour they are more likely to continue with good behaviour.

When we focus on negative behaviour they get attention for negative behaviour.

NEWS: More detention is what the public mostly wants.

FORSTER: We need to be building positive, healthy relationships before we start looking at managing bad behaviour. Putting some rules in place. We have a small number of rules, one or two so we are able to back them up. And when we back them up we want to act straight away so that children know when we put something in place. It’s going to happen. It’s consistent. This starts building respect. Mum has said no swearing. Our rule is that we are speaking nicely. If they break a rule we put a consequence in place straight away, such as not being allowed to go outside and play. Even if it’s just for five to 10 minutes minutes. We’re not grounding our kids for two weeks.

Ms Forster says the programs are not just for parents but also for grandparents, aunties even older siblings.

She says if the local organisations have capacity to deliver programs “we could talk with them about what program would best suit them, and what would suit their parents.”

Ms Forster says Triple P has implementation consultants, some of them Indigenous, and arranges consultations ranging from one-on-one to seminars.

Providers in the NT include organisations such as Anglicare, Centacare, Relationships Australia, Department of Employment and Training, Autism NT, Department of Education and the Police Domestic Violence Unit.

This is the aim, says Ms Forster: “To create socially, emotionally, physically, mentally happy adults. And help parents enjoy parenting.”

IMAGE from a promotional online clip for Triple P.

Voice row is getting louder


Senator Price is trying to mislead us, by misrepresenting the nature and origin of the proposed Voice.

This time in the form of a glossy leaflet in the letterbox.

In the leaflet she alleges that it is the Prime Minister who has put forward the referendum question, but it comes directly from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

It specifically says: “We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.”

Albanese is responding directly to that request.

She says that the Voice is “constitutionally controversial”.

Constitutional legal experts from the Australian Solicitor General on down have categorically rejected this claim.

She says: “The Parliament can’t change the Voice.”

This is wrong. The Parliament will determine the nature and functioning of the Voice.

Which is, of course the origin of her completely contradictory claim that the Voice is “poorly defined”.

She says: “It embeds race in our constitution and will divide the nation.”

Race is already in our constitution. Section 51. Legislative powers of the Parliament: The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to … (xxvi) the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.

She says: “Indigenous Australians are already consulted and have a say.”

Yes, they have been.

The Referendum Council appointed by then Prime Minister Turnbull and leader of the opposition Shorten travelled around the country and met with over 1,200 Aboriginal people. 250 delegates attended the National First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru.

And they said: “We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.”

IMAGE: Government promotion for Voice referendum.

Red meat 10% of greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from red meat production in Australia – cattle, sheep and goats – dropped 65% between 2005 and 2020, according to a CSIRO report.

The scope includes livestock production as well as processing that occurred within Australia.

These emissions represented 10.3% of national GHG emissions in 2020.

More than 90% of red meat industry emissions were associated with grazing and land management.

Feedlot production contributed 5.8% and processing another 2.1%.

The production and processing of beef cattle contributed most of the emissions (88.2%).

Sheep and goats contributed 11.6% and 0.15% respectively.

Jason Strong, managing director of Meat & Livestock Australia which co-released the report, says the drop in 2020 compared to 2019 was partly explained by reductions in livestock numbers following the years of drought leading into 2020.

PHOTO: Cattle auction in Alice Springs. This year’s Show Sale will be held from 9am on Thursday at the Bohning Stock Yards.

UPDATE July 4: The sale has been postponed till August because rain has made roads partly impassible.

As nuke subs scare, Henley on Todd boats are a hoot


One of The Alice’s premier annual events, the dry river regatta Henley on Todd (HOT), needs the town’s locals and growing immigrant populations to make up for the expected drop in tourist numbers this year.

“We are targeting all types of social, cultural and sporting groups for the BYO races,” says Dominic Miller, a spokesman for Rotary which runs the spectacle.

“We are particularly encouraging the Indians as they are the biggest ethnic migrant group.”

