Monthly Archives: August 2007

A Short Glimpse of Des Rogers*

Born in Alice Springs from Afghan and Aboriginal descendants, Des Rogers was accepted as the traditional owner of Pertame Clan. His Great Great Grandfather was an Afghan cameleer and his Great Great Grandmother is a traditional Aboriginal woman born in Ultja, which lay in the bank of the oldest river in the world, Finke River.

Des Rogers often referred to his Grandmother and the influence she has had upon him in most of his speech and thoughts.

He then grew up in the stable family and move from one place to another. Spent his teenage time in down south, Des decided to leave home and school when he reached fifteen years-old of age.

“I hate school.”

Travelling around Australia became his choice. His lack of educational background brought him to the several labouring jobs.
He worked at a freezer storage in Woolangabba, abattoirs, construction sites, and loaded bales of hay for one cent a bale in Western Australia.
He hung up with young kids in that era who most of them put their self in trouble with the police. And as he came back to Alice when turning nineteenth years old, he had to end up in prison.

Escaping from Alice Springs Prison made him become famous as the first and only prisoner ever runaway from Alice Jail. This fame doesn’t give a good end at him, since he had to spend another three and a half years in Adelaide. That strict-and-highly-discipline-over-100-years-old prison had helped him made up his mind……”I’m not going back in here!!”

“For some prisoners who doesn’t have a stable family, life in prison is better than their life outside the cell. But for me who grew up in stable family, supermarket out there is more appealing than eating three times a day at prison.”

He was definitely sure that being 17 hours per day locked up was not his dream.

Alice Springs was once again being his place to go. Being a Garbo was his first job!! Our previous Alderman was a Garbo for three years…

Des believes so much in the effectiveness of networking, as he accepted in a new job as driver in a unit of Conservation Commission in Bushfires Council of the Northern Territory is because his network. Over the years he then became the Regional Manager for the Southern region of the N.T.

The choices then were between moving to Darwin as a public servant or stay in Alice and find other job. He realized that he didn’t want to be a public servant for the next 20 years.

“I didn’t want to go to Darwin because I have established here. I’m married and have lots of kids. As the consequences, I decided to build private business.”

“I think at some stage, in peoples lives they think of owning and running a small business.”

“I didn’t want to sell art, make music stick, or paint.”

“I wanted a mainstream business”

His concern to the indigenous people who have poor quality in fruit and vegetables brought an opportunity to build a business that can supply those fresh things. He surveyed to Adelaide and Melbourne to start the business. After applied to ATSIC for a business funding, the wholesale fruit and vegetables business become independent on the 15th of April 1994, and Des and his wife became their own boss. The business had employed 168 indigenous people over two and a half years.

As the business of Red Centre Produce grows, boards and council became Des field as well.

Alice Springs Town Council Alderman, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Cabinet Member, ATSIC Regional Chairperson, Deputy Chair Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary, Indigenous Infrastructure and Accommodation (subgroup CHG) Board Member, Interim Board Desert Knowledge Australia Member and more…

Currently as Pertame Clan member understanding culture, law, and language; Indigenous Consultant; Appointed Mentor and Business Consultant to the newly formed Arrente Council; Wallace Rockhole Community Government Council; Desert Knowledge Australia Board…

“Change is difficult and scary for all, but change is the only permanence in life.”

“Consultation rather than confrontation should be an integral part of the process of change.”

“If you want to change the system, you get in to it.”

Being in boards and councils is about participating and planning the program together. It’s about getting a chance to participate.

“Entering the debate and put your point of view. Even when they keep silence and give no respond, it will somehow bring impact in the future.”

“Once again, it’s about networking.”

“When I was first time elected, it’s because I act not as you and me, but as we.”

On 2006, the wholesale business was sold. Peppered Black becomes the next step of his business life.

The business will runs in the field of security, unearthing indigenous cuisine, art, café and dance. Those will include indigenous people as the main employee. Why? Because the concept of the business are to develop the economic capacity of the indigenous people and to build the image of them. It will be the indigenous business model where indigenous people do not rely on government and other business.

Indigenous people have to involve in mainstream business and be part of Western world. Not just left behind and do the business in the indigenous community itself. Like the security business that will run by his cousin, Mick, this 1st of December. The concept is to empower the indigenous people. The security will be indigenous people who spread through the tourism spot in Alice Springs. They will welcome and kindly serve the tourist with the information they need. This is a visual business where everyone can see that indigenous people aren’t just drunk and make chaos, to eliminate stereotyping to the indigenous. In fact they are kind and very helpful too.

“I got the capacity to build indigenous people and make them rely on their own business.”

“I will invest to the other indigenous people whom I know their capacity in the field that I offer. Someone who has the capacity to runs the business, passion, and enthusiasm. I’ll teach them to do the business and make them have their own business.”

This great concept of building indigenous economic capacity makes Des retired from some positions in the board and council. He chose to concentrate in the business. His concern to the life of indigenous had brought him to this business and leave the establish Red Centre Produce business.

His thought is always amazing…as what he stated in Public Meeting Alice Springs May 2006…

“I hope all the rhetoric today translates into action, and I, as an Indigenous man will be deeply offended if your objectives are watered down and diverted by the hand-holders, gate-keepers and protectors who impose their own form of paternalism through patronizing Indigenous people.”

“The problems we face here are not a black problem, or white problem. They are a community problem that together, we can fix.”

His concern in indigenous people was his basic concern in his careers and businesses.It’s not about who you are that make you a big person, but it’s about what and how you treated the people around you and your environment.

Knowing further about Des’s life will teach us many thing.Not to see the world as black and white colours.Not judge someone by his/her past.And more importantly, how to build a real mixed society without some group left behind…

Des gives spirit and opportunity for they who don’t have it. Small things that you do might have a great impact to your life, but if it doesn’t then it definitely have a great impact to someone else…

Have faith in what you do and be confident about who you are…that’s what this man will show when we had a chance to just sit and talk with him…person to person…

*unedited version; one of my writing in Bellette Media, a fabulous place to work, miss them a lot