Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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HomeIssue 42Town Council on youth: immediate action or look to longer term?

Town Council on youth: immediate action or look to longer term?


Councillor Marli Banks wants what the public is clamouring for but our governments seem incapable of producing: an immediate practical step to curb the antisocial and criminal behaviour of some young people in Alice Springs.

Her focus – prompted by the death of hit-and-run victim Shane Powell and as foreshadowed in these pages yesterday – was on the much discussed, long awaited 24-hour drop-in service for youth.

What would be the constraints on council, including its finances, to fit out a building for this purpose? she asked, giving the former police station as an example.

The building was used as the temporary women’s shelter while the new shelter was under construction and is thus likely to already have some of the necessary features – ablutions, cooking and sleeping areas.

The community needs to hear from council on this, a clear communication that “we stand beside them”, urged Cr Banks (pictured during a council meeting by Zoom earlier in this pandemic year).

Not surprisingly, given council’s budget allocation towards a youth hub ($400,000+), and the prominence of a region-wide approach in the CARGO submission to the NT Government, of which council was a key proponent, there is already a lot of information about the possibilities.

What is surprising is that the elected members of council seem to be ignorant of them – and this includes the four, Cr Banks among them, who contested the recent NT election in which crime, and youth crime in particular, was a hot button issue.

No one in last night’s meeting seemed to be across the research and detailed discussion behind either their own budget for a youth hub and the CARGO submission, in which support to youth was the number one priority, in the form of a 24-hour purpose-built youth hub, with satellite services, staffing and programs to all major sites in the region, with links back to the core services in Alice Springs.

CARGO is made up of multiple organisations, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, with the Town Council and Chamber of Commerce in the lead and the submission was made under the signature of Council CEO Robert Jennings.

To date, there has been no adequate explanation beyond the circumstances of the pandemic of council’s failure to pursue a youth hub, or at least get a start on it in Alice Springs. (A youth program based in Larapinta seems to have taken priority.)

The upshot of last night’s debate is that councillors will get to see the information held by Mr Jennings and discuss it at the next council forum on 9 November.

These forums are not open to the media or public. But we can expect that after 9 November some councillors at least will be pushing to bring the public into the picture.

There was talk last night of the need to tackle the issues more broadly.

Cr Jimmy Cocking spoke of the way that a community tragedy in Tennant Creek (the rape of a two-year-old) had triggered a  “whole of government approach” in the Barkly and of the need for council to lobby the federal government for “a regional deal”.

Council should send “our two best’ – Mayor Damien Ryan and Deputy Mayor Jacinta Price – to Canberra to start that conversation.

We need “to think big”, he said, about stimulating the local economy and achieving long-lasting benefits for not just youth, but adults too and to address the division in the community.

This approach was backed by DM Price, Cr Eli Melky, who saw what is required as a “multi-million dollar effort”, and Cr Jamie de Brenni, who extolled the experience that council could bring to the conversation – 12 years on council of “our leader”, the national profile of the deputy mayor, the lived experience on a remote community (Hermannsburg) of Cr Glenn Auricht, the nine years on council of Cr Melky, the “traditional people in this room” (presumably meaning Cr Catherine Satour and DM Price).

Cr Matt Paterson also seemed less bent on immediate steps, wanting council to write to the Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Territory Families Minister Kate Worden to invite them to discuss “a joint response” with council, taking Mr Gunner up on recent comments in the media that he would love to see council as part of the solution, working alongside the NT Government. (Haven’t we been there before – the back and forth of invitations, comments in the media, and no meetings, let alone a joint response?)

A motion to this effect was carried.

Cr Auricht, however, urged council not to put off action for the “bigger picture stuff”. Getting all the parties together would take too long, “we need to do something now”.

At the forum, council should focus on what they can do in the more immediate term to initiate a 24 hour drop-in centre, he urged.

