Our population growth is the slowest in the country, we're pretty well behaved so far as drugs go (unless we live in Darwin) but we're streets ahead in alcohol and tobacco consumption, recent reports show. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
There was a warning of impending water restrictions (never implemented) 21 years ago when the town was supplied by water from the Mereenie aquifer and the population was less than 10,000, writes Alex Nelson. While the substance of the ensuing debate was similar to today's, the tone was vastly different.
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.
Every day it fights battles of life and death.
It is one of the town's biggest employers, a $150m a year operation of extreme complexity, drawing its highly skilled staff from all corners of the globe.
Last week I got a first-hand look at the Alice Springs hospital, getting a new left hip (that's me pictured, getting back on my feet a couple of days later).
It was the small things that touched me most: "Hi, I'm Annie, I'll be looking after you for the next few hours. Do you need anything? OK, if you need me, just ring the bell."
To a person, the nursing staff start their shifts in this way. It takes around 30 seconds to say these or similar words, but they make all the difference: I wasn't an object having things done to it. I was a person and I was with people who cared. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
Bob Durnan (pictured) is a community development worker with over three decades of experience in working with Aboriginal people in town camps and remote communities in the Northern Territory and Queensland. He looks forward to where we would hope to be when the sun sets on the current 10-year second phase of the Federal Intervention into Indigenous affairs in the Territory.
Those of us – of all ethnic backgrounds – who seriously look forward to still residing in the Northern Territory 10 years from now need to start getting our acts together if we want a tolerable social and climatic environment to enjoy in our dotage.
Apart from the grim fact that we must hope Australia doesn’t get dragged down into a world-wide economic quagmire – the new depression – and endure the suffering that would accompany the further disappearance of finance and trade, jobs and commerce, we have to still deal with our own unfolding local social catastrophe.
To help us do this dealing, we also must hope our nation’s strong streak of mean-mindedness and lack of empathy is diminished, at least a bit, as we badly need to continue receiving generous helpings of the GST gravy if we are to have any chance of achieving a safe, well-educated, healthy, productive and integrated society in the NT.
Equally we must hope that measures to abate global warming are implemented rapidly, despite their impacts on trade and finance. It’s hot enough in Central Australia as it already is.
If Australia’s national wellbeing survives these and other possible threats (the usual – war, terrorism, and their pressures for increased population shifts) then we could reasonably expect our national government to build on its already large investment in the Northern Territory Emergency Response, and see some Stronger Futures evolve in the NT; but as you may sense, I think it’s a bit of a long shot.
Report figures on the proportion of Aboriginal people expected in Alice by 2030 "way, way off". Researcher now says she got it wrong.
"Rest easy, the public servants are onto it. But if you've got any (cost free) new ideas, let us know."
This was essentially the message from Tuesday's feedback forum on the Alice Springs Community Action Plan. The fact that the forum did not cover new ground or open up a space for new insights, directions and initiatives would have given comfort to the boycotters (see separate report), although Alderman Eli Melky did attend.
First up, consultant Jane Munday summarised the report she had compiled, "intended as the first stage in developing" the action plan. This is described as a "research report", commissioned by the Department of the Chief Minister. Ms Munday is experienced and well-qualified in public relations and marketing. Her report is essentially about a number of consultation exercises she conducted; its "research" is not of the probing kind. For instance, she repeats what is frequently heard in public fora, that "the proportion of Aboriginal residents (now 21%) is expected to increase to about 45% by 2030". She sources the figure to a presentation at the Kilgarrif forum by the Department of Lands and Planning.
Such an increase would be huge, a radical change to the demography of the town and with potentially far-reaching implications, but it is "way, way off" according to Dean Carson, Professor for Rural and Remote Research at Flinders University. Ms Munday has provided a comprehensive reply which appears at the end of the full story. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Photos: The crowd thins as boredom sets in. NT Police's Assistant Commissioner for Regional Operations, Mark Payne.