Monday, June 24, 2024

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HomeIssue 42Council must lead on youth crime, fund drop-in centre: Marli Banks

Council must lead on youth crime, fund drop-in centre: Marli Banks


A councillor will challenge the town’s local government tonight to not only to become a leader in the fight against juvenile crime, but to put money into outfitting a building as a 24/7 youth drop-in centre.

Cr Marli Banks says she was moved to act by the death of Shane Powell (at right) who was the victim of a hit and run by youths in a stolen car.

She says not only should the Town Council offer its sincere condolences to the family, but move beyond talk to practical action, and establish the centre to be run in collaboration with the police and publicly funded Aboriginal organisations.

“This family’s extreme loss is felt by the community as a whole,” says Cr Banks (pictured at the Old Timers fete in 2017).

“We need to stand by their side and against these extreme acts of violence.

“We need community resolution which is tough.

“The leadership in council, especially the Mayor, needs to step up in this space, ensuring a coordinated effort.”

Cr Banks says there needs to be more clarity about much debated constraints on the police to act, given the “silence and absence” of the government: “It is now the council’s role to step up. Directions need to be given. The community is looking to the council.

“Issues of discrimination and human rights must also be clarified.”

The council will need to get up to speed on dealing with the social issues involved, and get advice from established groups, but it already can “look at resourcing infrastructure”.

The time has come for the council to “move beyond rates, roads and rubbish” and work more closely with local groups, says Cr Banks.

“What we need is leadership. We are passing the buck. What I’m hearing loud and clear from people is the leaders are not doing enough in this space.”

Who are the leaders she is referring to?

“Where is the Mayor on this? I am disappointed that I have not seen a position of the council on this.

Phil Alice (foreground) addressing the council in November, 2017, seeking collaboration.

“When I first came to council there was an approach by members of the Indigenous community to work with them, which was rejected by the majority of council.

“I voted for it. I worked to ensure that [issues of] anti social behaviour get tabled.”

Can the council afford to outfit a building as a drop-in centre?

“That has never been discussed in the first three years of this council. There is not an appetite by elected members to address crime and anti-social behaviour.

“We have a year left of this council. I don’t have all the information to say, yes, we can afford it.

“But I know the council is financially stable.”

Asked whether she would raise the issue at tonight’s council meeting, Cr Banks said: “I am compelled to raise it. Absolutely. I am going to ask the question, what is our ability to support a drop-in centre, in response to the family tragedy our community has been witness to.

“We have an obligation to work towards a solution.”

PHOTO at top: The Alice Springs police station (at left in the photo) in 2008. The building is now empty. The police have moved across the road. Could the vacant building be repurposed as a youth drop-in centre?


  1. Can the vacant former police station in Parsons Street “be re-purposed as a youth drop-in centre?”
    Now wouldn’t that be ironic!
    The first youth drop-in centre in Alice Springs, called “Danny’s Place”, was established in the original town centre police station on the corner of Parsons and Hartley Streets in 1976.
    That old police station was vacant because the police had moved into their flash new complex at the next corner of Parsons and Bath Streets in 1970 (it was expanded towards the old Stuart Town Gaol in 1989).
    Danny’s Place worked fine as a youth drop-in centre but didn’t last very long – it had to be closed to make way for the development of a new court house.
    That episode, the best part of half a century ago, set a template of how this issue has been dealt with in Alice Springs since that time.

