By ERWIN CHLANDA
“We need something to change. If the government wishes to introduce a curfew we’d support that. We passed that motion previously. We don’t have the power to introduce it.”
That’s the comment from Mayor Matt Paterson after children aged 10 to 14, including two in breach of bail conditions, according to police, broke into the council chambers last night, smashing glass, furniture and computers in the meeting room.
Meanwhile the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, whose brief goes well beyond health, is silent on any role it may have dealing with youth offending.
Congress has 945 members and the customary broad network of relationships makes it compellingly likely that at least some of them are aware of the children’s offending.
In the financial year ending June 30 last year, Congress received $48.2m in public funds – about $10m more than the town council’s budget.
That includes $36.6m from the Commonwealth.
The rule book of Congress, approved by a delegate of the Registrar of Aboriginal corporations (ORIC) on February 9, states: “The objectives of the Corporation are to relieve the poverty, sickness, destitution, distress, suffering, misfortune or helplessness of Aboriginal people in Central Australia.”
PHOTO supplied by Town Council.
The organisation should be “assisting members and their families to alleviate their plight by becoming increasingly self-reliant and assume maximum responsibility for their own health and welfare … arresting social disintegration”.
Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee declined a request for an interview.
“We need short term solutions,” says Mayor Paterson, referring to the general disastrous vandalism, when six-year-olds are “out in the streets at two o’clock in the morning [when it is] freezing cold. Why are they causing chaos? It’s not fair that people are feeling unsafe in their own house. That’s what’s happening at the moment.”
Police Commander Craig Laidler said on Friday “we had a bad day” when 25 cars were damaged. Two offenders, aged 12 and 13, were arrested.
At the council chambers, once security had been breached, up to “15 people were inside”. A “14-year-old female” is in custody.
“There is no-one looking out for them,” said Cdr Laidler.
“The responsible adults aren’t responsible for these children. So there is no-one looking out for them … and don’t really have an interest in being involved.”
With “new faces” who are not known to the police they contact Territory Families.
“Where are the parents who should be looking after them? We can’t arrest us out of this. I don’t think arresting people is what’s going to make the difference.”
Commander Laidler did not answer these questions put to him by the Alice Springs News:
• The area (around the council, pictured above) is saturated with police and council CCTV. When was the first observation made on CCTV?
• What relationships are there between police and the youths’ parents?
• How often is contact made with parents of likely offenders?
• Have any parents been prosecuted for failing to provide the necessities of life to their children?
• Is the police in favour of a night time curfew for youths? If so, why? If not, why not?
Mayor Paterson says in May the council called on the government to “ensure our community safety and escalate measured that may include curfews, the extended uses of drones and safe place options.
“These sort of things [juvenile crime] stop us from progressing … like the vandalism at the Aquatic and Leisure Centre, stopping us from investing money for a park for everyone.”
Mayor Paterson says the council is insured but questions such as excess and no claim bonuses would need to be considered.