Alice Springs facts for kids
View of Alice Springs CBD from Anzac Hill.
|Location in Northern Territory|
|Area:||327.5 km² (126.4 sq mi) (2011 urban)|
|Time zone:||ACST (UTC+9:30)|
|LGA:||Alice Springs Town Council|
Alice Springs / / (Arrernte: Mparntwe) is the third largest town in the Northern Territory of Australia. Popularly known as "the Alice" or simply "Alice", Alice Springs is situated roughly in Australia's geographic centre.
The area is known as Mparntwe to its original inhabitants, the Arrernte, who have lived in the Central Australian desert in and around what is now Alice Springs for thousands of years. The name Alice Springs was given by surveyor William Whitfield Mills after Lady Alice Todd (née Alice Gillam Bell), wife of the telegraph pioneer Sir Charles Todd.
The town straddles the usually dry Todd River on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. The surrounding region is known as Central Australia, or the Red Centre, an arid environment consisting of several different deserts. In Alice Springs temperatures can vary dramatically, with an average maximum temperature in summer of 35.6 °C (96.1 °F) and an average minimum temperature in winter of 5.1 °C (41.2 °F). Alice Springs has faced many problems in recent years, largely stemming from an increase in crime and a strong racial divide that has existed for years in the town.
- Recreation and culture
- In popular culture
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The Arrernte Aboriginal people have made their home in the Central Australian desert in and around the site of the future Alice Springs for thousands of years, with evidence suggesting Indigenous occupation of the region dating back at least 30,000 years. The Aboriginal name for Alice Springs is Mparntwe. Many Arrernte people also live in communities outside of Alice Springs and on outstations.
Three major groups: the Western, Eastern and Central Arrernte people live in Central Australia, their traditional land including the area of Alice Springs and MacDonnell Ranges. They have also been referred to as Aranda, Arrarnta, Arunta and other similar spellings. There are five dialects of the Arrernte language: South-eastern, Central, Northern, Eastern and North-eastern.
Arrernte country is rich with mountain ranges, waterholes and gorges, which create a variety of natural habitats. According to the Arrernte traditional stories, in the desert surrounding Alice Springs, the landscape was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros and other ancestral figures.
The numerous sites of traditional importance in and around Alice Springs include Anthwerrke (Emily Gap), Akeyulerre (Billy Goat Hill), Ntaripe (Heavitree Gap), Atnelkentyarliweke (Anzac Hill) and Alhekulyele (Mt Gillen).
In 1861–62, John McDouall Stuart led an expedition through Central Australia, to the west of what later became Alice Springs, thereby establishing a route from the south of the continent to the north.
A white settlement was started ten years later with the construction of a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line (OTL), which linked Adelaide to Darwin and Great Britain. The OTL was completed in 1872. It traced Stuart's route and opened up the interior for permanent settlement. The Alice Springs Telegraph Station was sited near what was thought to be a permanent waterhole in the normally dry Todd River. The settlement was optimistically named Alice Springs after the wife of the former Postmaster General of South Australia, Sir Charles Todd. The Todd River was named after Sir Charles.
It was not until alluvial gold was discovered at Arltunga, 100 kilometres (62 mi) east of the present Alice Springs, in 1887 that any significant European settlement occurred. The town's first substantial building was the Stuart Town Gaol in Parson's Street which was built in 1909 when the town had a European population of fewer than 20 people. Many of the gaol's first prisoners were first contact aboriginal men incarcerated for killing cattle. The first aircraft, piloted by Francis Stewart Briggs landed in 1921. Central Australia's first hospital, Adelaide House, was built in 1926 when the European population of the town was about 40. It was not until 1929 when the train line to Alice was built, that the town's European population began to grow. Aboriginal Centralians outnumbered European Centralians until the mid-1930s. Until 31 August 1933, the town was officially known as Stuart.
The original mode of British-Australian transportation in the outback were camel trains, operated by immigrants from Pathan tribes in the North-West Frontier of then-British India (present-day Pakistan); known locally as Afghan cameleers based at Hergott Springs, or Marree as it is now known. Many cameleers moved to Alice Springs in 1929 when the railway finally reached the town. They lived on the block where the town council now is transporting goods from the rail head to stations and settlements to the north. A gold rush in Tennant Creek in 1932 kept the wheels of the Alice Springs economy flourishing until the outbreak of World War II.
