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.
An inter-cultural festival grows deep in the desert. Something like it is mooted for Alice Springs. What can we learn from our northern neighbours?
"Fire is the glow of life. The four winds – from north, south, east, west – control the fire, control us. Milpirri is the story that will ignite the fire of who they are."
'They' are the participants in the Milpirri Festival whose fourth manifestation will be staged at Lajamanu, in the northern reaches of the Tanami Desert, halfway between Alice Springs and Darwin, in October this year.
Speaking was the festival's artistic director, Steve Patrick Jampijinpa, a son of the community and a former school teacher there, now a research fellow at the Australian National University. Mr Patrick gave the keynote address at this week's forum on experimentation and innovation in desert arts.
The motto of the festival is "speak to the land, the land will speak back", he said. The next image he invoked (that I caught from his softly spoken speech delivered as a string of beautiful metaphors) was of "hot air rising, cold air falling" – a metaphor for coming together, possibly in a thunderhead – a "voluminous cloud full of fury".
In coming together "there'll always be a bit of a rough time" but out of the clouds comes "life-giving rain".
That rain has grown the festival, a joint effort of the community and the Darwin-based Tracks Dance Company which has been working with the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu since 1988. So Milpirri is "an inter-cultural venture". KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Councillors of the Central Desert Shire – black and white – say the shire system time needs more time to prove itself. Most of those I spoke to will put their hands up again for election in March, including shire president Norbert Patrick. He says he would accept the leadership role again if asked, but would rather be just an elected member who could give new members the benefit of his experience.
I spoke to the councillors outside the chamber after they had met for the last time before the election. During the meeting shire CEO Roydon Robertson had raised the recent negative comments made about the shires by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, angrily dismissed by the CEO as "another insult". Mr Gooda was reported by the ABC to have called for the shires model to be scrapped, referring to its "total detrimental effect" on communities.
Councillors appeared to be in agreement with the CEO and the sentiments expressed by Kerry Moir, president of the Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT), who was appalled at Mr Gooda making such damaging statements just two months out from the shire elections. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured: Shire president Norbert Patrick and Councillor William Johnson, both of Lajamanu, outside the shire head office in Alice Springs last Friday.
While the Australian Government is extending the 'stick' approach in the field of education, tying welfare payments to school attendance, and alcohol, extending income management arrangements for people with alcohol related problems, there was no mention of the stick in relation to jobs. The announcements today, part of the Northern Territory Intervention Mark 2, are all 'carrots', sounding very like the carrots proffered in the past. This new bunch cost $19.1 million.
On the government's school attendance 'stick' Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion says: "Labor is all talk and no action with the re-announcement of welfare quarantining of Aboriginal parents who don’t get their children to school.
“This government can re-announce this policy until the cows come home but it is no good unless it is acted on and people are breached."
Headlining the government's new programs are 50 new ranger positions in the Working on Country program.
There's also emphasis on local filling local jobs, with traineeships to support up to 100 Aboriginal people to fill service delivery jobs in their communities.