The camp at the Granites goldmine north-west of Alice Springs. Workers fly in and out from all over Australia. Photo courtesy Newmont Mines.
A recurring theme during the election campaign was the question, why bother voting? And from that quite frequently flows: Let's break away. But how?
Answers to that seem to be taking shape in several quarters. Desert Knowledge chairman Fred Chaney suggested getting rid of the states and running the country from Canberra and through local governments on steroids.
And the election has suddenly shifted the political centre of gravity from Darwin's northern suburbs to the bush, through candidates and even a new party.Now Bruce Walker (pictured), the director of remoteFOCUS, Desert Knowledge Australia in Alice Springs, has argued in a submission to the Senate enquiry into Fly-In, Fly-Out that there are broad issues in remote Australia that need to be fixed.
On the one hand we have Labor which has removed any doubt about its disdain for Alice Springs by promising to spend as much on footy TV lights – to be used maybe once or twice a year – as it would on the town centre's facelift.
And the Country Liberals are proposing to spend a corresponding amount – $2.5m – on the Youth Centre although locals say that's nowhere near enough and doesn't cover the facilities and services also badly needed. There is a lively debate about a facility costing 15 times as much.
Mayor Damien Ryan and Chamber of Commerce CEO Kay Eade have expressed their dissatisfaction with Labor's effort, with the town's third major lobby, Tourism Central Australia, notably absent from the debate.
Maybe we're asking the wrong questions: I there a bigger main game?
Bruce Walker, who chairs remoteFOCUS, a project facilitated by Desert Knowledge Australia, is raising some interesting questions.
OK, we are those who are living "in the forgotten backyards of the capital cities, and they are not part of a national narrative which makes sense of the decisions made elsewhere which affect their lives".
But the "we" here doesn't mean Territorians, but the people inhabiting desert Australia – those of us living in the vast remote parts of all the states except Victoria and Tasmania.
Would that be the framework that could get us excited? COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
What do Aborigines want and what do policy makers think they need? There's more to those questions than meets the eye, says WILL SANDERS (at left) in this week's Alice News summer feature, Food for Thought. He is a frequent visitor to Central Australia and a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University in Canberra.
To illustrate what he sees as "complexities of Indigenous affairs policy and practice which intrigued me thirty years ago and intrigue me still" Dr Sanders tells about this old lady (pictured at top). She lives on the edge of small open highway town in the Northern Territory. Within 500 meters of her camp, or walking distance, she has access to an old peoples’ day care centre, a health clinic and a roadhouse which sells food and alcohol – but only beer to "drink in" and only a couple of hours a day. At the national policy level, she would be included in government statistics as a homeless person and as part of the justification for building more housing in Indigenous communities.
But she wants to live right here, with her dogs, on public land, paying rent to on-one – getting some help with her water supply and meals on wheels from the aged care day centre 500 meters away.
"All I can really do is tell you what it has been like to work in Indigenous affairs for thirty years and how I have come to think of it in terms of balancing competing principles in both ground-level practice and high moral rhetoric," writes Dr Sanders.