Alice Springs was connected to Darwin by rail on 4 February 2004, when the first passenger train arrived in Darwin from Adelaide.
World War II
World War II brought significant changes to Alice Springs. Prior to the war, Alice Springs was an extremely isolated settlement of fewer than 500 people. During the war, however, the town was an extremely active staging base, known as No. 9 Australian Staging Camp, and a depot base for the long four-day trip to Darwin. The railway hub in Alice Springs was taken over by military operations and the number of soldiers posted in Alice Springs grew rapidly, as did the number of personnel passing through on their way to and from Darwin. When Darwin was threatened by Japanese forces, the sea routes—the Northern Territory capital's primary means of transportation and resupply—were cut off. The evacuation of Darwin first brought a large number of civilians including elected officials and many of the territory government's records. Alice Springs became the war-time civilian capital of the Northern Territory. When Darwin was bombed by Japanese air forces, a large number of military personnel and their heavy equipment were rapidly moved south to Alice Springs.
The number of soldiers posted in Alice Springs peaked at around 8,000 and the number of personnel passing through totalled close to 200,000. Once the war ended, the military camps and the evacuees departed and Alice Springs' population declined rapidly. But Alice would be changed for ever. After being visited by nearly 200,000 people, including the American General Douglas MacArthur, Alice Springs gained considerable fame. The war years also left behind many beneficial material assets. The historically-listed Totem Theatre, created for the entertainment of this camp, still exists today. The Australian Army set up the 109th Australian General Hospital at Alice Springs. Seven mile aerodrome was constructed by the Royal Australian Air Force. War related operations necessitated the first sealing of the road between Alice Springs and Larrimah, expansion and improvement of Alice Springs' water supply, and improving the rail head. The war-related operations left behind thousands of pieces of excess military equipment and vehicles, and a marked increase in Alice Springs' population.
During World War II Alice Springs was the location of RAAF No.24 Inland Aircraft Fuel Depot (IAFD), completed on 20 May 1942 and closed in November 1944. Usually consisting of 4 tanks, 31 fuel depots were built across Australia for the storage and supply of aircraft fuel for the RAAF and the US Army Air Forces at a total cost of £900,000 ($1,800,000).
Post World War II
During the 1960s Alice Springs became an important defence location with the development of the US/Australian Pine Gap joint defence satellite monitoring base, home to about 700 workers from both countries.
By far the major industry in recent times is tourism. Almost in the exact centre of the continent, Alice Springs is some 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) from the nearest ocean and 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) from the nearest major cities, Darwin and Adelaide. Alice Springs is at the midpoint of the Adelaide–Darwin Railway.
The modern town of Alice Springs has both European and Aboriginal influences. The town's focal point, the Todd Mall, hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. Alice Springs' desert lifestyle has inspired several unique events, such as the Camel Cup, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, Beanie Festival and the Tatts Finke Desert Race.
Alice Springs has many historic buildings including the Overland Telegraph Station, the Old Courthouse and Residency and the Hartley Street School. Adelaide House, a beautiful stone building in the middle of the Mall, Central Australia's first hospital, was designed and built by the Rev. John Flynn, founder of the world's first flying doctor service, in 1926. It was also the site of the world's first successful portable wireless radio experiment conducted by Alf Traeger. Today it is a museum, one of several significant tourist attractions which form part of 'The Flynn Trail' a self-guided urban heritage trail.
Today the town is an important tourist hub and service centre for the surrounding area. It is a well-appointed town for its size, with several large hotels, a world-class convention centre, and a good range of visitor attractions, restaurants, and other services.
The region around Alice Springs is part of the Central Ranges xeric scrub area of dry scrubby grassland and includes the MacDonnell Ranges which run east and west of the city and contain a number of hiking trails and swimming holes such as Ormiston Gorge, Ormiston Gorge Creek, Red Bank Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge. The 223-kilometre-long (139 mi) Larapinta Trail follows the West MacDonnell Ranges and is considered among the world's great walking experiences.
The Simpson Desert, south-east of Alice Springs is one of Australia's great wilderness areas containing giant red sand dunes and interesting rock formations such as Chambers Pillar and Rainbow Valley.
Located just South of the Tropic of Capricorn the town of Alice Springs straddles the usually dry Todd River on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. Alice Springs is located in Central Australia, also called the Red Centre, an arid environment consisting of several different deserts.
