Politicking or community: What to do about youth crime?


Last updated 3 October 2019, 7.32pm
Once again, the Town Council will turn its attention to what more they can do to curb antisocial and criminal behaviour in the town. From council to council, from Territory election to Territory election, the terms of the debate, the range of possible actions being considered scarcely shift, but in this council they have a bitter undertow.
The issue was raised at last Monday’s meeting  by Councillor Jacinta Price (right, from our archive). During the day – the first day of the school holidays, as she noted – she had witnessed an ugly incident at Yeperenye shopping centre.
She said she saw two teenage girls threatening another. When security tried to intervene, they ran away, but circled back around to continue to taunt the third girl. At some stage the girls were standing on furniture. Police were called. The girls ran off and their victim’s mother (not the police) gave chase. The girls got away.
The mother is known to Cr Price, someone she grew up with. She told Cr Price that one of girls picking on her daughter had pulled a knife. This was why she felt the need to chase them down, said Cr Price.
She deplored the level of violence – in broad daylight, in a shopping centre.
Not long before she began to speak, a rock had been thrown at one of the chamber’s windows. Cr Price referred also to Cr Eli Melky having seen people fighting on the council lawns before the meeting.
She spoke of local primary school children at a recent event she attended, who had talked about too much alcohol, drugs, violence and crime in Alice Springs and, some too scared to go onto the streets.
That was not the Alice Springs that she grew up in, she said: “This to me is an emergency situation.” (Her comments were made after the debate about strengthening council’s climate action, during which this term had been a point of contention.)
Fixing the problem is not council’s core business, she said, but she argued that council needs to lobby “the current government, continually”.
One of her suggestions, which she returned to repeatedly, was for council to write to the government “an open letter” about “this crisis” that exists right across the NT.
Another suggestion was that council get Police Commander Bradley Currie to speak to them about the situation. (Other councillors agreed that this should be done, as it is from time to time.)
Cr Jimmy Cocking agreed that council needed to look at ways to move forward with this “wicked problem”, but he didn’t want to spend the next 12 months leading to the NT election lobbying the government on the issue.
Left: Crs Satour and Cocking. Photo from our archive.
He later became more specific about his concern that the issue was being used politically.
If council were to write a letter, would it be seen as coming from the Mayor, or from the candidate for Araluen? he asked.
He supported hearing from Commander Currie, and sitting down with Families Minister Dale Wakefield, as well with Tangentyere Council.
(Council recently met with Tangentyere, for the first time in a long time. Cr Glen Auricht said it was a “really rewarding meeting”.)
Mayor Damien Ryan referred to the success of the council-organised Desert Hoops Youth Basketball which had had its first tournament that day, with 50 youth attending.
(The next tournament will be this Friday 4 October – register on the day –  then again on Monday 7 October and on Friday 11 October. Uniforms are provided, lunch is free, and there are Best & Fairest awards daily.)
Cr Price rejoined the debate, saying that her concern had “nothing to do with the election”. She pushed again for an open letter, saying she had spoken to Minister Wakefield about the child protection system failing, with culture prioritised over the human right to live in an environment that is not dysfunctional.
“I get nothing back in return.”
Cr Eli Melky suggested some credit was due to the current government, they have “listened to a certain point” but, he asked, are they getting results?
He said there has to be accountability from families and wondered whether council should revisit developing a relationship with custodians on this issue.
He also understood that a motion to introduce a curfew for Alice Springs would be debated in the Legislative Assembly. (Cr Melky has long supported a curfew.) Maybe council needs to get behind that discussion, he suggested.
He agreed with Cr Price that  “if ever there was an emergency, this is one”.
Cr Catherine Satour said it is not until you leave town that you realise the level of antisocial behaviour being experienced here. She suggested that locals have become “slightly desensitised” to it.
She said she gets approached “incredibly often” about businesses and homes being broken into. (Commander Currie’s most recent message on year on year crime statistics for Alice Springs reported a 62% increase in house break-ins. He also noted that personal violence was down by 27%.)
Cr Satour says she is in fear in her own community, as are a lot of Central Arrernte people (she is not Central Arrernte herself, but works closely with them). They are prepared to work with government to address the deeper issues about why this is happening.
At times she paused while she spoke; she said she felt anxiety and frustration about having this conversation, as her early initiatives on the matter were connected to a difficult time for her on council – the Code of Conduct complaints that were made against her (and Cr Cocking).
During the 12 months it took to resolve them (they were all dismissed) it was “very difficult to try and do the work that this community so badly needs.”
However, she was not going to make it personal, the issue was “about community”, and everyone needed to be “mature, respectful, and find some common ground”.
Acting CEO Scott Allen had a list of  “action items taken out of the discussion”.
They included inviting Commander Currie to the address council at the October committee meeting; talking with the CEO about drafting an “open letter” on behalf  the community to the Chief Minister, to have discussions with him, as well as other Ministers and stakeholders, including Tangentyere Council, the police, the shopping centres, security services, council’s ranger unit and  Traditional Owners.
Cr Satour said she was happy to support all that, adding that she appreciated the matter having been brought up.
Cr Cocking also thanked Cr Price for “bringing this to our attention”.


