Alice singled out in German Foreign Office travel warning


The website of the German Foreign Office singles out Alice Springs as Australia’s only location mentioned in the chapter dealing with crime (Kriminalitaet) in its general travel advice (Allgemeine Reiseinformationen).
The first paragraph deals with the national situation in general, saying Australia is a safe country to travel in although there are thefts and break-ins into cars, and backpackers should be alert to thefts in hostels.
But the second paragraph in the chapter says this: “In Alice Springs care needs to be taken especially in the dark. Repeatedly there have been reports about assaults, also on foreign tourist (including armed robberies and rapes).
“With mobile homes only camping grounds with guards should be visited.” (Editor’s translation.)


  1. I was overseas recently and when I told other overseas travelers that I was from Alice Springs they replied: “Oh, that’s the place where the local aboriginals are drunk in the middle of town and are always fighting each other. We didn’t like it and have told all our friends not to go there.”
    No wonder the local tourist industry is struggling.

  2. The irony is that Alice Springs is considerably safer now than it was in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, most particularly in the period of 1989-91 when the Alice gained the dubious distinction as the “Murder Capital of Australia”. There were 11 homicides in the Alice in 1990, which worked out statistically as 48 murders per 100,000 (nationally it was 2 per 100,000). A similar situation existed in 1995, when Deputy ATSIC Commissioner Charles Perkins publicly noted there had been 12 murders in 11 months in Alice Springs.
    In 1991, according to Mayor Andy McNeill (as reported in 1994), there were over 13,000 cases of protective custody cases recorded for Alice Springs alone; equating to over 55 per cent of the (then) resident population being found drunk on the streets at least once per year. That’s the highest figure I’ve found so far in the history of Alice Springs.
    A decade later the figures had plunged by comparison but the year 2001-02 was another peak for protective custody cases, numbering 7813. That calculates to the equivalent of 27.7 per cent of the town’s population being found drunk on the streets at least once per year.
    I don’t know what the recent figures are but what I can say with assurance is that the current law enforcement program being implemented in Alice Springs is the most effective I’ve ever witnessed (I’ve lived in Central Australia almost 50 years, and been resident within Alice Springs for the majority of time since 1989).
    It is not true for anyone to claim that the current crime situation (which is still a serious problem) is the worst it’s ever been; a claim that has been made by a number of prominent individuals in this town in recent years.

  3. Forgive Them. After all in Germany it’s not been all that safe for strangers or natives alike!
    What Alice Springs needs (IMO) is more tourists not less. Tourists with a heart of thanksgiving for their neighbors Down Under (drunk or not) and a heart for this amazing land God gave to them.
    And after all, I’ve heard there is no cover-charge for the nightly fights in Alice Springs – so what’s to worry? lol.

  4. Yes Doug. We have experienced similar comments in a number of overseas countries.
    Unfortunately it is near impossible to change their minds or convince them they are only partly correct despite attempting to do so.
    The situation in Alice is not good but I would suggest better than being shot at or king hit in Sydney!

  5. I would like to second the comments made by Alex Nelson. From my vantage point of living in the Gap, the streets have gone remarkably quiet.
    I nominate the motor bike patrols as being fundamental to this very welcome development.
    Warmer weather is almost on us. After Saturday, hopefully either Henderson or Mills will leave that effort as it is. We need those cops on those bikes to keep up their good work!
    As for the travel advice, can we assume that the two European girls who were allegedly so brutally used earlier this year were from Germany?

  6. Following on from Hal Duell’s comment, in yet another example of how history repeats in Alice Springs, I remind everyone of the case of two young German women in 1988 who unwisely accepted a lift just south of Heavitree Gap who were pack-raped by a gang of young men. This case went to court early in 1990, and the perpetrators of this vicious crime received quite light sentences which prompted uproar from the public and an appeal against the sentences by the NT Government. The victims even went public in the local media, such was their disappointment with the way their case was handled. It generated a lot of adverse publicity for Alice Springs, which also coincided with a period of stagnant economic growth and a severe downturn in tourism.
    Nevertheless, the record shows that the tourism industry in Central Australia boomed right throughout that period of the 1970s and ’80s when crime rates were also sharply increasing. The local tourism industry is influenced far more by other extraneous factors than a poor local reputation for crime. All the same, if a permanent reduction in the level of crime and anti-social problems in Alice Springs can be achieved, that surely would be of great benefit to all of us, locals and visitors alike.

