By LINDSAY JOHANNSEN, outback miner and transport operator
Where does one start? I mean one could work at this for a week, just trying summarise the ongoing situation facing Alice Springs (… plus Tennant Creek, Katherine, Darwin and points between including the NT’s remote communities).
And the reason for this is that the problems are as diverse as the actors themselves, from the eight and ten year-olds wandering the CBD at 2am smashing shop windows and trashing their premises just for something to do, through adults trawling the CBD and suburbs for opportunistic break-in targets they can search for car keys, cash and alcohol, to the pollies and representatives of different organisations pontificating in their well-meaning ways about the needs for dialogue and reconciliation and counselling programmes and “empowerment” and funding etc.
This in their hopes of soothing the souls of these poor misguided and/or misunderstood individuals, of setting them on the Right Path and the dawn of a bright new day, all replete with sunshine, contentment boundless opportunities and happiness.
Yet some things are intractable, and most if not all of the programmes and initiatives being put forward by these people have been attempted before, in one form or another, under different Governments and guises.
Community Development initiatives, housing initiatives, health initiatives, social initiatives, economic initiatives, employment initiatives, empowerment initiatives … And every one of ’em lauded loud and long, from ATSIC to CDEP (Community Development Employment Programmes) – though, unsurprisingly, not so their demises.
But have some pity for our poor pollies. I mean give ’em a break. They must be seen to be doing something! Yet really, all they can do in respect of the above is create initiatives, allocate funds and implement programmes. And so, what, may one ask, can you think of that hasn’t been tried in one form or another since Gough gave our Indigenous citizens equal pay and benefits, hmmm?
Night-kids: Dysfunctional families; lack of parental control, lack of discipline etc and, for some, lack of a safe family environment, leading to their behaving as free agents … and knowing they are untouchable. As one Senior NT Police Officer stated recently (and correctly): “We can’t arrest our way out of this.”
Adult miscreants: See every one of us standing on this here planet is different. All of us! Some are driven; others lack ambition. Some are irrepressible; some less so and others find themselves a “crutch” to lean on … and fight tooth and claw to keep it.
Those content with their little patch and societal norms generally make themselves comfortable where they are, with what is provided, what can be earned, what can be aimed for and what they can contribute.
And some move away before settling, while others head for more distant horizons, adventure and accomplishment – and some never to return. Others, lacking energy, ambition and/or commitment (and jealous of what some have achieved or driven by alcohol or unrelenting drug dependency), come to regard break-ins and theft as perfectly normal behaviour.
So, then. What’s the answer?
Well sorry! There isn’t one.
But that’s wrong! …wrong, wrong, wrong. There is an answer!
And the answer is: That every one of us should stand up straight, respect our parents, our elders and our neighbours, love our children, set the little brats a good example, provide them with the best education, home and family environment one is able – and learn ’em to do what is right and proper … or else!
Which brings us to the REAL problem, and that is: WHERE, exactly, should we start?
[ED – The writer is the son of Kurt Johannsen. The painting at top – by Lindsay – is of the legendary road train Bertha, now in the Transport Hall of Fame. He used to drive it. He and his wife Joan spent 40 years in the Jervois and Bonya area, north-east of Alice Springs, provisioning 100 local Aborigines.]