Street kids in front of the embattled Peter Kittle car dealership late on Thursday night.
By ERWIN CHLANDA
It all started with a single Facebook posting on Wednesday at 10:23am by motorcycle dealer Garth Thompson: an invitation to the notorious Schwarz Crescent hotspot that evening – not a vigilante call to arms but “a mass tyre inspection at Beaurepaires or a choc sundae at Hungry Jacks”.
It was well attended.
The next evening WE, half a dozen whitefellers, were huddling on the footpath outside Hungry Jack’s. It was 9:30pm.
THEY were on the other side of Schwarz Crescent, on the carpark of the Beaurepaires tyre shop – about 100 Aboriginal kids aged from around six to 16, girls and boys in roughly equal numbers.
They were milling around, small groups going this way and that, some crossing the highway to the Kittles car yard where 52 cars had been trashed in the early hours of Wednesday, just a few hours before Mr Thompson’s FB post, and now was just an expanse of empty display areas, brightly lit.
It was the classical US and THEM.
The US group soon grew to about a dozen. Should we go over and have a chat?
I decided to try and Councillor Eli Melky said he’d come with me. Mr Thompson was also there.
It was like scuba diving: You swim towards a school of fish and they move, either side of you, keeping a pretty well fixed distance, no big rush, maybe re-forming behind you in a tight bunch.
I told Cr Melky this wasn’t working. On my own I thought I’d be able to approach the kids.
A group of girls, aged maybe 14, were very drunk, no point in talking to them, but soon I got talking to two boys, around nine and 11 years. I introduced myself as a reporter. They were happy to talk.
They were matter of fact about what they were doing, about what had happened at Kittles and why they thought it had. Their comments are to the point (see video).
I returned to the US group. Whilst earlier in the evening the kids had given it a wide berth now they came for a look, and even walked through our group, briefly answering questions.
The boys were whooping, chatting, shouting: This is our patch, seemed to be the message. But no big drama.
At this point a big group from the Desert Life Church (in Alice for 40 years, 600 members; their main house of worship is on Undoolya Road, opposite the new netball stadium) joined US and some serious mingling with THEM started.
Both groups now displayed equal curiosity about one another and Schwarz Crescent ceased to be a demarkation.
The Desert Life Church group was swelled by 25 young members of its Brisbane sister church.
Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield had joined the group. Quite a few of the US locals had a lot to say to her.
And church member Wayne Tregea gave the event a label for the US side: “Positive loitering” (see video).
So now we had a comfortable handle, it’s in use elsewhere in the world and could be a new program for The Alice.
Meanwhile a nasty fight had broken out across the highway near the service station. Three police cars, a police bike and an ambulance were there in no time.
And the Beaurepaires carpark had been taken over, without any nasty incidents, by a bunch of people in cars, utes and 4WDs.
One driver was livid: Minutes ago he’d driven through The Gap, the passenger side window open. He was “bricked” and the missile would have hit his wife had his speed been a fraction lower, possibly killing her.
By midnight the US outnumbered the THEM who had dispersed to the back of, and possibly the top of Anzac Hill where some of them sleep, according to people who do the arduous job of security guard in this troubled town at night.