Council not keen on offer of help to fight crime


24100 Phil Alice, Shane Lindner OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA

The new town council’s foray into dealing with burning social issues was off to a poor start last night.
A motion from new councillor Catherine Satour for the council “to accept the invitation from the Central Arrernte traditional owners to build a formal and strong relationship between the council and the traditional owners” was whittled down to inviting them for discussions.
PHOTO: Senior Arrernte men Phil Alice and Shane Lindner.
Cr Eli Melky, who supported Cr Satour, said to defeat her motion would be a slap in the face of the traditional owners issuing the invitation. What was passed, following an amendment suggested by new councillor Jimmy Cocking, was hardly less offensive.
A second motion from Cr Satour to allow flying the Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill was deferred: There should be further discussions with the traditional owners, it was decided – presumably if they are still talking to the council after scuttling Cr Satour’s motion number one.
And Jacinta Price, the top-scoring candidate in the August 26 election, moved a 231 word motion about the role she wants the council to have in reducing domestic violence, making nine specific recommendations.
By the time the discussion was over this is what was left: “That Alice Springs Town Council create a policy that supports the reduction of family and domestic violence.”
The meeting agreed it would leave it to council staff to fill in the – yawning – gaps.
Phil Alice is a traditional land owner for the Alice Springs area, an Apmereke-artweye, and he addressed the meeting on his own behalf as well as that of his fellow land owners with top traditional authority.
Reading from notes he told the councillors that the invitation had been developed over several months, with him, Cr Melky and later with Cr Satour meeting most Sunday mornings “to discuss the plan and how to develop it”.
Mr Alice said: “There have been some very serious acts of violence and rock throwing. The community is under siege. Traditional owners have had enough. We must become part of the solution.”
24100 Banks, Price, Auricht 1 OKHe was inviting the council “to build a strong relationship between us. I hope you will consider our invitation to become a closer, united community.
PHOTO (from left) Councillors Marli Banks, Jacinta Price and Glen Auricht.
“This document is the result of many weeks of hard work … to build a meaningful relationship between the council and Arrernte people … tackling the issues side by side … creating a bond direct with the traditional owners.
“Together we can take on the many challenges of our town, such as making parents accountable for their children, remove children off the streets at night, reducing anti-social behaviour,” said Mr Alice.
“Youths are out of control, and how late at night alcohol issues rage in our community. [We need to] clean up our town and make it safe for our tourists.”
Mr Alice said his group did not aim to replace the council’s Memoranda of Understanding with Tangentyere and Lhere Artepe. This MOU was later raised in discussion as having been formed in 2000, reviewed in 2004 and practically ignored ever since.
Mr Alice said: “We do not ask to replace any organisations. We do not ask for money. We are not asking council for free use of anything. We are asking council to accept our invitation to become better friends, a closer community and united.”
When Cr Cocking, in the chair, invited questions Mayor Damien Ryan asked: “What is it you want us to do?”
“The invitation comes from traditional land owners and we want to build a strong relationship between us,” Mr Alice replied.
Later Mayor Ryan asked: “Tonight’s motion is about accepting an invitation. I couldn’t quite understand from Mr Alice’s deputation, who would we be making that with? When you make MOUs or partnerships or whatever connections, be it with an organisation or a group … how is it done legally, through a solicitor? How is that described by a solicitor?”