In Alice Springs, temperatures can vary by up to 28 °C (50 °F) and rainfall can vary quite dramatically from year to year. In summer, the average maximum temperature is in the mid 30s, whereas in winter the average minimum temperature can be 5.5 °C (41.9 °F), with an average of 12.4 nights below freezing every year. The elevation of the town is about 545 metres (1,791 feet), which contributes to the cold nights in winter. The highest temperature on record is 45.2 °C (113.4 °F) on the 3 January 2006, while the record low is −7.5 °C (18.5 °F), recorded on 17 July 1976. This is also the lowest temperature recorded in the Northern Territory.
Under the Köppen climate classification, Alice Springs has a desert climate (BWh). The annual average rainfall is 285.9 millimetres (11.3 in) which would make it a semi-arid climate except that its high evapotranspiration, or its aridity, makes it a desert climate. Annual precipitation is erratic, varying year to year in Alice Springs. In 2001 741 millimetres (29.2 in) fell and in 2002 only 198 millimetres (7.8 in) fell. The highest daily rainfall is 204.8 millimetres (8.06 in), recorded on 31 March 1988.
|Climate data for Alice Springs (Alice Springs Airport 1940–2016)|
|Record high °C (°F)||45.2
|Average high °C (°F)||36.3
|Average low °C (°F)||21.4
|Record low °C (°F)||10.0
|Rainfall mm (inches)||40.7
|Avg. rainy days||4.8||4.6||3.3||2.2||3.0||2.8||2.6||2.0||2.4||4.4||5.5||6.0||43.6|
|Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology|
Since 2013 the population of Alice Springs has declined. The population estimate for June 2015 of 27,972 was a decline of 1 percent on 2014. The five-year average rate of growth until June 2015 was negative 0.3 percent year-on-year. In 2006, the largest ancestry groups in the Alice Springs were Australian (9,814 or 31.4%), English (6,970 or 22.3%), Irish (2,217 or 7.1%), Scottish (1,825 or 7.1%), Australian Aboriginal (1,790 or 5.7%, although note that a far greater proportion of the town's residents identify as Aboriginal), German (1,502 or 4.8%), and Italian (529 or 1.7%). Although 74.7% of Alice Springs' population was born in Australia, the most common places of birth for immigrants in 2006 Census were the United Kingdom (3.4%), United States of America (3%), New Zealand (1.9%), and Philippines (0.8%).
According to the 2006 census, Aboriginal Australians make up approximately 18.8% of the population of Alice Springs and 27.8% of the Northern Territory, although the census figure for Alice Springs is likely to be an underestimate. As Alice Springs is the regional hub of Central Australia, it attracts Aboriginal people from all over that region and well beyond. Many Aboriginal people visit regularly to use the town's services. Aboriginal residents usually live in the suburbs, on special purpose leases (or town camps), or further out at Amoonguna to the South and on the small family outstation communities on Aboriginal Lands in surrounding areas.
The traditional owners of the Alice Springs area are the Central Arrernte people. As it is the largest town in central Australia, there are also speakers of Warlpiri, Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarre, Luritja, Pintupi, Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra, Pertame, Eastern, and Western Arrernte among others.
Foreign and itinerant populations
Americans have lived in Alice Springs continuously since the establishment of the United States Air Force Detachment 421, in 1954. Currently located on Schwarz Crescent, it is part of a joint American–Australian project called the Joint Geological and Geographical Research Station (JGGRS). The unit is locally known as "Det 421" or "The Det" and has sponsored as many as 25 American families to live as temporary residents of the Alice Springs district. To mark the longstanding friendship with the community, on 1 July 1995, the Alice Springs Town Council granted Detachment 421 freedom of entry to the Alice Springs. Since the early 1970s, the majority of the American population in Alice Springs has been associated with proximity to Pine Gap, a joint Australian-US satellite tracking station, located 19 kilometres (12 mi) south-west of Alice Springs, that employs about 700 Americans and Australians.
Currently, 2,000 residents of the Alice Springs district hold American citizenship. Many of these, joined by some Australians, celebrate major American public holidays, including Independence Day and Thanksgiving. Americans in Alice Springs are also known to participate in a variety of associations and sporting teams, including baseball, basketball, and soccer competitions.
