I hosted a lunch with the Chronic Preventative Health worker from Alice Springs. The man she principally sought and tried to get to the lunch was intoxicated by 11am. I told her this was the way it had been for the past 18 months with this forty-five year old, talented, bi-lingual remote community man who'd had a stroke at that time. RUSSELL GUY sees the grog mayhem up close in a "dry" community not far from Alice. PHOTO: The sign nailed to the tree says: "Let there be light in the darkness."
After more than three years on the frontline of child welfare and protection Fred – not his real name – is leaving town. He's taking with him corporate knowledge, which he says has been dwindled worryingly, about matters that are uppermost in the public's mind.
He says he isn't bitter nor angry, rather feels privileged to have developed relationships with a part of the population that is raising profound concerns, both as victims of abuse and neglect, and perpetrators of crime: some four fifths of Fred's clients were Aboriginal.
He spoke in person with editor ERWIN CHLANDA, for an hour and a half, but on the condition of not being named.
MIKE GILLAM, in our Food for Thought Series, is inspired by a policeman's battle to save the trees in the Todd River – in November 1888.
Mounted Constable W. G. South wrote to the Minister for the Northern Territory: I have the honour to inform you that when the township is sold … the Young Gum trees along the Todd Creek … will require protection or they will be all cut down by the residents for building and fencing purposes, in fact some of the trees have already been destroyed by persons forming camps. I would request your instructions on this matter and … all regulations with regard to protection of timber. The trees are a great ornament to the place and it would be a great pity to destroy them ...”
Today, 124 years later, the battle still rages.
PHOTOS: Author Gillam and the Wills Terrace causeway across the iconic river (above).