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HomeIssue 37‘We have lost control of the CBD’: Mayor

‘We have lost control of the CBD’: Mayor


Parrtjima withdrawing its events from the CBD needs to “get a reaction” from the Department of the Chief Minister (DCM),  the reinstated Mayor Damien Ryan told his colleagues on the Town Council last night.

He and Mr Jennings met yesterday (Monday) with CEO of the DCM, Jodie Ryan, and Cliff Weeks, DCM’s senior public servant on the ground in Alice Springs, to impress upon them that they had come for “quick responses”.

He said it was “disappointing” that the pair did not know that NT Major Events had made the decision to withdraw Parrtjima from the Mall.

He and CEO Robert Jennings had received notice of the withdrawal on Sunday, after the light festival experienced a “very bad” night on Saturday.

Patrons who had booked tickets were notified only yesterday. Mayor Ryan had received numerous phone calls on Sunday night from people who had turned up for the program in the Mall to find the lights on, but none of “the shows”.

Parrtjima’s withdrawal is “an indictment that we have lost control of CBD,” said Mayor Ryan.

NT Major Events however have down-played the withdrawal – see their statement in the update below.

A “flare up” in anti-social behaviour pre-dates the weekend. The issue was raised without reference to Parrtjima by Councillor Marli Banks, another returnee to council from the NT election campaign.

She had observed a lot of events being reported on social media, and wanted to know where council was up to in “working towards positive solutions”.

Cr Eli Melky added his own experiences – “a real time check” – to the picture.

He said his property management business is receiving five to six reports daily of incidents in their properties – of cars smashed in carparks, for example.

He said the business is also being approached by “multiple people” wanting to list their houses for sale, saying they want to leave town.

Above: Screen captures from CCTV footage shared on social media on 11 September, said to have occurred  at 4.30am a few days previous. The location is the intersection of Stott Terrace and Bath St . first image, car entering the road is about to t-bone the oncoming vehicle; second image, the moment of impact. Occupants of the car at fault immediately fled the scene. “We are not far away from a fatality,” commented the poster. 

Although his business benefits from selling property, “we don’t want to sell on that basis whatsoever” – of people feeling so “helpless”.

He reported that the bus he and his family took to Parrtjima at the Desert Park on Sunday night had its windows covered in plastic, as they’d been smashed the night before. People he had spoken to had had their cars “rocked” (rocks thrown at them).

He said on coming to town Sunday to find glass broken all over Gregory Terrace , “broken bottles, cars”, the words “under siege, war zone” came to mind.

“For every action, there will be a reaction”, and the level of frustration that is developing is not “acceptable”, said Cr Melky.

He agreed that Labor has been re-authorised to govern and council needs to work with them, but it needs to go beyond the usual rounds of meetings, discussions, pacifying.

Council may be limited in terms of its powers but not in terms of its advocacy, he said.

Mr Jennings said anti-social behaviour had improved over “the Covid period”, but now it was ramping up again, particularly over the last month.

He said he had made the point to Ms Ryan and Mr Weeks that “safety is the foundation of everything”.

Big projects for developing the town, socially, economically, environmentally, won’t work without it.

“They heard us, they understand it is a key issue,” he said, and there will be ongoing meetings with DCM and “other key partners”. A deputation to council from senior police has also been booked in.

Cr Banks wanted to know whether council was going to wait for the DCM to facilitate meetings “or facilitate our own”.

Mr Jennings said, that without council neglecting the issue, it is the NT Government that has the agencies and resources to make the most difference.

Cr Jimmy Cocking raised the issue of rocks on the Stuart Highway and kids running through the holes in the Ghan fence (on the right in the photo at top).

He said the disrepair of the fence was “a terrible reflection on the town”, impacting, like accumulating litter does, on its “general psychology”, and a better strategy is needed to manage and maintain the “amenity of town”.

Mayor Ryan said a barrier needs to be built a metre behind the fence and the holes need to be fixed; he wanted council to immediately write to the NT Government about this.

Cr Banks urged council not to wait for the government to take the lead. She reminded the Mayor and CEO of the move early in this term of council to build relationships with the community, “especially Traditional Owners”.

“The state of disruption is beyond what is reasonable,” she said.

Council needs to “stand against the behaviour” and find “meaningful partnerships” to help it do so, with the “onus” on council to take the first step.

The Alice Springs News has asked NT Police and NT Major Events for comment. We will update this report when they come to hand.

Images sourced from social media. 

Update 15 September 2020, 12.19pm.