  2. Whilst I don’t believe that the Alice Springs Town Council do everything that we pay them for, I do not think for one minute that a “Drop In” centre will achieve much.
    As far as I am concerned, it’s not the council’s responsibility to fight youth crime, after all we pay the government to do that. If the council is expected to fund this too, that’s just more of our money wasted. In other sectors, it’s referred to as double dipping. A practice frowned upon by the payers. In fact it’s worse than that, because we also pay for the higher premiums and excesses on insurance claims as a result of this.
    Until such time as the parents are held accountable for their children’s actions, things will only get worse.
    The parents have the responsibility for this alone.
    If they refuse to do it or are incapable, then the laws need to be changed to deal with it.
    If that means lowering the age where kids can be charged so be it. If it means building more youth detention facilities, so be it.
    These kids have a choice as to whether they’d want to fit in with society, unlike the rest of us who don’t have a choice to be assaulted, abused and burgled.
    Given the low percentage of Aboriginal population, how can this be so out of control.
    The amount of money given to the many organisations in various ways is clearly in most cases being wasted.
    There are obviously Aboriginal people (and Whites) who care about this, are knowledgeable in the causes for the behaviour and want to fix the issues, so let them speak up and give them the support they need to provide these kids a stable platform and education, to benefit them.
    Perhaps re-channel the royalty money and other funding to those who can prove they have improved the lives and education of the kids. (Education also covers discipline.)

  3. I agree with Surprised. It is not the council’s responsibility to fund such a centre let alone fit one out. Council can take the lead in coordinating where a centre could go but it shouldn’t be the rate payers paying for contributing towards fixing the crime.
    In my opinion the old defunct Memo Clubhouse would be a better spot than the police station. There are larger open spaces there, a large commercial kitchen and out door areas. The old police station only is suitable for it is central to town. However I believe it will be more costly to retro fit it to make it a suitable drop in centre.
    Territory Families, Housing and Communities (TFHC) probably should take more charge than the council and they should work with Aboriginal Corporations and Health centres as well as elders to ensure children are safe at night.
    I would think TFHC would also have the connections already there to help establish such a centre.

  4. I read this with amusement in an ABC News post. The question was asked of Northern Territory Police Acting Southern Watch Commander Craig Laidler, is crime getting worse in Alice Springs? Bla Bla Bla, and he said No. F
    urthermore he stated that there was no evidence to suggest there was any underreporting of crime in the town.
    If crime is underreported, how on earth can you ever find evidence of it!
    With moronic answers like this from the police, will we ever get out of this ugly spiral?

  5. This a big, sensitive, complex issue.
    I understand that people have strong emotions in regards to this topic – left and right. I think it’s fair of Marli to want the council to have more of a stake in this issue our town faces.
    Maybe the issue of funding etc is complex, but for the council to be silent in words and actions to this issue our town faces is negligent.
    It’s clear that the mayor and majority of our council are conservative, have Liberal values.
    Damien hasn’t shown that he is passionate about these issues or that he wants to work with local Aboriginal people to solve these issues.
    Surprised: The parents do have responsibility, but some of them cannot be responsible with the issues they may be facing.
    Homelessness, oppression, trauma … we can’t expect people to solve these issues without support, listening and working together.
    I don’t know what the solution looks like, but its not enough to say the parents need to be responsible when they are clearly struggling themselves.
    The children causing these issues are some of the world’s most vulnerable, traumatised children. History and research shows that criminalising and punitive measures do not work with minorities.
    What these children need is not gaol cells and gaol guards watching over them.
    They need to have all of their basic needs met, they need safe places to stay with family, they need intensive support to change the direction they are heading.
    If our community focused on supporting parents of young children intensively, maybe in 10 years this issue would be getting better.
    There are many services in town, trust me, working over-time to support Aboriginal people.
    This money is not wasted.
    The truth is the need is too great for these services to manage.
    So many families are homeless, and the NT Housing waitlist takes seven years. How can you address all of the complex issues in your life when you don’t even know where you will be sleeping for the night?
    I guarantee, if anyone in this town spent a week in these families’ shoes we would be more understanding.
    We need to work WITH Aboriginal people in this town, who want to work with us too!
    We don’t need to be telling young traumatised, struggling kids to “fit in”.
    We need to be saying we care about you, we want to best for you, tell us how to support you and your families.

