26 October 2017

Trip Out to Areyonga

I left the town in a rush, well as much of a rush as one gets when living in the Northern Territory. I guess that is to say, although I had to be in Hermannsburg at 10:30, it didn’t stop me from pottering until 10 before driving out of town, then stopping for a coffee on the way out as well before driving the 115 km from Alice Springs to the community. That wasn’t my final destination, I was just passing through. My destination for the day was the community of Areyonga, another 90 km away along a very corrugated dirt road. After driving on so many dirt roads out here it seems odd to even mention that it was dirt, but as corrugations go, this one was particularly bad. After what seemed like an age, I turned the bend and the little bridge that goes over the creek leading into the community came into view. It’s a nice entry. The towering hills and the road winding into it makes it seem like you are going into another world. I guess to most of Australia though, it is.

The community of Areyonga has anywhere from 175 to 240 people living in it and is nestled between in a valley with sheer hills on all sides. The entry road follows a small creek that turns into the road and only leaves as the land starts to flatten out into a steep sided valley. I turned into the patch of dirt outside the council offices and turned off the engine. I was still rattled from the drive in and now looking up at the front door I could see it was closed. The time was a little past one o’clock. It wasn’t open. I wanted to get the key to check into my accommodation for the next two days. Still, no bother, I thought. I decided that I’d have a bit of a look around the community.

The first thing that I noticed was that the community seemed to be under attack by donkeys, horses and camels. The donkeys I wasn’t really surprised at. Areyonga has always had a few donkeys hanging about. I was however surprised at the number that were now here though. And lots of horses… and camels! There were nearly a dozen camels hanging out on the outskirts of the town. I hadn’t seen them this far south before, not wild ones anyway. As I drove through the town there were donkeys in the park, by the river, walking down the road, in people’s gardens and any other place that wasn’t fenced off. Some of the dogs were valiantly trying to move the donkeys along by barking and yapping at them however, with the exception on one younger foal and a nipping dog, none of the donkeys seemed too bothered about disturbance. On the outskirts of the community, between the power station and the sports field, there are a couple of cattle troughs. This is why there were so many about. They’d all come for a drink. The weather in Central Austral has started to heat up recently and today was supposed to get to about 37 degrees Celsius. At the water trough must have been about 50 animals. Some drinking but most standing on the edges or in the shade waiting for their turn. The road wound away from the trough and down to the sewage ponds and airstrip. As I stopped to have a look a few of the donkeys put their ears up. A couple of horses walked off and one of the camels looked up at me. They didn’t like me being so close. So I left them to drink.

Back at the council office I picked up the key to my accommodation. $84 doesn’t seem to get you much on a community. A filthy room with a table, two chairs, a bunk bed with stained mattresses, a dirty bathroom and a non-functioning air conditioner. I’ve come to expect that these places are not going to be to a satisfactory standard. It seems that we can’t do anything about it either. In discussions with my boss I was told that we need the accommodation on communities. If we don’t get it then we can’t go. If we have a go at them and tell them to clean them then they might not rent the rooms to us when we go out to the communities. So we have to put up with it. I can see the reasoning but it doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t want to have to put up with filthy accommodation, I don’t think that anyone should put up with this standard of accommodation. I said this and they told me that I could follow it up but not to rock any boats. If we can’t even get councils to have satisfactory accommodation then how can we ever start to close the gap on indigenous communities!

The accommodation

My afternoon went quickly. I did one inspection and then went back to the council office for a chat. We talked about the pest animals, landfill and community recycling. After that it was back to my tin box to while away the evening.

The next day I was awake by six. I didn’t get up however. It was cold. I’d left the air conditioning on all night and finally it had started to make a difference. I’d spent much of the previous evening cursing at the controller, the air conditioner and anything else that would listen. Finally, I cursed at some AAA batteries that were in my head torch and then had to apologies to them straight away. I put them into the controller and it worked! I was so happy. The air conditioner didn’t do much at all the previous night but now as I lay in my sleeping bag chilly, I knew it had finally kicked in. I guess with a 40 degree day even the biggest air conditioner (and this one was far from big) would struggle to cool the room.

My first inspection was at the local child care where I met with the new team leader. It was a quiet morning at the centre so we had a good chance to discuss the structural issues, food safety items and the potential for some training that may be offered by Environmental Health. The rest of the day was very much the same. I also went to the landfill and had a chat to the community manager about the good things they are doing at the tip. The council crew at the community seem to be doing a good job. Since my previous visit they had set up several separation bays for items such as batteries, cardboard, white goods, paint, recycling and generally household waste. The main trench was being well used and it was visible that waste had already been compacted and covered, ready for the next load.  That night I was in bed early. The heat of the day had taken it out of me so after a shower (with my thongs on as the floor was still filthy). 

