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HomeIssue 7Traditional Owner patrol of CBD is 'history in the making'

Traditional Owner patrol of CBD is ‘history in the making’


A delighted Phillip Alice has announced on his Facebook page that the Traditional Owner foot patrol, which he calls the “Arrente patrol” will start this Monday – “history in the making”.

The patrol, backed by the Town Council with 10 jobs and funding of $230,000, comes more than three and half years after Mr Alice and other senior Arrernte men (pictured above, Mr Alice in the checked shirt) expressed their desire to to step up “to do something about all these young people who are causing problem in Arrernte ground”.

From there, after meetings over months with Councillors Eli Melky and Catherine Satour, Mr Alice, a former community police officer, made a presentation at a November 2017 council meeting, offering to “become part of the solution”.

At the time the offer seemed to fall on deaf ears. Cr Satour’s motion to accept it and “build a formal and strong relationship” with them, was whittled down to inviting them for discussion.

She commented on what happened next – not pretty – during the community safety debate at this week’s meeting.

Now, however, it seems it is an idea whose time has come, with a soft launch this coming Monday.

“All Arrente people happy,” says Mr Alice’s post.

Cr Satour said recruitment to the patrol team has been a council operational matter – she has not been involved – but she expressed her pleasure that after three years of hard work, “at times at great personal expense and overcoming obstacles and objections”, that council is working alongside Traditional Owners towards “solutions of community safety”.

“This is only the beginning,” she says.

Council’s media officer confirmed the beginning of the pilot patrol with Mr Alice as its leader. It will be a “process of walking the streets of the CBD and engaging with community members”.

Initially, it will involve day shifts “to aid patrollers in information gathering”. Presumably the plan is to move to including night shifts, which will be critical in the eyes of the community.

The patrol will be formally launched at a later date – the News understands end of April.


Photo at top, from our archives, July 2017: from left, Matthew Palmer, Phillip Alice, Jonathan Conway, Shane Lindner. 


  1. And delighted you should be Phillip Alice. Stay strong, stay safe, but above all, avoid the politics and maybe give consideration to a major role as an elected member on town council. You’ve got my vote.

  2. This is great news! So good to see our Arrernte people taking the initiative to find solutions to combat an issue that’s been affecting our town for a long period of time. A BIG thank you to Uncle Phillip Alice, Catherine Satour, other Alice Springs Town Council Members and other Arrernte leaders – we are so proud of you all. Blessings from Pastor Sherry Lowah Snr. – I AM House of Worship, Alice Springs.

  3. Finally, after three and a half years, it seems that mayor and the conservative bloc in our council has accepted that Indigenous leaders have a role to play in dealing with anti-social behaviour.
    I was at that November 2017 council meeting and was personally shocked at the treatment Mr Alice and the other senior Arrernte men were served, particularly by our Mayor.
    I realised then that some of our civic leaders felt threatened by solutions coming from members of the community with the knowledge and experience to make meaningful contributions.
    I thank Ms Satour for her persistence in the face of an overwhelmingly conservative majority of councillors and believe that the Arrernte patrol will prove a vital part of a multi-pronged response to improving the public image of our town that is so needed to underpin a return to social harmony and economic prosperity.
    Together with Relieved and Evelyne Roullet, I’d also urge Mr Alice and others to stand for the upcoming council elections.
    You will have my support and my vote for the change we need.

  4. Yes, Domenico Pecorari. Not consulting with Aboriginal people is a mistake many Australians make, especially politicians.
    Aboriginal culture is based on respect, for the land and for their elders. Not showing respect is one of the biggest mistakes non-Aboriginal people commit when interacting with Aboriginal culture.
    The young men knowing that we have no respect for their elders will get more and more arrogant / violent toward us: Why should they respect us if respect is not both way?
    I believe that before applying for a public job or a public function the candidates should take part in cultural awareness training to qualify for a certificate like tour guides require to work in the national parks.
    The candidate should have learnt: 1. cultural awareness; 2. cultural sensitivity; 3. cultural safety.
    In short: Have diplomatic skills.

  5. At best this is a symbolic move that will appeal to non Aboriginal residents who naively believe that TOs have authority in matters of western law.
    They don’t and wayward youth will not be influenced in the slightest.
    I wonder what the real senior TOs of Alice Springs think of this?
    $230, 000 for patrols that will not reduce youth crime?
    Security guards, more CCTV and better lighting would achieve a lot more.

  6. @ Evelyne. I totally agree with you.
    @ Jon. A little less negativity, please. Let’s give this as yet untried initiative a fair go, shall we? While “security guards, more CCTV and better lighting” is certainly part of the solution, I think this “human touch” approach may bring results that no amount of hardware ever can.

  7. @ Domenico Pecorari: On remote communities, where youth crime similar to that in Alice Springs has been ongoing for decades, do traditional owners get involved?
    No! I’ve never heard of such a thing.
    How could they justify being involved?
    Most actions that are punishable under western law including breaking into businesses and stealing cars are not punishable under Aboriginal traditional law.
    They are considered to be matters to be worked out between individuals.
    Working as an Aboriginal police aide is difficult and many give the job up after pressure from the community and their own families.
    To be fair, it is possible that Mr Alice could encounter some kids from his own community of Santa Teresa and encourage them to return home rather than hang out in town.
    That could be useful but it will have minimal effect on the crime rate and it’s definitely not worth $230,000.
    In SA, programs like this, such as elders visits in the prisons, are by volunteers.
    Here in the NT, there is a history of large payments being made for Aboriginal involvement. For example, the elders who visit NT prisoners are paid as consultants and the cost is quite extraordinary.
    The council is following the Territory tradition of paying a large amount of money in order to claim that they have got Aboriginal people on board.
    It’s pretty much a sham.

  8. So, it has taken almost four years to get this up and running.
    If people were serious, this should have begun in July, 2017, as per your article.
    There are already night patrols by community groups, there is a place where the kids can go and yet crime still happens.
    Will it take another three odd years for something solid to come out of this, so far, insipid community response.

  9. I am keen to know what the dissenters, the doubters can offer, in real terms and what they believe will work towards a resolution of what can be described as frightening for many.
    We are talking about businesses shutting shop, residents being attacked in their own homes, public assaults etc, in fact, residents living behind large fences, under chain, lock and key.
    Dissenters, doubters, should we not get behind this initiative, give greater encouragement and support to Phillip Alice and Co and let’s just experience any decent attempt to address all the above without ridicule and contempt about any person, whether they be an Aboriginal person or other, for putting their hand up to make a real attempt.
    C’mon, let’s be civil about this.
    Let’s ditch the political undertones, the vested interest bullshit and allow those who legally want to put their body on the line to assist the police, who as anyone knows, can only do so much.
    Let’s all get behind Phillip, create a pied piper effect and if it doesn’t work, well at least we will have been a part of a much needed solution to cleaning up this mess.
    Encouragement will lead on to the confidence that seems to have been lacking. It may also have prevented many others from stepping up in this town. Phillip has done his bit. He doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone.
    Look what Grace Tame’s voice has done.
    I still say, Phillip please consider yourself a voice on council.
    You will have my vote.


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