  6. Hopeful: Whilst you raise some valid points, though people are at their wits’ end and just want the crime to be dealt with, immediately.
    Continuously ineffective measures have been tried and tried again and now the crime has gotten out of control.
    Referring to the parents, you say “… when they are clearly struggling themselves”. Why is it they are struggling and how much if any is by their own doing?
    There are numerous support services available and at a huge cost to the taxpayer, so what is it that is really want?
    From where I sit, too much money is wasted to keep the peace, when it should be used where the benefits can be seen.
    With regards to housing, if people destroy houses why should they have it repaired at the taxpayers cost?
    I am all for giving people a leg up (as I am sure most are), but I am not interested in carrying people when they are in a position to help themselves, but refuse to.
    I am certainly not willing to help anyone who is disrespectful by calling me a White C***, or ungrateful for my efforts.
    I have spent a considerable amount of time in a support centre and on many occasions witnessed many simple, but telling incidents.
    Most recently, toast and cups of coffee was placed on the table, the sugar and milk was also available on the table.
    Two of the able bodied clients pointed to the sugar and gestured that we should put the sugar and milk in their cups and then pointed to the butter and Vegemite and gestured that we should spread the butter and Vegemite.
    That pretty much sums it up.

  7. Qe?
    What are those fairly recently upgraded and new building at the base of ANZAC Hill, adjacent to ANZAC Oval being used for a night?
    I thought this WAS actually a Youth Hub / Community Center? And owned by theAlice Springs Town Council, aka the local residents and ratepayers representatives.
    It’s got a sports gall, gym, a cafe and lots of space for running around right next door at ANZAC Oval.
    Or is this recently upgraded space / facility being used for other purposes at night? Not that I’ve seen.
    Is the cafe still open?

  8. Good on you Marli, for having the balls to raise this issue in the face of our town’s long-failing mayoral “leadership”.
    Anti-social behaviour is a news-making issue which is colouring our national and international image and impacts upon every one of us living and working in this town, directly and indirectly.
    Council should indeed be looking beyond “roads rates and rubbish” and needs to accept that it does have a role to play in providing amenities for our youth, as it does for readers (Library), sports lovers (ovals), walkers (parks), and people caught short (toilets), to name but a few.
    I also believe we need a societal / community solution, as we do with victims of domestic violence and those addicted to alcohol and other drugs.
    Do we throw responsibility for their welfare back to their parents and families?
    We also need to appreciate that in traditional Aboriginal society, the young are raised by the grandmothers, something I’ve also seen in traditional Italian society, leaving the parents to work and earn the income to keep all three generations going.
    How this issue is resolved will say much about the kind of town we want The Alice to be: sharing and caring, or hard and punitive. We need to choose wisely.
    And a big thank you to Hopeful for injecting some much needed clear thinking into the discussion.

  9. Domenico Pecorari: “Do we throw responsibility for their welfare back to their parents and families?” In short YES, it’s called being a responsible parent.
    It’s the same expectation for all of us.
    “We also need to appreciate that in traditional Aboriginal society, the young are raised by the grandmothers, something I’ve also seen in traditional Italian society, leaving the parents to work and earn the income to keep all three generations going.”
    You cannot even begin to compare the Italians with the Aboriginals. Show me where the Aboriginal parents work and earn an income (to the detriment of their children)?
    This worked for the Italians, because they worked hard to make it work and didn’t get continual handouts.
    Back to the council, there are plenty of parks to play at after school and on the weekends. There is also a great skate park to play after school and on the weekends. A nice swimming complex.
    At night, what about studying to help secure your future?
    The issue is not about providing entertainment, it’s about care and commitment by the parents in the first instance and if that requires them to be provided assistance, happy to assist, but don’t make it society’s responsibility!

  10. @ Surprised: I’m guessing you are a very literal person, so allow me to explain myself.
    We have Women’s Shelters to look after victims of domestic violence, don’t we?
    We have shelters for alcoholics and drug addicts, the homeless, don’t we?
    Why should vulnerable and traumatised youngsters be left to fend for themselves?
    As for my cultural comparison, I did say “traditional”.
    In traditional Aboriginal culture, the most fit and able (parents) did the hunting and food gathering, or “work”.
    You cannot expect a culture that lived in a communal society to embrace the ways of the nuclear family, to become “more like us”.
    A little more understanding, and a great deal more talking, will get us to an earlier resolution.

