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HomeVolume 27'Government, business, community should team up to fight crime'

‘Government, business, community should team up to fight crime’


Local business leaders say the growing public fear of falling victim to the juvenile crime wave, with no solution in sight from the National Children’s Commissioner down, is a block to private investment in Alice Springs.

People rather drive through the town than stay here for a visit, according to Tourism Central Australia, the lobby for what was once the town’s major industry.

“We have to sort out our cultural divide. People are risk averse. No-one wants to fail,” says Neil Ross.

He and his wife Julie have just sold Ross Engineering after nearly 40 years of heading up the company.

It is staying in local hands, with Clark Petrick, from a cattle station and road train family, taking over. He has a significant invention to his name.

And Temba Ncube, the CEO of the three IGA supermarkets and vice-chair of the Chamber of Commerce Alice branch, says “we should not run away” from the anti social behaviour crisis, but rather seek a solution, beginning with collaboration of the “three pillars” – governments, business and the community: “We need each-other.”

Meanwhile almost all recent and new building projects in town have been paid for by the taxpayer, either direct or via publicly funded non-government organisations (NGOs): The supreme court building, the eight storey health staff accommodation in Todd Street (pictured at top, two storeys taller than when first announced), the juvenile prison, women’s refuge, hospital carpark, the new Akeyulerre Healing Centre building, 11 town camp dwellings costing a total of $40m (including this in the picturesque Hidden Valley, above) and Pine Gap “one of the biggest construction sites south of Katherine” according to a businessman. (There is a massive upgrade of the Tindal Air Force base underway which would be bigger than current Pine Gap constructions.)

Building approvals in Alice Springs for years ending July 2017 to 2022 were: 53, 79, 92, 56, 61 and 87.

The spikes in Mount Johns in November 2018 and February 2022 could well be Pine Gap dwellings (joining several already in place there. We were not able to confirm this with Pine Gap).

Says Mr Ncube: “The government needs to start a proper consultation process. It should initiate discussions.”

This should include NGOs for immigrants such as the Multicultural Community Services of Central Australia: “We should work through those associations.”

He says the chamber should be the “mouthpiece for business,” running an online portal where business can exchange information about antisocial behaviour, showing “how businesses are suffering, waking up in the morning to find their business has been trashed”.

This could also be a forum for pointing out the specific concerns of the town’s varied neighbourhoods.

Concern about youth crime is equally shared by the people in the town camps, as the News has found in research over the past two weeks for a report to appear next week.

By contrast the National Children’s Commissioner has nothing to say about dozens of children at extreme risk in Alice Springs.

Anne Hollonds (at right), with a base salary of $247,810 per annum and a “total remuneration for office” of $339,460 per annum, declined requests from the News for an interview.

She was quoted by the ABC recently as giving “a scathing assessment of child protection systems across the country” but she passed up this opportunity to drill down to the detail of the crisis in The Centre.

And as locals are asking, with increasing urgency, what responsibility parents should have for their offending children, the NT Government, too, appears clueless.

In NSW Section 44 of the Crimes Act provides for a gaol term up to five years for people guilty of failing “to provide necessities of life” to people they are “under a legal duty to provide” such necessities. It’s an issue that has been raised repeatedly in the News.

For a current take, we asked NT Minister for Justice Chansey Paech if his government is planning to introduce similar legislation. He flicked our enquiry to Kate Worden, Minister for Territory Families. We’ll keep you posted.

The town’s other existential problem, according to Mr Ncube (at left), is not just skill shortages but shortages, full stop.

He’s in a prime position to know, arriving in town in 2005 from Zimbabwe, with a string of accountancy and business management qualifications to his name. He was IGA’s finance manager for eight years from 2013 before getting the top job in the supermarket chain owned by the local native title organisation, Lhere Artepe.

His wife is a theatre nurse in the hospital and they have two girls and a boy.

Mr Ncube says the immigration policy labelling as “regional” vastly different towns where immigrants have to work initial periods must be reviewed.

As it is, Alice Springs must compete for workers from overseas against towns that they may prefer, such as the Gold Coast.

The shortage of labour is a puzzle given that unemployment is 2.3% (in the March quarter 2022).

Next problem: No backpackers. They used to be a major part of the stores’ staff, says Mr Ncube.

This a yet another area, he suggests, where resolving the crime issues may well to lead to a solution.


  1. Government, business, community, here are effective strategies that reduce crime:
    1. Improve housing
    2. Keep kids in school
    3. Strong alcohol policies
    4. Behavioural interventions for people at risk
    5. Hot spot policing
    6. Focussed policing to deter crime
    We would have more resources for crime prevention if we reduced our expectations that imprisonment would help. Jails cost $400 per person per day, but generally increase likelihood of re-offending.
    Can ALP Government and Alice Springs Council take some leadership?

  2. Keeping kids in school sounds wonderful but after teaching here for 40 years that is only passing the buck and disadvantaging other kids.
    Once a boy threw a chair across the classroom. On being challenged his response was: “You can’t do anything to me. I’m ——–”
    On another occasion a girl accused me of picking on her because of the colour of her skin. She also caused a disturbance in the room.
    I replied that my own children had the same pigmentation as she had (they have Fijian origin).
    Her response was “But they’re not ———-“.
    A security guard friend challenged a young shoplifter and was told that if he was touched, he would call legal aid. He (the guard) was later told that his function was to protect shop staff for legal reasons. The implication was he was to ignore the shoplifter.
    I recently stood by and watched a group of kids, all under 10, I assume, walk into a shop in the Coles complex, help themselves to the freezer and walk out thumbing their noses to the frustrated owner of the shop.
    The police did their best and arrived there in a few minutes but the horses had bolted. Dogs perhaps could have resolved that?
    Over the years I have watched as varying degrees of protection have been applied to these kids giving them the impression that they are immune and protected from the laws and expectations that the rest of us are subjected to.
    Until that question is addressed nothing will change. Children damaging public facilities and then being compensated for it and being portrayed by sections of media as heroes only makes the problem worse.
    Remember the kids on the roof of Don Dale centre centre and the national coverage that got? They should be shamed in public but I can only imagine the cries from civil rights advocates to which the reply should be: “What about the rights of the rest of us?”
    I would point out that I grew up with Indigenous people all around me and that my closest two male friends here are/were Indigenous, but I will inevitably be called racist for expressing a view against the theoretical people who seem to dominate the discussion.

  3. Onya Trevor. Rosali, all your strategies may sound fine, but the most important strategy you failed to mention – consequences.
    My parents started off in Alice Springs in a tent, and most of their previous two years in a tent.
    They had less than $2 to their name, but a second hand car and a tin shed to live in, and they were further from the CBD than most town camps.
    They certainly didn’t receive any “sit-down” money. They worked, and worked hard, often alongside countrymen.
    So did we, from before we went to school. I can remember working all school holidays and getting two cents for the fortnight. (For context, a spaghetti sandwich from the school tuckshop was 15c, as was a small bottle of soft drink).
    We very seldom had an ice-cream or a softdrink, but never went hungry. Really we had a very good childhood, although by comparison to most of our peers, we were quite poor.
    BUT, we knew if we mucked up, there were immediate consequences. I can remember getting the cane in grade three for climbing over the back fence after school to retrieve a particularly suitable piece of gum bark to make a “propellor” to hold out the bus window on the way home.
    I’d agree that was “overkill”, but it didn’t “scar” me, and helped impress upon me to obey the rules. It wasn’t the last time, but I’m a better person for it.
    In a society with no consequences, only carrots, the victim always pays. We are now all victims.


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