  1. Only the Arranta elders and a caring Federal government can resolve Alice Springs youth crime issues.
    Fact 1: Most of the offenders are First Australians.
    Fact 2: Most of the First Australian offenders are kids, starting at around 10 years of age.
    Fact 3: Most of the First Australian kids are living in Alice Springs because of somer health or social services issue that requires them to be here.
    Fact 4: Most of the offending First Australian kids do not attend school; they spend their days getting ready for tonight’s activities – house breaking, car theft, assaults, general mayhem.
    Fact 5: Most of the above First Australian families are following the “fringe-dwelling” self-fulfilling prophecy that has happened long ago in most other regions of Australia: Living on the edge of established society, they are unhealthy, unemployed, unemployable, minimal money, in the grip of Centrelink, prone to alcohol and drug addiction, minor crime, leading to major crime as we now know.
    Solution? Fill the gaols?
    NO, they only become more skilful criminals. A Federal government must establish the 20 or so “Bob Beadman Towns” that were once proposed, whereby a place like Yuendumu has school, hospital, supermarkets, sports facilities, libraries, motels, decent housing just like a “normal Australian town”.
    Next they determine to pay social services money only at these regional centres, so the owners of their land can be on the spot for work programs to rehabilitate their country on their terms.
    This was the destiny sought in the land rights struggles of the 1960s.
    It’s not apartheid. It’s land ownership and the undisputed owners of such huge tracts of land should be millionaires. The Federal and NT Governments have lost the plot completely.
    And what should Arranta elders do? 100 years ago no outsider would behave like this on Arranta land.
    Today’s Arranta elders should play the race card: This is our land.
    Either respect and conform to Arranta standards or go back to where you came from.
    This to ALL outsiders, Ted Egan included.

  2. Thank you Ted, for your insight and comments. All we need to do now is hope the Territory and Federal Governments are listening and start from there.
    I also sent an email to the Alice News re the old Anzac High School. It would be a great place to start for a drop in centre for the youth.

  3. @ Ted Egan: Ted, I note with interest your reference to the “Bob Beadman towns” proposed so many years ago.
    I first met Bob when I went to work for the National Aboriginal Sports Foundation in Canberra in 1981.
    Bob was in Aboriginal Affairs. Bob showed a genuine interest in our work to promote sport for Aboriginal youth.
    In 1982 when the NASF held the first ever presentation of Aboriginal national youth sport awards on Channel 7’s Sunday World of Sport in Melbourne on February 14, 1982, Bob was the first to ring us and congratulate Brian Dixon, Syd Jackson and the board.
    Then in 1992 Bob was an ATSIC manager who gave evidence in the Castan human rights tribunal case. Bob has certainly been around in Aboriginal youth affairs.

