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HomeVolume 28Crime control authorities: Answers, please

Crime control authorities: Answers, please

By ERWIN CHLANDA

When it comes to dealing with social and crime problems in Alice Springs, what are the legal obligations of government departments and publicly funded NGOs?

How well are they following their mission statements?

How much taxpayers’ money do they get and how are they spending it?

What are their key performance indicators? Are they achieved?

Getting answers to these questions is the objective of the group spawned by the huge town hall meeting on January 30.

The group’s task isn’t fixing the problems, but it will demand transparency from the people getting paid to fix them.

That was the spirit at the group’s second meeting yesterday, covering a wide range of issues, and chaired by Garth Thompson who initiated the town hall meeting.

The 18 people attending were all white, about half each men and women, and most in their 50s and 60s.

Several mentioned having had recent contacts with Aboriginal people, and they were aware of a rumoured meeting of 200 Aboriginal people following the town hall meeting.

Children tend not to misbehave in homelands but do when they get to come to Alice Springs, one speaker said.

Elders in a homeland dealt resolutely and successfully with misbehaving children, applying their “own law”. Police became involved and a conflict with elders ensued. That is causing ongoing tension in that community.

A 24-hour youth centre was seen as a major necessity, a safe place for kids with food, showers and beds, but “lock-in style” – not permitting them to leave during the night.

Their carers and guardians are often distant aunties or grandmothers, overburdened with looking after children.

There is no shortage of empty locations or places that can be use or expanded for a youth centre. The former police station (opposite the current one in Parsons Street), the Gap Youth Centre (which is getting a $20m Federal grant for redevelopment), CAAAPU and the former Memorial Club (now owned by Congress) were mentioned.

A businessman from Katherine at the meeting described the deteriorating situation with young people in his town. He had to fit his shop with 10mm plate glass windows. The government should pay for the expenses resulting from crime and vandalism. No luck with that so far, he said.

Mr Thompson said plans for a $1.5 billion class action is still on the table. It was mentioned in the town hall meeting, suing the NT Government for failing to provide safety for its citizens.

The likely legal costs were discussed, including pro bono representation, Federal government-funded legal aid for Aboriginal people, and collateral provided by private people.

The claim would need to be precisely formulated to enhance its success, a speaker said.

The meeting was told Commissioner of Police Jamie Chalker gave a point-blank refusal to have a 000 response facility in Alice Springs, dealing with local calls. The Darwin-based facility is frequently ignorant of locations here, leading to delayed responses.

It was also suggested that the 000 facility was “overwhelmed” given the increase in crime across the Territory’s major centres.

The group will set up a website.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, during his visit to Alice Springs, invited suggestions of how to deal with the crime problem.

That presents an opportunity of going “right to the top,” as one speaker suggested.

Much disappointment was expressed with NT Government efforts to revitalise the Alice Springs economy.

The reason given is the absence of government Members of Parliament from the region.

Meanwhile Chief Minister Natasha Fyles says in a media release today that Darwin’s CBD is “bursting with development.

“The Labor Government continues to transform [it] into a thriving and vibrant place for people to work, visit and live.”

• The old Ducks Nuts and BCC Cinemas sites are set to be revitalised with the DCA approving two development permits for bars with alfresco dining.

• The Mitchell Street location (formerly BCC cinemas) will feature an indoor function room, leisure and recreation facilities and a band/DJ room for live music.

• A new 72 room accommodation in an eight storey block has also been given the green light to be built at Shepherd Street, which will be able to house international students.

“The Territory is taking off,” says Ms Fyles. “Our construction industry is on the up and more people are deciding to call the Territory home.

“We will continue to do everything we can to make the Territory the best destination to live and work.”

And the Town Council meeting tomorrow will consider a motion to stop community football – teams from out bush – in Alice Springs.

Cr Marli Banks says: “Alice Springs at this time is not resourced or resilient enough to manage further risk to public safety.”

UPDATE February 28, 1:51pm: Cr Banks has has texted the News advising that she had voted against a motion by Cr Michael Liddle to stop community football in Alice Springs. She added about her employment initiative reported here: “My motion lost too.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. Why is it mentioned in the statement above that people who were there, where white?
    Many people who are white say they are Aboriginal.
    It’s not a racist issue, it is a criminal issue of anyone’s homes, cars and personal space.
    There are plenty of accommodation place in and around Alice Springs for Aboriginal people to sleep and eat. Don’t now make another mission of reinventing the wheel.
    Just fix it.

  2. Alice Springs has hung out a lot of its dirty laundry lately.
    Lack of housing for First Nations visitors (a cultural issue in itself), with more than a few requiring permanency due to medical issues is the latest.
    Also hanging out there is the alcohol issue, with lots of band-aids. It’s a tattered flag: the skull and crossbones across the red, white and blue of the Southern Cross.
    In fairness to the Voice proposal, one would imagine that housing would be the first issue to remedy. The PM seems to have the money and the will, but where and how do you build housing for people who are more used to a way of life that is far removed from the basic requirement of town living? Another Town Camp?
    After years of lived experience and academic qualifications, what sticks in my mind is that the most basic human requirement is housing and then food, but it’s not that simple.
    Overcrowding is a cultural obligation issue. Cr Banks has had a grass roots employment initiative shot down. Fifty years of liberal alcohol supply will take a lot of cleaning up and that’s if government can prevail against the alcohol industry and punters who want to be able to buy when, where and what at leisure.
    Ah, yes … it’s a good town, the Alice.
    All of these things suggest to many that the issues are intractable and that could be a reasonable explanation for the current impasse.
    It has got worse over my lifetime and I started work in Little Sisters camp.
    If this dirty washing can’t be dealt with in the present, what is it about a Voice that will clean it up?
    Can Pat Dodson or Pat Anderson or somebody please explain?

  3. IHHP Brisbane We Say No More.
    Hey Sugar Kintore Band.
    These are two examples.
    Wait, the song I can’t find any more, young, young, black, black, and, deadly!
    Three examples of the kind of community healing, community spirit we live in as Australians.
    So why can’t The Government help our children achieve employment, housing, health, justice and education?
    Anyone working in or around will testify at the absolute uniqueness of the youth and elders in our NT, SA, WA, communities.
    So why can’t the government extend their hand equally on justice, education, housing and health?
    No, let’s keep a minority group that tourists and immigrators can feel akin or feel sorry for. Preferably remote non English speaking peoples.
    Let’s not start on mining at such a pathetically early stage in NT’s development either.

  4. Has no-one mentioned how overcrowding can drive people to drink? I drive around Alice and have seen numerous three to four bedroom houses abandoned. Overcrowding affects not only food scarcity but education, health, and mind state.
    Why can we not get help for this? At a time people are inheriting million dollar estates from their convict ancestors why can’t I build on or use my land for collateral? With interest rates at 4.5% traditional land owners could be making a killing.
    Instead we see woeful sore and sorry young people inheriting land worth millions that their elders had permits to shoot on sight, the land holders of that time.
    DIS GRACE.

  5. The ONLY way a voice to Parliament might work is if we acknowledge internationally that Australian Government is in violation of all 41 articles of human rights.
    A top down approach has a vastly better approach than the current that muted grassroots. Grassroots is Top Down. But Australian Government refuses to acknowledge the rest of humanities conventions.

  6. @ Kathy: The racial composition of the meeting wasn’t reported to make crime a racial issue. It was reporting on a measure of support for fixing the problem from white and Aboriginal people in our town.
    As for just fixing the problem please tell us how?

  7. @ Susan Sidler. Vote for the Voice. Nothing else has worked and despite numerous positive posts in these pages, you confess to not having a clue.

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