Letting the kids know we’re here



The Arrernte Strong Grandmothers’ group have added their clout to those walking Alice Springs central streets at night, trying to engage with young people.

Inspired by the grandmothers’ group in Tennant Creek, where the women visited recently, it’s about “letting the kids know we’re out now – you can’t muck around!”, said Alison Furber. (She is pictured above, at right in the photo, with from left, Margaret Lynch, Pamela Lynch and Veronica Lynch.)

“And we’re feeling for the kids,” said Veronica Lynch. The grandmothers know their families, their background.

Their work would be about love as well as discipline: “We understand what you’re going through, we care,” said Ms Furber.

The grandmothers, all volunteers, will join forces with the Town Council’s Traditional Owner “foot patrol”, as it has become known, as well as Tangentyere’s night patrol which was relaunching last night.

A briefing was held with police and council officers inside the Andy McNeill Room, while outside a barbecue was set up. Before the grandmothers emerged in their hi vis vests, kids were already being drawn by the signs of imminent sausages. “Is it free?” “Is it soon?”

A few hours later, after the open council meeting had finished, quite a crowd was milling around the area, adults and kids, along with a couple of police officers, and the patrollers.

Last night the grandmothers were playing it by ear. As they “do the job” they’re confident  more grandmothers will get involved.

In the chamber, Councillor Marli Banks asked for precision about when Elected Members would receive a report back on the work being done by the TO’s foot patrol, employed by council.

Not till June, was the answer, dictated partly by council’s new meeting structure, whereby its various directorates report in a 12 week cycle.

Above: Traditional Owner foot patrol members, from left, Tex Lewis, Darryl Stevens, leader of the group Philip Alice, Peter Palmer and Denise McClean. 

Meanwhile, another youth-related initiative is creeping slowly forward. After discussions that began in late 2019, the NT Government has now agreed to lease the old premises of Tourism Central Australia to council, which hopes to develop it as a “youth programs hub”. 

The vacant building, situated on the Civic Centre block,  has significantly deteriorated but the structure is still sound. Repairs and fitout are expected to cost around $300,000.

Apart from youth programs, the “centrally located building for nil rental” could also be used for other community purposes. The officers’ report mentioned the front entrance and reception area being offered to organisations hosting events, such as the Masters Games and Parrtjima.

Note: An earlier version of this story contained reporting about plans to reinvent the Alice Plaza and attempts to involve the Town Council. That is now the subject of a separate report, Council dithers over Alice Plaza’s $50m plans.


  1. This is really inspiring. I volunteer at the youth detention. I like to see elders getting trained and employed there as mentors.

  2. Great to see! These women and men all have huge amounts of other duties and commitments, so it’s wonderful that they are doing this for AS young people. Senior Women’s patrols have been working since the early ’90s, in Alice Springs, Yuendumu, Tennant Creek, and 15 other remote communities.
    There was a very good AS Youth Service based in the Mall, worked really well, lots of great activities, counselling etc etc, and a hub for the AS Mall kids. Until Adam Giles defunded it….

  3. About time our mob take charge to handle this situation.
    Whilst the tourist centre is great start but I feel we need a big shed outside of town where the youth can come, have a shower and cook dinner and clean up. Food bank can provide food.
    Watch inspiring movies – no violent video games.
    Play music and create Rap songs and dance.
    And or sit around campfires to yarn with elders about their troubles and finding solutions to help them as we know situations are not great at their homes where parents could be intoxicated arguing shouting at each other and there is no food at home?
    Youth need both love and discipline guidance, mentoring from elders who care.
    They need healthy role models to inspire them and teach them healthy right ways to live in society in peace and harmony.
    Looking at holistic mind, body, spirit and culture – teach them KANYINI principles.
    Tjukurpa: Dreamtime.
    Ngurah: Connection to land, mother.
    Waltjya: Family kinship.
    Kurunpa: Spirit / soul.
    We are the First Nations People, we have to stand tall be proud and respect of this land / country.
    After all, the youth is our future generations.
    Happy to provide my services Pro Bono for now.
    Jane Su-Ming Lai
    Positive behaviour support consultant, holistic healthy life coach and counsellor, Aboriginal spirit healing facilitator, mother and grandmother.

  4. This is so fantastic to hear and it’s needed. I couldn’t believe how bad it was when I came down for work, it was like a ghost town and shops are locked up like a prison trying to keep people out.
    I remember when we had the youth place in Kempe St, where youth could go to feel safe when it might not of been safe at home, to have a feed, have a shower, a place to sleep and someone to talk to if they wanted.
    It would be great to try and also get something like that established again too. Well done you mob.

  5. The creation of the Traditional Owners “foot patrol” and the Arrernte Strong Grandmothers’ group is the most hopeful news I’ve heard in ages.
    Their more engaging and caring approach is just what is needed to replace the punitive so-called “solutions” of the past which have been tried and failed.
    More strength to everyone involved.

  6. This is so inspiring they can listen and share their wisdom and build on relationships.

  7. Young people need something to do at night, a place where they can maybe play table tennis or other games and feel safe.
    Wandering around is a sign of lack of nothing to do and the boredom that results from that. A great initiative of the elders.

  8. This is awesome! Hopefully it catches on. Give the kids something to engage in a positive encouragement and the results will show.

  9. This is the most brilliant idea yet! Love it!!
    Certainly needed in Darwin, Townsville and Cairns as well. Well done ladies!


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