Youth curfew back on town council agenda


A youth curfew is back on the Town Council’s agenda but at least two councillors are saying that before local government becomes involved, it should check what the NT Government’s intentions are about juvenile delinquency.
Cr Eli Melky has put a motion on notice for next Tuesday’s meeting that the council urges the government to consider empowering youth services providers and police to issue on the spot curfew orders to youths under 15 who are in Alice Springs and are deemed to be be in harm’s way.
But Cr Brendan Heenan says: “Who the hell is going to run this, pick up the young people – and take them where?
“In many cases their homes are more dangerous than the streets.
“And who will pay for it – not the council, surely.
“We must not go off half-cocked.”
Cr Liz Martin (pictured; she heads up the National Road Transport Hall of Fame) says her stance of opposing a youth curfew has not changed.
She says there is no one size fits all solution, and measures such as “tough love” institutions, giving them “some sort of life strategy,” psychiatric care and mandatory detention instead of bail should be considered: “It’s the same kids who re-offend. They blow bail.”
She has seen it in the Top End: children would be released from the Wildman River facility, left to their own devices, and soon be back in youth custody.
“And many of those who didn’t had gone to the adult gaol.”
The motion will be discussed in the open part of Tuesday’s meeting by the elected members. The public can ask questions at the start of the meeting.


  1. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that curfews work. Just disengages and disenfranchises youth and juveniles further. GPS bracelets or anklets for people on bail … another story.
    Youth curfews for Alice … not on my watch!!!

  2. It will be interesting to learn how this debate goes. I’m thinking that while a curfew can be made to look good (and easy) on paper, it will prove impossible to implement. As Cr Heenan asks, who will pick up these kids, and where will they be taken?
    And the same goes for GPS bracelets. Who will administer that labour-intensive effort?
    The NT desperately needs a juvenile detention facility, but watch the agony-aunts wax indignant if that idea ever gets seriously proposed. And even this would only work for the mid-range teens.
    Trouble is, there are feral children growing up in Alice, and until they are made to attend school to learn something, a feral life is all they will ever have. They are beyond the reach of the law (and don’t they know it!), and their supposed culture is largely an urban myth. In effect, they have neither law nor culture, and their future is beyond bleak.
    The way out of this impasse, and in my opinion the only way out, is to build early childhood centres and primary schools and insist on attendance. Or build jails and insist on attendance there a bit further down the track. The second option is the system we have now, in case anyone hasn’t noticed.

  3. Phil Walcott is right: youth curfews don’t work.
    But don’t take our word for it. Listen to the wise words Jodeen Carney, former CLP Parliamentary leader and then Chair of the 2011 Youth Justice Review has to say on the topic. Ms Carney’s recent radio interview on the ABC about youth curfews is here:
    The former Labor government approved all of the recommendations in Ms Carney’s report, and when they took office, the CLP government said they also agreed with them all, and would continue the work of implementing them.

  4. Great to see Brendan and Liz adding thoughtful comments to this discussion.
    An important part of the 2011 Central Australian Aboriginal Congress strategy “Rebuilding Family Life in Alice Springs and Central Australia: the social and community dimensions of change for our people” is a detailed proposal for multi-systemic intensive therapies aimed at helping the most seriously damaged young people, along with their families, in a similar approach to the process suggested by Liz in her comments here (see page 32 of “Rebuilding Family Life”).
    The same document on pages 21 and 22 strongly recommends making early childhood and pre-school programs available to all children from disadvantaged families, along similar lines to those which Hal Duell (Posted January 25, 2013 at 11:45 am) seems to have in mind.

  5. Has Eli been channeling Elvis again? Will he sing In the Ghetto to council this time to support his curfew proposal. There is no doubt he means well, but that is not enough. Bob Durnan, Russell Goldflam and Brendan Heenan are on the right track on this issue. Let’s avoid simple populism and tackle the youth issue holistically.

  6. Until take-away alcohol is banned from sale on a Sunday and some semblance of sanctity is seen as being restored by the leaders of this town, you can forget about teaching the youth how to behave.