NT Major Events have provided the following written statement:

We’ve seen great interest in Parrtjima with more than 5000 visits over opening weekend and our program of events fully booked out – some were oversubscribed by more than 100 per cent.

We’d been looking into ways to increase capacity, and that included moving the program to Desert Park.

There was some anti-social behaviour late on Saturday night in Todd Mall after our events had finished and all patrons had left the venue.

There was no injury to any patrons or staff, or damage to Parrtjima equipment.

This behaviour is disappointing. Parrtjima is a free community festival, designed to showcase Alice Springs and celebrate the amazing culture and location of the Red Centre.

After careful consideration, it became clear we couldn’t consider increasing capacity in the Mall, both due to logistical limitations and the possibility of more anti-social behaviour.

The program was moved to Desert Park and we were able to issue tickets to more than 2500 people who were on waitlists. 

This is great news for those eager to immerse themselves more deeply in the Parrtjima experience.



  1. It is very sad what is happening in Alice Springs, surely this will have a flow on effect for tourism. If people have their cars broken into word will get out and people will just fill up their cars and move on and not stay.

  2. Lucky we dont have much tourism at the moment.
    Time for town and Gov leadership to stand together and get it sorted. Lots of skilled workers are available in the youth sector, put programs in place, keep them in place, and perhaps in 5-10 years the next generation will have broken the cycle that has been going for the last 30 odd years.
    These current youth on the streets, are of the Intervention generation. Fat load of not much that has done.

  3. And the traditional summer crime wave hasn’t officially started yet. I hope the powers that be have a proper plan in place to deal with it.
    Or else pray for another virus lockdown like we had in April, it was so peaceful then.

  4. This dumb ass blame the government approach has never worked.
    Pull your heads out of your ass and see there can be only one approach to this.

  5. Don’t talk about it. Do something, like a curfew on under age kids.
    You need a firm hand on this one, not a slap on the wrist.
    Stuff the word “racist”. That’s not it, it’s action and make the parents accountable for it
    Night patrols of volunteers to keep an eye on the streets and deal with it. t
    There’s only one word: Heavy punishment is required.
    Hopefully the perpetrators will get the message.
    Talk, talk, talk that’s all you are doing and as you can see it’s not working.

  6. @ Larry pinta, @ Kerry: It would be helpful if you elaborated on your comments and perhaps offered some kind of solution.

  7. Ed, I feel you could seek out a safe vantage point in town (ie. office block / veranda) and spend a busy day such as a Thursday night / morning uncovering some of the most shocking photos / footage of what is occurring in the CBD.
    The council does a fantastic job each morning tidying up the streets before most people see it but it truly is a war zone.
    The young children on the streets at 4am are absolutely neglected and without hope or a future and the NT Government should be ashamed at their paralysis to act.
    Regarding the fence at the train yard: The inner fence idea makes no sense. The fence is often damaged purely for vandalism not for access reasons. Each panel cost in the vicinity of half a grand to replace!
    It is not common practice to install double / triple sheets of fencing or other steel products as it can cause rust, but given our dry climate, I would suggest doing just this.
    Rust “sweating” between the sheets will be a negligible issue in Alice Springs and would make them exponentially harder to damage and long term save a fortune.
    Only the face sheet needs to be painted / graffiti coated and the under sheets can be cheap as chips or even packer sheets.
    The fact this has not occurred years ago is indicative of the lack of talent and practicality our town endures.

  8. I lived in Alice all my life and after recently being bashed on the streets walking home, I have absolutely no hope that anything will be done.
    The NT Government is crippled in enforcing the harsh reprimands required to bring an end to the lawlessness in Alice by pressure interstate from people who don’t understand and racialise everything they can, so that the halos above their heads glisten.
    We’re not allowed to make decisions to help ourselves due to misinformation and miseducation elsewhere.
    The media has to paint the real picture and the people have to be able to speak freely and truthfully.

  9. Agreed @Tony Clancy. Race has nothing to do with it, crime is crime and should be punished accordingly. The people committing these offences know the difference between right and wrong.
    As said, this cycle has been going on for decades and has gradually become worse over my 27 years in Alice. It’s been demonstrated time and again words do nothing without following up with some action. How long until the ‘point of no return’ is reached on this issue?
    NT Gov, and to a lesser extent ASTC, I acknowledge there is underlying issues and there is no ‘silver bullet’ to curb/eliminate criminal behaviours but some action, some evidence that you are trying and following up on your constant stream of words would be a step in the right direction before your residents lose ALL faith in your ability to govern and control.
    I am not suggesting I, or any individual alone, can do a better job but some outside the box thinking is required because what’s in place now clearly isn’t working.