BYO races are for entrants who bring their own boats, none of which have bottoms so the legs can stick out and provide the propulsion up and down the Todd River – in its sand, not water.

Mr Mlller says another large ethnic group are the South Sudanese: “At the HOT beach cricket event we will have the international debut of the South Sudan Saints. We have interest from the Filipino community too.”

This year the event, staged by hundreds of volunteers, is making a foray into corporate motivating: “It’s also a great team building activity,” says Mr Miller.

HOT, to be launched on August 19, is claimed to be the only dry river boating Regatta in the world.

And with nuclear powered submarines causing widespread distress, the battle boats of HOT (pictured) represent the opposite end of nautical technology.

Last year HOT won the nationally televised Australia’s Best Competition Competition.

The only thing that could stop the event in its 60 year history, apart from Covid, was – you’ll never guess it – water: The Todd flowed in 1993.




Edward Neal is astonished to witness the levitating vehicle, resurrected as it were, from amongst the abandoned wrecks.

The absence of ready cash and spare-parts retailers in remote Australia results in abandoned cars soon being stripped of working parts. Dysfunctional cars were gathering number at Whitegate. Some needed only a battery to be recharged, a wheel, a starter motor or carburettor.

Young guys, many pre-driving age, treated them as Dodgem cars, hooning the dirt tracks outside of town, or when charged up, venturing through town risking police apprehension.

Stealing cars is popular and hulks littering roadsides tell tales of risky misadventure, be it skylarking or an aborted attempt to return to a remote community. Expressing anger or settling disputes by smashing windscreens and tyre slashing is commonplace. Frequently cars are incinerated to reduce incriminating evidence.

Frequent question: Is it safe to go to Alice Springs?



The current drop in crime in Alice Springs coincides with a decrease in tourism of around 40% in several sectors, triggered largely by the nation-wide reporting of crime in Alice Springs.

Mayor Matt Paterson (pictured)wanted the army and the Australian Federal Police to intervene” the Guardian reported, quoting him on January 19: “We’re seeing domestic violence through the roof. We’re seeing drunken behaviour in the street. We’ve seen crime go up. We’ve seeing more kids out on the street. It’s been a disaster.”

Mayor Paterson said today it was his obligation to inform the public about “what we have to live through every day.

“Alice Springs needed help.”

It would be a “long bow” to blame him for the drop in visitation and for talking down the region: The “complete opposite” is true.

He says following his speaking out the Stronger Futures was brought back and a $48.8m grant came from Canberra, partly to be used for more police.

Claims by self-appointed defender of the town, blogger Darren Clark, described as a businessman, were eagerly snapped up by Murdoch’s Sky News, seriously harming the town’s one major industry that isn’t welfare – tourism. (Mr Clark declines to discuss his activities with the Alice Springs News.)

Restrictions to alcohol availability by the Liquor Commission, a Territory not a national instrumentality, and not army boots on the ground, are likely to have led to the drop in crime.

The town is clearly not out of the woods. Today’s police news is about the theft of two vehicles yesterday at 5.30pm, from an organisation on Percy Court.

The vehicles were observed driving dangerously throughout the CBD and surrounding suburbs, intentionally swerving into the path of police vehicles,” says the media release.

Four and a half hours later tyre “deflation devices were successfully deployed” and 13 youths, aged between eight and 18, were arrested.

Tourism Central Australia CEO Danial Rochford says the lobby group met on June 7 when “talking up the town” was discussed in general terms, with no specific references to Mayor Paterson nor Mr Clark’s blog.

Mr Rochford says the region is having a “two speed tourism season” at the moment.

The “pressure point” is the drive market, the grey nomads, and the caravan parks in town and its attractions. A 40% drop is a variable figure.

Roadhouses out of town are doing well.

Mr Rochford says because of the Fitzroy River crossing seasonal flooding some road travellers are changing the normal routine of going ‘round Australia anti-clockwise  – Alice first and from there to Katherine and WA.

These will arrive in The Centre later this year, on their clockwise itinerary.

