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HomeIssue 21'Racial divide' is mayoral candidate Steve Brown's major issue

‘Racial divide’ is mayoral candidate Steve Brown’s major issue

By OSCAR PERRI

Former Deputy Mayor and local conservative figure Steve Brown says the “racial divide” in town is his key concern, as his mayoral campaign heats up with the election drawing closer.

After sitting out the last council election due to poor health, the “closure” of Mount Gillen late last year served as his motivation to try and re-enter council. The decision to close the hiking trail was “another sign of the division absolutely exacerbating the hostility and the division”.

He says a negotiation process between traditional owners and non-Aboriginal locals to find a solution that “works for everybody” would go a long way to lessen tensions in the town.

Mr Brown (at left), during his time as a town councillor, with Cr Jamie de Brenni, who he says will get his preference in the August election.

This divide sits head and shoulders above all other issues in Alice Springs, according to Mr Brown, who says that issues with the youth, crime, employment and tourism that the town is facing all stem from it.

“These are the things that are really killing this town. People are leaving it constantly because of fear because they can’t sleep at night.

“They’ve got no faith, they won’t go out because they don’t want the car smashed up, they don’t want themselves smashed up. So clearly the future of the town absolutely depends on bringing an end to that kind of thing.

“If I get to be mayor what I’ll be concentrating on is that kind of stuff, it is absolutely about getting this community to re-socialise, talking to each other again, working together again.”

Mr Brown says that building a 24/7 Youth Center in town is “essential” to closing the divide and lowering youth crime. He has been lobbying for the project in various forms for years, including a major push by him and others in 2018, though nothing has yet eventuated.

He says that the project will cost $30m to $40m, which he plans to fund through a “regional deal”, similar to the Barkly Regional Real which the Federal and Territory Governments committed to in 2019.

Mr Brown says he plans to host events for the “foundational families” of Alice Springs, in order to get their heads together and work on re-socialising the town and creating a better relationship with council.

Aside from this, most of the plans mentioned are ones that he has been trying to make happen for a long time, like the “Port Augusta solution”, the youth centre and a youth bush camp, and a facility at the entrance to town for visitors to the town to use. These are strikingly similar to a list that he brought to council nearly 10 years ago, which failed to get support from elected members.

Before his time in council, Mr Brown was involved in starting the controversial citizens group Action for Alice which was formed in 2011 as a response to rampant crime rates, taking action through street patrols, advertising campaigns and lobbying government.

Mr Brown as candidate for the Assembly seat of Araluen in the 2016 election, with then Chief Minister Adam Giles. Mr Brown lost to independent Robyn Lambley.

One of the ads, which was broadcast on TV by Imparja came under heat after a complaint was made to the Australian Human Rights Commission that it was racist towards Aboriginal people.

Mr Brown defended the ad on ABC radio, but the group later apologised for it after negotiations with the complainant.  He says that the group was not aimed at addressing the town’s racial divide, but “more about hell-for-leather law and order.

“It takes a while for people to understand what the real issues are, people come into this usually very angry. If you walk around the streets now and ask people what they think of the situation, you’ll find a lot of very angry people.

“If it’s white people they’re angry with Aboriginal people and if it’s Aboriginal people they’re angry with white people.”

Mr Brown says he is “sick of the complete and utter lack of progress” being made by the current council.

He says the reason for this is an abundance of bureaucracy and a failing of councillors to work together. He points to the previous council, which he was a member of, as an example of a much more cooperative group than the current council – aside from fellow mayoral candidate and current councillor Eli Melky, for whom Mr Brown repeatedly expresses his dislike.

“I don’t usually get really insulting about people, but he’s a dead set moron and I will never work with him.”

Mr Brown says that he has been “disgusted” watching the way council has dropped the ball in regards to advocating for the town, and needs to shift focus away from just providing “the three r’s” – roads, rates and rubbish. And according to Mr Brown the solution to that is to cut through the bureaucracy and change the culture of the council chambers.

“The person who speaks for the town is the mayor.

“If you’re not out there spruiking and speaking out for your town, then who does it?

“And if no one’s doing it, when the government looks in our direction, whether it be about housing or crime or anything else, if council’s not firmly in its sight, if it hasn’t been firmly in their ear, then they don’t come in with the level of relevance that it needs.”

The News asked Mr Brown before he was interviewed to provide the five most important projects or initiatives that he will bring to council if elected, as well as information on how they will be funded, evidence and public interest to support them and how long it would take.

He said that he is still preparing his policy, but addressing the “racial divide” is the key priority.

Although nominations do not officially open until July 16, Mr Brown says that he will be giving his first preference to Jamie de Brenni, with Cr Melky of course at the bottom of the list.

PHOTO at top: Mr Brown with prominent social activist Graham Ross in 2007, west of Alice Springs, where they planned a youth camp. It has not become reality.

UPDATE July 10 at 1pm

Mr Brown will also be contesting the election for Councillor.

21 COMMENTS

  1. @ Steve Brown: Do we want a Mayor who insults co-workers? Are you familiar with the Alice Springs Council code of conduct? What will happen in Council meetings if you are the Mayor and Cr Melky is still there? Chaos?

  2. Same old, same old. Alice needs a Council and Mayor who reflect our colour and culture. Not someone dragging us back into a 30 year old argument.