  4. Re: Ted Egan Posted October 4, 2019 at 11:24 am
    I respect Ted Egan, however he is wrong, it is apartheid.
    Use of racist labels does not explain problems with youths, it just promotes racism.
    Ongoing promotion of racism de-sensitises those surrounded by it.
    Commonwealth imposition of apartheid upon Australians is racism.
    Claims of short term gains from racist and apartheid policies ignores losses from maintaining those policies.
    Fail-to-thrive remain a foreseeable legacy from Australian Commonwealth’s ongoing racist and apartheid policies.
    Australians voted to eliminate apartheid, not maintain and promote it.
    Resolution of apartheid’s disadvantages requires apartheid and racism to end, not continue.

  5. She could have intervened and tried to stop the fight, but that would be highlighting her Aboriginality amongst the crowd.

  6. Council need to stop focusing on climate change and start focusing on something they can do something about, making the town attractive to tourist and do something about kids and crime.

  7. James T Smerk: I agree with you, because to make the town attractive to tourists it has to be eco-friendly, thus fighting climate change.
    Curbing kids and crimes will be also fight climate change as we will have less power / water / paper works / printing etc… spent on court house offices, prison cells and maintenance.
    The council can do a lot about this. Sometime listening to all make me think of don Quixote De la Mancha which is considered one of the most important books of all time.
    Quixotic, meaning the impractical pursuit of idealistic goals, has entered common usage.
    Before attacking a worldwide problems we must fix ours.

  8. Imagine adults in work, kids in school, and safe communities. That was the vision of ‘A Working Future – Territory Growth Towns’. Regional centres containing a full range of services, and business opportunities.
    Instead, our governments have provided a policy framework of:
    – free money
    – kids having never seen a parent working
    – consequently no role models
    – no need to go to school
    – government will keep me for life too
    – idleness
    – repeated through the generations.
    I turn to just one related consequence. In the past week or so there was media discussion about improved health outcomes if a person could see an Indigenous Health Worker at the remote clinic. Such staff are in short supply these days because the last time I looked a middle aged woman with a couple of kids (for example) would loose very significant household income to move from welfare to work.
    There has also been a lot of discussion recently about the need to increase welfare payments. As revealed in the above example, those payments are already greater than work entry point wages creating disincentives to work. If an increase is to be made, something will finally have to be done about transitioning people in order to remove the disincentive.

  9. Aside from being Captain Obvious and continually talking about the social issues within Alice Springs, what policy or program upheaval do you propose, Jacinta, given your political aspirations?
    How will they differ from what’s already been tried by past CLP/Labor Governments over the last, say 40 years?
    How will you deal with Government bureaucracy and the remote engagement empire that ensures funding is soaked up before staff even have a chance to roll out programs?
    How is your engagement with youth services providers, safe houses and Aboriginal men’s and women’s groups going? Are you talking to the men and women at the prison or rehabilitation facilities to increase your understanding of why they’re ending up there?
    This community knows you don’t spend any time digesting the thoughts and views of the people you apparently talk for.
    Everyone sees the opportunistic photo or name drop on Facebook in an effort to keep the east coast assured you actually enjoy and maintain community relationships.
    People of this region see the BS a mile away – even your most loyal Golf Course dwelling supporters are starting to smell a rat.
    Aside from your purely anecdotal experiences, how will you lead us to the promise land, which is literally what you have built your notoriety upon?
    First Bess, now Jacinta (with the dad cutting the oranges and mixing hate-orade) have yet to deliver anything other than festering the decades of rage already fed-up community members have towards these social problems.
    Meanwhile, the real people (both Indigenous and non) are busting their guts trying to find solutions on the front line of these issues receiving little, if any, fanfare and having to beg government for on-going funding.
    If you want to support a cause that will help make this community a better place, lobby Government to get behind some of these initiatives and ditch their political crap for long-term bipartisan, properly funded initiatives.

