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.
The Supreme Court this morning decided in favour of David Forrest, a principal of Framptons First National Real Estate, who brought a defamation action against Alice Springs News Managing Editor, Erwin Chlanda, and the publishing company, Erwin Chlanda Pty Ltd.
The decision is in the sum of $100,000 plus interest. The issue of costs is yet to be decided.
The action arose from one article that was part of news coverage over a period of more than a year, of a situation affecting some 12 local families, home buyers, clients of the Framptons New Homes scheme and collapsed building company, Carey Builders Pty Ltd. The home buyers suffered significant financial losses and anguish.
This is not the end of the story but at this time I make the following statement:-
It is the first time in my half century working as a journalist that I have had to stand trial for defamation.
The arduous experience of conducting my defence without legal representation, and with a minimum of legal advice, is motivating me to do as much as I can to get behind the current push for reform of the way our society deals with defamation.
The present system is a great impediment to freedom of speech.
There is a vast gulf between what the law and the courts can demand, and what the readers expect from us, the journalists, and our duty to inform.
Rich people are vastly more likely to win than poor people. They can set on to journalists and publishers, lawyers receiving extraordinary levels of remuneration in a rigid court process that can result in the ruin of a medium and its staff.
With the recent Finkelstein Review, these issues are well and truly in the public arena nation-wide.
This case cost my wife and colleague Kieran Finnane, our family and myself not only the small amount of money we could afford for limited legal advice, but more than a year of sustained effort and anxiety.
We will be doing our best to assist reform efforts that will serve our readers, the people we write about and our profession.
The Alice Springs News Online will continue publication and maintain its five million word (and growing) online story archive dating back to 1997. (The hard copy archive dates back to 1994.)
Erwin Chlanda, Editor
See also prominent author Barry Hill's comment on how the loss needs to be put in context.
UPDATE 15:10 CST NOV 4
By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) says only the directors of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation (LAAC) can call meetings of the estate groups for the purposes of nominating LAAC directors and members.
This means the 10 people selected last week by the group seeking to reform the organization cannot be considered as having been nominated.
ORIC head Anthony Beven says: "The Mparntwe estate group held its nomination meeting on 25 October in Alice Springs. ORIC officers attended the meeting."
The Alice Springs News Online has learned that the officers were asked to leave the meeting and did.
Says Mr Beven: "The meeting was adjourned by the members to 3 November 2011 [yesterday] as not all the apmereke-artweye and kwertengerle were in attendance at the meeting on 25 October.
"I have no knowledge of a Mparntwe estate group meeting being called for Monday, 31 October by the directors of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation under rule 15 of the rule book [governing the nominating].
"The meeting on 3 November was the properly constituted meeting of the Mparntwe estate group for the purposes of rule 15 of the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation rule book.
"I am aware that the Mparntwe Aboriginal Corporation held its annual general meeting on Monday (31 October 2011).
"The Mparntwe Aboriginal Corporation and the Mparntwe estate group are two different groups but have similar membership."
The Alice Springs News Online understands ORIC officers did not attend yesterday's Mparntwe meeting.
REPORT POSTED NOV 3:
The group seeking to reform Alice Springs’ native title organisation, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation (LAAC), is confident that it is getting the upper hand.
“It’s about returning the traditional structure back to the control of the native title holders rather than an alleged select few,” says Ron Morony (at left), a special director of the Antulye estate group.
The organisation has been in turmoil over allegations that a small clique has assumed control amidst suspicions of unauthorized spending of funds, bullying, stacking of meetings and ignoring the traditional power brokers known as the Apmereke-artweye and Kwertengerle. Michael Liddle (above, right) says that members of one family have been too dominant in that group, to the disadvantage of five or six other families in the moiety. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.