Crime: What’s new?



Well, here we go, yet again, another inquiry into crime and violence in the NT.

Not that it shouldn’t happen, of course, but I can pick any year for several decades and I can guarantee finding similar reports.

Just so happens yesterday I stumbled across a four-page spread on the topic of alcohol abuse, rampant crime, and inadequate response from the NT’s justice system – in particular affecting indigenous people – published nearly four decades ago. 

I’m intrigued the coroner’s office is using the turn of the century as a cut-off date for women killed through domestic violence in the NT. It’s really an arbitrary limit. What about all the women killed in similar circumstances prior to the turn of the century?

Anyway, the article I found was published in the Centralian Advocate in October 1984.

I was 21 years old … now I’m 60. At the time of printing, it was the month before I first signed up as a CLP branch member. Paul Everingham had just resigned as CM to stand for Federal Parliament, and Ian Tuxworth was chosen to replace him.

The article also makes plain just how deeply entrenched these issues already were at the time.

Much of it focused on the community of Papunya; and it’s interesting to note the phenomenal level of violence in that community a few years earlier when 14 people were killed in car crashes or homicides between 1977 and ’79.

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser (pictured with Nosepeg Tjupurrula) happened to visit Papunya smack bang in the middle of that period (late April 1978 – just before NT self-government began) and was horrified by what he observed.

Today we often hear claims that crime is out of control and the worst it’s ever been – well, the fact is that’s simply untrue. The reality is that this situation has been unrelenting for almost my entire life.

Twenty years before that 1984 article was published, the Social Welfare Act came into effect in the NT which (amongst many reforms) permitted all Aboriginal people the legal right to purchase and consume alcohol.

Few people back then had any illusions of what was in store for the NT, including indigenous communities (they were all consulted); and from that time on all hell broke loose.

ED – I wrote that story and remember it well, partly because I upset Fraser’s minders. They had sent several white Commonwealth cars all the way to Papunya to ferry the PM and entourage a few hundred metres around the settlement and take him from and to his VIP plane at the airstrip, as I can recall. I briefly commandeered one of the cars to get photos and upset the time schedule. All in a day’s work. ERWIN CHLANDA.


  1. I too had a similar situation in the 1967 Detroit Michigan riots. Much killing of blacks and the burning of their homes.
    There was no reason why this happen. Just lies were given. I was in the middle of this riot that night!
    Richard Lechleitner of Clinton twp. Michigan.


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