  10. TO PAUL PARKER: With respect Paul, you are way off the mark. The land rights struggles of the 1960s sought to enable traditional First Australian groups to define and have recognised their occupancy of their specific tracts of land.
    Further, we sought to enable them to be empowered to stay on that land with recognised title and, if necessary, to rehabilitate and develop that land themselves, with necessary assistance, on their terms precisely.
    Alice Springs was recognised as Arranta land and we respect their ongoing presence and wisdom.
    Today’s situation in Alice Springs has Warlpiri, Pitantjara, Pintubi and many other First Australians living on the fringes of town through no fault of their own.
    They have no traditional rights in this area, hence they should respect the Arranta: indeed, 100 years ago they would have been subject to strict rules of behaviour.
    Sadly, most of the visitors are in the grip of Centrelink or have health issues, or both.
    That is not good enough: they deserve better. They deserve what all other Australians insist is their right: a town with normal facilities – in their country.
    Alice Springs additionally has thousands of people other than First Australians, people like me.
    I wasn’t born here, I am not a First Australian. But I recognise this as Arranta country and am happy to live in respect of Arranta guidelines, which are well-known to me. The same requirement is there for all “newcomers”.
    The Arranta Elders must be invited to call the shots. We are not talking apartheid. We did once, but not any more: a tragedy is that South Africa learned from Australia how to implement the abhorrent policy of apartheid.
    In Australia today we are talking proper land rights and normal behaviour. Bring it on!

  11. @ Ted Egan. I note your comment “The Arranta Elders must be invited to call the shots”.
    I accept your long history of very special involvement in the Aboriginal community.
    In view of the reality of the current difficult tribal population mix in Alice, how do you propose this invitation should be extended?
    By whom?
    And how can the Arranta people call the shots in the practical day to day governance of the town?
    Do you have a plan to be implemented? I am interested in your views.

  12. To Larry Pinta: Congratulations! I had never heard the word, but yes! Allodial title. I wonder why the term has never been applied in Australia before?
    To John Bell: John, thanks for the kind remarks. As I am not a First Australian I have no authority to seek to speak on their behalf. But I have seen cases where local elders reminded visitors of their obligations when on somebody else’s country. They were very promptly obeyed, believe you me.
    If we are to recognise and respect traditional authority, perhaps the Town Council, as a body, could seek out Arranta elders and ask them to provide a behavioural standard for all Alice Springs residents. Councillor Satour is of Arranta descent.
    I would even suggest that a couple of places on the council should at all times be reserved for Arranta nominees. New Zealand does this sort of thing and it may even be the thin edge of the wedge to establish the “voice” that the Uluru Statement sought.

  13. I lay blame directly at the feet of government(s) with the constant shifting policy goal posts that are aimed at and affect Aboriginal people.
    Aboriginal people are becoming a captive people to the system and whoever else gains out of that situation politically and otherwise.
    Essentially Aboriginal people are powerless, especially those from the bush communities.
    The younger generation are no longer respecting traditional means of control.
    They have access to all modern technological means of communication, mobile phones, Facebook, the lot.
    Like many younger generation kids, this has opened up a whole new world to access besides the good, also the worst aspects of white and other societies they emulate.
    We are seeing a break down in cultural control over the younger generation of Aboriginal people because, in part, of that intrusion.
    To talk about Aboriginal people doing a decent day’s work is a joke when there are hardly any jobs to be had.
    There used to be the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) that at least provided some employment, better than none, and community development for people back on country that Aboriginal people had some control of.
    Again, government meddling did away with CDEP to introduce money management programs and the rubbish punitive Community Development Program (CDP) in place that only the providers get rich out of, and many younger generations finding difficult to comply with.
    With hours on the phone to Centrelink many decide to opt out, adding further pressure on families, communities and society and perhaps in some instances, leading to criminal activity.
    Money management and such government controlled and implemented programs before being applied to the wider population, are tested by government on Aboriginal people, in many respects the most disadvantaged.

  14. The fact of it is the culture is in free fall.
    The once noble and respected ways of the past are no more and it really is a free for all now.
    Trying to hold one others accountable and make them respect other tribes’ wishes isn’t ever going to happen.
    The only sense of pride comes from the elder generation the resulting generations aren’t interested in maintaining this grand aspect of their culture.
    So while I agree with the suggestion Ted makes with giving the Arranta people more of a voice, what good is it if no one listens?


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