By Nicky Way
Alice Springs is a town of contrasts. For a lot of the year you’ll find yourself sweating in 35C, but for two or three months of the year you’ll find yourself pretty cold, in fact sometimes below freezing! It doesn’t seem to bother the locals though. About 28,000 people call 'Alice' home (ABS June 2010), with another 12,000 living in surrounding areas.
The town is very remote, but it's also pretty easy to get to. Almost smack bang between Adelaide (1532km to the south) and Darwin (1499km to the north), you can fly into Alice from most major centres. If you’re feeling really leisurely, jump in the car for a two-day drive from Darwin or Adelaide. You can even arrive on the legendary Ghan: a luxury train travelling from Adelaide to Darwin and stopping in Alice Springs and Katherine. It’s an amazing journey that takes in the spectacular scenery of the famous red centre.
A lot of people living in Alice are employed in one of the top three industries: property and business services; government administration/defence forces; and manufacturing. Mining isn’t far behind, ranking fifth with a $110m contribution to an $870m economy, according latest ABS stats.
Newmont Mining Corporation owns and operates its Tanami gold mining operation about 540km north-west of Alice Springs, with workers doing FIFO from Alice, Darwin and Adelaide. They enjoy a well-equipped, 800-bed village, 40km from the mine, with all the mod cons. Benefits for the workers are good and include free private health insurance, a location allowance and an annual bonus scheme.
Back in town, the Alice Springs hospital is a teaching hospital and of course the only hospital for many hundreds of kilometres. Their work is supported by a range of health services including GP, chiropractic, hearing, aged care, cancer support, drug and alcohol, mental health, maternity and dental.
In terms of education, Alice Springs has 19 public and private schools (six of these are secondary schools) and seven pre-schools. Most primary schools have a pre-school attached and students take part in a transition period between pre-school and Year 1. Senior high school learning (Year 10-12) is run by Centralian College, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College and St Philip’s College. There are also specialist indigenous schools. The Alice Springs campus of Charles Darwin University offers TAFE and other secondary courses. For remote students there is the Alice Springs School of the Air. For the smaller kids, it may take you a little longer to get them into care. Daycare places, even though there are eight centres, are hard to come by. There range from private and state to indigenous and special needs daycare organisations as well as Family Daycare.
Shopping isn't too shabby for a remote location. Alice Plaza is located at the top of the Todd Mall with shops like Ed Harry’s, Just Jeans, Target and Rockmans. It also boasts underground parking. The Yeperenye Shopping Centre has over 40 specialty shops including Woolworths, Dick Smith Electronics, a florist and optometrist.
For leisure, there's the aquatic centre with waterslides, heated pools and a café. For the adults, Lassiters Hotel and Casino, featured in the movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert, is a great place for a meal or a little bit of one-armed-bandit therapy.
And you’re not a true member of the community until you’ve taken part in one of the unique events held in Alice: the Camel Cup, held every July; and the Henley-on-Todd Regatta. The regatta is held in the sandy bed of the Todd River and contestants make like the Flintstones to get their boats across the finish line any which way they can.
Sweating or freezing, there are plenty of options for work and play in the Alice. As Daryl Somers said in a popular tourism campaign: "You’ll never, never know, if you never, never go!"
"Alice Springs is an amazing place to live. The town has everything you need with plenty of shops, restaurants and pubs, while the surrounding landscape has to be seen to be believed. If you are lucky enough to have a 4WD, less than an hour's drive from town gets you to chasms and waterholes, while for the more adventurous there are stunning camping locations. Where else can you spend the day watching camels race, and go to a boat regatta that is cancelled for too much water? Yes it can get hot in summer, but for nine months of the year the weather is beautiful."
- Nari, Alice Springs
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