  7. Good on you Eli, if nothing at least this has stirred debate. Youth are still running amok in Alice and must be brought under control. Hal’s post 11:45am states it as it is. Fortunately over the last two years new technology is now available to us which can help police both youth at night or at any time for that matter and Hal will also cover the GPS bracelets, they will not be labour intensive to track at all.
    This technology is up and running in selected places in Alice Springs right now. The police know about it and so do many of the council members.
    If it was rolled out across Alice crime would drastically shrink from a flood to a trickle. It is well beyond time that this new technology was implemented.
    Some call it “Big Brother”. I call it “peace of mind”. Want to know more, feel free to pop by and ask me, I’m only too happy to show you how to turn Alice into the place it should be, almost overnight!

  8. I personally welcome the continuing discussion bought on by Councillor Melky on issues related to youth, youth crime and a possible curfew.
    I believe council has a moral responsibility to, and for, our Youth, homeless or otherwise.
    Council should maintain a constant involvement with this issue, striving along with the wider community for a resolution to this ever escalating problem, as youth issues are fundamental to the health, liveability and prosperity of our town.
    I find the curfew debate to be a bit of a “chicken or the egg” debate, what comes first? Keeping in mind, that not only do we know who these kids are that perpetrate much of our youth related crime. We are also already picking them up on a regular basis, often multiple times within a week.
    So the crisis really revolves around what we do with these kids when we do pick them up, not with picking them up!
    Hence my continuing campaign for a singular youth agency that takes up the parental role, takes these kids under their wing, making sure they are fed, disciplined, educated and guided eventually into the work place.
    When we achieve such an institution it should only be a matter of a short period of time before the trouble neglected youth in our community are under care, leaving the streets to the ninety five percent of youth who are respectful law abiding citizens.
    So for me the argument has now come down to this: If we have a curfew, what do we do with the kids we pick up?
    How is that different from what we already do?
    Most of our youth crime issues exist because many of these kids do not have a functional home to which they can be returned.
    If we create an institution to accept them, will we then need a curfew?
    As an earlier supporter of a youth curfew I now find myself asking, given the complete lack of movement in creating such an institution, what can a curfew achieve without it, other than heightening the already heightened tensions within our community.
    As far as I can see a curfew can’t bring resolution without an institution. I am however open to being convinced otherwise, welcoming continued discussion while we await with bated breath real and material action from our new government, which I am assured is just round the corner.

  9. Congratulations Steve (Posted January 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm), that was a useful contribution to this debate. Maybe we can get wide agreement that proper places of care, staffed by properly qualified workers, are needed to hold a small number of kids who are most self-destructive and unmanageable by their families and youth workers, while they are being given therapeutic help. This could be one of the main priorities for local action. These places may need varying regimes, depending on the different needs amongst the clients.

  10. As a born and bred Alice local, who has actually spend some time under the care and control of the facilities of what was Giles House, I can honestly say this issue well never be resolved unless the major factor, which seems to be missed by most of the preceding contributors, is addressed – RESPONSIBILITY!
    To put it simply – you breed ’em … you feed ’em.
    Why is it that the do-gooders, antagonists / activists, talking heads and oozing unfounded attitudes, that the town seem to attract, always come out on the side of the offenders?
    No one has ever forced an individual to break into houses, vandalize property, assault / injure / maim/kill their fellow citizens and then seem to accept the excuse that “I’m from the stolen generation” or “the white man took may land” or “I don’t know how to live within the white man’s rules”.
    My understanding of Aboriginal Law, is that it is similar to the current governing Westminster Law based principals, in that it comes down to the simple fact that you are responsible for you actions. As such there is “cause and effect”, as seen with tribal punishments i.e. paybacks and spearings.
    So, how do we try and reign in an ever-escalating problem, that is turning Alice Springs into a near cauldron environment of disharmony, anger and frustration? Oh BTW, just in case you are either too blinded by your misguided beliefs or bullshit hazed idea of Nirvana, what happens when a melting pot hits the point of flashpoint? Ignition – pure and simply.
    OK – back to responsibilities: It is not and should never be the government’s, the police’s, the council’s or the general populace’s position to make allowances for your decision to have a child. Fullstop – end of story.
    You, as a parent need to ensure that you give your children the best chance in life, which includes education and position ones morale compass. After all – a child is but a reflection of you as a person. If they are going to wander the streets, getting up to mischief / mayhem / no good, then that is your failings as a parent.
    How about establishing a “chain gang” in which those perpetrating the petty and property crimes are sentenced to community service that entails picking up of rubbish, cleaning up of areas, graffiti cleaning, gardening etc and should their parents not respond to threw offences within a 12 month period, then they join they chain gang.
    Oh hang on, the offenders might be embarrassed if they are seen in a chain gang, or might be humiliated by such actions. Better that then when force is used in protecting ones property … don’t you think??