Several small immigrant communities of other foreign cultures have found a home in Alice Springs, including Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian ethnic groups. The most obvious impact of their presence in such a small and isolated town has been the opening of various restaurants serving their traditional cuisines.
Alice Springs has a large itinerant population. This population is generally composed of foreign and Australian tourists, Aboriginal Australians visiting from nearby Central Australian communities, and Australian or international workers on short-term contracts (colloquially referred to as "blow-ins"). The major sources of work that recruit workers into town are the stations and mines. Foreign tourists usually pass through on their way to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, whilst Australian tourists usually come through as a part of an event such as the Masters Games and the Finke Desert Race. These events can cause the population of the town to fluctuate by several thousand within a matter of days.
Recreation and culture
Alice Springs has been referred to as the lesbian capital of Australia. Analysis of same-gender dual occupancy and household ownership figures from the Australian Census appears to substantiate the claim. The large population is attributable to the Pine Gap Women's Peace Protest of 1983, which created a critical population mass and continually self-sustaining lesbian community.
Events and festivals
The town's focal point, the Todd Mall, hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. Alice Springs' desert lifestyle has inspired several unique events, such as the Alice Desert Festival, the Red Centre NATS, Parrtjima, the Camel Cup, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, the Beanie Festival and the Finke Desert Race. The Finke Desert Race is a 'there and back' challenge from Alice Springs to Aputula (Finke) Community, covering a 460 km round-trip.
Arts and entertainment
Alice Springs is renowned as the Aboriginal Art capital of Central Australia, home to many local and Aboriginal art galleries. Indigenous Australian art is the more dominant, and galleries showcase the rich culture and native traditions that abound in Central Australia. Trade in Aboriginal art soared after the painting movement began at Papunya, a Central Australian Aboriginal settlement, and swept other indigenous communities. Central Australia is the home of some of the most prominent names in Aboriginal art, including Emily Kngwarreye, Minnie Pwerle, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Albert Namatjira and Wenten Rubuntja. The Museum of Central Australia / Stehlow Research Centre feature some of the most important natural history and archival materials tied to the history and culture of the region. The Strehlow Archives also contain materials linked to the Arrernte people of Central Australia. The Araluen Centre for Arts and Entertainment presents world-class ballets and orchestras, as well as local performances. The National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame is also located in the town.
Locals also enjoy meeting up in Konjo Park for a BBQ every Sunday at 11am. This is an excellent time to meet and greet the locals who can quite often undertake games of Football and Frisbee.
The annual Desert Mob Art Show sees art collectors and art lovers from all over the world travel to Alice Springs to see works from Aboriginal art centres in Central Australia, with works by artists from remote areas of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. This show is operated in conjunction with the artist association "Desart", and usually runs in September of each year at the Araluen Art Centre.
In popular culture
- Liz Phair included a song called "Alice Springs" on her 1994 album Whip Smart.
- The group Midnight Oil mention Alice Springs in their songs "Kosciusko" and "Warakurna" ('There is enough in Redfern as there is in Alice'); and they mention Pine Gap in "Power and the Passion".
- The well-known Australian song "My Island Home" was originally written about the experience of an islander living 'west of Alice Springs', and this is mentioned in the lyrics of the original Warumpi Band version of the song.
- Nevil Shute's novel A Town Like Alice, and the resulting film and television mini-series, take their name from Alice Springs, although little of the action takes place there; because part of the story is set in Willstown (possibly modelled on Burketown) situated north of Alice Springs, near the Gulf of Carpentaria. The heroine, Jean, wants to change Willstown into a town "like" Alice. The local library in Alice Springs is named after Nevil Shute: the Nevil Shute Memorial Library.
- Lasseters Casino in Alice Springs is the destination for the drag queen protagonists in the Australian road movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The movie became a hit West End show, before transferring to Broadway.
- Alice Springs is featured in Bruce Chatwin's 1987 travelogue The Songlines, recounting the author's retreat into the Australian Outback in search of the Aboriginals' Dreaming-tracks.
- Alice Springs is featured in Bill Bryson's 2000 travelogue Down Under (also known as "In a Sunburned Country"). Bryson visits and describes the scenes of Alice Springs including the Telegraph Office, the Springs, and his trip to Uluru from Alice Springs.
- Dick Diver released a song called "Alice" on the 2013 album Calendar Days.
- The opening track of Mystery Jets' 2011 album Serotonin is entitled "Alice Springs", inspired by a tour in Australia.