Brendan Heenan, owner of the multi-award winning MacDonnell Range Caravan Park in Alice Springs, says in June and July his park is usually at capacity. This year on some days it is 50% below the corresponding time last year.

Mr Heenan says the media “made a thing” of crime here which, he says, is no worse than in other places around Australia.

“It went on for too long.”

Potential customers frequently ask: “Is it safe to go to Alice Springs?”

Crime here is getting more attention because The Alice is an iconic town.

Mr Heenan says it is unclear what is happening with the $250m promised by Prime Minister Albanese and he blames alcohol abuse for crime and neglect of children.

He says offenders should undergo “mandatory rehabilitation. They need help”.

Current government crime statistics show drops in some categories but not in all. It is clear that the town council, after an election campaign dominated by law-and-order issues, has contributed little to bring relief.

The new town council was declared elected on September 13, 2021, with offending at levels close to now.

In the following four months little was done to temper the crime wave unfolding in the early part of 2022, not much different to the way it had been doing for decades.

Using the first four months of the year (all our figures relate to this period) as a basis for an apples-with-apples exercise indicates that the euphoria about the current statistics is not entirely justified.

In the January to April periods the tally of all crimes hasn’t changed a lot in the past three years (check our table).

The 2023 number is almost exactly the same as the one for 2021, namely 3554 and 3764, respectively.

Assaults during the survey period in 2022 was 800. This year, when it’s claimed all is better than it has been for years, the number is 791. It was 583 in 2021.

However, the assault figures this year dropped from 264 in January to 171, 185 and 171 respectively for the next three months.

There was an even sharper drop in house break-ins in February, March and April 2023 (from 213 in January to 65, 82 and 52), and in commercial break-ins (from 130 to 79, 99 and 75).

Excluding January it’s very similar for house break-ins: 2021 (73, 60 and 71), 2022 (95, 112 and 97).

For commercial break-ins the pattern is similar, always with January the worst month.

Car thefts peaked in 2022. This year is marginally worse than 2021.

Property damage this year is level with last year and substantially higher than 2021. The figures are a staggering 1063 (2023), 1088 (2022) and 866 (2021).

“Senseless and destructive behaviour” was a continual problem in Alice Springs, Mayor Paterson told the Nine Network.

“The flavour of the month right now is edged weapons, but before that it was ram-raids of buildings.

“There will be no Alice Springs left” if the Federal government does not step in to address the town’s crime crisis, he told Today on January 24, the very day Territory authorities stepped in with alcohol restrictions and when people ponder their holiday plans.

PHOTO at top: Alice Springs terminal yesterday. An airport spokesperson says the Airport Development Group can confirm that passenger numbers through Alice Springs are significantly down on pre-Covid levels. There are a number of reasons for this including a reduction in the number of flights into Alice Springs and an increase in direct flights – they are not transiting through Alice.

UPDATE June 30:

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade announced that domestic drive tourists in the Top End region for the year ending December 2022 exceeded pre-pandemic levels but gives no details about the Centre region except to say it “showed positive signs of recovery following the impacts of COVID-19 on holiday source markets”.

About the Fitzroy River crossing the department said today that a new two-lane low-level crossing is now open on the road to WA. The sealed crossing is part of a temporary detour of the Great Northern Highway around the site where a new bridge is being constructed.

It is the Fitzroy River, not the Victoria River that influences the clock-wise or anti-clockwise choice for ’round Australia travellers by road.

UPDATE June 30:

Robyn Lambley, independent Member for Araluen, this afternoon launched a blistering attack on NT Deputy Police Commissioner, Murray Smalpage.

In a media statement she says his comparing 2023 data to 2019 is “at the very least, incorrect.

“In fact crime statistics show an almost doubling of the incidents of crime in Alice Springs, both in terms of property crimes and crimes against the person.

“Earlier this month … we saw this deceitful narrative of Government systematically denying crime take shape,” says Mrs Lambley.

“The next NT Election is just 14 months away. This Labor propaganda on crime is obviously a key part of their campaign strategy to attempt to minimise the perception of crime in the NT.

