Both my “Outback Doctors” series of novels, as well as my current standalone work in progress, are all based in and around Alice Springs, in Australia’s Northern Territory. Alice Springs is a desert town, approximately 1,500kms from Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, and approximately 2,660kms from Brisbane, the capital of Queensland.
I am often stunned by just how little people in other states of Australia seem to know about the Northern Territory, which in land mass, is the third largest at 1,347,791 square kilometres, behind Western Australia and Queensland.
Alice Springs is famous for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the Nevil Shute novel “A Town Like Alice”. Alice Springs is host to the famous Beanie Festival, which attracts entrants from all over Australia, as well as Australia’s ultimate desert race, the Finke Desert Race, which has the reputation of being one of the most difficult offroad courses in one of the most remote places in the world.
The most surprising thing to me, however, is just how ignorant other places are of the Indigenous population that live in and around Alice Springs. Honestly, I cannot tell you how many times I am asked if the ‘aborigines cause any problems for the white people’?!
Firstly, no. They are human beings like everyone else, they don’t roam naked in town wielding spears (yes, I was really asked this). Secondly, it is their land we are living on. With this in mind, here are a few facts about the local Indigenous population of Alice Springs that you may not be aware of.
Sport is huge. Take it from someone who prefers indoor pursuits, if you don’t play or support a local sporting team, you will find it hard to fit in and make friends. Lucky for me, my tribe of people are indoorsy too. Indigenous players have contributed enormously to Australian football, indeed, Indigenous athletes participate, and excel in, all walks of Australia’s sporting life.
Indigenous people believe that ancestor beings travelled across the country forming landmarks and songlines or trails, connecting the sacred sites created by these spirit beings. Respect for ancestors is expressed through respect for country.
Dreaming encompasses the past, present and future, and continues to exist today. It is passed on through the generations with oral stories, songs and rituals.
There is not just one group of Indigenous people in Alice Springs, there are distinct social groups, each one maintaining its own language, culture and beliefs. Although there is some overlap and many similarities, there are many important differences between these distinct communities.