This week's Food for Thought panel member is veterinarian Debbie Osborne (pictured), a local for nearly thee decades. When it comes to commitment to The Alice she's put her money where her mouth is: A year ago she opened one of the nation's best equipped animal hospitals in Milner Road. To her the town is mostly good – and what's not can be fixed, and the sooner the better, she says!
Alice Springs has changed in 28 years. Change is inevitable. A lot of change has been for the better. When I first arrived, someone commented that “Alice Springs people don’t walk; we drive everywhere.” That was true! Todd Mall was only half a mall, with traffic still allowed travelling from south to north. We couldn’t commit to the idea of no traffic in the main street.
If we were going to lunch at Swingers Cafe in Reg Harris Lane and couldn’t park within three spaces of the entrance to the lane, we were really annoyed. Now we still drive what I consider to be ridiculously short distances, but so many more of us ride bikes and walk. This has been made easier by the creation of bike / foot paths along the river and other parts of town, but we need more.
When I first came here, I was intrigued by the “2km Law”. Fortunately, there were no licensed premises at the airport (the tiny building just to the west of the new airport). December would see residents arriving at the airport with Eskys to farewell friends off home for Christmas.
We’d sit on the lawn out the front of the airport, drinking beer, sipping wine. The friends we were farewelling would head off across the tarmac to board their plane and just as we considered leaving, another group of friends (or perhaps just acquaintances) would arrive with their Esky, so we’d stay a bit longer. Several hours on a Saturday could be spent at the airport. (I’m sure we had a Sober Bob to drive us home, so please don’t anyone lecture me on glorifying our drinking culture.) Then someone put a bar at the airport and it was never the same. Is there anywhere now where such an impromptu gathering could occur?
I have a belief that good laws are, enforceable, protect innocent people and do not inconvenience a reasonable person acting responsibly. Based on the above criteria, Alice Springs has many laws that are not so good. Can we really stop people that are determined to get drunk from doing so, and if I am responsibly having a beer or two on the banks of the river, is that really a crime? Can we, and should we, stop people from camping in the river? What harm is done by people camping in the river? Yes, littering is a problem and that should be dealt with via littering laws (and a reasonable person acting responsibly would not be inconvenienced by this). Being drunk and disorderly is a problem and should be dealt with under appropriate laws that do not inconvenience reasonable people acting responsibly. And people that need help should get help, not be pushed away from the public view, out of sight, out of mind.
Alice Springs has problems. I believe we are mature enough to examine the problems and look for real solutions. Applying bandaids by creating laws that appear to be addressing the problems but provide no real solutions is not good enough.
Patterns of behaviour emerge from the sad stories of suicide. In the wake of the recent tragic deaths by suicide of five young Aboriginal people in our region, the Alice Springs News spoke to Craig San Roque, a psychotherapist and member of the steering committee of Life Promotion, Central Australia's suicide prevention program. He has had experience over many years of collaboration with Aboriginal people, in particular with traditional healers. He speaks of the problems using the image of the hand.
"For some people suicide is structural, like the back of their hand, with them all the time as a meditated, premeditated action, though it may be disguised, covered over with a skin." KIERAN FINNANE reports.
With the funeral of a nephew who took his own life fresh in her mind, MLA Alison Anderson in last night's Legislative Assembly debates asked for a breakdown of statistics on suicide in the Northern Territory. She wants to see what the picture is in urban, rural and remote settings, suspecting that, from her experience, young people in remote communities are more vulnerable.
The nephew buried last week in Mutitjulu was the second in Ms Anderson's family to suicide this winter. The second young man took his life in a suburban street of Alice Springs. He was buried in Hermannsburg on the same day as his father, who Ms Anderson says died from alcoholism. PICTURE ABOVE: MLA Alison Anderson at a rally this year outside Parliament during its sittings in Alice Springs. By her side is Councillor Mildred Inkamala (pink shirt) of the MacDonnell Shire Council. KIERAN FINNANE reports.