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

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Issue 18

Juvenile in court on two charges of sexual intercourse without consent

A youth was charged in Alice Springs Youth Justice Court this morning with two counts of sexual intercourse without consent.
He was remanded in detention and the matter was adjourned to July 2.
The police prosecutor stated about 24 further charges would be laid and applied for an extended brief, which was granted.
The defence lawyer made application to close the court, which the prosecutor said he would not oppose. Magistrate David Bamber heard the application in closed court but ruled against it.
However he suppressed the youth's name and all details tending to identify him, due to his age and the nature of some of the offences.
The youth's father was  in court. The youth looked across at him a couple of times but otherwise kept his eyes on the floor.
Other charges against him include aggravated entering a dwelling with the intent to commit an offence, two counts of stealing, aggravated unlawful use of a motor vehicle, damage to property, aggravated robbery and two counts of deprive a person of personal liberty. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

Pictured: The Youth Justice Court (formerly the site of a pizzeria).

Chamber flicks arts & cultural centre project to underachiever Tourism NT

A committee of the Alice Springs Chamber of Commerce has hand balled the proposal for a national indigenous art and culture center to Tourism NT, which appears to have put it on the back burner.

Liz Martin, who runs the highly successful National Road Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Sprigs, says the town may lose a major opportunity to Queensland where she understands a similar project is being mooted, apparently assisted by major mining interests.
"We should grab it by the horns and run with it," says Cr Martin who serves on the town council's Tourism, Events and Promotion Committee and was its chair person for the last three years of the 11th Council.
Says Tourism NT CEO John Fitzgerald: "Tourism NT has not taken over planning of the proposed centre."

Pictured: The sensational Canning Stockroute exhibition which enthralled visitors in Canberra and Sydney and indicated what a major national indigenous museum could be like, and what it could do for Alice. Photo by Tim Acker, Canning Stock Route Project.  ERWIN CHLANDA reports.

The perspective of one year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This coming Saturday marks exactly one year since I arrived in Alice Springs. I rolled into town in the morning and in the afternoon headed out to Ross River for the Wide Open Space festival.

I remember feeling rather overwhelmed by the colourful crowds after a solid six months at a rather remote truck stop further up the track. In the end I met a couple of amazing women and the journey that this last year has been was off! I’m happy to be marking the anniversary by being a part of the festival. This time I’m operating a coffee cart and the buzz and frenzy of last minute organistion is setting in, with lists that seem to get longer the faster I tick things off!

It’s recently been a pleasure to watch Alice Springs 'warming up' in this cooler weather with the arrival of visitors and Wide Open Space festival-goers. I’ve noticed the town’s benches are now rarely empty, often occupied by visitors having a snack, a chat or a coffee. I looked down the mall the other day and saw in the bright light quite a number of people wandering around, looking to check out the sights. More than a couple of times I’ve been waved down by a map and with gestures and finger-pointing sent people off in the right direction, I think!

Alice Prize: what will catch the eye of the unpackers?

In a first for the Alice Prize, the unpackers, in the tradition of Sydney's Archibald, will get to choose their favourite work. The unpackers, members of the Alice Springs Art Foundation which runs the now biennial prize, are in many cases artists themselves, so their choice should be interesting.

In another first, a work of live performance art has been selected among the finalists. The artist, Janet Meaney, will perform ahead of the opening for the judge, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Nick Mitzevich, and again on opening night, while a video and other elements will be on display in the month-long exhibition.

Painting and photography continue to dominate the entries but work in other media includes four video works. The 65 finalists – 20 of them from the Northern Territory – were chosen from among 382 entries by preselection judges Daniel Mudie Cunningham, senior curator with Artbank, and Helen Maxwell, curator and art consultant.

As always the viewing public will be able to vote for the People's Choice, a prize worth $1000, named in honour of a past member of the foundation, Tammy Kingsley.  A bequest of over $300,000 from Ms Kingsley's father allowed the purse to be increased in 2001 from $5000 to $15,000.  Traditionally the prize has included a residency for the winning artist but it won't this year, although the purse has increased to $25,000.

The Alice Prize – the 37th  this year – is one of Australia's oldest contemporary art prizes. It opens at Araluen on Friday, May 11.

 

Pictured: Alice Prize unpackers (from left) Steve Anderson, Mardijah Simpson and Julie Taylor, the coordinator of this year's prize, will get pick their own winner.

Old Hartley Street School looking safe for next decade

A compromise may have been reached that will help the National Trust keep the Hartley Street School – one of the few heritage buildings in the Alice CBD –  open to the public as a museum.

Following a deputation to the Town Council on Monday night by members of the local McDouall Stuart Branch, an offer has been made on the future leasing arrangements of the building, owned by council and leased to the National Trust for a peppercorn rent for the last 24 years.

The lease expires on July 31 this year. Critical to the negotiations it seems is the income the trust is able to generate from two tenancies in the building, some $36,000 a year when both are let (there is one vacancy at the moment).

