By KIERAN FINNANE
A recent spate of anti-social and criminal behaviour around Alice Springs will be the subject of a letter from the Town Council to Chief Minister Adam Giles, calling on him to meet with them. This will come on top of council’s meeting with Minister John Elferink (Justice, Children and Families, Correctional Services) tomorrow.
Councillors last night discussed the issues raised in a letter from a resident of City Edge apartments in Nicker Crescent, concerned about break-ins at the apartments as well as other events, including a random bashing and an arson attack on two cars in the KFC carpark. The letter apparently linked the trouble, at least in part, to the government’s de-funding of the Youth Street Outreach Service (YSOS).
The resident, chairperson of the City Edge body corporate, had asked Councillor Eli Melky that council forward the letter on her behalf to the Chief Minister. Although generally supportive Mayor Damien Ryan was against forwarding the letter itself, because of the “racial overtones” it included. He suggested rather that its main points be captured in council’s own letter.
Cr Liz Martin also took exception to comments in the resident’s letter that councillors were somehow immune to the problems described: “We are all impacted all the time by these issues,” she said.
Cr Chansey Paech said that people in social media ask all the time what council is going to do about the issues: “We are seen as having more power than we do,” he said. “Quite a negative campaign” is growing in social media and he is concerned that it will “divide the community”.
The motion to write the letter and call for a meeting with the Chief Minister was unanimously supported.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Delia Lawrie has asked Mr Giles what plans he is putting in place to help Alice Springs cope with the influx of visitors expected for this weekend’s AFL umpires’ carnival.
“Is he going to fund community night patrols to come into town and assist with visitors? What return to country plans are in place? Are there going to be any further alcohol restrictions for the Easter period?
“Adam Giles promised Alice Springs 120 extra police officers and a call centre. Instead he has closed the CBD police beat, shut down youth services that were working to keep kids off the streets, and used police as bottle shop security.
“He won’t admit that he’s losing control of crime in Alice Springs because he has no real policy and he won’t even admit a problem exists,” said Ms Lawrie in a media release yesterday.
• In other council business, councillors voted against supporting a request from the Rock Bar to trade on Good Friday as it does on any Friday, from 11.30am to 2am the following day. However, they supported it opening at 6pm to cater only for the members of four tour groups concluding their tours that day. The Licensing Commission had requested council’s views.
• Council has signed an MOU with Correctional Services to participate in the government’s Sentenced to a Job scheme for prisoners. This was revealed when Cr Paech jumped the gun with a question about council getting involved. Director of Technical Services Greg Buxton said only that the prisoners will be used as a labour force. More detail will come with the official announcement.
Cr Martin described the scheme as “really good” move but warned that it is “labour intensive” to work with prisoners, who are mostly unskilled. There may also be language and cultural barriers, she said. She currently has two prisoners working at the Road Transport Hall of Fame (of which she is the CEO), as well as people on community service orders from the courts.
The department provides some supervision, she said, but is under-staffed at present. This is something to talk to Minister Elferink about: “Like everything else, it needs more resources.”
Crs Paech and Jade Kundrenko want to take the issue of Indigenous employment further, moving outside of the Correctional Services setting. They proposed that council talk to Tangentyere Council as the RJCP (Remote Jobs and Communities Program) provider in Alice Springs.
Council reports on its Indigenous employment attainment each month, a practice since setting a goal of 20% (population parity) when Mayor Ryan first took up his job. In the month of March council had 24 full time Indigenous employees, or 15% of its staff.
By KIERAN FINNANE