“Moreover, big changes to the Police Media Unit have resulted in tighter controls on information being disseminating to the public.

“The NT Labor Government have employed a marketing manager in the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet, who is working directly with the NT Police executive to produce a more favourable spin on crime.

“This is political interference. This is political propaganda.”

CORRECTION: We corrected in the table above the TOTAL line for 2022.

ERROR: The restrictions on alcohol availability were taken by the Minister for Alcohol Policy and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, and not by the Northern Territory Liquor Commission.

Valuable paintings stolen from outback gallery


Artworks worth thousands of dollars were stolen last Friday from Ali Curung, 380 km north of Alice Springs.

Police say the paintings (pictured) were taken at 1pm from outside the Arlpwe Art and Culture Centre.

They are two works by Maria Dickenson, both called miyikampi and measuring 91cm by 91cm.

Both feature a series of predominately white dots on a black background. One has blue and yellow shapes, the other red and yellow / orange lines.

Warrick Miller’s painting ngapa jukupur measures 180cm by 120cm and shows a series of white squiggly lines surrounding three dotted circles with a bold white circle in the centre.

An unnamed painted by Sonya Murphy, also 91cm by 91cm, has red and white circles.

Ali Curung police say they are working closely with the victims and the art gallery to locate the paintings and return them to the rightful owner.

Voice ‘not based upon any overseas precedent’


Are there any democratic countries where the constitution requires the parliament and executive to listen to a race-defined minority while there is no such obligation with respect to the other part of the population?

And if there are such countries, how do they manage their obligations?

These are questions the News put to Rachel Perkins, celebrated film maker, impassioned Yes advocate in the Voice debate, Alice Springs born and bred – a daughter of Charlie Perkins.

She forwarded the questions to Anne Twomey, Australian academic and lawyer specialising in Australian constitutional law.

She is currently the Professor of Constitutional Law and Director of the Constitutional Reform Unit at Sydney Law School at the University of Sydney.

Prof Twomey (pictured) replied:

The Voice referendum proposal was developed here in Australia to deal with our own Constitution and circumstances. 

It was not based upon any overseas precedent, so it is hard to find something closely comparable from another country.

I’m not aware of any country that has the same type of system as is proposed for Australia.

Each country has its own particular history and Constitution, and its own relationship with its Indigenous peoples – such as treaties, or a form of recognition of self-determination in its Constitution, or dedicated seats in Parliament, or a legislated representative body (which for various reasons may have greater stability and longevity than legislated bodies have had in Australia).

If you are looking for something more detailed and scholarly, this book contains comparative analysis:

(Conflict of interest alert – I am a part owner of Federation Press, which is why I know about this book. But there are probably other books out there that also address the issue.)

This book contains comparative analysis: Concepts and Context; Theories, Critique and Alternatives and Comparative Perspectives.

It includes work by well-regarded constitutional law scholars and legal historians, as well as analysis built from and framed by Indigenous world views and knowledges.

It also features the voices of a number of comparative scholars – examining relevant developments in the United States, Canada, the South Pacific, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South America.

The combined authorship represents 10 universities from across Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

RELATED READING: Voice to Parliament: Scandinavia can do it, why not Australia?

Art gallery leap forward – in Darwin



Of the two budding NT government art galleries, one is making news: The one in Darwin, because construction is under way.

At the opposite end of the Territory, and of government attention, there is no news about the Alice Springs “national” Aboriginal gallery because its senior director, Tracy Puklowski, is not able, not willing, not permitted, not whatever to answer media questions.

The latest news about the $130m Alice project was an exclusive by the Alice Springs News about fundraising and the delay of the project till 2028.

In Darwin the excavation for the Northern Territory Art Gallery (pictured) is now complete and sub-structure works will start this month on the $88m project, employing 192 workers to date.

When asked what stage the so-called National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs has reached Ms Puklowski said: “Put your question in an email.”

And so we emailed at 11.58am yesterday: “Hi Tracy, what stage has the development of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs reached?”

At 3:34pm we received a text from Ms Puklowski: “Please contact TFHC media.”

We did and got a reply from Corporate Communications, Territory Families, Housing and Communities at 8:15am today: “We will get back to you before end of day tomorrow.”

That’s tomorrow, Wednesday, two full days after we asked Ms Puklowski a pretty simple question.

The inconclusive website of the Alice Springs project was of little help while NT Government gushed about the Darwin one: “The Territory Labor Government is transforming our CBD into a green, welcoming and interactive destination for locals and visitors to enjoy and explore,” Eva Lawler, Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, announced breathlessly.

“Local Territory company Sitzler is leading the entire $145m project to deliver the Civic and State Square precinct. This includes the Art Gallery, Central Heart, public art and water features.

“The construction of the Northern Territory Art Gallery will be complete in 2025 – three years before the Alice one, by the government’s own admission.

“Other projects within the Civic and State Square development are progressing well with the design tender to redevelop Liberty Square to be awarded in the coming weeks,” says Minister Lawler.

“The Northern Territory Art Gallery will be a state-of-the-art piece of infrastructure featuring large galleries with high ceilings, a grand foyer, dedicated community spaces and so much more.”

A statement about the “national” gallery in Alice Springs by Gerard Vaughan, co-chairman of the “forthcoming” institution’s reference group, is contained in a two minute seven second online video, bereft of detail: “From day one (what day is that going to be?) we can have the greatest masterpieces brought together (which ones and from where?) in one place and have some of the best displays that could ever be put together anywhere right here in Alice Springs.” Louvre, move over!

The “full design services to enable the construction” of the Alice gallery is still a work in progress, at a cost of $7.2m, by the Brisbane office of the international firm BVN Architecture in collaboration with the local firm Susan Dugdale & Associates.

Right now would be a good time to be giving a glimpse of where the project design stands to the people paying for it – the public – before it is locked in, especially since the mishandling of the development so far has become legend.

In fact the tender details process tells part of the story of woe: The tender was started in April 2021, closed in June 2021, and was accepted in March 2022, almost a year later.

(Google our extensive coverage over the six years the project has been in development.)

UPDATE June 21:

A Territory Families, Housing and Communities spokesperson provided the statement below which does not include a completion date. The News reported it as 2028.

The National Aboriginal Art Gallery is in the development design phase of the project.

Key project updates include:

• The Northern Territory Government acquisition of the Anzac Oval site and initial consultation with Traditional Owners, community members and key stakeholders is complete.

• Re-zoning of the site is underway, with written submissions about the proposed planning scheme amendment due to close on July 7.

• Design of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery is at 15% completion, with 100% of the design projected by May 2024.

• Geotech investigations of the site will commence shortly.

• A four-week public consultation period on the gallery’s future operations (programs and exhibitions) is also planned.

The total committed funds for the gallery is $149m – $69m from the Northern Territory Government and $80m from the Australian Government.

The National Aboriginal Art Gallery will draw on the wealth of collections of First Nations Art held nationwide and internationally. In addition, the gallery will feature touring exhibitions and exhibitions created in partnership with other galleries, artists, art centres, and communities.

 As the project progresses, an exhibition program will be developed that includes a regularly changing program that balances local, regional, and national First Nations stories.

The Anzac Oval site, which was acquired from the Alice Springs Town Council in March 2022, remains the site of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery.

The site will be transformed into an open, family-friendly, community green space with the gallery as the centrepiece. The gallery’s landscaping will also feature Kwatye (water) Play. The development of the gallery is part of a broader plan for the Anzac Hill precinct, which includes a new visitor information centre and purpose-built home for Tourism Central Australia as well as the realignment of Schwarz Crescent.

Bushfire in Desert Springs


There is a heightened level of threat from a bushfire in Hillside Garden Street, Desert Springs

Fire authorities in Alice Springs have issues a “watch and act” alert late this afternoon:

“Conditions are changing. Start taking action now to protect your family and your property.

“The fire is spreading on one or more fronts. Effective containment strategies are not in place for the entire perimeter.