The trust was hoping for a new lease for 10 + 10 years over the whole building, and to retain the sub-lease income.

Committee and branch members turned up in good number of Monday night, with chairman Stuart Traynor and long-time committee member Dave Leonard articulately putting their case.

Questions from councillors concerned what the tenancy income was spent on and whether it was spent in Alice Springs (Deputy Mayor Brendan Heenan), the condition of the building (Crs Heenan and Geoff Booth) and the long-term sustainability of the volunteer effort (Cr Eli Melky).

This last was a "very tough question", acknowledged Mr Traynor, the "Achilles heel for heritage conservation".

Cr Melky also wanted to know what the branch would do if they didn't get the tenancy income: would they accept a 10 plus 10 year lease without it? KIERAN FINNANE reports. 

 

Pictured, above: Dave Leonard (left) and Stuart Traynor in the Hartley Street School museum, kept open by volunteers six days a week. • Left: From the street the museum gives an idea of what the mid-20th century Alice looked like.

Female tourists sleeping in car alleged to have been sexually assaulted: all three suspects now charged, rifle still not recovered.

UPDATE Saturday, May 5, 3.05pm: Detectives in Alice Springs have this morning laid charges against two 17 year-old youths who Police believe were involved in the alleged sexual assault of two tourists in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Detective Acting Superintendent Travis Wurst said one of the youths has been charged with Sexual Intercourse Without Consent, Acts of Gross Indecency, Deprivation of Liberty, Assault and Threaten with a Firearm along with numerous other offences: “The other youth has at this stage only been charged with the Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle (similar to the one pictured) in relation to the alleged sexual assault but we hope to lay further charges as the investigation continues.”
A/Supt Wurst said the firearm allegedly used in the incident has not yet been found.

 

UPDATE Friday, May 4, 6.50pm: Alice Springs Police have located a green Toyota Ascent (similar to pictured) allegedly stolen and used during a sexual assault in Alice Springs on Wednesday.
Detective Acting Superintendent Travis Wurst said the vehicle was found in Ntaria [Hermannsburg], about 130 kilometres south west of Alice Springs.
Police believe the weapon used during the alleged sexual assault was also used in an attempted armed robbery of a taxi early on the same morning.
“The three 17 year olds arrested for the sexual assault are also believed to be involved in this crime.
“A firearm was used to threaten the driver and occupants of the taxi before the offenders fled. Nothing was stolen from the taxi.
“There were three passengers in the taxi who Police would now like to come forward." 

Council debate happening in closed meetings

Public gets the polite rehearsed version

 

Councillor Steve Brown's move to create a Town Council body to monitor the effective delivery of government services in Alice Springs inched forward at last night's end of month meeting.

The concept is similar to one operating in Port Augusta, reported on by the Alice Springs News Online in the wake of the council election campaign as part of an interview with outspoken Mayor of Port Augusta, Joy Baluch.

The concept was promoted in the campaign by candidate John Reid.

Removal of standing orders last night allowed a mild-mannered discussion of the subject, with no sign of 'gangs' of four or five. The end result was that councillors will put their heads together with Corporate and Community Services Director Craig Catchlove, pooling the information they have gathered. At the urging of Cr Geoff Booth, it was decided that this will start at an early morning meeting in the coming week.

He, Cr Brown and Cr Eli Melky all wanted it to be seen that council is doing something "urgent" (Booth), "immediately" (Melky) to address the "considerable anxiety" (Brown) in the community over law and order issues and economic decline.

Apart from questions to a deputation from the National Trust (about which we will report separately) this subject was the only one discussed in the open section of the council meeting, during which everyone was on their best behaviour, with the meaty business of council finances and budget priorities having been dealt with in an early morning (closed) meeting. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

Pictured: Cr Geoff Booth during his swearing-in with Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy. He wants immediate action, but will it come at the expense of  transparency allowing public input?

A quarter of tiny works Budget goes to expand gaol

 

Central Australia is getting $40m in new capital works spending in the Territory's 2012-13 Budget.
This is not counting re-votes from previous Budgets.

The Centre's slice is just 3% of what Treasurer Delia Lawrie describes as "a huge $1.3 billion infrastructure investment across the emergency services, education, health, roads, corrections and housing sectors".

A quarter – $10m – of Central Australia's new allocations will be spent on the Alice Springs Correctional Centre (at left, Google Earth), $5m on the Alice hospital and $5m on the Mereenie road, the Red Centre Way.

Meanwhile the Opposition says Territorians will pay in excess of $1b in interest repayments "as a result of the Labor Government’s failure to reign in debt".

Peter Solly, General Manager Tourism Central Australia, says the Budget "recognised the importance of providing additional funding to the tourism sector to stimulate demand and support the industry in response to the Global Financial Crisis [but] the real value of base funding to the tourism sector has not kept up with inflation".