  7. Alex Nelson (Posted August 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm) is, as usual, absolutely spot on with his facts.
    Not only is it true that “the irony is that Alice Springs is considerably safer now than it was in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s”: thanks to the excellent work by the police and youth workers, the town is also safer than it has been at any time in the period since the ‘90s.
    The “winter-on-winter” data starting to become available for alcohol-related disturbances, crime, deaths and injuries indicate that the drop in incidents since the beginning of Operations Marathon and Daybreak (both commenced in the last half of May this year) is far beyond what anybody had dared hope to see. The police and government agencies have finally cracked a large proportion of the town’s problems. If they are permitted to continue these initiatives, we will enjoy a much improved social and economic climate, and probably also our own little cultural renaissance.
    By the way: Hal Duell (Posted August 24, 2012 at 8:29 am) is correct to nominate the police dirt bike patrols for special mention. However, the YSOS patrols and the follow-up work by youth and social workers also deserves special recognition, along with the long hours of foot slog clocked up by ordinary constables outside the bottle-shops.

  8. Hi Bob, there are at least two other groups who should be given recognition for what is happening now. They are the original Advance Alice group and Action for Alice. Without these two groups of concerned citizens raising their collective voice over many years I dare say none of the good work happening now would ever have occurred. The government was dragged kicking and screaming into the good fight to reclaim the Alice. Let’s keep on top of it now and hope that whoever is in government on Monday continues the proactive work now being done.

  9. @Rex Neindorf Posted August 24, 2012 at 9:32pm
    You say: “I dare say NONE of the good work happening now would ever have occurred.” My emphasis and your words Rex about your friends in Advance Alice and Action for Alice. Many separate groups actually work toward the one common goal.
    Jesus wept Rex, if it were only as simple as that in order to look after our little patch.
    With the help of the Alice Springs News staff, may I attempt to put a broader perspective?
    For starters, we have the work of whitefella Ted Egan and his families. Not every one that Ted works with is a member of Advance and Action For Alice.
    I know him not well but can and publicly will say happy birthday Ted on reaching octogenarian status.
    People like you are living legends.
    You cannot reduce the still producing life of Ted by listing the dozens of books and musical works that he has worked on.
    One of the talking points at the voting booths in Alice today will be the negative effects of the NT Emergency Response and so-called Stronger Futures legislation upon the town itself. The issue will not turn votes in towns like Alice but in the bush things will be different.
    The year of 2008 saw the publication of a small sized book titled “Due Inheritance” (Reviving The Cultural And Economic Wellbeing Of First Australians) [by Ted Egan – ED].
    I rushed into Big Kangaroo Books to buy six copies. I then perused it and have been re-reading and digesting its 147 pages of political wisdom ever
    A Dr David Headon of Canberra in his foreword asks the following of people like Paul Henderson and Terry Mills: “Due inheritance should be required reading for all those in the Federal and State Governments whose jobs directly relate to, or overlap, Aboriginal (First Australians) issues.”
    Do not be shy, Rex, to ask me for a copy.
    I warn you Rex and others; reading this will not take you to the old and very personally exhausting road. You will imbibe our own culture in a new way.
    It will indeed help transport you to a new, braver and arguably better world where we all have greater opportunity to exercise more responsibility.
    Regards from D. R. Chewings aka THE lone dingo.

  10. Yes Rex, (Posted August 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm), I agree that Advance Alice and Action for Alice played important roles in getting the NT government and its agencies prepared to take some big risks in backing Operation Marathon. However, the TV ad campaign by Action for Alice was an ill-advised method for building pressure on the government, as it was essentially a big blunt instrument which possibly did irrepairable damage to the tourist industry by hammering an unwarranted level of fear into high relief in the international media’s image of Alice Springs. The ads also led to a heightened sense of self-importance amongst some of the youth who were shown repeatedly in macho poses.
    A willingness of more people from the business community to join forces with the alcohol-reform movement may well have led to a critical mass that could have achieved significant government intervention at an earlier stage.
    One other thought: while you are in the mood for handing out awards for bravery, I think it would not be too much to ask for you to consider including John Boffa, Russell Goldflam, Vince Kelly, and PAAC on the list of those deserving mention in dispatches. Their persistent rational arguments were probably quite decisive with both police and government, in securing realisation about the need for bold preventative action on the grog-related violence front.

  11. Thanks Anita (Posted August 27, 2012 at 2:33 pm). It would be very useful if you could give the German Foreign Office and Der Spiegel a thumbs up about how out of date their warnings have become, before too many young Deutschies decide to steer clear of us. An eyewitness account, “in language”, from a local like yourself about the much safer place it has become since the police and youth workers combined forces and introduced much more effective preventative measures would go some way to restoring the damaged reputation of Alice Springs.


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