Cr Melky said a petition is underpinning the motion, an open document. The signatories, 65 of them so far, are traditional owners, which will form the basis of the agreement.
What followed was a systematic dismantling of the initiative.
Mayor Ryan expressed irritation that he had not been briefed by the council solicitor although Cr Satour and her supporters clearly had been.
24100 Catherine Satour OKCr Satour (at left) said she had been told by the solicitor that something much stronger than a MOU would be needed.
She said to Mayor Ryan that she had discussed the initiative with him in his office.
Would it not be better to strengthen the MOU with Lhere Artepe rather than starting a new relationship, asked the Mayor.
New councillor Matt Paterson complained he had not been included in the preparations.
“What does it mean?” he asked.
He would be happy to have a forum with a solicitor, it does not have to be a motion, it’s unfair to have a take or leave it attitude: “I am just expressing my disappointment that this is the first time you and I had this discussion,” he said, apparently addressing Cr Melky.
Cr Melky said it needs to be a motion or else it is meaningless: “That’s how we do business here in this chamber.”
New councillor Glen Auricht launched into a protracted account of what the MOU with Lhere Artepe provided for, including “dual naming” of streets and “stormwater and drainage” and said: “Lhere Artepe is the group that we go to.”
He expressed concern, soon taken up also by the Mayor, Cr Price and Cr Paterson, it would cause “fight or friction” among Lhere Artepe and other Aboriginal organisations around town if the council were to enter into a relationship with Mr Alice’s group.
Had the council maintained an interaction, which having an MOU could be expected to require, it would have noticed over the years the chronic dysfunction of the native title organisation.
But its chairman, Shane Lindner, felt compelled to spell it out: “Lhere Artepe is in a rebuilding stage. We’ve got a consultant coming in. And we’ll go from there.”
As Cr Satour’s original motion stood, it was obvious that Mayor Ryan, councillors Price, Auricht and Paterson would vote against it.
The supportive votes would have been councillors Satour, Melky, Cocking and Marli Banks – a tie, with the casting vote going to the Mayor or Cr Price who was in the chair, sending the motion down.
Instead the emasculated amended motion – which may be no more than inviting the pinnacle of the local Aboriginal hierarchy to a bit of a chat – was carried unanimously.
Although no decision about the Aboriginal flag flying on to of Anzac Hill was made, with the issue to be raised again at the December 11 meeting, there was plenty of discussion.
The current council policy is a “no”.
Traditional owner and artist Patricia Ansell Dodds (pictured below) addressed the council from the gallery: “A lot of our old people have fought in wars for this country and they are very good citizens. My father was one of them. His name is Jack Ansell. In WWII he went to Papua New Guinea. When he came back they wouldn’t recognise him as a citizen. Let’s put up a flag that recognises that.”
24100 Patricia Ansell Dodds OKThe views in the chamber ranged from absolutely never for 365 days, to maybe on Reconciliation or NAIDOC days (and perhaps a couple more) or else a really big flag on 365 days at West Gap – presumably alongside the radio towers.
The current positions about the flag issue, first raised by former councillor Jade Kudrenko in August 2014:-
• Aboriginal Ares Protection Authority: Does not have a view. Although Anzac Hill is a sacred site it would be beyond the authority’s scope to “consult on general matters of public opinion”.
• Department of Veteran Affairs: It would be most appropriate.
• Chansey Paech MLA: Hopeful the issue may come to a positive resolution soon.
• RSL: There may be discretionary circumstances in the near future … to commemorate a specific event … as a symbol of unity. But not 365 days.
More on December 11. All this took up more than three hours last night.