Three day trek on foot to reach art centre: revise your definition of 'remote'!

We're used to the word 'remote' in Central Australia but try this for size: to reach the string of five art centres that make up Omie Artists you must trek by foot for up to three days, often (for seven months of the year and then some) in torrential rain, across flooding rivers, clambering up muddy mountain sides and slithering down again. The company's valiant manager, Brennan King, with six Omie security guards, necessary to protect him from attack by 'rascals' from the neighbouring tribe, make this journey several times a year. The artists' work – among the last traditional barkcloths being produced in the world – has to be brought out the same way, rolled over PVC pipes and hoisted on the shoulders of the art centre coordinators.

How remarkable then for these works, steeped in the law and lore of the Omie tribe of Papua New Guinea and many of them a tour de force of design brilliance, to arrive on our doorstep here in the dry centre of Australia and to resonate so strongly with us.

This experience we owe to, apart from Omie Artists, RAFT Artspace in Alice Springs. Its curator Dallas Gold wants to take the pulse of contemporary art in our region (in its expanded definition) and give us a sense of its dynamism, diversity, achievement and promise. This is the third exciting show in a row at RAFT, each stop opening up a window onto a world rich with beauty, ideas, observation and spirit.

The Omie are few in number, King says about 1800 according to a census done by the Omie themselves in 2009.  Around 70 artists are producing barkcloths. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 


 Pictured, above left:  Omie dance a welcome celebration for Brennan King's arrival at their newest art centre in January 2010. • Above: Pig tusks and teeth, and fern leaves by Linda-Grace Savari. Photos courtesy Omie Artists.

Kids enemy No 1 in law & order debate – or the main victims?

PHOTO: We chatted with this group of youngsters yesterday and they were happy for us to take this picture. It was a nice Saturday morning in the Mall, and they were hanging out together, having fun. One boy, clearly suspecting that people would think they are up to no good, said: "Are you going to give this photo to the police?" Another said he would look up the story at school on Monday and took the Alice Springs News Online website address. A third boy, when asked where he is from, replied: "Alice Springs. I own it." One boy said, with a big laugh: "My name is Damien Ryan." We've obscured their smiling faces because there was no opportunity of getting formal permission. We're sorry about that, and will be happy to provide the un-redacted picture to the boys.

 

Down here on the ground in Alice Springs, black children, driven to crime by hunger and fear, are fast becoming enemy number one, or victim number one, depending on who you're talking to.

There's not much public knowledge about just who these kids are,  nor how many of them there are.

We have a land, sea, men's, women's and all manner of other councils, but do these kids have a voice?

Here's a look at a couple of current initiatives: are they going to make a difference?
The drunks "send in the kids. For the kids it’s excitement,” a burgled restaurant owner explained during the recent town council election campaign, dominated by law and order issues. The loot was a few bottles of spirits. The cost of smashed property was in the thousands.
"We’ve had $1800 worth of damage done here and all they took was bread and cheese," said a candidate seeking re-election.
Meanwhile up there in the stratosphere, the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) are making submission to the Attorney-General’s Department Public Consultation on the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), while Canberra will be spending $1.5b, from mid next year, on a new Remote Jobs and Communities Program. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.

The Y withdraws from town pool management

The YMCA has withdrawn from its aquatic centre management contract more than two years before it was due to expire in July 2014.
The Town Council is now calling for tenders, seeking "professional and experienced managers of aquatic and leisure facilities for the contract which will commence on Sunday 1 July, 2012".
This follows disclosure of financial difficulties first reported by the Alice Springs News Online and more recently, an intervention by WorkSafe in the handling of chlorine gas cylinders.

Earlier problems had been described as "major".
Council CEO Rex Mooney says “council and the current contractor have agreed that a new management tender is in the best long term interest of the operations of the facility.”
Chair of YMCA Central Australia Fiona Davis says:  "YMCA Central Australia would like to thank Alice Springs Town Council for the guidance and support with Alice Springs Aquatic and Leisure Centre, which is a wonderful facility and a valuable asset for Central Australia."

Dollars for the bush in NT budget

The sealing of the 157km Namatjira Drive, which began in 2006, will finally be completed in early 2014, according to Minister for Lands and Planning Gerry McCarthy. On Tuesday he announced $5m worth of funding will be in this year's budget for sealing the final 7km stretch. Work won't start however till mid 2013.

The drive must be one of Australia's most scenic, connecting with Larapinta Drive west of Alice Springs, heading along the MacDonnell Ranges to Glen Helen and beyond from where it heads southwards to Gosses Bluff. An estimated 41 to 183 vehicles travel the road per day.

The on-going sealing of the Tanami Road will also get an allocation of $2m in the budget. The Tanami runs from the Stuart Highway to the WA border, a distance of 703 kms. Sealing began in 2004. To date some 220kms have been sealed, in six separate stretches. The $2m will cover another 4kms.

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