  11. @ Surprised: Parents could be struggling for a myriad of reasons – intergenerational trauma, homelessness, alcohol or other drug issues (which is a disease not a lifestyle), systemic racism, health issues, domestic and family violence, family humbug, the list goes on.
    Why do we have to blame the oppressed for the disadvantages and injustices they experience? There is a history to these stories, this history has paved the way for some people to be lost and disenfranchised.
    As I said, there are support services in town, working over-time to support people. The demand for these services far outweighs the supply.
    And sadly a lot of these services are prescriptive and many people cannot access them as they are not the right age/gender etc. There are many youth services in town, all of their waitlists are full, and they all have strict criteria for who can be referred. Many get left behind and fall through the cracks.
    Young, traumatised, lost youth will call people names, antagonise, and run amuck – our job as adult members of society is to be bigger, stronger, wiser. Don’t take it personally, its not about you, its about them and their struggle.
    It is unfair to judge the various unique tribal nations in central australia from a handful of your personal experiences.
    Undoing the damage that has been done to Aboriginal people in this region through colonisation, stolen generation and the issues they face today doesn’t happen overnight.
    We need to play a long game. This is why it isn’t as simple as saying “parents should be responsible”.
    Don’t get me wrong, I 100% agree that parents should be responsible for their kids, or if they can’t, then other family members. But with all the complexities that some of these families experience it just isn’t as simple as that. And in a town that is facing these issues so intensively, the council’s inaction is just so wrong.
    Lastly, you say the council has provided ample public spaces for these kids. This is what a council should do, but as we learnt at the last public forum on this issue, these kids need and deserve specialised services, not a public space.
    I want to finish this by reminding us all that while there are struggles for the various Aboriginal groups in these areas, there is also brilliance, intelligence, kindness, and success.
    There are so many amazing Aboriginal people in this town who work tirelessly to make their families and communities stronger.
    In my ideal world they would be given the respect, resources and support from the Government and Town Council to lead the solving of these issues – ALONGSIDE A SUPPORTIVE AND WILLING community.

  12. @ Domenico Pecorari: I respond by repeating my answer to one of your earlier questions: “Do we throw responsibility for their welfare back to their parents and families?”
    In short, YES. It’s called being a responsible parent, followed by: “It’s about care and commitment by the parents in the first instance and if that requires them to be provided assistance, happy to assist, but don’t make it society’s responsibility!”
    I do not expect that people become “more like us” as you put it. We are all individuals and have the right to be. Differences in people can help us all learn and grow.
    What I do expect though, is that ALL people behave to a respectful manner and an acceptable standard in society.
    Acceptable is not terrorising, assaulting, stealing and generally being a threat to peoples lives.
    In terms of “understanding,” try suggesting that to those who have been the victims of crime. Having said that, when people see real change they are more likely to be understanding.
    You can talk until you are blue in the face, but until such time as there are real consequences for abhorrent behaviour, little is likely to change.