  11. I absolutely agree with what you are saying about self responsibility Mark!
    Parents fulfilling their parental role!
    All that’s well and good and quite true of some, but what we are attempting to deal with is the product of no parental responsibility.
    Mum and dad alcoholics or in jail or elsewhere. If we just pick these kids up give them some kind of punishment, what happens when we let them out?
    The only way to resolve this issue in the long term is to take over the parental responsibility to these kids, responsibility that their mums and dad’s either can’t or won’t take up.
    If we don’t take that role these kids will just end up doing the rounds of the system with moments out to break into your home until their to old to walk!
    The whole intent for these kids is about self responsibility, giving it, teaching it, expecting it!
    It’s not about patting bad kids and bad behaviour on the head Mark, it’s about changing the direction of young lives before they turn into tomorrow’s crims.
    It’s not about protecting criminals, it’s about changing their lives, in order to protect our own.
    I guess if we take pickaxes and chain gangs to the streets we’ll probably end up with well behaved, neglected, homeless, future-less kids!
    Although history tell us that you can bash, threaten, and starve people who have nothing to lose, try and force them to respect the law and your property, and all you’ll get is deepening anger, resentment, and rebellion.
    The only sure way to stop them, short of death, is to give them something to lose! Such as a life worth living!
    The really aggravating thing about this, Mark, is despite all this talk and all that has gone before, still nothing has been done!
    I suspect that if we’d had the intestinal fortitude to deal with these kids years ago when this discussion started you’d have no reason at all to be angry today!
    So as I’ve said again and again, let’s get on with it! Lives are wasting!

  12. Mark is right. Responsibility is the key word.
    It is the parents’ job to educate and care for their children.
    If a child, black or white, is picked up for a criminal act the police can issue a warrant now to attend court.
    So how about if that child has to go into a boot camp for say three months or what ever the court decides, the court should have the right to ask one parent to attend the boot camp as well to learn to care for their child and take responsibility.
    The child may learn something from the boot camp if the parent does not go as well, but when the child comes home nothing may change until the parents change their attitude.
    If this works the parent and child may only go to the boot camp once. Who knows, we need to start somewhere.
    Also to help fund the boot camp, stay the child care allowance that parents receive. It should then be used while in the boot camp to care for the child.

  13. Mark @ Jan 27, Rex @ Jan 28, Steve @ Jan 28 and Brendan @ Jan 29.
    While you blokes are talking about individual responsibility, would you mind giving us your thoughts on whether you believe that the alcohol industry has any responsibility (a) to label its products with health warnings, (b) its sophisticated marketing campaigns targeting youth and (c) if you believe that governments have any responsibility towards the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) children and their mothers?
    (d) Do you think it possible that a legal claim can be made on behalf of these children, given that the Senate Committee Report into FASD was tabled in parliament last November recommending “management services for pregnant women with alcohol dependency”?

  14. Thanks Mark (January 27, 2013 at 4:35) and the comments that followed.
    So we are getting to the core issue of the debate. It’s an Aboriginal Youth Curfew after all!
    Let’s set up a fence and identify a boundary outside the town to keep them out. If they get through establish boot camps and chain gangs, make stronger prisons and increase their number.
    Recruit more police and have heavier sentences. Failing this … can we breed them out?
    Sorry – just disappointed with the way the conversation evolved. The article began constructively (we even had Bob agreeing with Steve). Yet we end up talking about bashing, starving and death and a confusing history notation!
    Just for your info Aboriginal parents are also concerned about youth issues. There is no dispute that the issues are real and crime needs to be penalised.
    But it’s also true in Central Australia some Aboriginal people are very good parents (if you have lived here a while you know that).
    Some are also useless parents. Some don’t have the tools to improve their lot and overcome poverty and get out of the welfare system.
    Others do have the tools and use them. Some (probably just a few), just don’t understand.
    But context is everything isn’t it? I ask if this is only an Aboriginal issue? Or is it a racial issue, or just an Alice Springs issue?
    Maybe it is an Australian issue? After all we spend a weekend celebrating our identity but can’t relate to each other.
    We can’t work with each other to solve problems. And because of this we can’t name issues for what they are. We can’t agree on what is acceptable so we agree to be different. We have different perceptions on our culture.
    But if we get more desperate let’s call it for what it is – an Aboriginal Youth Curfew?
    This will involve the Aboriginal community better (some of them aren’t accessing this forum at the moment – they are making sure the kids are in bed).
    By the way, some of suggestions sound like familiar current practice.

