The remote Indigenous community of Canteen Creek is a speck on the map, about 270km to the south-east of Tennant Creek. The town sits in a valley on the edge of the Davenport Ranges, and is reached by a bone-juddering 180km journey along a dirt road from the Stuart Highway turnoff.
This is Alyawarr country, and it is home to 250 to 300 people, depending on the time of year. Enrolment at the Canteen Creek school runs at about 80.
The Creek crew first visited the Alice Springs Croc Festival in 2005, when a group of 26 girls made the journey in to perform a dance called Breaking down the Barriers. But only the kids who attended school regularly got to go to Croc Festival - that’s the rules.
In 2006, the primary school boys joined the girls to make up a troupe of 30 who made the trip west to put on a production of The Lion King. A video of this performance won a Silver Award at the national Wakakirri Story Festival.
This year, the Canteen Creek contingent bound for the Alice Croc Festival was to number 36. After looking on for two years, the high school boys were keen to get into the action this year. This was a crucial development. Quite simply, the importance of engaging young Aboriginal men in positive community activities of this kind can’t be overstated.
Teachers and students spent two 90-minute sessions each week over a 10-week period, preparing an extravaganza entitled Canteen Creek Carnivale: Dare 2B Different.
The theme of the piece is to stand up and be strong for yourself, rather than just following the crowd. Sadly, it seems that no one will get to see it. Barring a miracle, the Alice Springs Croc Festival, scheduled for late August, will fall over for the want of a few thousand dollars of sponsorship.
The kids from Canteen Creek - and a host of other far-flung schools besides - will miss out on the opportunity to be energised by the possibilities that the wider world has to offer.
That’s desperately unfortunate.
Just out of curiosity, I wandered along to an Alice Springs Town Council meeting to witness this august legislative body make a decision about whether to lend its full support to the Croc Festival.
Much time was consumed in animated discussion about the pros and cons of putting up more lighting at one of the local soccer grounds. Great consideration was also given to the possibility of some street closures to make life more liveable for some of the locals.
However, the other recommendations of the Corporate and Community Services Committee were accepted without debate.
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