Cr Banks appreciated his support, saying again that “we can’t wait around”, and that raising the idea in public was important, so people can see we are “not sitting silent”.

Photo at top: Councillors standing for prayer at the start of last night’s meeting.


  1. The prayers at the commencement are either for forgiveness or guidance. Possibly too late for either.
    Doesn’t just astound you though, that their employees won’t let you into the forums?
    Go figure!

  2. “A youth program based in Larapinta seems to have taken priority.”
    Yep, that would be right, handball the problem out of sight and mind of the CBD!
    Has anyone from Council actually consulted with the residents of the Larapinta community yet to see how they would feel about such a proposal?
    Don’t think so. But hey, we were once known as the East Hermannsburg residents.
    So who cares!
    If only they hadn’t demolished ANZAC High School.
    Has council transparency and public input / debate diminished since Mr Jennings has taken over council – I mean become the ASTC CEO?
    I can’t recall “Operational Business” ever being a reason to not discuss matters that concern residents and ratepayers? Until he came on board with such fanfare.

  3. The right way to pray is with sincerity — that is, without hypocrisy, or without putting on a show for others and pretending to be something we are not (Matt. 6:5).
    Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication.
    In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity (a God), or a deified ancestor. It will be interesting to find out what are the deities our councillors praying to?

  4. I have always thought the former police station on Parsons Street to be the most obvious building to redevelop as a 24/7 drop-in centre, not least because it is located just over the road from the present-day police station in the Greatorex Building.
    Critics raising the issue of asbestos need not worry as there is the technology for its safe removal, as was done at the old Anzac Hill High School prior to its demolition, in which the Gunner government spent additional millions to destroy an asset I’d conservatively value at over $12m.
    Wasn’t that clever?
    Let’s all call for better use of our town’s under-utilised and empty government-owned / leased properties for the benefit of our town.

  5. What is everyone waiting for? Some kind of lightning bolt to say ‘yes this is this what we need to do’! Seriously, for how long has this 24 hour drop in service been touted? Years. Long enough for it to have been built and had long term impacts, the fruits of which we would be seeing now.

    Such a waste of precious time all this back and forthing, umming and ahhing. If the research and all the inquiries people have been through have told us anything, it’s that the social and emotional costs of inaction far outweigh the costs to enact something that will change lives for the better.

    Clearly we need a solution that meets the deep need for safe spaces in our community. If I was in a position of power I wouldn’t blink an eye to make this happen, especially if I believed it had a chance of making a positive difference in the lives of young people who are becoming further marginalised from society and getting even further away from reaching their potential.

  6. Put offenders in a shame camp-out of town. Wear pink, no aircon in quarters, no TV etc.
    Army style retribution. Comments are way too merciful. It doesn’t work. We need a deterrent.

  7. It is hard to understand why a youth program in Larapinta is being prioritised over a CBD 24 hour drop in centre, a concept that has been in discussion for a long time and seems to have broad community support.
    I worry that the project will fail as anything outside of walking distance from the CBD will not be accessible or appealing to young people.
    I wonder who has made this decision, was it elected members or is it the pet project of new CEO, Robert Jennings? Im also confused as to what the Bahai involvement in this project is and why?
    I personally would prefer a secular youth program but at least religious organisations like the Uniting Church have a strong connection to the community and a track record in running youth programs and spaces in Central Australia.
    Correct me if I’m wrong but I have never heard of Bahai working in this field in Central Australia? Can the council, and here I mean the elected members, explain why this decision was taken?
    There seems to have been very little accountability around the shift from 24 hour CBD youth hub which the council was promising just months ago to a Bahai youth program in Larapinta.

  8. Unbelievable, no drop-in centre, kids are being damaged every day. Do something! And while you’re about it, shut Mokari Flats. #drugden.

  9. I see no mention anywhere of Parents and Families.
    Is it the ratepayers responsibility to look after the kids?
    Or the government / Tax Payer?
    They do have parents I imagine.


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