The next day I was woken up early to someone screaming. After living in Alice Springs for nearly 10 years (on and off) someone screaming is not necessarily something that would make me investigate. After about half an hour of dosing off I heard the person still screaming I began to get curious. It’s bad that living in Alice Springs has made me so nonchalant to things of this nature. Whether it be screaming, yelling, sirens, fighting, fires, or anything else loud, I don’t always seem to worry about it. So, after getting ready, packing up the car I drove off to the home care centre. People were lining the streets looking at a white car. I had a word with the team leader at the Home Care centre. She said that there was someone who had come back from Alice Springs and was causing a bit of trouble, trying to start fights and the like. Later I learned that he’d already been knocked down once by someone he tried to pick a fight with and that the police had been called (although they didn’t arrive in the time that I was on the community). The community were all out and trying to calm down the person or force them out of the community. After a while they left in their car for parts unknown. It was an exciting morning in the community. After that, I headed home back to Alice Springs. It was another big trip out bush.

22 August 2017

A pain in the neck

The first of July started like no other had.  As the calendar flicked over, I woke up from my hospital bed and looked out the window into the darkness outside.  It would have been darker but for a light on the campus gently swaying in the cold nights breeze.  As the nurse came in again to take my 'obs' I was shaken from my thoughts.  The bedside light came on.  I hadn't been asleep, not yet.  We exchanged pleasantries while she took my blood pressure, pulse and asked me how the pain was, I thought to myself that this wasn't how I thought it would end.  But let me tell you to the story... and of course, show you the gory photos of something that went from an annoying pain in the neck to sizeable hole in the neck.

Better yet, let me show you... The Hole.

It was basically a sebaceous cyst that became infected and had to be removed.  I'd had it for years an not thought much of it but when it became infected, when you could feel it throbbing and burning.  It certainly took up a lot more of my attention.  An so that is how I ended up at the hospital A&E.

Over the next few weeks it had to be packed and covered.  Al up it took about a month to heal (between the first frame of the movie and the last).

I hope you find it gruesome but interesting.

28 May 2017

Face-to-face Meeting in Darwin

And so the week rolled around where we had a trip to Darwin to learn some new things and get clarification on some of the things that we are doing or should be doing. It was Monday morning, around lunchtime that we boarded the flight from Alice Springs to Darwin.

Of our group (four EHOs and one manager) it was interesting to find out that 40% of our team did not like flying. I've never found flying a problem, with the exception of a foggy head sometimes, and I never thought that those I work with would have an issue with it. One of our team certainly really didn't like flying. I was sat next to this one person who was pretty anxious about flying but especially the landing part. As the plane came into land the noises of the flaps and throttling of the engine made things worse. They totally freaked out pushing back on their chair and trying to do what ever they could to take their mind off the landing. Unfortunately this also entailed grabbing my arm. I've never really seen someone snapping pencils and tearing books to try and get their mind off things. As soon as we landed though they were fine like nothing had happened, apart from of course being extremely apologetic.

The bruising from the landing.

The view from my room on the 12th floor of the Ramada Apartments

The week week went well. Long and busy days going over areas such as the Food Standards Code and new edition of Safe Food Australia, discussion regarding policy and enforcement of legislation as well as a couple of afternoons and a morning just discussing with policy some of the changes that we'd like to seen made to the way we do things. An of course there was the team building. While there were several team building exercises that were done, the longest one was a sort of treasure hunt. I say, treasure hunt but it really just entailed us running around a section of the city looking for photographs of stuff in that area and then trying to get a photograph of us on the beach with a lifeguard. Unfortunately you apparently need to fill in a 12 page document to take photographs of the public waterfront and also a lifeguard. For some reason the lifeguards don't want to be photographed or as one of them said to us, "don't get me or any of my gear in your photo". I don't really understand why you couldn't even get their bag in the photo, nor do I understand why you couldn't just take a photograph you on the beach without having to get permission from the Waterfront Authority.

Photographs taken during the scavenger hunt through the city centre.

The flight back was less eventful. The morning was spend at the office in Darwin before they drove us to the airport and we boarded. I shared a row with two colleagues (including the one who really did not like flying) and at around 5 pm we arrived back into Alice Springs. It was a very long week and I was looking forward to the weekend.

Me eating satay octopus on a stick.

On Mindle Beach watching the sun set.

We stayed until the sun had fully set.

10 May 2017

Alice Springs Crime Spree

It wasn't a shock to hear that our office had been broken into again. This is Alice Springs after all and things like that seem to have been happening a lot more of late.  However usually it's just smashing in.  This time however they stole three vehicles from our compound as well as a load of other stuff from the offices (chocolate, tools, etc).  Strangely enough however all the computers and cameras were left.  I guess that they are quite easy to trace.  The cars were used in several ram raids all over town.

The Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services issued a media release on the 9th of May regarding the break in.

Members from Strike Force Winx have charged four youths in relation to a series of property crimes in Alice Springs.

Detective Acting Superintendent Peter Dash said the offenders were allegedly involved in numerous unlawful entries and the unlawful use of motor vehicles over the weekend.

“Strike Force Winx members have arrested a 14-year-old female and three males aged 14, 15 and 16,” he said.

“The youths were involved in four ram raids in the CBD, Whittaker Street, North Side and Sadadeen involved stolen vehicles.

“One of the youths, who was on a suspended sentence of detention, absconded from a rehabilitation program in Alice Springs on 24 April.

“Another male, aged 14, who also absconded from rehabilitation program, is in custody and is currently assisting Police with their enquiries.

A 16-year-old male was charged with:

  • Aggravated unlawful use of motor vehicle
  • Unlawful entry – building
  • Damage to property
A 14-year-old male was charged with:
  • Unlawful entry – building (x6)
  • Aggravated unlawful use of motor vehicle (x2)
  • Stealing (x4)
  • Damage to property (x6)
  • Attempt unlawful entry
  • Trespass
  • Possess of dangerous drug
  • Warrant of apprehension executed
A 14-year-old female was charged with:
  • Aggravated unlawful use of motor vehicle (x2)
  • Drive unlicensed (x2)
  • Damage to property
  • Stealing
  • Unlawful entry – building
They are due to appear in the Alice Springs Youth Court today.

A 15-year-old male was released for youth diversion.

“Police would like to thank the public for their assistance in identifying the offenders,” said Detective Acting Superintendent Dash.

“Strike Force Winx will continue to target those that choose to engage in these sorts of activities and we will continue to work with the community and stakeholders to reduce youth and property crime in Alice Springs.”

This all happen last weekend and the morning that we came into work we found all the drawers open and lots of things on the ground.  The police had already been in and finger printed the place over the weekend and so we were just left to clean up.

Finger print dust over my filing cabinet.


Smashed windows and damaged doors.  
Contents of the vehicles had also been gone through with a few things stolen.


The gate that was rammed as they fled with the vehicles.

The likely entry point into our vehicle compound.

Some of the stories that were in the news can be found at:

26 April 2017

Turning 38

It seems like only a year ago that I was having a birthday and last week it happened again. This year Laura and her family came out to visit. The day was a busy one and started early. We were up before dawn and climbed up ANZAC Hill and found a spot by the fence ready for the Dawn Service to begin. There were a few hundred people up on the top of the hill for the service.

Unfortunately even though we were only located around 5-10 metres from the speakers and had a clear line of sight, the sound that was emanating was so soft, it could hardly be heard. It wasn't just Laura, Anne and myself who were unable to hear, but many others (probably the three hundred or so behind us at least). On the walk back down the hill it was all we could talk about how disappointing the service had been due to inadequate sound. You'd think that they would have done a sound check prior to the event. Maybe not.

After that we went home and had a good cooked breakfast and opened our many presents. I received many amazing gifts such as a Lego Pirates Chess Set, painted books (with a cup of tea on top), a do-it-yourself terrarium, greenhouse, books, tea, and many more. After breakfast and unwrapping it was time to start playing with the presents. I put up the greenhouse with Anne, Max and Henry's help.

Later that afternoon we went for a picnic at Simpson's Gap and a walk through the gorge. It was a very nice lunch (chicken sandwiches) and was nice relaxing.

That evening we went out to a place called The Gillen Club. It is a local pub that has a playground so Max and Henry were pretty happy about that.

Anyway, to end on the GIF that Lewis sent after wishing me (and Laura) a happy birthday.

24 January 2017

Catching Flies

I put a fly catcher in my backyard last weekend as there were quite a few buzzing around me when I was outside.

I went out today to check and it certainly has managed to catch a few.

And plenty more waiting to go in.

11 December 2016

A day in the garden

Today I thought that I'd have a day in the garden.  After recent rains the grass was growing quite long and needed cutting.  Plants I had bought a couple of weeks ago needed repotting.  My veggie patch is now growing nicely and a few of the plants that had gone over needed to be removed.  It also needed remulching, and of course it had been voraciously attacked by grasshoppers while I was out bush last week and so I also had to spray them with a chilli pesticide that I made up to stop them eating all the plants.

The vegetable patch and surrounding garden before the clean up.

The grasshoppers chomping away on my plants.

Another grasshopper getting ready to chomp.

