In her first foray into politics, tourism operator Deborah Rock is standing for Labor in Braitling. Not previously a member of the party, she first came to Labor's attention as a result of penning letters to the editor. Their theme was to reject the idea of widespread fear and insecurity in Alice, asserting that the town was a beautiful and mostly safe place to live. That remains a key message. The magnificent landscape drew her to Alice in 1998 but what has kept her here – and she thinks this is true for many people – is the sense of personal freedom and community.
"You can be yourself and still be successful," she says, "and you can get to know a wide range of people. I love that small town thing of going to the shops and running into lots of people I know."
Not surprisingly then, community harmony is at the top of her agenda: "We need to address our problems without creating division, without talking the town down." KIERAN FINNANE reports.
While he was "really impressed" with the many "community harmony" initiatives taken in Port Augusta, and with their apparent success reflected in the town's general appearance and atmosphere, the consultant reporting back to the Alice Springs Town Council was at pains to point out the "very significant" differences between the two towns.
Alice has twice the population, said Craig Wilson of Craig Wilson Consultancy, formerly an employee of the Alice council, now based in Mt Gambier.
Port Augusta has only one Aboriginal community on its periphery, Davenport, in contrast to Alice's 18 town camps.
Davenport, which is not a dry zone, has a population of around 200, compared with the 2000 to 3000 living in Alice's camps.
Around 1300 people from outlying areas use Port Augusta as their regional hub, as opposed to the 11,000 to 12,000 for whom Alice is the regional centre, said Mr Wilson.
Key among the initiatives have been the Port Augusta Aboriginal Community Engagement Group and the City Safe Program. The engagement group's enquiries into budgets and outcomes of various government departments and agencies were initially seen as "threatening" but are now well accepted. City Safe is in the hands of a private contractor whose personal qualities seem to account for a good deal of his success. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
PICTURE: Port Augusta's ACEG in session. From left – Khatija Thomas Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement, Aaron Stuart, Katy Burns, Alwyn McKenzie and Corey McKenzie.