“Smoke from this fire may affect visibility. Active fire may occur close to the roadside.

“Leave immediately if your property is not safe, if it is safe to leave. Monitor conditions as they are changing.

“For the safety of firefighting crews and other vehicles, drivers in the area are urged to slow down, turn on headlights and drive safely for the conditions.

“For further information regarding bushfires, visit the Fire Incident Map.”

Gap closing: Sisyphus had the same problem



The Closing the Gap initiative, implemented in 2021, targets Indigenous disadvantage with regards to the birthweight of babies, general health, housing, pre-school enrolments, school readiness, out-of-home care, incarceration, suicides amongst them.

The design and delivery of policies, programs and services hope to achieve greater efficacy through genuine collaboration between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Straight people. But the expression had circulated for years.

Ntaripe / Heavitree Gap, southern gateway to Alice Springs is the setting.

When the Closing the Gap expression first circulated an old Arrernte gent expressed his concerns: “What for they do that? How blackfella gonna get in and outta town?”

Before settlement passage through Ntaripe had been restricted to initiated men. According to Arrernte confidants, subsequent violation of this protocol had caused several nearby fatalities.

Given the mixed results of hitherto gap closing gestures (eg. Rudd’s Apology, Sorry Books, Reconciliation Walks, The Intervention, the Uluru Statement and impending referendum for a Voice to Parliament), the old man’s words sparked an idea.

Like Sisyphus straining against the odds and with the likely prospect of having to repeat his effort over and over, Lachie Purvis pits his strength against the boulder on Todd River’s hot dry sands.

How to avoid burnout and be with the kids


Seven months ago we sold our home in Queensland and moved into a motorhome to explore, get closer to nature and our intuition. So far we have traveled over 8500 km including Alice Springs this week.

I had been trying to do it all as a mum, struggling to keep it together. I was working long hours as a teacher, running a healing business, and trying to be the best mum I could be. I was stressed, exhausted and disconnected.

Until one day my body made the choice for me. I became ill with a rare form of cancer and was forced to stop.

I learned to tune in to my intuition and instead of feeling controlled by expectations of perfect parenting my life became about present parenting.

Here are three ways you can tap into your intuition.

Recognise where society’s conditioning keeps you busy. We are programmed to do-do-do all the time, so instead start to prioritise what is important to you. Not what everyone else or the outside world thinks, but what your truth is. Make time  for your family and the things that you really want to do.

Presence is about finding stillness and calibrating towards your inner truth and these new priorities. Pause and come back to yourself in stillness.

This can be super uncomfortable because it means you have to feel; something we’ve been conditioned to avoid by numbing out and scrolling on Social Media, binge watching Netflix or eating that bar of chocolate in the fridge!

Presence is your way back to feeling connected, listening to your inner truth and trusting your intuition.

Then you have to participate – take action and make a choice. If you want to be more in tune with your intuition, your kids and your family and create the life you dream about, you have to take action and participate in a way that is present and prioritises your desires and this new way of showing up in life.

I know you can do it!

Emily Robinson. On the road.

Community based justice program starts



The Federal Government has announced funding for community-led justice reinvestment projects in two priority sites, Alice Springs and Halls Creek.

It is one of four projects started under the $250m Federal emergency fund granted to Central Australia, according to a spokesman for NT Senator Marion Scrymgour.

Justice reinvestment involves “community-led and holistic approaches to programs and initiatives aimed at keeping at risk youths and adults out of the criminal justice system and improving community safety,” according to a media release from Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus today.

A consortium of three organisations – Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, Desert Knowledge Australia and Anglicare NT – will drive the program in Alice Springs.

The October 2022-23 Budget included $69m to support the initiative in 30 places across Australia, “the largest commitment to justice reinvestment ever delivered by the Commonwealth,” says Mr Dreyfus.

“This announcement comes after significant engagement with Aboriginal leaders, local service-providers and the Northern Territory Government to ensure justice reinvestment in Alice Springs is community-led.”

The News is seeking comment from the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (which includes Alice Springs).