  1. Wow, what a read. Someone is reaching out to help and be involved to try and curb the ridiculous rates of crime and violence, and they get burned by the council.
    How about an outstretched arm Mayor and a sincere and warm handshake? Cheaper than a solicitor.
    So the council doesn’t want to engage with this gentleman, yet for fear of upsetting others who don’t appear to be doing much. While Nero plays Rome burns.

  2. One objection to Mr Alice’s comments as reported above would be that rather than a need to clean up our town to make it safe for tourists, we need to clean up our town to make it safe for residents. Accomplish that, and tourist safety will not be an issue.
    Yes, there is a need to make parents accountable for their underage children, to address our irresponsible consumption of alcohol, and so much else. And perhaps chief among the “so much else” is a need to really look at what the rampaging kids are showing us.
    And what might that be? I suggest that within these “gangs” that we are reading about, and no matter how fleeting and unarticulated, there will be hierarchy, loyalty and discipline.
    Can we possibly provide that within a whole-of-town context, instead of a three hour talk fest going nowhere and beset with a confused hierarchy, split loyalty and little discipline?
    The kids are showing us what is needed. Start there.

  3. Phillip Alice was highly regarded for his work as a police officer at Santa Teresa. Perhaps he can negotiate with Lhere Artepe, Tangentyere, etc, the Police and the Town Council to find a way to save not just the kids, but our town.
    Start being proactive, instead of finding excuses.

  4. Thanks, Erwin, for your comprehensive and insightful summing-up of the ASTC meeting.
    How disappointing to see mayoral indignation on display, supported by a sub-group of councillors that not only have no answers to the most pressing problem facing our town (beyond, I suspect, tougher law enforcement) but are un-willing to accept help from the community in finding solutions.
    With the National Transport Hall of Fame looking to close up its operations in town, these representatives in local government need to stop and listen to the warning bells, before it is all too late.

  5. These men can and will make a difference.
    Hopefully common sense will prevail and the councillors will work with them.
    This is Arrernte country and Arrernte people need to be strongly involved in dealing with their people and people from other tribes that are causing problems. Every other tribe in Australia does the same thing.
    It is about respecting other peoples’ country, as my brother, Mr Alice, mentioned in his speech earlier this week. It is a code throughout Aboriginal Australia. You don’t play up in other peoples’ country.

  6. What a very disappointing council we have. I hope someone will listen to the community and the elders to resolve this problem or this town is finished.
    Let’s get over this political bullshit and get on with fixing this town. If only people can get over themselves and work as a team.

  7. Quite some years back there was a Four Corners Council. Four corners being north, south, east and west.
    The council consisted of elders representing Aboriginal people from these respective tribal group directions.
    The council was headed up by strong Arrernte elders since the problems being dealt with, were in Alice Springs, similar to those today.
    I understand the purpose of the council was to work collaboratively with other groups to deal with issues, then for each respective elder on the council deal with their own people.
    At least that’s the way I understood the council to work.
    To give any meaning and strength to such a body today, would probably involve MOU with all government and non government agencies that have relevant roles and responsibilities. All would need to be on board.

  8. So true Michael Dean, but on the other foot, where is the night patrol and parents of these little darlings that are wreaking havoc all over town?

  9. A new Four Corners Council should be held in the council chambers on the evenings that council does not sit.
    If need be, there could be a session each for men and women. Then another session where the men and women sit together.
    Also a limited number of non-Aboriginal people may be able to fit into this framework with defined roles, representing other cultural or authorised sectors of our town’s makeup.

  10. I agree with the Mayor. It is the parents’ and families’ responsibility.
    If they spent more time with their children and got them to attend school on a regular basis would be a step in the right direction. If they don’t get education, these people are going to end up on welfare and the cycle will never be broken.
    As we are always hearing about the Aboriginal culture, now it is time you stand up and show us what you are made of.
    I would be very reluctant to help after the saga with the stolen generation.

  11. This makes me so angry! How can Damien Ryan be so disrespectful and so stagnant on these issues.
    I don’t know what his reasons behind refusing this offer to takle youth crime with Mr Alice and other traditional owners would be.
    How can he possibly claim to care about Alice Springs when these issues continue to occur and still he remains quiet with no other viable suggestions for improvement, only ideas about water fountains in the CBD.
    Perhaps he should step aside and let someone who actually has a set represent the community and let them work together with the Traditional owners in finding a solution. Surely this is going to be his last term in council, he has done enough damage.

  12. As a long time local born and raised here, have seen this happen on and off in the last 10 to 15 years, and it getting worse every time it happens.
    The younger generation has no respect for anyone or anything as the parents are getting to many benefits and are not looking after there children.
    The do gooders are blaming the government and everyone else but the parents.
    When I was growing wished I got half of what’s on offer nowadays, so don’t go blaming the government or councils. Look in your own backyard to see the problem. By the way, where is the night patrol that our taxes pay for?