  15. RUSSEL GUY & CHARLIE DICK: Let me break it down a little simpler for you. What if fire was alcohol? How is it that man and woman-kind has survived since their respective inceptions, depending on which somewhat imaginary religious figure you subscribe to i.e. Gautama Buddha, Mohammed of Mecca, Krishna, Jesus of Nazareth. Society has learned from trial, error, work of mouth and personal experience what the many uses of fire, which is similar to alcohol, can be or have. As with fire, alcohol can be used to welcome, to warm, to share, to open communications and to amaze.
    Unfortunately, as with a Ying – there is a Yang. We have seen what happens when both fire and alcohol are abused and are utilized by those who do not know how to handle it. We have all seen what occurs when it gets out of control and then let run rampant.
    The only thing that has kept society from eliminating itself, from an over indulgence of the element of fire, is the fact that the majority of us have come to embrace the element, knowing full well what can happen if and when we abuse it. That is a hard earned knowledge the every man, woman and child knows through experience, of passed down knowledge, regardless of race, colour and creed. The problem for society is when those who chose not to respect the element, then come to expect, those of us who know full well the implications of the element, to then make allowances for their short-comings.
    RUSSEL GUY: Not sure if I can be any clearer on the matter – you are responsible for your own actions and with said actions, there is cause and effect.
    My opinion on alcohol sales and advertising is pretty well known, amongst those who know me. YES, I do imbibe on a regular basis … and YES I do enjoy a drink, but with anything, it should be in moderation … and YES hangovers are a key indicator that I was not sufficiently moderating.
    Do I blame anyone for it? Be it the manufacturer, the supplier, the advertiser or the gubment bloke? Nope, not at all – it was my sole decision to drink. To put that statement in perspective, in 30+ years in drinking, with quite a few of those underage and formative years in the “Alice”, no one has ever forced a drink down my throat. It was my decision, wholly and solely my decision. A little something I like to call “being responsible for ones actions”.
    For the record, ask yourself why there is plain packaging on cigarettes and not alcohol? The accepted view is that smokes are a killer, but grog kills, maims, injures and costs societies considerably more, but the dreaded dart is a whole much easier and less politically persuasive and adept power.
    CHARLIE DICK: Your comments read like you are not trying to be part of a solution, but portray you as somewhat the epitome of the problem, in that you’ve tried to label the ills discussed here as an “Aboriginal problem”. This is a matter of respect and responsibility. In the words of a mere mortal “respect is what you are, as you are what you respect”.

  16. Mark Fitzgerald (Posted January 30, 2013 at 5:10 pm): The ancestors of relatively recent immigrant people like you and me, coming from the anglo-celtic world, have probably had experience of living with alcohol in our families and communities, and of alcohol interacting with our families’ behaviours, cultures, gene codes and body chemistry for several thousand years, possibly for up to 300 generations or more. Certainly many nomadic and agriculturally based societies in various parts of the world (e.g. China and Mesopotamia) were discovering how to make alcoholic beverages, and integrating their use into their lives, as early as 7000 BC. Most local Aboriginal people have only had two, three or four of their generations experiencing the availability of alcoholic beverages, and under much more plentiful conditions in terms of easy, regular, plentiful availability than occurred in the first few thousand years of our ancestors’ experiences with this highly volatile substance. There are many implications flowing from these facts.

  17. I agree Mark – it is about Responsibility and Respect. I have a similar experience to you with alcohol issues. I am merely responding to the tone of the previous posts. Anyway sanity has prevailed and the youth curfew proposal defeated.


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