Senator Scrymgour is pointing to three other projects under the emergency grant getting underway but NT Shadow Minister for Territory Families Joshua Burgoyne claims today no funding had been received.

Senator Scrymgour says all 46 schools in the Central Australia region will be included in the $40.4m spend for on-country Learning to improve school engagement: “Schools will work with their local communities to develop tailored solutions to better engage children and young people in school and provide them with the wrap-around support they need to succeed,” says the statement from her.

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress is getting $23.5m from the fund to support the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, including $18.4m to expand the organisation’s existing Children and Youth Assessment and Treatment Services (CYATS).

This is enhancing early detection and intervention services for neurodevelopmental conditions, including Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

A further $5m will support the development of a health hub in Alice Springs, combining the four current health services into one single centre.

And an additional $10m will go to “enhancing digital connectivity” for First Australians with service providers already able to apply, until July 12, for flexible grants covering costs including satellite use, additional digital infrastructure and wifi installation.

IMAGE from the “juvie” – the juvenile detention centre in Alice Springs.

UPDATED at 4.30pm.

The clout of the Voice



Promotors of the Voice like to emphasise its benign nature: “We just want to be listened to. We have no veto rights.”

A more robust approach has emerged at last week’s writers festival in Alice Springs:


That’s the voice of Kerry O’Brien*, the former top ABC journalist and presenter, now teaming up as a Yes advocate with Thomas Mayo, who has devoted his past six years to tour the nation with the canvas that became know as the Statement from the Heart.

Mr Mayo made it clear that the Voice not only expected to be heard, but that advice given would be carried out by the Parliament and the Executive. If the advice is ignored “we would organise, our Voice in itself would say that they have done the wrong thing. It’s the political way of the Voice that will ensure that what it says will eventually be implemented”.

Both appeared on each day of the festival attracting a gathering of several hundred people at the Olive Pink Reserve, first to launch their handbook about the Voice – more accurately a handbook about why people should vote Yes in the referendum later this year – and then in a panel discussion about media.

Asked whether he liked the media Mr Mayo said: “In a word, no” but later focussed his dislike on the Murdoch media, to the evident majority approval from the audience.

There was a good dose of humour, in the panel on the handbook, under moderation by Josie Douglas, herself a Yes advocate, however.

There was some tough talk, with impunity, as there weren’t any No persons in evidence. The way was clear for preaching to the converted, a common event in this divided town.

“If the mischief makers were to get out of the way [we would be] able to engage in a real debate” said Mr O’Brien. He got his way but the absence of No persons hardly made for a real debate.

It has since been revealed that the “No” side has overtaken the “Yes” side, 53% to 49% (Sydney Morning Herald).

Ms Douglas invited the panel to comment on a statement by noted local activist Pat Anderson: “The national conversation has deteriorated into violence and tribalism, rather than a sophisticated and mature debate we had hoped for.”

Mr O’Brien answered**:


The panel of two focussed on the horrendous events early in Australia’s invasion from the north, suggesting it’s continuing to the present day with successive governments breaking promises, initiatives “dismissed and ignored” while First Nations “all of them silenced, all of them ignored” and being “so marginalised, for so long, which it is in regional and remote communities”.

Had a No faction been present, at this point it may have drawn attention to the recent decades when Aborigines acquired half the Northern Territory’s landmass as their freehold property; that every square millimetre of it is prime land for solar power generation, making the million-odd square kilometres an immense, world standard asset; that this puts the lid on the assertion that under landrights just marginal country in production terms has been handed back.

The current Federal Budget is averaging $4.2 billion per year over the forward estimates for Aboriginal people on top of what the general population is getting, including the Aboriginal people. Similar additional annual spending has been occurring for half a century. 

Mr O’Brien looked back at the Royal Commission on Deaths in Custody and its 338 recommendations, most of which “have never seen the light of day” and which was designed to “lead to better policy outcomes, that would lead to closing the gap, that might lead, once and for all, to seeing justice done and injustice rolled back right through our justice system around Australia, with all the incarceration”.

