The 39th Annual Finke Desert Race was held on the 7th – 10th of June. Unbeknown to most people, even the race participants themselves, the Finke Desert Race is held in conjunction with the Community Sports weekend; making it a busy time for all involved.
Constable Nick Mitchell, Community Engagement Police Officer (CEPO), Ghan Region
For those of you who haven’t crossed the ‘Berrimah Line’ in 40 years, the Finke Desert Race is an annual off road race held on the Old Ghan railway track which runs between Alice Springs and Finke community. The track is approximately 226kms of horrendous jump-ups, sandy stretches and rocky terrain with Buggy’s reaching speeds of over 240kph and bikes topping out at around 180 kph.
This year there were approximately 550 riders with 93 Buggy’s, cars and trucks. When you add the spectators and support crew it makes for a massive event.
Although most of the attention is focused on the vehicles and competitors and the action at the Start/Finish line, all too easily overlooked is the hard work of the volunteers, Police, St John Ambulance, pit crews and organisers along the track and at the half way mark of the race at Finke community itself. Local Police helped with crowd control and marshalling, as well as providing track advice and posing for many a photo opportunity.
This year the Sports Carnival involved teams from 15 communities from as far as Yalata located near Ceduna in South Australia. The players and visitors added approximately 700 people to the small community for the sports weekend, with a further 2,000 people located at the camp ground for the Desert Race event.
The football grand final was held on the Wednesday between Santa Teresa and Amata Communities, with Amata taking the crown and prize money.
Police conducted proactive patrols, community engagement activities and worked closely with Night Patrol and other agencies to ensure that both the events ran smoothly and safely without any major issues.
Friday night saw a disco organised for the youngsters at Finke, with Sergeant Swain cutting some impressive moves on the dance floor. There was also a ‘Battle of the Bands’ on Saturday Night and an ‘Open Mic Night’ on Sunday. All these events were run by the local NPY Woman’s Council employees and attended by Police members.
Even with the busy schedule, local members managed to procure some fresh oysters, with Sergeant Auright from Kulgera Police cooking up some of the best oyster kilpatrick seen in the Central Desert region in years.
At times during the weekend Police, Health department staff and event organisers were stretched to the limit by the demands imposed by both events, but forged a strong working partnership which saw everyone working together to keep the events safe and enjoyable.