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Alice Springs news


Alice Springs news; NewspaperNT




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This publication contains many links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.




Community newspspers; Australia, Central; Alice Springs (N.T.); Newspapers

Publisher name

Erwin Chlanda

Place of publication

Alice Springs


v. 17 issue 18

File type



Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.

Copyright owner

Erwin Chlanda



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

The Desert Peoples Centre has achieved its first triumph: its open. It was 10 years in the making and cost nearly $20m: $10.4m from the NT and $8.4m from the Feds. The DPCs journey as it was incessantly referred to at last Fridays opening required careful navigation by people like Bruce Waker, then director of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), the partner in the new centre with the Batchelor Institute. The Institute for Aboriginal Development was meant to be part of the deal but pulled out. Given its ongoing infighting this is probably not a bad thing for the DPC. If submission writing was an Olympic discipline, according to a wit at the opening, Dr Walker would come home with gold every four years. While he generously paid tribute to a string of other players, he can certainly take a bow for the centre being his brainchild and for being its prime mover. In fact, as he recalls it, he presented a fairly intemperate discussion paper at a CAT board meeting in 1996. Dr Walkers message was blunt: If were doing in 20 years what we are doing now, we will have failed. Sparks were flying. Next morning, a Saturday, CATs mild-mannered chairman Jim Bray rang Dr Walker. The two went for a drive and finished up at the old drive-in site across the road from where the Desert Knowledge precinct is now. The two men agreed: This is where we need to be, where people can see us. Not in a back street of the industrial area. This was the genesis of the DPC. In his speech last week Dr Walker said the DPC is the biggest single education investment in remote Australia, presenting an extraordinary complexity of communications and keeping the project on the road. During the planning period, Batchelor Institute had four changes in their executive leadership, and three chancellors. The Department of Infrastructure had 11 project directors just through the design and the capital works phase. There have been five NT Ministers of Education, four chief executives of the Department of Education, and we have survived four Territory election cycles. Yet here we are today with two of the four original Aboriginal proponents, Jim Bray and Harold Furber. Rose Kunoth Monks is in Canberra today, hassling Senators at the moment, and we have fond memories of the late Gatjil. The guernsey for opening the centre went to Deputy PM Julia Gillard, who visibly enjoyed the great weather and the friendly crowd, was eloquent in her speech without notes, and agreed to at least two dozen requests from individuals mainly Aborigines to have their photo taken with her. Her doorstop at the end of the function was remarkable for two reasons. Firstly, the major media there ABC (Kirsty Nancarrow), the Advocate (Dan Moss) and the Alice Springs News (Erwin Chlanda) focussed mostly on how Ms Gillard, the Federal Education Minister, would manage to get all Aboriginal parents to send their kids to school. After all, she had just opened a multi million dollar taxpayer funded education facility and was about to give Yirara College a $2m grant for an expansion of its boarding facility for Aboriginal students. Secondly, Ms Gillard replied with an unswerving commitment to bring this about. Attending school is the first vital step for getting an education, she said. Our expectation is that kids are at school each and every day. In answer to a question from the Alice News how she would achieve this: Welfare payments are contingent on school attendance. Thats a last resort option but we have trials working in various parts of the country, so we can push the importance of making sure that kids attend school. The Advocate put to Ms Gillard that so far, no-one had had their welfare payments cut. She said: Its being trialled and the feedback is that we are learning as we go and the Centrelink staff are learning as they go [in a] process to engage schools, families and Centrelink. She said reforms including housing, health and employment are about working with Indigenous communities to transform them so that we can have high expectations for every child, high expectations for Indigenous communities. The ABC said Yirara College had an enrolment of 249 but only 152 students were in attendance last Friday. Ms Gillard said: Is school attendance important? Absolutely yes. We could have had this conversation a decade ago and a decade before that. We understand the degree of change that is necessary. Canberra would provide an additional 200 teachers in the NT. Asked to comment on demands for the Intervention to be discontinued, Ms Gillard said: We want to make sure that

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