Thursday, July 25, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeVolume 28Outback personality: There is an answer to crime.

Outback personality: There is an answer to crime.

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.]


  1. Warm Greetings.
    For what it’s worth I agree that problematic generational behaviour issues can largely be addressed within the family unit and the morals installed throughout early life to adulthood.
    But your well meant opinion piece potentially missed the big issue of disenfranchisement (and this can affect people of all backgrounds in different ways).
    Disenfranchisement cause many issues to become worse with each generation as the next generation is brought up with a disconnection to the rest of the community and are focused only on their own problems.
    This creates apathy towards the problems faced by the rest of the community and enables progressively riskier behaviour.
    I know that as an outsider my opinion means little so I will appreciate this and keep the end point simple.
    In that a punishment based solution is as equally disenfranchising to the larger community as is a leniency based solution. But perhaps a renewed focus on providing community generated roles to people on both sides of the disenfranchisement to better connect the value of the community as a whole to the individual.
    This could be done easily by championing a volunteer based community corps to do things like monitor safe spaces and assist with keeping the streets clean.
    To sell this to the people it would be an issue of promoting how this would both help the individual with finding work due to great references and skill learnt and the community with more assistance preventing crime before law enforcement needs to show up.
    Perhaps the community is too divided for this to work immediately but a pathway towards a community based solution could be viable with a bit of work.
    Also I would be confident that when worked out properly with police oversight it could make law enforcement’s role much easier as they would be able to refer to the attempted intervention of a community corps as further proof of an individual’s desire to do harm to the wider community and lack of effort to compromise their actions.
    Thank you for taking the time to review my reply to your article, I wish you the best in champing for a better tomorrow for the entire community.
    Kind Regards
    Michael Flack

  2. My heart breaks when I read and hear what is going on in my old town. The problems are not new, successive Governments have tried to do their best without success.
    But it takes two to tango. One side can’t do it all. I agree with Lindsay, but there must be a will to do it. And all the screechers are no help, if things don’t change we will talk about this in a hundred years again.
    With sadness,
    Hermann Weber

  3. Did anyone else watch NITV the other night and see the grab which said “your law does not apply out here” on the spiel about naming the day and justifying the actions of certain groups of people.
    Turn that around to read “your customary law does not apply in town”. You can’t have it both ways.
    I feel for the police when they are called to a domestic violence issue in the community and when they respond to that statement by saying: “Our law noes not apply out here. YOU solve it it according to YOUR law.”
    Then someone gets a customary spear in the leg and it’s all the fault of the police for not doing their job.

  4. Unless I’m mistaken, the painting depicts Kurt Johannsen and his inaugural road train, Big Bertha, carrying a load of 44 gallon fuel drums, for which he tendered and was awarded the contract to recycle from WW2 dumps across the Barkly.
    These nests could still be found in certain places along that road, poured like “a stick of licorice” to progress the war effort, during the 1990s.
    When I lived in Tennant at that time, Kurt came to town in his Mulga Express. Your story reminds me of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32) and in that respect, a Youth Hub has possibilities.

  5. Turnbull legalised juvenile crime Australia wide for the ABC and Gunner following his jackboot $78m Royal Inquiry into the biased one sided ABC Four Corners report on Don Dale in 2016.
    Neither Albanese or Dutton have the intelligence or brains to repeal that vile disgusting Federal Act and accordingly our once fabulous hometown of 1955 will never be saved from its very sad and disgusting end.

  6. In response to Lindsay’s question, “WHERE, exactly, should we start?”
    Just have a yarn with all the Aboriginal parents and grandparents you know, and ask how you and your friends can help their children and grandchildren “do what is right and proper”.
    As Lindsay points out, every family situation is different so it needs to be addressed at that personal level.

  7. I am interested in Peter Bassett’s comment about “our once fabulous hometown of 1955”.
    The town was booming, the population doubled in the 1950s, up to 5000 people by 1961, lots of new arrivals from down south.
    The tourist industry got going, Bernie Kilgariff built the Oasis Motel, the first Woolworths supermarket in the NT opened in Todd Street in 1960, Traeger Park sporting complex was developed. “Heady times” writes Peter Donovan in his history of Alice Springs, commissioned by the Town Council, published in 1988. “There seemed to be no limit to physical expansion of the town and the optimism of those who lived there.”
    Donovan has a chapter in his book about the town from the 1940s to 1961, worth a read.
    It is easy to understand the pride a young bloke coming up from down south might feel at being part of this small but bustling township.
    Donovan also documents the divide in the town between black and white, passes were needed for Aboriginal people to be in town for much of the 50s. Aborigines “remained under the control of a public service agency … for most of them Alice Springs was a prohibited area for which they needed authorisation to enter.”
    The Albert Namatjira debacle took place in the 1950s. He was eventually able to buy land in town, but refused permission to build, even after he was granted full citizenship.
    Tin shacks and wurlies appeared on his property and he was charged with supplying alcohol to his relatives, and jailed.
    The Telegraph Station was reclaimed for white people by shifting the Bungalow blacks out to the new settlement of Amoonguna, well out of town.
    Basic services for squatter settlements around town were not provided for fear that they might be encouraged to stay rather than return to their country. Alice Springs wasn’t quite the “fabulous hometown” for all.
    Many of Alice residents of today are not fully aware of the history. Many of the town’s problems are deeply rooted in its past. Donovan’s book is a good place to start. Knowledge is likely to build greater understanding and empathy. Copies in the Town Library.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

error: Content is protected !!