Incarceration was a recurring theme for the duo, including in Mr Mayo’s rendition of the Uluru Statement, delivered sermon-like with focus on belief.


This comes as a major enquiry is getting under way into heinous domestic violence crimes, and the town’s tourism is on its knees because of youth crime, rampant over decades but simply continuing and temporarily of interest to national media.

Neither Mr Mayo nor Mr O’Brien offered any analysis of the justice or law enforcement reasons for the record incarceration of Indigenous people.

PHOTO AT TOP, video below: Dot Circle and Frame: The Making of Papunya Tula Art by John Kean, a richly illustrated book tracking the beginnings and the innovation of the Papunya Tula art movement, was launched at the festival.

It is a celebration of Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Johnny Warangula Tjupurrula were central to the formulation of a radical new form of desert art.

Arrernte and Anmatyerr traditional dancers gave a sunset performance to mark the occasion.



* When we resoundingly vote Yes around Australia for this referendum we together,  indigenous and non-indigenous, will be delivering a moral and political authority to the Voice that will become harder and harder for governments to ignore.

** It’s a reflection of past attempts to divide the community for political gain, and I’m not saying that this is the matter for all those involved. It is part of the modus of the political voices that are being raised in Opposition. I remember back to the Howard years, which were years in many ways of deep division, it was the culture wars, so called, the history walls, so called, the black armband of history, so called, all these attempts to retard and deny the true story of this country. With all the richness that came before white people, and with all the sadness and tragedy, and massacres, and the deep injustices and the dispossession, and the death from disease and all the rest of it, and yet to hear politicians talk about how the referendum will re-racialise Australia … this referendum has the great capacity to get Australians together in a way we have never been together before. The re-racialising, if it happens, is coming from those who have expressed that view. It’s an invitation to the uglies of the social media, the hidden racists of this country, to come out and express their hatred, incite those divisions.


Crime: What’s new?



Well, here we go, yet again, another inquiry into crime and violence in the NT.

Not that it shouldn’t happen, of course, but I can pick any year for several decades and I can guarantee finding similar reports.

Just so happens yesterday I stumbled across a four-page spread on the topic of alcohol abuse, rampant crime, and inadequate response from the NT’s justice system – in particular affecting indigenous people – published nearly four decades ago. 

I’m intrigued the coroner’s office is using the turn of the century as a cut-off date for women killed through domestic violence in the NT. It’s really an arbitrary limit. What about all the women killed in similar circumstances prior to the turn of the century?

Anyway, the article I found was published in the Centralian Advocate in October 1984.

I was 21 years old … now I’m 60. At the time of printing, it was the month before I first signed up as a CLP branch member. Paul Everingham had just resigned as CM to stand for Federal Parliament, and Ian Tuxworth was chosen to replace him.

The article also makes plain just how deeply entrenched these issues already were at the time.

Much of it focused on the community of Papunya; and it’s interesting to note the phenomenal level of violence in that community a few years earlier when 14 people were killed in car crashes or homicides between 1977 and ’79.

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser (pictured with Nosepeg Tjupurrula) happened to visit Papunya smack bang in the middle of that period (late April 1978 – just before NT self-government began) and was horrified by what he observed.

Today we often hear claims that crime is out of control and the worst it’s ever been – well, the fact is that’s simply untrue. The reality is that this situation has been unrelenting for almost my entire life.

Twenty years before that 1984 article was published, the Social Welfare Act came into effect in the NT which (amongst many reforms) permitted all Aboriginal people the legal right to purchase and consume alcohol.

Few people back then had any illusions of what was in store for the NT, including indigenous communities (they were all consulted); and from that time on all hell broke loose.

ED – I wrote that story and remember it well, partly because I upset Fraser’s minders. They had sent several white Commonwealth cars all the way to Papunya to ferry the PM and entourage a few hundred metres around the settlement and take him from and to his VIP plane at the airstrip, as I can recall. I briefly commandeered one of the cars to get photos and upset the time schedule. All in a day’s work. ERWIN CHLANDA.