  13. @ Hopeful: Nobody has said the parents are not struggling, merely that it is their responsibility. If they can’t manage that responsibility, ask for and utilise the help available.
    Whilst alcoholism and drug abuse are diseases, the road to them was a choice! (Barring FASD, ARND, ARBD and whatever the equivalent is for drug intake during pregnancy is.)
    It is and has been evident for a very long time that alcohol is a significant issue in all society.
    Alcohol generates too much income for the governments to make it a banned substance. If it were a banned substance and people complied, imagine the “long game” benefits (as you put it). Interestingly, they banned cigarette advertising on race cars many years ago, but not alcohol advertising. Yet alcohol mixed with cars result in thousands of deaths or injuries each year.
    We are told not to drink and drive, yet advertising alcohol on race cars may subliminally suggest that you can drink, drive and go very fast.
    I deduce that the Governments are not interested in saving lives over money.
    So, the onus is back on the people. I won’t mention DV as that is another huge thing, too big for this post.
    Educating people about the destructive nature of alcohol is the answer. For a myriad of reasons, Aboriginal people are predisposed to serious health issues resulting from alcohol intake. So are the people being funded to provide the education failing?
    You ask: “Why do we have to blame the oppressed for the disadvantages and injustices they experience?”
    In response I ask, why do the innocent people in society have the suffer the often threatening, damaging behaviour and cost of the “oppressed” behaviour?
    What’s more, nobody has addressed compensation for the innocents victims. Just because someone has had an unfortunate upbringing, does not give them the right to make the rest of society suffer.
    Fact of life – don’t bite the hand that feeds you, or it may stop feeding you.
    I disagree with your comment: “It is unfair to judge the various unique tribal nations in Central Australia from a handful of your personal experiences.” It is our personal experiences that supply us the information we need to make judgments and decisions.
    Furthermore, I do not understand why there is so much homelessness. With the huge amounts of money directed to Aboriginal people (2:1) plus royalty moneys, is the money being wasted, misdirected or possibly stolen? Sadly the answer is yes to all three. So there is another challenge.
    Yep, I see many of these issues, but it seems that few are REALLY interested in starting at the bottom to address the real causes (albeit with some unpopular decisions), but are happy to try to solve them from the wrong end.
    Your closing sentence is so very true though: “I want to finish this by reminding us all that while there are struggles for the various Aboriginal groups in these areas, there is also brilliance, intelligence, kindness, and success.”
    In my experience the older Aboriginal people have numerous skills and knowledge. We could all benefit from them, but if something isn’t done in the next few years, this knowledge will die out.

  14. My family and I are looking at relocating to Alice. However, it does not seem like a friendly place at the moment!
    The last thing we want is to move somewhere where we don’t feel safe or have to live like we are prisoners in our own home!

  15. Surprised: “Alcohol generates too much income for the governments.” Not only the Government.

  16. A youth centre is the most useless idea ever.
    It provides nothing but a feather in the cap of those proposing it and employment for those running it.
    It will achieve nothing as it serves no purpose except maybe to feed the little criminals or so sympathise with their hard luck stories after which they will just go out and commit more crimes.
    Believe me I know as does anyone else who has been down this track.

  17. Here’s a suggestion. In terms of a funding stream which could help support Marli’s proposed CBD youth drop-in centre, a fair and reasonable idea given the past, recurring and current situation and circumstances, why doesn’t Council divert the (anticipated, based on recent Council tender award prices for such) $1.68m or so which will be required to install 750lux level International Cricket standard lighting at Jim McConville Oval?
    As we already have this level of lighting at Traeger Park and, very soon also to be, at Albrecht Oval.
    Or are we anticipating to host three x international level cricket games in Alice Springs at the same time anytime soon? Or ever!
    Does the concept of putting scarce and valuable resources to good use ever cross the minds of Council?

  18. Yes, why do we need 750lux lights at this oval? This town already has too much light pollution and I agree how often will those lights be used, for training or actual games?
    A couple or so years ago (in Mount Isa) someone in council there proposed light installations to one of their ovals.
    The light installation was too dim to even be acceptable to play or train at night. I think certain individuals didn’t want light pollution in their neighbourhood but in our case do we really need 750lux, or can this be tuned down to a reasonable amount between “not being too dim” or “to bright”?
    Anyway getting back on topic, I was reading some where on the internet that there are supposedly plans to raize the old Memo Club, the demolition being due to parts of the building being found as structurally not stable and not worth saving.
    Apparently Congress is building a new health facility there and the old lawn bowls green will become a carpark.
    Perhaps Congress can help lead the way or work with the Alice Springs Town Council in facilitating a youth drop in centre as part of this new development?

  19. The new youth centre in Railway terrace is an epic fail. The kids are now terrorising the residents and using the centre as a safe place after breaking the law.
    They accept no responsibility for what happens outside their fence. The police are even refused entry.
    It proves they are not willing to co-operate with the police.
    The centre is causing more harm than good as it has no solid infrastructure to stop the kids from wandering the streets.
    Here we go again, more money down the drain. It needs to be closed down and moved 10km out of town.


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