  3. Mmm Yeh your right, Evelyn, I shouldn’t have used that word and apologise for doing so.
    It was a comment made in passing.. What I should have said without prejudice, is that Mr Melky is a narcissistic, nit-picking, disruptive influence on Council, who talks incessantly taking up enormous amounts of the meeting time with apparently no other intention than that of highlighting himself.
    This has a very negative impact on the productivity of any meeting and on other Councillors. After spending five and half years locked in meetings with him dealing with his apparent inability to understand even the most basic of agenda items, yet talking at length about them anyway.
    Evelyne, the code of Conduct is for Councillors, they are not employees therefore not co-workers!
    And I am not presently part of Council so not bound by any such speech limiting code.
    Chaos is always there when Mr Melky is present!
    I made this comment as I believe that it is very much in the public’s interest to know about Mr Melky’s behaviour on Council.

  4. Thank you, Mr Brown, for your contemptuous clarification which more than adequately demonstrates the kind of Mayor you would make.
    I for one will be voting for someone with a more conciliatory manner and a demonstrated willingness to work with the other councillors, as part of a team looking after our town’s near and longer-term interests.
    In my opinion, Alice has suffered enough from ego-driven “leadership” and deserves much better.

  5. @ Steve: Thank you for your response and you have the right to express your point de view as long there are no insults.
    I used the word co-worker because Councillors and Mayor have to “work” together for the good of the residents.

  6. I’m sure Steve Brown means well but he has a long track record of going about things in an agressive and divisive way.
    Not a suitable candidate for Mayor in my opinion. Time for some of the many capable and suitable people in town to step up.

  7. The ability to leverage proactive language and suspend personal likes and dislikes are some of the keys to being an effective leader.
    In order to exert change with this vastly diverse group of people, our next Mayor needs to be an inspiration and a peacemaker.

  8. @ Libby O’Lachian: The qualities of being inspirational and a peacemaker are not necessarily the best ones to create change in our dysfunctional council.
    I highly rate strong leadership with a clear vision of the future coupled with dogged persistence.
    While not a supporter of any candidate I see those qualities in Steve Brown.
    The pathway to change may well be fractious and unsettled, perhaps it has to be.
    I would urge candidates to tell us exactly what they will achieve, come hell or high water.

  9. I was keen on Mr Brown’s ideas, but quickly went off him when he started slagging Eli Melky.
    Poor form, a situation summed up well by Domenico Pecorari.

  10. Looks like Steve Brown’s issue is not just about racial divide but a radical view by divide (between re-contending existing councillors and himself).
    I also couldn’t help but ask what exactly was meant by not running last election due to poor health? Because does this mean there is potential that, say, if he was elected as a councillor and mid term his “poor health” struck again?

  11. Last thing town needs now is old hacks with their old ideas.
    This bloke can say he is sorry for saying what he did about Mr Melky, but the truth is he said it and it shows his true colours.
    Mr Brown, you had your time, now please just fade away. Like the dinosaurs.

  12. Dear ED: I would like to publicly acknowledge the goodwill and kind words of support that I have received from people from all over following the publication of this article.
    It was initially not my intention to respond, however I was reminded by a close friend that it is my duty to protect others even when I am the one being attacked in this way.
    My silence was not meant to be a form of condoning this behaviour, as if to say, “water off a duck’s back”.
    In fact words do hurt and can have a terrible effect on people.
    In my case to be called all those things was hurtful even though I did not wish to publicly admit it and avoid showing weakness.
    The last straw to break my silence with was when my 80-year-old mother rang last night, concerned about what had gone on.
    I quickly reminded her that in 1976 they were firing bullets at us, so if we can survive that, we can survive anything.
    To the readers of this newspaper, I have always appreciated your honest and upfront comments over many years.
    I can assure you that I will not be deterred by this, nor will I engage in this type of politics.
    I look forward to more of your comments regarding the very important debate about who will be Mayor and how we can progress our beautiful town and great community together.
    To all the candidates for Mayor and Councillor, I wish you all the best of luck and look forward to August 28th when we are all judged on our plan of how to help this community.
    I will present the response to my top five projects as requested by this newspaper shortly.
    Sincerely, Eli Melky
    Candidate For Mayor 2021

  13. Jon: A little unclear with your comments about getting an effective leader.
    Are you suggesting that candidates tell us exactly what they will hope to achieve and from that YOUR choice would be to select a fractious and unsettling mayor or are you really saying that their forecast achievements could maybe inspire you to vote for a mayor who will demonstrate leadership credentials that can move our wonderful town forward and out of the political wrangling that has for far too long divided this community.
    A big difference.
    Surely you must want local leadership to lead for local businesses, for local ideas to be identified, for local decision making to be transparent, for local projects to progress and for the local people who select this leader to overall receive local dedicated leadership.
    A leader who is not swayed or controlled by the political fallouts of the major parties, who even as yet in 2021 cannot provide an equitable platform for all their citizens when elected to govern.

  14. @ Relieved and Jon: I would like the candidates to tell us what they have achieved, like Marli and Eli have done, and what are their objectives and planning in order to succeed.

  15. @ Relieved: I am saying that candidates need to tell us exactly what they will achieve and my choice will be based on that and the credibility of their goals based on their past performance as councillors.
    Frankly I can’t see positive changes in council transparency and giving our elected members more power (vs the bureaucracy) without a mayor who is willing to rock the boat, and yes that may mean being fractious at times.
    So far I love the idea of Marli Banks as mayor, she is a breath of fresh air and an outstanding candidate for change.

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