  10. Two very simple questions:
    1) When someone gets seriously hurt or even dies, will the law change to allow people to defend themselves?
    2) If someone gets attacked and they happen to be prepared in that they have the necessary self defence skills or have a big stick at the ready and defend themselves, will they be prosecuted?
    At the end of the day, it is the government which is supposed to make and enforce laws to protect its employers (taxpayers).
    If they won’t, then I think anything is fair game.

  11. Larry Pinta, you obviously have little (or no) idea of the situation in the Library previous to the COVID restrictions. It was a war zone!
    Unfortunately, our Town Council has now relented to pressure from activists.
    I’ve been here in town for 26 years and have never seen the current level of dysfunctional social problems.
    All levels (Federal, Territory and Local) of government need to co-operate to find solutions.
    Personal responsibility must be part of this!

  12. This is just a joke. Wake up and get this under control before most of the people living here move interstate.
    A strict boot camp is what is needed out bush so that they are isolated.
    They are nothing but little thugs who know that the law cannot touch them.
    Get something in place. The Chief Minister doesn’t have any interest in the southern Territory.
    He only is concerned in the Darwin area so we need to fix this.

  13. What a sad litany of angered expressions and in some cases, hopelessness.
    Much blame but little solutions on offer.
    I will assume most of the readers have leadership skills, so let me put forward some examples for those leaders to consider that could go some way to arresting our town’s reported abysmal future.
    One example could be giving some serious thought to going to where our worst offenders could be available to communicate with.
    A delegation of elected community representatives from local, Territory and Federal governments taking the personal approach, accompanied by community leaders (CEOs), both Indigenous and non Indigenous, to visit our prisons and juvenile detention centres to engage in a straight talking program and learn, maybe, something about what is currently causing this unresolved disconnect.
    This could be an eye opening experience for those who compile the reams of reports and reports and reports that outline what needs to be done without ever hearing from those they are reporting on!
    We all know by now that the horrors of disadvantage is a major factor for the many offences being committed and the advantage to hearing from those “disadvantaged” voices might go a long way to resolving many, or at least some of the causes.
    This doesn’t need to be a once only visit and would be best approached respecting individual confidentiality.
    Surely, as a crisis measure, government legislators could assist with such visitations.
    Or alternatively, a group of local business men and women accompanied again by Indigenous and non Indigenous leaders (CEOs) may wish to consider such a program in order to learn how their properties / businesses can avoid being targeted.
    Going one step further, having a youth leader delegate being a part of this concept would provide for a cross sector of the community voice for change.
    Curfews, vigilante groups which I am hearing being proposed will do little more than bring further disadvantage to those of us who basically are calling for good strong leadership from those who can propose and act on legislative changes that can benefit us all.
    Some very radical food for thought but to date nothing else appears to be working.

  14. I have lived in Alice since 1981 and never thought such a nice place would turn out so bad.
    There used to be respect around the place and if the younger generation played up the parents / elders would pull them into line (myself included).
    Now it’s poor bugger me, it’s not their fault, they are like this.
    Bullshit. We are too soft now! It needs to change.
    I love the place but unless something is done by the government or police its only going to get worse.
    My 14 year old daughter won’t go in the car down town without the door being locked.
    Somebody please help us save this once great town.
    Before everyone leaves!

  15. I was in Subway yesterday when eight Aboriginal kids, perhaps aged 7seven to 12 arrived.
    They demanded cookies and when refused helped themselves to the drinks fridge and left without paying.
    “Will you call the police?” I asked the lady serving.
    “Why bother,” was her response.

  16. I’ve been here 10 years and no longer go out at night and only venture into the CBD when necessary.
    The COVID lockdown showed what this town should be, but the current Mayor is only a talker.
    We need a curfew and firm action as this town will otherwise become a war zone.
    Very sad.

  17. @ Relieved: I am very confused by your post. You mention “disadvantage” being the perpetrators of these assaults and crimes. So are you suggesting that because there has been “disadvantage”, that it makes it OK to commit these offences?
    You seem to be unaware that the innocent people who just want to go about their normal lives without the fear of being burgled, assaulted or harassed are actually the people who are disadvantaged. They didn’t choose this, but the perpetrators do!
    Furthermore, why on earth should local business people consider a program to protect their businesses?
    It is a government responsibility alone.
    I can think of a way to alleviate innocent people being targeted, but the police and persons such as yourself, would not like the outcome.
    Perhaps its time to have a reality check and take off the rose coloured glasses.
    The very sad real fact is, that if something is not done about this, something will be done about it.