  13. Blaming the parents is convenient cop-out for Fred the self-proclaimed Philistine, Councillor Jacinta Price and, I suspect, many others in our town, as it relieves them of having to think any further about the problem, its causes and possible solutions.
    It’s like blaming an addict for his addiction, whilst ignoring the drug suppliers and the social and economic reasons one may turn to drugs in the first place.
    This is the kind of out-dated thinking that is holding our town back.
    It needs to be called out and its proponents shamed for the damage they are causing.
    Oh, and by the way, a Philistine is defined as “a person who is lacking in or hostile or smugly indifferent to cultural values, intellectual pursuits, aesthetic refinement, etc., or is contentedly commonplace in ideas and tastes”. Congratulations, Fred, for your honesty, if nothing else.

  14. Domenico Pecorari makes a challenging point.
    When Ryan, Philistine and others suggest that the parents should be responsible it may be unfair to assume that the parents are being blamed.
    There are many reasons why an individual might not be a responsible parent.
    Firstly, they may have an addiction or some other issue which renders them incapable of being responsible.
    Secondly, as the idea that parents should be responsible is not without cultural bias, it may be that some people do not believe that being a responsible parent has any value.
    If so, dealing with an addiction may achieve nothing.
    So, if one believes that parents should be responsible, the way in which someone who is not responsible might become responsible would entail eliminating the addiction and other factors that prevent responsibility and ensuring that the individual accepted that parents should be responsible.
    Ryan, Philistine and others need to consider how they became responsible. (Straight-forward cultural inheritance. What we are asking of these people is something that the responsible parent has never had to undertake.)
    It is far easier to build an art gallery, put in place alcohol restrictions, build fences or bring in the cavalry.
    There is simply no point in dealing with symptoms.
    Can we demand of individuals who choose to live in Alice Springs that they be responsible parents?
    Can Alice Springs exist with a diversity of views about the value of being a responsible parent?
    If the path is to deal initially with the addiction and other factors that inhibit responsibility, what is to become of the children?
    (You have to wonder whether such children have the right to seek alternative guardians.)
    The difficulty is that there is a real problem here which is not going away.
    If these kids, who may be simply bored but who have no allegiance to property rights, roam the streets, Alice Springs has a problem beyond wandering kids.
    Alice Springs is not handling this issue terribly well and there is a kind of hurt that affects not only the kids, the victims of their activities but everyone here.
    Every intemperate Facebook post adds to the madness, fear, anger, distrust and so on.
    We need somehow to protect ourselves from our inability to deal with the issue.
    We need to understand that no one outside Alice Springs cares so we have to do it ourselves.
    We need imagination – and courage.
    And not be unkind to each other – most importantly, perhaps, to the Philistines among us who choose anonymity.
    “It’s extraordinary to think that if you walked into a room and said you had never heard of Hamlet, you would be regarded as a Philistine. But you could walk into the same room and say, “I don’t know what a proton is” and people would just laugh and say “why should you know?”
    Robert Winston

  15. I for one will say, bring the parents to shame and make them face reality in accord with their culture. Traditional Aboriginal cultural values ensure that Aboriginal children are provided with the freedom to explore the world and to learn their responsibilities to care for and protect one other.
    While the children are encouraged to explore the world around them, issues of safety are always considered:
    They are encouraged to explore, within a safe distance, with safe practices put into place. There are shared values of the local community and other family members to allow the children to learn from their own experiences.
    If a child is exposed to any kind of risk, families trust that it will be reported back to them: If someone has abandoned their caring responsibilities, for whatever reason, someone from the local community will inevitably raise the issue.
    Roaming the streets and the hills are unsafe, far away from home, and the older teens do not care for the little ones.
    So in my humble opinion we should give parental / communities the right to judge and to act.
    Give the traditional owners a go, as maybe before meetings, activities etc.
    We acknowledge them? In fact we do not, and it is only when we show them some real respect that their children will respect us.


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