South Broken Hill and Alice Springs have a lot in common so far as their problems are concerned.
They couldn't be more different in their quest for solutions.
Empty shops, people leaving town, public facilities needing a facelift, the outback magic failing to lure the tourists in the numbers aspired to.
It seems The Alice could take a leaf out of South Broken Hill's book.
The poor cousin of the iconic mining town, South Broken Hill is separated from the main part of the city by a hill. As if out of sight, out of mind, the symptoms of decline set in two decades ago: shops in the main street closed. Some were turned into dwellings, some just stayed empty. Of 21 shops only 16 are occupied.
Now the push is on to get new tenants, and some short-time occupancies have been offered to artists and exhibitions.
In the long run the vigorous community action is aiming to turn Patton Village into a buzzy place for locals and a magnet for visitors. Bell's Milk Bar owner Jason King, as one of the leading lights, is spreading the message around the nation, especially through the Desert Knowledge Australia Outback Business Network. He says local government and the state government are regarded as stakeholders, "but we have to drive the changes.
"To bring Patton Village back to life, its people will have to do it." ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
PHOTO: Its own community will bring South Broken Hill back to life. No-one else will.
The Northern Territory is mostly on the bottom of the heap of national education indicators, and the nation itself has slid downwards compared with other countries.
The Gonski Report, the Review of Funding for Schooling commissioned by the Federal Government, makes dismal reading.
For example, the Territory has the nation's lowest proportion – just under 70% – of the 20 to 24 year-old population with Year 12 or equivalent attainment (2008).
That's for the non-indigenous population.
For the NT's indigenous population the figure is 24%. The corresponding figure for the other states is at least double that (see graph). ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
This week almost 40,000 kids from across the Northern Territory are returning to school after the summer holidays, dusting off their books and settling into their new desks. In a Letter to the Editor, School Education Minister Peter Garrett (pictured) says they are embarking on a historic year in which he looks forward to "building on Labor’s vision to provide every student in every school a world-class education".
Last night's Q&A on the ABC was hugely useful for understanding the popular national debate about Aboriginal issues: Its perverse uselessness, to be precise.
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (pictured) commented on the Federal Intervention, costing millions of dollars, in the wake of the chilling "Children are Sacred" report into abuse and neglect. She recalls that army, police and bureaucrats arrived in her home town of Utopia and proceeded to "hunt us like dogs".
Moderator Tony Jones did not ask for an explanation nor elaboration.
It was a notable addition to Mrs Kunoth-Monks vocabulary: Last week she accused Australia of "ethnic cleansing".
Was the Darwin audience outraged? No way. It applauded. Profusely. Photo: Mrs Kunoth-Monks makes a point during the show, flanked by NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson (left) and moderator Tony Jones. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.