  18. Of course the mayor would say “we have lost control of the CBD”!
    Arrente people have lost control of who they are and who belongs where. Look at some of the postings by Pengkarte. Look at Lhere Artepe who they have in control of the show.
    Then you have the opening of Parrtjima and you have people talking about Arrente culture.
    The whole picture is distorted and its no wonder that Alice has lost control. Aboriginal people have lost control of themselves!

  19. Thank you for your comments Surprised!. Let me attempt to put your confusion at ease.
    No, I am not suggesting that anything offensive or offending has a tag attached to it because of “disadvantage”.
    I am fully aware that the every day ordinary individual just wants to feel safe and live their lives without fear of being burgled, assaulted, harassed or bullied by anyone.
    I use the term disadvantaged not for any of the above misdemeanours to be excused but as an insight to those of us more law abiding, maybe even, privileged citizens, to just to have some understanding and preparedness to hear what those less fortunate in our society have got to say about their actions. We might learn something!
    Restitution processes is more in line with what I am proposing and to have any success with that someone must start the conversation hence the visits that I have suggested, to the correctional centres where all parties can have the opportunity to speak.
    I have indeed suggested that the government play a role in this but we all must play our part if we are serious about “getting out of this together”.
    I am not clear on what you are suggesting in that I “would not like the outcome” in relation to “alleviating innocent people being targeted” other than to say, that what I am proposing is within the limits of the law and is at best a remedy for our town leaders, and you, to consider as a way forward. I hope this has been of assistance.

  20. @ Relieved: Without wish to get into a tit for tat, I’d like to say I looked up what privileged meant for my own benefit.
    “Class privilege is a term sociologists use to describe the way that our social class position provides us with access to resources and opportunities that make our lives easier …”
    I think we all have that, it’s that some of us use it more wisely and constructively than others.
    In fact, IMHO, the Aboriginal population has far more access to privilege that us mere white folk.

  21. All this talk of accountability and parental responsibility ignores the fact that nearly every social intervention in Alice Springs functions to support children in need by taking responsibility away from the parents (pick up for school programs, breakfast at school programs, bus drop off at youth centre programs, dinner at youth centre programs). Hard to take responsibility when you literally don’t have to.
    Maybe the solution is less about instrumental need based solutions like more cops (which as we’ve seen, never works), harsher penalties … even more programs (unless targeted accurately) leads to further disempowerment.
    Is our government (and the NGOs) working to find the leverage points in the system (these are generally unintuitive) where the smallest change could make the biggest difference?
    Changing the way we view this “problem” might sound simplistic, but could be the strongest catalyst for social betterment and inclusion of vulnerable people.

  22. Steph H: “Social intervention in Alice Springs functions to support children in need by taking responsibility away from the parents (pick up for school programs, breakfast at school programs, bus drop off at youth centre programs, dinner at youth centre programs). Hard to take responsibility when you literally don’t have to.”
    So true and some responsible include the youth workers, social workers, who have learned from text books and do not accept voluntary help workers as they fear for their status, instead of realising that it is a community problem that has to be fixed by the community not only by university graduates with no life experience.

  23. Good on ya Steph.
    Let’s look more on what we can do to help each other make a difference.
    Solutions are what’s needed. Any idea that might feel insignificant could be of the greatest significance, a bridge builder, when the chips are down.
    Alice Springs has many diverse and “life experience voices” out there who read these columns.
    Be great to hear some “stories of resilience and social inclusion” from others who may have experienced similar circumstances to ours and have come this far.
    Such examples may even offer a semblance of hope and possibly lift our spirits to perhaps help make this iconic place, once again, a town that can only but benefit from the individual kindness that we yearn for and know, deep down, we all possess.
    We are a part of its history, just by being here, let’s try to make the best of it and strive to make it work.

  24. I am writing this at 12:50am. It has been more than 45 minutes that I hear cars racing loudly and making noises in close distance (in the CBD?). I will probably have another sleepless night. Tomorrow I have to work. Friday night the same thing.
    I live in the East Side. Sturt =Terrace is regularly used as a race track. Day and night. Two weeks ago we had to call the police at 2am as 10 people where hitting each other, shouting, and two cars were making doughnuts and spinning / revving the engines. No police ever came.
    Not even to simply drive by. I wonder if any of the neighbours even called. I wonder if the police even cares.
    It seems the city is out of control in a state of lawlessness.
    It starts with noisy cars, racing down the streets at every hour of the day and night, and it turns quickly to throwing stones, breaking into property and cars … what next?
    It seems that nobody cares and authorities which should and can do something care even less.


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