• Children in the small desert town of Mount Liebig have helped their community win the tidy town awards. (NITV)Source: NITV
A very positive energy is bursting out of one remote community, which is turning old junk into vibrant art while transforming their town into an award winner.
Kris Flanders

The Point
17 Mar 2016 - 7:24 PM  UPDATED 17 Mar 2016 - 7:24 PM

You might not think a tiny desert town in the red outback more than 2250 kilometres from Sydney would stand a chance in the beauty stakes.

But Mount Liebig, 325 kilometres west of Alice Springs, has achieved something remarkable.

It’s beaten every other town in the Northern Territory to vie against other states’ nominees for the title of Australia’s tidiest in this weekend’s national contest face-off in Western Australia.

'It was just like we’d won the biggest football match ever'

For the small community of 200 winning the title of Northern Territory’s Tidiest Town is  “amazing”, says McDonnell Shire Council member Tammy Reiss.



“It was just like we’d won the biggest football match ever,” she said. “It was all hugs and seeing grown men have tears from being so proud and doing the job they’ve done and representing their people … it touches your heart.”

The little town’s campaign to compete for the award started four years ago as a community initiative by the adults.

And the kids took the contest to heart, making it a kind of working game. One day a week after school they grab a plastic bag and go on “emu-bobs” - ducking down to pick up any rubbish they can find. 

But what is most remarkable about Mount Liebig - known to the locals as Watiyawanu, which refers to their dreaming story of the willy wagtail - is how the creative spirit of the residents has transformed what might otherwise look like dumped junk into colourful artworks.

Old tyres have metamorphosed into brightly-painted rubber palm trees and story sculptures. Even playground equipment is made from offcut pipes and old repainted tyres.

And while Mount Liebig Zoo may not quite match Sydney’s Taronga, it gives it a run for imagination… with former junk transformed into colourful animals.

“We started off with giraffe and we’re just adding,” said Tammy Reiss.

“So every now and again a new animal pops in there and the kids love it, absolutely love it. They go in and have a muck around and pretend to feed the animals at the zoo.”

Artistic inspiration is at the heart of this community drive.

“The ladies hop underneath the big gathering shelter at the office and sit down and they do their dot stories on the tyres and when they bring family through from other communities they get to see their artworks and it’s theirs, it’s their signature, it’s their place, their thing.

“Very, very proud and they’re doing it in their own yards now.”

The town’s small civic works team are a major driving force behind the project, which has been upgrading homes and making sure the town is kept neat and tidy.

There is also a nursery growing moringa trees - also known as “the tree of life” or the “miracle tree” for its medicinal leaves.

Eventually the desert town’s streets will be lined with these miracles.

Watch the full story on The Point: