Each edition of Council Magazine we choose one local government from across Australia to shine a spotlight on. Whether it’s new infrastructure, an innovative technology project, a leading sustainability initiative or a community connection, we want to highlight the best of our local governments and share some valuable knowledge to other place makers across our nation. This edition, we spoke to Alice Springs Town Council to learn more about this unique LGA and history rich region. 

The Aboriginal Arrernte (pronounced arrunda) people are the Traditional Custodians of Alice Springs and the surrounding region. Mparntwe (pronounced m’barn-twa) is the Arrernte name of Alice Springs.

What is the population size and land area of Alice Springs Town Council?

Alice Springs has a population of 26,476 (according to ABS Estimated Population 2021), and the Alice Springs Town Council municipality covers the majority of the town, approximately 328.3km2.

There are more than 2,000 local businesses that trade in Alice Springs and Council manages 73 total parks.

How many employees work at Alice Springs Town Council?

There are 227 employees working for Alice Springs Town Council across the Civic Centre, Works Depot, Public Library, Regional Waste Management Facility and Aquatic Centre.

Who is the mayor?

Alice Springs Town Council Mayor, Matt Paterson, was elected to the role in 2021 when he was 30 years old, making him the youngest Mayor in Alice Springs history.

Qualified as an electrician, Mayor Paterson is a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Vice President of LGANT, and sits on the board of Tourism Central Australia, Chamber of Commerce and Regional Capitals Australia.

Mayor Paterson has an extensive history of working in various communities in Central Australia which has given him an intimate knowledge of the community.

Driven to continually improve the liveability of Alice Springs, Mayor Paterson is focused on delivering better infrastructure for Alice Springs families. He served as a Councillor and Deputy Mayor previous to being elected Mayor and is passionate about providing opportunities for all residents in Alice Springs.

Being a father to two young children, Mayor Paterson is focused on delivering better infrastructure for families in Alice Springs and making the community a better place for generations to come.

A decorated sports person, Mayor Paterson has also represented Alice Springs and the Northern Territory on the cricket field and has also dedicated time off the field to growing sport in the community. He has served as a Cricket Australia Community Ambassador, committee member of the Alice Springs Turf Club and a long-time president of his local cricket club.

Mayor Paterson is also heavily involved in the community outside of sport, putting a great deal of effort into connecting meaningfully with community members from all walks of life.

Who is the CEO?

Robert Jennings is the CEO of Alice Springs Town Council and prior to this was the CEO of Katherine Town Council for four and a half years. He has served as an executive officer in local government across three states and territories and is a member of the Northern Territory Planning Commission, as well as a former Commissioner of Tourism NT.

Mr Jennings is registered and qualified as an architect and economist and has an extensive international background. Prior to this time, he worked in the private sector for a national sustainable development company as a Registered Architect and as a partner in private practice.

Mr Jennings has over 22 years of experience across a wide range of fields including government, infrastructure, project management, sustainability and alternative energy, emergency management, land development, urban planning and architecture, construction and community and economic development.

What is the Council’s annual budget?

Alice Springs Town Council’s annual expenditure for the 2022/23 financial year is $47.3 million.

Can you give us a breakdown of spending for the budget year ahead?

Alice Springs Town Council is focused on improving infrastructure for the community throughout the 2022/23 financial year, with more than $1.5 million allocated to the Alice Springs Aquatic and Leisure Centre (ASALC) a highlight. This funding will see an Adventure Playground built to increase amenities for families, along with an outdoor gym to promote health and activity.

Key funding commitments have also been made by Council to support community-focused initiatives, including the development of a Multicultural Action Plan that ensures people from all walks of life feel safe and at home in the region.

What is Alice Springs Town Council’s vision for the community and its future?

Alice Springs Town Council prides itself on the traditional role of ‘rates, roads and rubbish’ it plays in the community, but it has also planned beyond that.

Council’s role has developed into a far more holistic one, and with that comes the need for direction that has led the local government to develop a forward-facing plan titled Alice Springs Liveability and Sustainability 2030.

This strategic document identifies five key pillars of focus for Council, corresponding to the needs of the community:

  • Pillar 1: Liveability
  • Pillar 2: Safety
  • Pillar 3: Environment
  • Pillar 4: Economy
  • Pillar 5: Governance and Civic

The plan aims at improving Alice Springs across those five major pillars, enriching the lives of residents.

A plan of this length is not something Alice Springs Town Council has done before, however Mayor Paterson believes it’s the right approach in the current climate.

“Much like Council’s role in the community, this plan takes a holistic look at Alice Springs and the needs of residents,” Mayor Paterson said.

“This plan showcases Council’s vision for Alice Springs, a place that empowers and connects residents. It details how Alice Springs Town Council can assist in tackling the challenges our town faces and help the region to prosper.”

Alice Springs Town Council’s Night Markets.

What makes the Alice Springs Town Council area special?

Alice Springs is an incredibly special and important part of Australia with a unique history. Arrernte stories describe how the landscape surrounding Alice, including the MacDonnell Ranges, was created by the actions of their ancestors, the caterpillar beings Ayepe-arenye, Ntyarlke and Utnerrengatye.

