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HomeVolume 29Front line lawyer to fashion public safety policy for Greens

Front line lawyer to fashion public safety policy for Greens

By ERWIN CHLANDA

Asta Hill, with a decade of front line work both as a prosecutor and as a defence lawyer, is a leading figure in creating a policy for the Greens to deal with the noxious crime rate in Alice Springs.

Another local woman, Cherisse Buzzacott, is thinking about launching herself into the political arena, also with crime as the main concern, viewing it from the vantage point of health management. 

She says while she is still deciding on what this future looks like, she is adamant that not being tied into any previous policies provides vital opportunities in the current political environment.

Both women got hints about how to be a pollie at a workshop last week offered by Women for Election.

Ms Hill (pictured above, holding baby, with other workshop members), who has been preselected by the Greens for Braitling, says despite being a minor party they will “absolutely” have an influence after the NT elections in August.

“There is a real possibility we will have a minority government and that the Greens, along with Independents, will have a considerable amount of power.

“I think we are at a real crossroads in Territory politics,” says the Alice-born lawyer who worked nearly 10 years in the judicial system in town. Before that she was engaged in law interstate and overseas. 

Is she likely to work together with Independent Robyn Lambley in Araluen?

“I can’t really speak to any relationship we have with Robyn Lambley on policy at this stage. I’m not even aware of her police platform at this stage.”

Ms Hill says she and volunteers have been door knocking for six months: “Prime issues are community safety, climate and the cost of living, which ties to workforce issues as well.” 

NEWS: How would community safety issues be tackled?

HILL: That’s an enormous issue and I’m planning to launch our policy on justice and community safety in the coming months. But unlike the incumbent [the CLP’s Joshua Burgoyne] I have worked as a lawyer in Mbantua for nearly 10 years, and I have seen the justice system and engaged with it from almost every angle. [I was standing up] for individual clients who were being failed, deleteriously impacted by a broken system. What we are developing is a response to crime and a plan for community safety which is grounded in evidence and which provides a solution to problems that are really a result of decades of policy failures on the part of the major parties.

NEWS: Were you working as a prosecutor as well as a defence lawyer?

HILL: I worked as a prosecutor with the DPP and then I worked for NT Legal Aid as a civil lawyer with a human rights focus.

Ms Hill, mother of two, says the party membership has grown “astronomically” in the last year, more than doubling, to nearly 300 members across the NT. More than 150 members voted in her preselection.

NEWS: What are the five most important issues in Alice Springs?

HILL: I’ll be happy to talk to you guys about my candidacy but that would have to be on another occasion.

She says Women for Election had given her a “strict brief” that our interview would be only about the workshop. This is news to the News.

Cherisse Buzzacott (at right) will stand “probably” as an Independent and isn’t quite sure yet whether in a Territory or Federal seat, but she’s adamant that “not being tied into any previous policies” provides vital opportunities in the current political environment.

“You have leeway to make decisions not only along the values you have but also the values that the community and the people who voted you in have,” says the health professional and member of a prominent Indigenous family.

A workshop in Alice Springs last week by Women for Election has given her “the foundation to set up what questions to ask, working in the structures, to navigate this system, I’ve never been exposed to that before.

“Everything is new. It can be quite scary. That’s why a lot of people don’t go into government although they want to change things.”

NEWS: What are the most important issues in Alice Springs?

BUZZACOTT: There is an obvious separation amongst the community. There are issues with crime and around youth. For me, being a First Nations person, there seems to be a divide, an us-and -them.

NEWS: How can you fix that?

BUZZACOTT: Trough understanding, a bit of truth telling of how we got to this place. Knowing the history of the last 15 to 20 years. You could have predicted that this would happen. There were no real strategies, no real support for the community. With the growth of the town things are just kind of collapsing. We don’t have the structures, the resources, we don’t have the jobs.

NEWS: What are the town’s other problems?

