It's about the size of Central Europe. Less than 48,000 people live there, half of them in the major centre. Six governments look after it. They do not usefully coordinate their services. Yet each year, measured per-capita, they spend an obscene fortune. They rule from capitals thousands of kilometers away. The two main racial groups are at loggerheads. More than a third of the people are on welfare. Public service is the biggest employer. Of the 1800-odd businesses, 79% are micro or small, and of these, 83% rely on government spending and a transient population. There is no coherent plan for that country's future. What is its name? You guessed it – Central Australia.
But wait, there is hope and no better time than now to develop a vision for how this might be different.
Dr Bruce Walker (pictured) heads up Desert Knowledge Australia remoteFOCUS in Alice Springs which will release a major report on these issues next week. Here is a snapshot. PHOTO AT TOP: Aborigines were a key to the change of government. This is mobile polling station in the Karnte town camp in Alice Springs.
• Just $1.5 million over 5 years for roads maintenance across 280,000 sqkm
• Council can enact by-laws but does not have the resources to enforce them
• Shire office in 'Growth Town' really a tin shed
A reduced Central Desert Shire Council got down to business yesterday at its first ordinary meeting since the local government elections. The council is missing three members from the Anmatjere Ward but supported this ward's sole councillor, Adrian Dixon, to become the new shire president. Former president Norbert Patrick from Lajamanu declined nomination for the top job but accepted the deputy president role.
Cr Dixon told the Alice Springs News Online that he is confident candidates will come forward to fill the vacancies in his ward. It appears there was confusion at the last minute over nominations.
While Cr Spencer had been present at earlier preparatory meetings of the council this week, he was absent without an apology yesterday.
During the meeting, held at the Alice Springs head office, shire CEO Roydon Robertson poured cold water on the Country Liberals' approach to the future of the shires, proposing to reduce some to smaller scale regional councils.
"They don't know what they want to do," scoffed Mr Roberston, "they just want to do something to discredit the government."
The government's answer to the problem of vast geographic scale in the shires is to strengthen local boards, as stressed by the department's Robert Kendrick when he addressed councillors after their swearing-in.
There was a fair bit of evidence at the meeting of this structure being an effective way to at least bring issues to the table, where however they constantly confront the problem of limited resources. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Shadow Minister for Indigenous policy Adam Giles says the Country Liberals will not be prescriptive about changes to the shires. He would not be drawn on which shires may be considered to be performing less well than others.
He says the Country Liberals have received complaints about shires from right across the Territory. If elected to government they will look at the performance of the shires and will listen to what people want. There could be changes to some shires or even no change at all.
Pictured: The new council, from left, Cr William Johnson, Cr Liz Bird, Cr Robert Robertson, Cr Georgina Wilson, Deputy President Norbert Patrick, Cr April Martin, Cr Louis Schaber, President Adrian Dixon. (Absent, Cr Jacob Spencer)
UPDATED: Still working on ORIC compliance order.
Alice Springs native title holders determined to reform their organisation, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation (LAAC), say they may have lost a battle at last week's annual general meeting but they are starting to win the war.
Brian Stirling was re-elected chairman – by just one vote – but the seven hour meeting set in motion a string of measures to get clarity about the multi-million dollar investments, in supermarkets and real estate, by entities linked to Lhere Artepe.
The 2010/11 financial report tabled revealed LAAC assets totaling $678,000 in the form of loans to related commercial entities, including $282,000 to LAE Discretionary Trust, understood to be associated with the Mt Johns real estate development, and Lhere Artepe Enterprises ($390,000).
LAAC itself had a loss of $317,000, up from $74,000 last year.
LAAC has now complied the majority of the 20 requirements of a compliance notice issued by ORIC earlier this year and "the outstanding matters should be finalised before the end of November or early December 2011," the meeting was told.
It became clear that the power of "contract" CEO Darryl Pearce will be curtailed and that he will need to corroborate his responses to queries from members with "paperwork". This information comes from a key member of the reform group, Janice Harris (pictured), now a director of Lhere Artepe. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. Pictured at top: Today's Lhere Artepe website – its redevelopment is "due for completion in early 2011 [sic]".