Tarsha Finney, UTS Senior Lecturer, writes for The Conversation:

Each year for the last three years, I’ve taken a group of architecture students to Alice Springs for a 10-day urban design workshop. I first found myself in this city during Desert Mob – the annual sale of artworks produced in central and western desert regions of central Australia. Of the $500 million in revenue generated annually from the sale of the visual arts in Australia, $400 million of that is spent on Indigenous artworks. A significant proportion of that comes from this region.

During my 2008 visit, I was struck by the fact that something very extraordinary was happening in Alice Springs, a city of 29,000 people. Desert Mob still happens every August, but many other things have changed in Alice Springs over the last four years. The media in the eastern states is full of stories about the city’s urban decay, racial violence, homelessness, prostitution, alcoholism and the return of petrol sniffing. Any visitor to Alice Springs will see that many of these stereotypes are valid, but they will also realise how simplistic the reports are.

What few in the media recognise is that these are merely symptoms of a number of long-term problems that are putting Alice Springs’ future into jeopardy. The Federal Government’s Northern Territory intervention has resulted in a series of deficits and excesses in the city, with housing at a critically low supply. There has also been a dramatic increase in urban drift from remote communities into town, resulting in a visible increase in homelessness. This is compounded by the presence of many people moving through the city on a weekly basis seeking treatment in Alice Springs in its capacity as regional health hub ……………..

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Launched in March 2011, The Conversation is an independent source of information, analysis and commentary from the university and research sector.