The vegetable patch after the clean up.  While I didn't get to start on the vegetable patch (a job for later in the week) I did clear and plant a bit around it.  A desert pea at the front and some portulaca at the side.  You can see the large pile of clippings in the compost patch at the back.

Still much more grass to cut.

04 December 2016

Meeting the neighbours dogs

As part of my current ‘Get Fit’ scheme I’ve been trying to get out and go for a walk more often than I have in the past. Unfortunately walking is dangerous. On Wednesday afternoon (30th November) I left my flat, set up my Strava and powered out of my front door and down the driveway. I was just walking past the house at the end of the row (unit 7) when all of a sudden a dog came running at me with its teeth bared.

I did not notice that the two dogs (German Shepards) were were sitting in the back of the car in the carport. One of them, called Wolf, I later found out, jumped out and went for me trying to bite me a few times. He did get his teeth into me giving me a bite on the belly. While the teeth didn’t go fully in they did break the skin and put a hole in my shirt. I also received a bruise to my leg where he again went to have a go. Luckily the owner was nearby and called the dog off me.

The owner, Patrick, apologised many times and said that it was totally his fault. Not that I thought it was mine of course. He took me into the house where he helped me clean the wound. Patrick said that he was just about to take the dogs for a walk and had received a phone call that had taken his attention from the dogs leaving them unattended. I was a bit shocked as you can imagine and so he sat me down and gave me a drink. I left after about half an hour after I’d stopped shaking.

I reported it to the Body Corporate (Whittles) who told me "I will make a record of the incident, however, it is completely up to you if you wish to take further action. Knowing Pat, he would have been devastated that the incident occurred, and would truly have been remorseful. For now, with it being a civil matter, I will leave it your hands”. It was an interesting response that seems like they’re sticking up for him. Anne has been speaking to some of the other neighbours and she tells me that the same dog had had a go one of the other neighbours as well. I’ll have to think about whether I should report it also to the Town Council.

The bite has now healed and the scabs and brushing is slowly going away. Soon it should be gone with hopefully no scaring left over.

11 September 2016

King of the Mountain

This morning I was up before the birds and stepped out into the cool morning air.  I knew it was before the birds as I couldn't hear any of them chirping away in their morning chorus.  Anne and I were doing the YMCA King of the Mountain race.  It is a yearly race from the YMCA to the radio towers on top of Mt Gillen.

Anne and I set off from Sadadeen YMCA at 6:30 on the dot and walked along the footpaths towards Heavitree Gap.  The roads were closed by the Police and Firies.  It's a nice feeling having a policeman close off the road so you can cross.

We walked through the gap and then made our way round to the base of the climb.  By this time we were both making pretty good time it was when we hit the bottom of the climb and started to head up, up and further up.  After a few minutes I could see that Anne was struggling.  It seemed that her asthma was playing up and that plus the lack of training made it even more difficult.  At the half was mark, about 100 metres up, was the ambulance station.  Anne had to stop there and have a bit of super ventolin.  I don't know what it was but it came in liquid form with a canister.

After about 5 minutes she was feeling better and ready to climb again, however, after about 20 metres she had to turn around and head back to the ambulance as she was suffering from some of the side effects of the gas.

As I neared the top of the hill (without Anne) this was the view.

I kept going.  I went all the way up to the top and made pretty good time.  I made it to the top and after a quick drink of water I turned around and headed back down to Anne at the Ambulance.  After a climb of 217 metres it was a great accomplishment for me.  I'd said it for a while that I'd have to do it before leaving.  That's another thing off the list.

After meeting up with Anne at the Ambulance again I gave her her medal and we had to have a photo.

On the way back down I almost forgot to have a photo.  This is me, tired but happy that I did it.

23 August 2016

Dogs at Areyonga

It breaks my heart to look at some of these dogs at Areyonga.  There are a couple that hang around the accommodation on the community a large one with long legs and sad face and a small one with short legs and a long coat.  It is now 21:30 at the temperature outside feels like it is in single digits.  There is a bit of drizzle in the air and a cold wind.  The little dog is sleeping on a chair on the verandah, wrapped tightly to keep out the wind.  The larger dog has vanished.  I’m guessing it wandered off trying to find somewhere warm and dry to sleep.  

Every time I come out here I see them.  Every time I think whether I should take them back to live with me.  I don’t know if someone owns them but I do think that I could give them a better bed.  Their life however is generally good, while they might not have enough food or a warm place to sleep, the have a life of freedom.  They aren’t locked up and can wander around as much as they like exploring everywhere.  They’ve never seen a backyard or been tied down.  I guess I come from a different world to the one out here.  As much as it hurts to see these dogs their days are warm and it is only when the weather is harsh that I expect they don’t enjoy it out here.  That said, maybe on my next visit I’ll decide differently.