Leisure and entertainment activities include hiking in the nearby MacDonnell Ranges, driving the four-wheel drive tracks at Finke Gorge National Park and visiting the many art galleries in Todd Mall.
The town has some excellent small museums. The extensive collection at the Old Timer's Traeger Museum on the North Stuart Highway includes artefacts from the town's early Afghan and German residents, traditional Aboriginal artefacts and objects which show the early fusion of European and Aboriginal cultures like a spinifex-handled glass-bladed knife. An audio tour and educational riddle style activities for children can be downloaded from The Flynn Trail web site. The museum is open from 2pm – 4pm seven days a week.
Parks and gardens
The Alice Springs Desert Park was created to educate visitors about the many facets of the surrounding desert environment. The arid climate botanic garden, Olive Pink Botanic Garden, is a short distance from the town centre. They were named after anthropologist, naturalist and artist Olive Pink, who lived in the town for almost 30 years and died in 1975. She was well known locally and referred to by all as Miss Pink. The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is located in the town centre.
Australian rules football is a particularly popular sport in Alice Springs in terms of both participation and as a spectator sport. The Central Australian Football League formed in 1947 has several teams. The sport is particularly popular in Indigenous communities. The local stadium, Traeger Park, has a 10,000 seat capacity and was designed to host (pre-season) AFL and is currently home to the Northern Territory Thunder. In 2004, an AFL pre-season Regional Challenge match between Collingwood Football Club and Port Adelaide Football Club attracted a capacity sell-out crowd.
Rugby League has been a part of the local sporting scene since 1963. The Australian Rugby League has held a number of pre-season games in Alice Springs, at ANZAC Oval. The local competition is the Central Australian Rugby Football League, and sanctions both Junior and Senior Rugby League matches. The season usually kicks off around March/April and runs through to Late August. There are 4 senior teams in Alice Springs; Wests, Memo, United and Vikings. Matches are held during the winter months at ANZAC oval on Saturday afternoons.
Organized baseball has been played in Alice Springs since the mid-1950s. Currently under the national organisation of the Australian Baseball Federation, the Alice Springs Baseball Association organises baseball competitions for youth players ages 5 – 18 and an adult competition played at Jim McConville Park and on Lyel Kempster Field at Traeger Park. As part of the worldwide Little League network, Alice Springs players and compete in the Australian National Little League competitions.
Cricket is a popular sport in Alice Springs and is primarily played at Traeger Park. The Imparja Cup Cricket Carnival first was played in 1994 and attracts Indigenous teams from all across Australia. The four main clubs are Federal Demons CC, Rovers CC, RSL Works CC and Wests CC.
Soccer is very popular among the younger community. A high number of children play it. Soccer is also played frequently by amateur adults in different divisions. There is also an all-African league for soccer in Alice Springs.
The Traeger Park sporting complex also hosts tennis, baseball, boxing, swimming, canoe polo, hockey, basketball, squash, badminton, gymnastics and skateboarding.
A unique sporting event, held annually, is the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, also known as the Todd River Race. It is a sand river race with bottomless boats and it remains the only dry river regatta in the world. Another unusual sporting event is the Camel Cup. The annual Camel Cup is held in July at Blatherskite Park, part of the Central Australian Show Society grounds. It is a full day event featuring a series of races using camels instead of horses.
Every year, on the Queen's Birthday long weekend, the annual Finke Desert Race is held. It is a gruelling off-road race that runs from Alice Springs to the Finke community, then back again the next day. The total length of the race is roughly 500 kilometres (310 mi). It attracts spectators, who camp along the whole length of the track, and roughly 500 competitors, buggies and bikes, every year, making it the biggest sporting event in the Alice Springs calendar.
Drag racing is held at the Alice Springs Inland Dragway which in June 2013 will host a round of the national Aeroflow Sportsman Drag Racing Championship.
Alice Springs is also home to the Arunga Park Speedway, a 402-metre dirt oval speedway. The speedway runs from August to March and caters to cars, solos and sidecars. Located just off the Stuart Highway on the northern edge of the town, Arunga Park hosted the Australian Sidecar Championship in 1985 and the Australian Solo Championship in 1991.
Images for kids
This view shows the transport links passing through Heavitree Gap in the MacDonnell Ranges found adjacent to the town
Alice Springs Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.