Creation stories also explain the traditional connection with more distant areas such as Urlatherrke (Mount Zeil) in the West MacDonnell Ranges, to Port Augusta in South Australia. Arrernte people living in Mparntwe continue to observe traditional law, look after the country, and teach their children Arrernte language and the importance of culture.

Alice Springs has an Aboriginal population of 17.6 per cent and almost 19 per cent of residents speak a language other than English at home.

This multiculturalism truly makes Alice Springs a special region with people from all walks of life coming together to live.

What are some of the unique challenges the region faces, and how does Council overcome these?

Alice Springs faces a range of unique challenges including being a service hub for remote communities across three states and territories.

In addition to the southern half of the Northern Territory, vulnerable people from Western Australia, South Australia and parts of Queensland frequently travel to Alice Springs to utilise essential services such as health care. This puts a tremendous strain on the town’s service industry and leads to negative situations including overcrowding and reduced living conditions in local housing.

How is Alice Springs Town Council addressing climate change and reaching sustainability goals?

Alice Springs Town Council knows the region provides unique climate challenges, due its location in the heart of the nation.

To help combat climate change, Council recently adopted a new Climate and Environment Policy to help embed climate and environmental objectives in everyday business.

The Climate and Environment Policy has the following objectives:

  • Reduce Council’s emissions and the use of fossil fuel energy sources and water resources
  • Preserve and improve the natural ecosystems of Alice Springs
  • Empower the community’s response to climate change
  • Advocate and become leaders for climate solutions in Alice Springs and the Northern Territory
  • Improve waste management and participation in a circular economy in Alice Springs

Council is also wary of the community’s vulnerability to rising temperatures, leading to planning for a greening strategy that encompasses the entire community.

This plan is currently in development and will see Council plant 250 trees across the town to increase shade and improve liveability.

What is an exciting community program or initiative Council has coming up in the future, or already underway?

Alice Springs Town Council has recently resolved to build a regional skate park, something that will prove to be a game changer for young families in the community.

Still in the design phase, the new regional skate park will be located at Newland Park after thorough consultation with the Alice Springs community. The park will be a centerpiece for Alice Springs and will include skate elements for people of all ages, but will extend far beyond that.

It will also include all-abilities playground equipment, picnic areas, outdoor learning areas, BMX facilities and much more.

“We know that Alice Springs needs better facilities for families. We need more spaces for young kids and families,” Mayor Paterson said.

“That is why this is such an exciting project that will benefit so many people across our fantastic community. Council are always looking at ways to empower residents and providing a top-class facility we can be proud of certainly helps to achieve that.”

Alice Springs Town Council Mayor, Matt Paterson, during the 2022 Territory Day Citizenship Ceremony.

Can you tell us about an interesting urban development project in the region?

A key project in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government is the development of a National Aboriginal Art Gallery (NAAG is a working title) in Alice Springs.

The NAAG will be an iconic initiative that recognises the importance of national reconciliation, truth-telling and Aboriginal leadership, culture and history.

This construction of an iconic gallery in the centre of Alice Springs will be dedicated to the celebration, display and interpretation of Aboriginal art and will be majority governed and curated by Aboriginal people. It will become a vehicle for First Nations people to tell their stories to the world and will chart a new course for connecting with Aboriginal art and culture.

How is Alice Springs Town Council embracing digitisation and growing its technological capabilities?

Alice Springs Town Council is passionate about supporting residents to stay involved and informed about their local government as much as possible. The media landscape has changed significantly over time, forcing organisations to adapt and think of new ways to reach the community.

This has led Council to live stream each Ordinary Council Meeting so as many locals can stay up to date as possible. Each Ordinary and Special Meeting is hosted online so no matter where residents are, they can still capture the conversation of their Elected Officials.

Council is also passionate about helping residents improve their knowledge and skills when it comes to technology. One of Council’s most popular initiatives is the annual Phoney Film Festival.

This unique program sees entrants up to the age of 25 capture short films entirely on their phone, with Council hosting workshops to assist in filming and editing content. These films are then screened at the Alice Springs Cinema for the wider public.

1 Comment
  1. Lee Frank 1 year ago

    Hi, I’m a writer/musican who lived in Central Australia 1985-1990. That period had a profound impact on me after which I travelled extensively in PNG and Asia before living in Tokyo for 16 years. I’ve been based in Darwin for the last decadeand a half. I’ve written songs, short stories and recorded spoken word pieces based on my travels and have been working at Council for Aboriginal Alcohol Program Services since 2017 where I’ve witnessed the power of culture and family when dealing with AOD recovery and repairing family dysfunction.
    I’ve tried contacting Micheal Liddle several times to no avail ( I used to be one of his tutors at IAD) . May I suggest one of your councul members visit our family-based facility to get an idea of what form of service may work dealing with the current crisis in Alice?

    Some clients clain CAAPS offers the best AOD programs in the NT.
    To end on a positive note, please feel free to drop by my Soundcloud page and listen to a song I’ve titled ‘The Jig of Alice’. I may well be in your town for the NT Writers’ Festival where I plan to perform with Rod Moss.

    https://soundcloud.com/radiokaragarga/the-jig-of-alice

    Regards

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