BUZZACOTT: I’d rather talk about positive stuff, what our strengths are. As a First Nations person I see the connectivity of the community, the local people so willing to give, demonstrate the culture and the language, share with people. You don’t get that in a lot of places. We’re lucky. It’s a very unique place. We’ve got a lot of people who’ve come to Alice Springs, and not just Aboriginal mob but we’ve got a big multi-cultural community. They’re always willing to share. There’s constantly events, festivals and celebrations, different religions, different cultures. It’s something I didn’t see growing up but I see it now, my children get to experience that. There is this an open mind to other things.

NEWS: Given that, why do we still have the problems you mentioned earlier?

BUZZACOTT: There are problems that have been laid here in the foundation, they’re kind of long standing, stuff that’s been happening for a while and building up. Things that are disempowering.

NEWS: Who needs to fix it?

BUZZACOTT: It has to be everybody. All together. But we can’t do that without actually talking to the people who’re actually having the issues. The power’s been taken away from them.

NEWS: What do you think the solutions are?

BUZZACOTT: [Doing away with] the top-down government constantly making policies, putting in strategies that they think might work.

NEWS: Should transparency of our political system be improved?

BUZZACOTT: There are some things maybe the general public shouldn’t have access to, such as working in health or the police force, and that’s just the way things are run. But I think it gets to a point where government needs to be more transparent. People need to know what exactly is being out on the table. What kind of figures, what are the objectives, what are the outcomes. What’s actually been invested. Big amount of dollars are coming in, we need to actually see where it is going, what are the long term effects. We need feedback where it is going in two years’ time, what has been promised. We need to see what the results are. Too much of transparency falls down with not giving the community what the results are.

NEWS: What was the most profound experience that made you decide to become a politician?

BUZZACOTT: It’s been a journey, being involved in health, seeing injustice in health, trying to advocate government meeting with politicians. You get promises and then things don’t happen. Participating in the Women for Election workshop, that was kind of the turning point for me. We can actually change things if we are actually inside. Get in and see if we can make a difference. You a hearing from women who’ve done it. It’s possible.

Meanwhile youth “live in facilities to ensure that court sentences and orders are enforced” will be built in Alice Springs (in Gap Road), Darwin, Tennant Creek and Katherine, according to Chief Minister Eva Lawler.

They will also be providing “training and education services to help young people get their lives back on track and get into the workforce,” says a media release.

“The Department of Education will provide vocational education and other education services to break the cycle of re-offending.

“The Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities will shortly launch a recruitment campaign for a youth justice and outreach workers along with teachers and registered training officers.

“The Territory Labor Government is also progressing the Youth Justice Review, today announcing an independent panel and terms of reference.

“Western Australian commissioner for Victims of Crime Kati Kraszlan will chair the three-member Independent Review Panel, which will be supported by a team of senior government officials.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. Straight up, the word “Green” is enough to turn away from this group. A political group with an anti Australian agenda has the mindset of a one way street. (Our way or the highway.)

  2. The Greens anti Australian agenda?
    Sorry Allen, you need to give us more if you’re going to label them thus.
    The Greens have been represented by many admirable loyal Australians.
    Rachel Siewert comes to mind. Us who live on communities will not forget how she was the most outspoken politician against the Intervention.
    I voted for the Greens whenever I could. I consider this to be very pro-Australian.

  3. The Greens means a defacto Labor supporting faction and therefore more of the same as what we see on our streets daily.
    It also means members (or better ex-members) like the radical, dividing, and loudmouth like Lidia Thorpe who was solely elected because she ran on their ticket – not quite sure what it says about their selection process.
    The best part about this party is in the name, which still keeps fooling people about its real agenda and is NOT what it portrays in its name.
    I do not doubt, that some of its members mean well and are good citizens, but by supporting the Greens’ agenda they lose that credibility in an instant.
    And neither does your soft and defensive approach protect the citizens who pay for you and the many organisations that are funded to do so.

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